Westport Roots Provide A Common Base For This Kitchen Transformation
Story by Ann Butenas | Photos by Matt Kocourek
Westport has a strong and engaging history and by all accounts, there is always something cooking in that part of town. Known as one of the oldest neighborhoods in Kansas City, it acquired its name because it was the westernmost village where settlers came to load up on supplies before continuing on into the Kansas Territory. Today, this popular gathering place has become famous for the variety of stores, restaurants and nighttime hot spots it boasts.
One such business is Kitchens by Kleweno. Owned by Randall Sisk, this is a highly-regarded and long-standing business that can trace its roots in Westport all the way back to 1958, although the company was formally established in 1946 by Merle Kleweno. Sisk, originally an in-house designer with the company, assumed complete ownership of the business in 1998 and since then has left his impeccable and innovative design fingerprints in the homes of numerous Kansas Citians.
It was in this thriving community that Sisk became acquainted with three other successful business operators: James Westphal, Mark Kelpe and Dan Salazar, the owners of four restaurants – McCoy’s Public House, The Foundry, Beer Kitchen and Char Bar. As they watched each other successfully grow their respective businesses, they have become friends, so it was an easy decision to turn to the talents of Sisk when it was time for these three to embark on the journey of redesigning their own home kitchens.
“Westport has an incredible history,” expressed Westphal. “It is where Kansas City began and 99% of the operators are locally-owned businesses. It is a nice balance of residents, tourism and commerce, providing a good, eclectic mix that offers something for everyone. We love the neighborhood and the operators.”
Perhaps Salazar described Westport most aptly, “It has an old soul.”
When Mark Kelpe and his spouse Dan Salazar get an idea in mind, there is nothing stopping them. What began as a tear down of a small house near Loose Park in Kansas City, Missouri has resulted in a stunning custom built modern home.
Relying on the combined talents of Sisk, Kelpe and Salazar, this kitchen eagerly and artfully tells its own story from the ground up – literally. The concrete flooring in the kitchen is a clear stand out, and Kelpe indicated there is far more to it than its pure aesthetic appeal.
“This is a polished solid concrete slab with radiant heat,” he explained. “There are five geothermal spikes under the garage that go down 65 feet for heating and cooling purposes.” As a result, going barefoot in the kitchen in the winter is like a walk in the park. No throw rugs are required and gel mats are sporadically placed to cushion the joints for those long hours spent exercising one’s culinary prowess in this domain. (Kelpe is a chef by trade; Salazar is a professional designer but undoubtedly does not mind wearing the occasional taste-tester title.)
Sisk, Kelpe and Salazar enjoyed working together to create this show-stopper, each providing their own ideas, interpretations of the space, and skill set.
“I specified all of the finishes and Mark picked out all of the appliances,” said Salazar, readily deferring to Sisk’s and Genevieve Hamel’s expertise when perfectly pulling it all together. “Genevieve was also a major influence when it came to editing our stuff down. She is amazing.”
As one’s eye dances around the kitchen, there is so much design detail to absorb. The counter on the polygon-shaped island, angled as such to easily accommodate four seats, is adorned with Roma Imperiale quartzite, which is a type of marble. The island is home to a sink, a roll-out baking center with glass drawers and an under-counter microwave disguised as a drawer.
“As a chef, I never had a microwave until now,” joked Kelpe, who admitted he appreciates having one for occasional use.
Another show stopper within this setting are the two expressive windows with dark bronze frames that rest over the sink. The display cabinet set between both windows houses all of the stemware and contains glass shelving. The glass door fronts are actually building exterior glass with a smoked reflective coating to give it a mirrored effect.
“It lights up at night and acts both as a piece of art and functional space,” explained Kelpe. “And Kleweno installed pressure sensitive hinges, allowing the glass doors to swing up and stay up when opened.”
The dramatic range hood ambitiously draws one’s envious gaze to its majestic appeal. A blackened steel hood with a waxed finish was designed by Salazar and built by Pascal Meya of Meya Metalworks. The coffered ceiling above the island showcases an inset sheet of steel to match the range hood. The accompanying range, oven, wine refrigerator and all other appliances are of the Thermador brand.
Yet another piece of art, the backsplash behind the range also gets the attention it deserves.
“This is a natural stone slab called Nero Marinace,” said Salazar. “It is made of actual glacier-tumbled stones (petrified pebbles) embedded into a natural matrix. It has an antiqued finish and there is some relief to it, as you can feel the pebbles.”
Next to the range stands the confident built-in Jenn-Air refrigerator, designed to look like a piece of furniture. Called the Obsidian, it comes by its name for very good reason.
“It has a black interior with LED halogen lights, which provide a very dramatic effect when you open it,” said Kelpe.
The corner custom leather booth was designed by Salazar, which boasts a 15” high solid surface skirt that matches the toe kick of the island. The table top is made out of a resin and recycled cardboard product called Richlite, which gives the appearance of a honed stone finish perfected by a soft surface. Once fully completed, this booth will have a custom foot rail to accommodate its height.
“You won’t hear your glass clink on it when you set it down,” said Salazar.
The exterior brick product behind the booth is known as Ebonite, a raku fired brick product that provides a reflective, not glazed, appearance. The adjacent sliding glass doors disappear into the wall when opened, leading into the 800 square foot patio which has a wood burning fire pit.
The bar right around the corner from the kitchen (which is one of four bars in the home, by the way!), holds bottles of wine that stand at the ready for most any celebration but it is also houses the monitor system for the home.
“With an iPad, we can control the lighting, music, temperature, door bell and more within the home,” noted Kelpe. Additionally, the cabinet has building glass and enjoys the same quartzite countertop used on the island.
The kitchen has definitely become a focal point within this home and both gentlemen enjoy it for their own personal reasons.
“I love watching Mark use it when he cooks. He is quite entertaining,” smiled Salazar.
Added Kelpe, “I specially designed this space to include three work/prep stations. I prep at the island the most which gives me a view directly into the screened-in patio. When the entire wall is opened up, it creates the feeling of cooking outdoors.”
Sisk clearly enjoyed being a partner in both of these kitchen projects and attributed the success of each to a total team effort.
“Working with a chef (Mark) and a fellow designer (Dan) made for a very enjoyable and productive experience,” Sisk reflected. “We often learn from our clients and these fellows in the restaurant business were very enlightening.”