Artistic Vision

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Working from a blank slate, this Leawood backyard went from ordinary to extraordinary.

Story by Ann Butenas       |       Photography by Matt Kocourek

 Give a talented artist a blank palette and watch something magical happen. That doesn’t just apply to works of art that are placed upon a wall, either. It easily translates to the beauty that is created when an innovative visionary understands how to transform outdoor spaces into meaningful and memorable places. One such visionary is Kurt Kraisinger, PLA, LEED AP, and Founder/President of LORAX Design Group. When he was asked to transform a seemingly normal backyard into an eye-catching and heart-capturing space, he engaged all of his artistic and professional senses, delivering far above expectations. He converted this Leawood backyard into a glorious and blissful haven for owners Cathy and Rick Baier. And it all began with just an idea.

“When Cathy initially met with us, she told us she was looking for a backyard oasis,” noted Kraisinger. “She frequently travels to various resorts around the world and drew her initial inspiration from those locations.”

As Kraisinger explained, the job of his company is to listen to what the client wants them to do and then let the ideas begin to take shape.

“Cathy wanted a freeform pool with a swim-up component to it,” he explained. “She also wanted a hot tub/spa with it but did not want a spill over into the pool. Instead, she wanted a water feature of some kind, as well as a reef tanning ledge immersed into the pool.”

Additionally, Cathy and Rick wanted to create an outdoor kitchen setting, complete with a fireplace and custom Kansas City pergola. Altogether, it was a tall order for Kraisinger, but nothing with which he was not familiar accomplishing. After applying the perfect balance of innovation, creativity, and dedication to this project, the end result was stunningly picture perfect.

“This project encompassed all aspects of outdoor living,” Kraisinger noted. “We designed and created this as a complement to the house. Our goal was to ensure it all looked like it was built at the time the house was built in terms of materials and overall style.”

From berm to beautiful

Cathy was equally involved from a visionary standpoint. As a real estate  developer, she is well-versed in building design, architecture, and working with contractors.

“I usually put ideas on paper and then ask the experts, ‘Can you do this?’” she said. Just moments into meeting with Kraisinger and his team, she knew this project was in expert hands.

“Kurt took my ideas and just ran with them,” Cathy marveled. “Our big, pie-shaped backyard had a berm right in the middle of it. All we had out back at the time was a patio, which in our opinion was rather uninviting.”

Cathy indicated she and Rick originally purchased the home most notably because of the yard.  

“We previously lived at Lake Winnebago, and once our kids grew up, we got tired of taking care of all of our boats,” she stated. “Having a backyard pool seemed easier. We still get to be the water people we’ve always been, but just in a different way.”

An outstanding portfolio of luxurious appointments

Kraisinger and his team incorporated myriad natural elements into the design. The stone used around the hot tub/spa is dimensional sandstone veneer which works in harmony with the travertine pool deck. Glass mosaic tile accents artfully highlight the pool in the tanning ledge area and around the built-in pool stools. 

“When the sun hits the pool and those tiles, it all appears so sparkly,” said Cathy.

The elements of fire flanking the waterfall feature, which is comprised of sandstone boulders, take the entire setting to an entirely new level after the sun sets beyond the horizon.

“The lighting at night is absolutely amazing,” smiled Cathy.

A friend of Cathy’s, who owns a landscaping company, helped to embellish and improve the overall landscape design, which is suggestive of Midwest tropical.

“We used many plants with tropical leaf characteristics in order to pull of that tropical aesthetic,” said Kraisinger.

What’s cooking

The outdoor kitchen area rivals most any interior kitchen set up one can imagine. From the grill to the bar area, attention to detail was of utmost priority. The cedar-stained wood used throughout grounds the space and provides a layer of warmth, along with the stone countertops. There is such a natural feeling with the incorporation of earth-toned colors.

“Everything blends well and harmonizes with the yard, successfully pulling it all together,” emphasized Kraisinger. “And with heaters strategically placed in the tongue-in-groove ceiling, Cathy and Rick can extend their outdoor entertaining and relaxing season.”

Of special interest in the kitchen is the custom table, made by a friend.

“She makes artisan charcuterie boards, and I asked her to make me a table, which she built and designed with her husband, and then she and I poured the resin,” said Cathy.

Additionally, Kraisinger added more thought and ingenuity by taking out a column by the kitchen.

“There were originally three columns and two arches,” he explained. “We took out one column and reinforced the deck. This allows for a clear view from the space to the pool.”

Best decision ever

“This backyard and the pool setting is a work of art,” smiled Cathy. “We are really happy with it and enjoy spending time with family and friends out here.”

Kraisinger is equally pleased with the results.

“When the client hires you, you listen to what they want,” he explained. “Cathy knew exactly what she wanted, and it was easy for her to communicate with the contractors. However, often the land itself will also tell you what it wants, as it did in this case.”


  • Backyard Design: Lorax Design Group
  • Pool & Hot Tub: Clearwater Pools
  • Stone Masonry: Heritage Stone
  • Landscaper: Audrie Seeley and Company
  • Handcrafted Kitchen Table:
  • Outdoor Living Room Furniture: Restoration Hardware
  • Outdoor Kitchen Appliances: Kansas City BBQ Store

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