Archive for Thursday, February 19, 2009

Vertical limits: Lawrence couple embrace 8-level home

Jim and Thelma Taylor have been living in their home since 1977. They appreciate the home’s uniqueness in that it has eight living levels and it accommodates guests. Below are examples of unique shelving that allows them to display a variety of collectibles.

Jim and Thelma Taylor have been living in their home since 1977. They appreciate the home’s uniqueness in that it has eight living levels and it accommodates guests. Below are examples of unique shelving that allows them to display a variety of collectibles.

February 19, 2009


A Unique Space

Lawrence residents Jim and Thelma Taylor talk about how they make use of their home, which consists of eight living levels. Enlarge video

There are some tremendous hills over in the Deerfield neighborhood, rolling mounds that blanket the area like a patchwork quilt.

I know, when I attended Deerfield School, in northwest Lawrence, I used to hate those wretched hills on my treks home after a long day of learning. Yes, to some, Kansas might be considered flat, but not to residents of the Deerfield neighborhood. They have no need to traipse up to Campanile to sled on a snowy day. All they have to do is step out their front door.

Jim and Thelma Taylor don’t even have to step outside to understand the rigors and rewards of plodding up and down all day. The Taylors’ home boasts a whooping eight living levels — 13 levels if you count every little platform and entry area. The home is cradled right into one of those infamous hills, but you’d never know it from glancing at the home from the road. The Taylors’ house looks almost level with the asphalt, and in fact one must go down before they can go up.

Entering the home is like a subterranean experience, where you gingerly watch your footing on the steep driveway, then walk to a modest single, plain door that is situated discreetly on the side of the house. There is not a window in sight, just a wood-paneled structure.

Much to a visitor’s surprise, when you walk into the contemporary home, it is awash in natural light from the bevy of windows in various shapes. There are long, narrow windows; squat, square windows and wide, panoramic windows. The house is full of sunshine with open airy living spaces.

“The idea was to do the interior first and then figure out the design of the outside,” Jim says. “Harvey Liebman was the architect/builder. He was young, and he was a student at KU. He built about six houses in Lawrence, all in the vernacular of the West Coast 1970s style that entails many windows, varying views and wood siding, and all are sited so you don’t see the bank of windows.”

In 1976, when the house was constructed, the Taylors recently had come from Seattle and were drawn to the modern styles they saw in abundance on the coast. Liebman’s aesthetics were similar to those homes. The house is such a study in form following function that it actually sits diagonally on the hillside plot in order to take advantage of the best views. To the west there is a beautiful rock garden. To the north and east sits the naturalized hill with daffodils peppered among the hardwood trees.

“I love everything about this house,” Thelma says. “It is like a tree house. We have wonderful privacy.”

The white walls, cream-colored carpet and hardwood floors lend to the open feeling of this living area. But the aspects that really make you feel like this is such a spacious interior are the oddly angled walls, many of which sport built-in cubbyholes, shelves and even benches. Few of the walls actually go all the way to the ceiling, fully enclosing a room. This attribute aids in the carefree style of the interior. While reading alone in the sixth-floor library, one can still converse and even make eye contact with someone on the third and fourth levels. The Taylors can peek around walls to peer down or up at the great cavernous space that is multiple levels above or below them.

“My favorite part of this house is quietly contemplating the view from all the areas to sit and look,” Jim says. “One thing I’ve enjoyed and hated is the relationship and living with the squirrels.”

Every square foot of this home has some sort of purpose. It may be the shelves erected right into the staircase that perfectly display glass sculptures, or the storage area under a comfy bench lined with pillows. Or maybe it’s the placement of the windows, which are passively solar to the extent that they collect winter sun to warm the home, or possibly even the party deck on the roof. The home’s construction seems to utilize every inch of possibility.

The flat roof is accessible by climbing a narrow spiral staircase to the grand deck, a perfect spot for stargazing, camping out, sunbathing and parties. The second deck is where the Taylors grill food and dine among the woods.

Off of that deck is Thelma’s music room/library. Thelma has played the viola in the Topeka Symphony for 45 years.

“I love this house because it has marvelous acoustics with the wooden ceilings and vaulted openness,” Thelma says.

Yes, the cedar ceiling is a gorgeous textural touch to this modern masterpiece that bends and forms along the roof line, leaving the interior feeling lighter and brighter from the ceiling down.

The furnishings effortlessly blend with the home as well. Jim’s father ran a Swedish import furniture store, so he has some items from them.

With simplistic, clean lines of the furniture coupled with many unique works of art, the home is in perfect harmony with the woods outside. The sunshine beams in to illuminate paintings and wall hangings, and the retro furnishings work together to create a fabulous haven for Jim and Thelma Taylor.

— Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.


james bush 8 years, 11 months ago

Sounds neat but not for me because i'm not as fit as the Taylors appear and evidently must be. The house may help keep them that way. I'm a one-level liver at this point in life.

hawkergirl 8 years, 11 months ago

Does anyone know where this house is located? I would love to drive by and see the outside! What a remarkable couple.

spankyandcranky 8 years, 11 months ago

Sounds amazing. Maybe they should offer a few tours. I'd pay for a peek!

overthemoon 8 years, 11 months ago

nice artwork...these folks certainly have a great appreciation of the good things in life.

q_ball2kand1 8 years, 11 months ago

p> will give you their address. Google street-view shows a rather uninteresting house. It may be 8-levels but certainly not eight stories.

Godot 8 years, 11 months ago

Wow. Why do they look so stressed and unhappy if they are living in the house of their dreams?

farmgal 8 years, 11 months ago

Godot, what a retarded comment. When people get older, they have sagging skin and wrinkles. It's part of life. Not everyone chooses to do Botox and facelifts.

yoornotmee 8 years, 11 months ago

I see what Godot means.. They look so serious... no smiling for them. I wonder if they intentionally coordinated their shirts.

Tom McCune 8 years, 11 months ago

LOL. I used to know Harvey, the architect/builder. He lost his backside building those things. They are actually kind of interesting, but he insisted on including a bunch of pseudo Frank Lloyd Wright stuff like teeny-tiny narrow stairs and laundries hidden away in impossible places.

The age of the Taylors is mostly and issue in regard to going up and down all of those stairs all day long. I'm glad they can do it, but personally I'm getting to the age where I'll take a non-architectural ranchburger any day.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 11 months ago

If it's like other houses he built, one thing he didn't take into account was how it would hold up to water-- flat roofs that don't drain properly, no roof overhangs, etc. Many of those houses are maintenance nightmares.

esteshawk 8 years, 11 months ago

I know these people well - named my second daughter after their daughter, and have wonderful memories of this cool house. Toe - It is NOT excessive, just a wonderful piece of architecture; if it were on a flat piece of land and one level, it's probably not more than a couple thousand square feet. The house was built to fit the lot, which is how you should build (instead of changing the lot to fit the house). As far as location - you really can't even see it from the road - very modest street presence.

TopJayhawk 8 years, 11 months ago

They are not smiling becaue their feet hurt. LOL. If she plays for the Topeka Symphony, they probably financed it by smuggling drugs in her fiddle...LOL In all seriousness, it sounds wonderful, and I too would pay money to tour it.

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