By Heather Scanlon
Resplendency abounds at the lovely, historic Jefferson House Bed & Breakfast. ‘Tis like stepping back in time; the exquisite, traditionally designed interior is an intentional nod to the more-than-a-century-old brick beauty. Ornamented with the contents of an impressive 40’ container (shipped all the way from the British Isles!), the Jefferson House is chock full of antique French and English furniture, vintage light fixtures, and one amazing and extensive European art collection.
But the house is a work of art in itself—the sturdy architecture of the late 1800s risen by Kansas City-fired red brick. Inside, much of the original woodwork has been restored, radiators boast elaborate decorative patterns, and an ivory claw-footed bath as old as the structure itself remains grandly intact.
There are three floors. The main level consists of a spacious entrance hall, where the eye is immediately transfixed on the original wooden staircase, where various posts and steps were repaired or replaced, coated with fresh stain. To the right, the sitting room, the left, a formal dining room, the kitchen just ahead. You’ll find no doors on this floor, save for the super-cool butler’s door to the kitchen that swings open both ways like an old saloon door. “It makes me really happy,” said Teresa Robinson, co-owner of Jefferson House with her husband, Peter. The Robinsons wanted to tell a fluid story; the lack of doors creates an unhindered, welcoming, and alluring space.
Antique furnishings and interesting art pieces adorn the rooms, from Teresa’s own ceramic pottery creations to tin coins created by a friend of the Robinsons. The coins are intended to celebrate flaws. The hardware, hinges, and doorknobs are all treasures discovered in the basement when Peter and Teresa purchased the place. They’ve since refinished, repurposed, or refitted them. The ornate light fixtures the pair brought along had to be adjusted electrically. The results were definitely worth the work.
The kitchen is by far the most modern room in the home. The chartreuse cabinets, doors, and trim are a lively contrast to the darker wood and wallpapers throughout the rest of the house. Silvery tile and an enormous 150-year-old Irish linen press continue the bright theme through the cheery kitchen. Teresa used to be a sous chef, and her culinary talents carry over to the lovingly-prepared European-style food she cooks up for the B&B guests.
The rest of the main floor keeps a continuous color (sorry, Peter—I mean “colour”) scheme in subtle greens and reds. Everywhere you chance to look, you’ll see something fantastic. A gramophone, the gorgeous green (original) tiling around the living room fireplace, the yellow metal handmade bulldog purchased from a local Mexican shop. It’s posh but it’s homey, and the house is a fully functioning gallery.
Peter and Teresa deserve a round of applause for the work that went into the renovations and restorations. They tore down a (fairly useless) wall in the kitchen to open it into a cozy eat-in. They stripped radiators of layers of questionable pink, yellow and green paint colors. The walls and floors are sound-proofed, paint and varnish were removed from the beautiful leaded glass windows, and Peter completely rebuilt a crumbling fireplace in one of the guest rooms. They transformed one very tiny room into a sitting area in another guest room. And, as Teresa said, made decisions on “a hundred million details in planning” in the process.
From the foyer, take the stairs to a landing (and find a window seat one simply cannot resist trying out) and up another short flight to the second floor: the guest rooms. There are three: The Murdock, The Mulkey, and The Summit—named for the original owner, the founder of the Westside neighborhood, and the main street in said neighborhood, respectively. The art, the décor, the furniture; every bit of it is antique, and/or European, beautiful, and perfectly placed. The pocket doors in many of the rooms—again, a part of the original design, add even more character. Careful details can be seen all around—like a handmade towel rack, another creation from a friend (they have a lot of friends. It’s hard to find kindlier people).
The Robinsons have coined what they call the Three Bs: good beds, good bathrooms (each guest suite has its own bathroom), and good breakfast. And they’ve got it down to an art. It’s this method that makes the Jefferson House B&B so successful—but you can’t discount the couple’s charm as a pretty big factor. The B&B attracts more and more patronage—at first, mostly only weekends, but now, being booked through the week as well—as their reputation and publicity grow.
And last, the third and final floor. It’s where the Robinsons reside, but you won’t find any photos of that space—yet. It’s the final installment of the renovation project, and Teresa says it “will be fantastic … eventually.” If the rest of the Jefferson House is any indication, we don’t doubt it.
Heather Scanlon is a graduate of the University of Kansas in history and public policy. She is a freelance writer and editor now residing in Merriam, KS. Between her various odd jobs and spending time with her hubs and darling 1-year-old, Heather nurses severe addictions to strong coffee, genealogy, and “The New York Times” crossword puzzle.