When Dave and SueAnn Heim purchased their home in Prairie Village 12 years ago, they knew they were buying a little of Kansas City’s architectural heritage. The low-slung ranch house was one of a selection of mid-century modern houses in the metro area that were designed and built by architect David Runnels and developer Don Drummond in the 1950s.
Dave describes their house as an “exploded version of the Revere Home”, referencing a style of housing that was championed at the time as examples of low-cost, high-quality living. A group of Revere Homes that Runnels designed still survive on Roe Circle, off Roe Avenue between Tomahawk Road and 75th Street. They are small two-bedroom houses built immediately after World War II while the country was still in a defensive posture. The homes were supposed to demonstrate the homeowners’ commitment to conserving critical materials, while still enjoying the utmost in livability at a low cost.
The Heim’s “exploded Revere” built in 1957 takes the basic design and enlarges upon it, creating an open, inviting and light-filled space, perfect for displaying the couple’s collection of mid-century modern furnishings collected over the last 20 years; not to mention raising their daughter, Mazey.
“Our house was the last one built by the Runnels/Drummond collaboration,” Dave said.
“We did an alteration before moving in,” Dave said. “One part of it was re-doing the kitchen, where we installed custom cabinets designed to look like the original 1950s version.” They installed new stainless steel countertops and converted a storage closet into expanded kitchen space. They also enclosed the original carport to create a two-car garage and made a new front entry to the house in the process.
While retaining the overall look of a ranch house, there are actually three levels of living space. The front door opens into the living room, which is the mid-level, and decorated completely with vintage mid-century modern furniture. The stairway up leads to Dave’s home office and a long hallway to the bedrooms. Meanwhile the lower level consists of an informal seating area, the kitchen/dining area and utility space. Windows on the south side of the house keep the daylight streaming in, which is important to the family.
“You can see outdoors from every room in the house,” SueAnn said with a smile. “The house is all about the internal and external connection of space.”
SueAnn has embraced mid-century as her signature style because her husband has been such an enthusiastic devotee. She has a natural talent for interior design and operates her own business Tweak, in which she stages, styles and redesigns spaces for realtors and other clients.
Dave and SueAnn are always on the lookout for authentic mid-century period pieces to add to their collection.
Interest in mid-century modern design has exploded in recent years and genuine examples that are truly vintage from the 1940s through the 1960s can command astronomical prices now.
So, whenever Dave latches on to those dream pieces, they will have the perfect home in Prairie Village, Kansas.
Words: Leigh Elmore | Photos: Margaret Mellott & Ellen Leinwetter