Designers’ Digs: A glimpse inside Wichita designers’ homes

Story By Amy Geiszler-Jones - Photos By Paula Moore

    Chris and Kitty Volkman make their living designing kitchens – and that’s the room that got most of their attention when they purchased a mid-century modern home earlier this year.
    The Volkmans, owners of Kitchen Concepts, wanted their new kitchen to be a model of contemporary finishes with clean lines and the latest trends in kitchen design, plus provide them a much better view of the iconic north course of Crestview Country Club.
    “The view and potential is why we bought this house but there had only been a little portal,” said Chris Volkman. By extending the kitchen into a covered open porch, the Volkmans created a large, stunning room with several windows to provide plenty of natural light to bounce off the white Wood-Mode cabinetry, mirrored stainless steel finishes and Brazilian quartzite countertops.
    A few hundred Wichitans recently toured the Volkmans’ new kitchen, as part of the Designers’ Digs tour, a fundraising event organized by the Women’s Association of the Wichita Symphony. Five Wichita designers opened their homes to allow Wichitans to look “behind the curtain” to see how some prominent designers make themselves at home. 
    “Life is very hectic and you want your home to be soothing and a place to recharge your batteries, not zap your batteries,” said Lizanne Guthrie of Design Studio. One of her favorite pieces in her home is a statue of the Buddhist goddess of mercy that “sets the tone for a peaceful place” in Guthrie’s entry hall.
    Guthrie has decorated her home to reflect both her love of other cultures and of family. Other cultural pieces include a tribal flat-weave kilim rug in the dining room; a Native American rug hanging in the kitchen; a prow from an Indonesian ship set in a living room niche; and a custom bathroom vanity made from an antique Asian cabinet. Most of the art in the loft – that includes the bedrooms for her two-college age children, a bathroom and seating area – was created by Guthrie’s family members and herself.
    Pam Fruhauf of Finished Effects likes whimsical pieces, like the silver stag head in the sun room that doubles as her office, and pieces with sentimental value, such as several pieces of artwork created by her daughter, Olivia Grant, and artwork that belonged to her mother-in-law. 
    “As a design person and as a partner, you want the spouse to have influence, so you compromise and share,” said Dennis Murphy of Murphy Interiors, explaining how he and his spouse, Dennis Reimer, mix what they call odd and unusual pieces to decorate their 1959 William Cato-designed home. 
    The home has several pieces of interesting art, including a Picasso ink etching, a Birger Sandzen block print, a Roman bust from 325 B.C. and large Sevres porcelain urns. Murphy likes collecting religious art and showcases many of those pieces in the small library with an original built-in bar and curved fireplace. The original St. Charles kitchen – mid-century at its finest, Murphy said – was a nostalgic highlight for many on the tour, with fold-down cook tops, a Frigidaire wall oven, an indoor barbecue and a former jeweler’s bench serving as an island.
    From the outside, Jerry Olson’s home looks like it should be in Europe, where a raised brick patio with pea gravel is more common than in the east side of Wichita. The long, wide foyer that runs to what was once the back wall of the home makes for an ideal entertaining space. One of the major changes Olson – who has retired from Olson-Blackburn Interiors – made to the home shortly after moving there 27 years ago was to enclose the open walk-way to the detached garage, creating a dining room.
    Most of the color in Olson’s home comes from his large collection of primarily local artwork, while he keeps the furniture and wall colors neutral to create what he calls “visual quiet.”