As Senior Project Lead New Store Concept for Hallmark ventures like HMK, Nate Fraley spends a good portion of his time thinking about how people experience spaces, both inside and outside. Nate has always had a personal connection with nature. As a 13-year Florida resident who grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, he began to miss the changing seasons. So when he made the move to Kansas City, he spent months looking for the perfect piece of land to build a home that emulated his childhood, mountaintop views. The result? A space that incorporates forever-changing, jaw-dropping panoramas, season after season.
When I moved to Kansas City to work for Hallmark, I was excited about living again in a climate of seasons. I scouted the area for months, looking for the perfect house or piece of land. I managed to find a naturally overgrown acre on a hillside with a view—not an easy task in one of the flattest states in the country. This lot was considered unbuildable for your typical residence, so I got it for a steal. My plans were everything but typical, and I knew I could make it work with the right help. I also like big projects and challenges, and building a custom home was always something I wanted to do.
I collaborated with a friend and architect, James Hanis, to design and build this house. He designed a previous modern home I owned in Florida, and I knew his approach would be perfect. We both love Bauhaus and architects/designers such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.
James values nature in the way I do, and he understands how to perfectly blur the lines between indoors and outdoors. His houses constantly remind me to slow down and appreciate nature’s wonders: things like the moon shining through the enormous kitchen skylight as it travels across the night sky, and the sunlight creating rainbows as it plays off the water in the bathroom shower. Nearly every architectural detail has a purpose or meaning, some of which are obvious and some are more like secrets the house keeps.
James is also really great with hidden storage and thoughtful built-ins. I’m a visual minimalist, yet a collector by heart, so the struggle to carefully find that balance is real.
Preserving the land around the house was also important to us. We wanted the house to feel as if it was gently placed on the wooded lot, without disrupting the natural landscape. We even did a tree survey to understand exactly how many trees (and what type) we would have to remove to build the house. Then we used those exact species of trees to make design decisions, such as the type of wood that would be used for the flooring or custom cabinetry.
The best part of the house is the panoramic view from the upper level. When you walk through the unassuming front door, you are quickly surprised by the floor-to-ceiling glass walls that place you in the tree tops.
I couldn’t imagine better art to cover the walls: Each season, the trees behind the glass change the feeling of the space. After a gray winter, the green spring trees transform the energy of the house. Autumn is my favorite season, when the walls are every color you can imagine. The occasional snowfall is also magical. For someone like me who loves change, the trees never disappoint.
Photography by Jake Johnson.