Arch. Carl Stenstrom's "FLW style" home in KCstar

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Arch. Carl Stenstrom's "FLW style" home in KCstar

Postby moderns-r-us » Fri Mar 28, 2008 8:53 am

I have been meaning to post this Kansas City Star article about Carl Stenstrom for a week.

http://www.kansascity.com/238/story/536345.html
Last edited by moderns-r-us on Fri Mar 28, 2008 10:42 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby moderns-r-us » Fri Mar 28, 2008 8:57 am

This is for posterity sake when the link dies

Sharing a dream: Investors plan to turn architect’s home into a public retreat

By STACY DOWNS
The Kansas City Star

Architect Carl Stenstrom is surrounded by blueprints in the living room of his family’s home in Adrian, Mo. In the background is a model of a never-built modern luxury condominium project he designed decades ago.
When Carl Stenstrom wanted to build his dream house, he took matters into his own hands.

It was 1958, and the young architect with a growing family put his sharp pencil to work drafting his own blueprints. When material trucks arrived, he wheelbarrowed rock, sand and gravel to the building site on a three-acre wooded lot off Red Bridge Road in south Kansas City.

Stenstrom called the house Stonestream, the English translation of his Swedish last name. The name also fit the property, with its rocky creek bed.

A year and a half ago, illness caught up with the barrel-chested man. The hands that built the house no longer had the strength to keep it up. So Stenstrom and his family walked away, selling the home to a company that auctioned it off.

Stonestream, like Fallingwater and other Frank Lloyd Wright homes, looks like it sprouted straight out of the landscape.

“It’s an important house because it’s a me-against-the-world statement,â€￾ says Scott Lane, a real-estate broker and co-founder of KC Modern, a club that documents the histories of local midcentury houses. “Now so many people want to build their own prefab Dwell magazine house. Carl went so much farther than others and handmade his house out of the earth. There aren’t many of those types of houses left.â€￾

Fortunately, the local investment group that bought the house understands its appeal. It plans to restore the house to its former glory, this time to be shared by the public, perhaps as a retreat. Renovation should be completed in about a year. The house is in a state of disrepair after being unoccupied for more than year.

Stenstrom, now 81 and living in a nursing center near his wife and daughter in Adrian, Mo., about 60 miles south of Kansas City, spent decades working on his home. He never finished one of the two bathrooms and the pool house.

“That’s how a house was meant to be built,â€￾ says Stenstrom, who uses a wheelchair after suffering several strokes and a broken hip after a fall in 2006. “A house is a living thing. When you finish it, you die.â€￾

Stenstrom graduated with a degree in architecture in 1950 from the University of Kansas. He and his wife, Betty, had a son and another on the way when he applied for a fellowship at Wright’s Taliesin in 1953 in Wisconsin.

Wright discouraged Stenstrom, saying his family deserved more of his time than life under the fellowship would allow. Stenstrom agreed with Wright’s advice.

“I liked him. He was a jocular fellow,â€￾ Stenstrom says. “I thought he was a master. He believed you had to struggle with an idea in order to get it correct.â€￾

Stenstrom’s family, which had grown to include three children by the time he started building, slept on cots and a crib in the kitchen area.

On weekdays Stenstrom worked at an architectural firm, mostly on commercial projects such as Gates barbecue locations, including the one in Leawood.

On nights and weekends he dedicated himself to building Stonestream. Friday nights were reserved for family and Sunday mornings for church.

Stonestream was designed in the shape of a cross and eventually grew to five bedrooms. Walls that didn’t reach the ceiling separated the bedrooms, and the children would throw things into their siblings’ rooms. Stonestream was a constant work in progress.

“I remember one year, when I was in about sixth grade, I received a bedroom door as a gift,â€￾ recalls Karin Lentz, Stenstrom’s fourth and youngest child and only daughter. “He made it, of course, just like he made all the doors for the house.â€￾

Stenstrom also poured the concrete, installed plumbing and electricity and built the cedar-shake shingle roof, which was nearly three times the size of the interior living space. Six-foot overhangs covered numerous walkways, patios and a tea garden. The eaves were so wide the family could leave the doors open when it rained without getting wet.

Stenstrom made his own concrete forms out of flexible pressboard. He mixed concrete with local field stones, leaving the face of the rock exposed on pillars and three chimneys for a rustic effect. He counted each wheelbarrow load of concrete and marked parts of the house with the number of loads they took. Stenstrom remembered the living room fireplace took 138 loads.

He used inexpensive fir plywood for wall and soffit surfaces, ivory plaster for the ceilings and cork tiles for the floors.

When open, a series of French doors on opposite walls provided ventilation. The house also featured radiant heat flooring.

“The floor felt nice on your bare feet,â€￾ Betty Stenstrom says.

Although Stonestream often resembled a wilderness campsite with frequent insect visitors, life felt refined and cultured — another Wright tenet. The children played musical instruments, including a Steinway parlor grand piano in the living room.

The cork tile in the dining room was waxed to create a dance floor. The family dined on gourmet meals by candlelight.

“We’d have New Year’s Eve parties, and Mom would never serve things like chips and dip,â€￾ Lentz says. “She’d serve hors d’oeuvres and French food.â€￾

Stonestream inspired other Kansas Citians to build their own houses. Architect Robert Francis Major, then Carl Stenstrom’s boss, began building his own home in 1963 in eastern Jackson County.

“He taught me that there is a spiritual approach to architecture,â€￾ says Major, whose house is a hub-and-spokes design without right angles.

Major’s house and Stonestream were featured in a 1979 article in The Kansas City Star about Wright-influenced houses.

“I have tried to blend this house with its surrounding,â€￾ Stenstrom said in the article. “Inside and out, there is the same natural rock. You look through the French doors and see it along the creek bank. Or sit by the fireplace, built of the same stone.â€￾

Motivated by the article, Kenneth Spong, a hobby woodworker in Johnson County, called upon Stenstrom to design a home for his family that he would build himself in the early 1980s. The Kansas City, Kan., house remains a work in progress.

Lane, shortly after reading the article, also sought out Stenstrom and asked to visit Stonestream. Lane admired the diamond-cutout wooden panels Stenstrom built between rooms, marveling at how they cast interesting light and shadow patterns.

And Lane appreciated the banquette and dining table Stenstrom built himself, also like Wright, who was known for building furniture to fit his houses.

Lane and Stenstrom looked at several lots of land together as possible sites for an organic home like Spong’s, but Lane eventually determined life was too busy to take on such an all-consuming project.

Through the 1990s and early 2000s, Stenstrom kept working on Stonestream, which included an underground garage, workshop and pool on the property. After the kids grew up, he took up a new challenge: flight lessons. He suffered his first stroke when he was almost finished earning his pilot’s license.

Stenstrom’s health and persistent leaks from his ineffective attempts to replace the roof led to the family’s decision to sell Stonestream.

“My dad was stubborn and never wanted anyone working on the house except him,â€￾ Lentz says. “He’s an architect and a dreamer but not the best builder in the world.â€￾

Although Stonestream was Stenstrom’s life’s work, he has let go of it.

“It should be torn down,â€￾ he says, explaining that the house was personal, built for him and his family.

Lentz is of two minds about Stonestream.

“I appreciate and understand my father’s wishes,â€￾ she says. “But it’s an interesting house that is definitely worth others seeing.â€￾



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stonestream by the numbers
32 French doors

48 years spent by Stenstrom building the home

138 wheelbarrow loads of concrete for the main fireplace

2,200 square feet of living space

6,000 square feet of roof

Reach Stacy Downs, home reporter, at 816-234-4780 or sdowns@kcstar.com


http://www.kansascity.com/238/story/536345.html
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Postby SDR » Fri Mar 28, 2008 10:55 am

Thanks, MRU. Glad to have this documented. Here's three of the accompanying illustrations.


Image

Image

Image

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Postby moderns-r-us » Fri Mar 28, 2008 11:38 am

SDR

As you know we have seen photos of this house before, but the thread is gone now.
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Postby SDR » Fri Mar 28, 2008 9:21 pm

Yup. I'd never seen a plan, though. It would be nice to see this rescued. . .and I'd love to see his other work.

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Stenstrom Photo Link Revived

Postby Udo Min » Thu Sep 04, 2008 7:18 am


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Postby Jerad » Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:06 am

Went by the house last weekend. The city has plywooded over all the windows and doors and has very clear signs marking do not enter unsafe. I must say that the house is falling in on itself rather quickly and I fear its days are numbered.


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