Under the heavy cloud of a housing market pummeled by banking debacles, foreclosures and joblessness, a few builders have been restocking their toolboxes.
Kansas City home builder Jim Riffe has been burning the midnight oil for a couple of years, anticipating an emerging market that is leaner, smarter and hungry for something new and better.
“The market is asleep but not dead. Already, consumers are poking around and what they want is not what they’d settle for three years ago. I’m seeing the ﬁrst fruits of Kansas City home buyers who are ready to come out of the fog,” he said.
Reaching to ﬁnd the next innovative design standard is nothing new to Riffe. Over the last six years he introduced two charity tour homes, each topping $1.8 million in his luxury lake community Woodland Shores, Lee’s Summit, MO.
Post beam construction, curved expanses of commercial glass and lavish square footage brought thousands of curious explorers to woodlandshores.com, his Lee’s Summit luxury lake development, and raised thousands of dollars for Dream Factory, a local not-for-proﬁt.
By partnering with Colorado architect Jim VanderVorste, Riffe introduced the concept of blurring the distinction between the indoor and outdoor living setting into the greater Kansas City area. The lavish square footage of his two luxury lake homes gave him an expansive pallet to unveil the concept.
“Historically, the Kansas City market has always been about square footage and extra upgrades. When ﬁnancing was readily available and times were ﬂush that was a winning combination when the plan was workable and appealing,”
But the travails of a broken economy have made people rethink what they want. And while home buyers don’t want to sacrifice their quality of life, they want to reduce their energy bills, their taxes and their mortgage burden.
Now, people don’t necessarily want something bigger; they want something that is better. They want to own exactly what they need and no more, he said.
Kansas City is a highly competitive market driven by independent builders rather than large cooperate builders who offer a small palette of choices. KC buyers have carried a lot of clout in determining what is available. Buyers can customize their options at every price level he said.
And that’s what Riffe is banking on. He wants to bring the essential ingredients of artful architecture to a broader market. In Woodland Shores this Saturday, April 16, 2011 he’ll unveil an innovative plan that bridges Kansas City’s past to its future in housing at the Kansas City Home Show kickoff.
Unlike his last 6,000 square foot show palace, this home will come in at 2,100 square feet at a price tag of $385,000. For those who want more space, they can add two more bedrooms, baths and a recreation room for another $30,000. That’s 50% more house for about 10% more money.
Riffe is calling his plan the edgeless home. It integrates some of the best features from 31 years of building upper-end homes and capitalizes on a career trademark of blurring the distinction between the structure, its living spaces and the surrounding outdoors.
The house integrates a copyrighted design concept pioneered by BVZ Architects, Boulder Colorado. It’s called living larger; not bigger. And it steps outside the box in giving Kansas City buyers a revolutionary way of living in their home.
im VanderVorste, BVZ Architects, has been working with Riffe since the early days when VanderVorste designed the famed Loche Lloyd Country Club and Harry Lloyd’s house. He believes that living larger; not bigger is the future of single family living.
“There has never been anything like this in Kansas City at any price,” Riffe said. “This is a home with no hard edges, no interruptions between you and the environment. It will feel spacious without feeling out of control. It will be exactly what you need presented in the most appealing way. It’s a collection of spaces, not rooms and it will feel perfectly harmonious over the long haul to whoever lives in it,” he said.
The edgeless home features commercial glass and a 360 degree see-through ﬁreplace that exists seamlessly between the outdoor living area and central living space. Owners will be able to enjoy the same ﬁre from both inside and out. Indoor ceilings will pierce through a huge expanse of curved glass and continue into the outdoors. A panorama of lavish natural landscape will seem part of the living space.
A part of the kitchen cabinets are backed by a wall of glass. Textured material meander inside and out making it difficult to tell one from the other. Corners or walls fade away in a space that feels more like a park-like setting than a room with walls.
“No doubt the past years have been tough for home building. But what is emerging is a leaner, tighter and smarter design. Many people will no longer choose to pay taxes, clean, heat and maintain the same expanses of square footage. But their taste will require more than a mere pared down version of the past. They want something that is fresh, innovative and more efficient than they’ve had in the past,” Riffe said.
And as always, what Kansas Citians want will dictate what builders deliver, he said.
“That’s how it should be. If you listen, buyers will tell you what they want. And Kansas City builders will deliver like they always have,” he said.