Gazing up from the base of its sloping site, Hillside Hideout’s detached garage appears to be the ground floor of a three-story volume. But driving up the road that climbs around the house, the separation between garage and house becomes clear. From the top of the hill, the site plays yet another trick of perspective, concealing the ground floor of the structure, lending it the appearance of a single-story home. Depending on how you look at it, in other words, the scale of Hillside Hideout transforms–which is fitting, given that this home was designed with versatility in mind.
Kansas City, Missouri
A steep one-way road is the only way to reach Hillside Hideout, which gazes out from atop a regional high point onto the Kansas River. The drive takes guests around what appears to be the front of the house and up to its opposite side, at the top of the hill. There, a boardwalk bridges the gap between the structure and the site’s slope, linking the upper road to the front porch.
On the way to the house’s entrance, looking off the side of the boardwalk provides a glimpse of the site’s terraced landscape–a tiered series of grassy platforms that step down from the top of the hill to the house’s foundation. It’s a water management strategy Hillside Hideout shares with highland tea fields, one that’s meant to mitigate flow. The goal here is to keep the ground from moving when there’s a downpour, preventing erosion around the house as water moves from the top of the hill to lower portions of the slope. Above and below the house, the smaller terraces double as planters, while the largest terrace serves as the house’s foundation.
This landscaping strategy was responsible from a number of perspectives. As Plural’s Director of Constructability Scott McDonald discovered while working through a previous iteration on the design, completely altering the slope would have required an enormous amount of soil. That sent him back to the drawing board. In the end, what started as an elevated single-story house evolved into Hillside Hideout’s final form, one that innovates on the best elements of the previous designs and makes sense, both financially and environmentally.
Crossing through the entry to the stairs first leads past a nook that opens to a mechanical room, a guest bathroom, and an in-law suite with its own living area, including a fold-out couch and a kitchenette. Past the nook, a door opens to a guest bedroom. In effect, the upper floor is an independent living quarters unto itself. All of the essentials are here–with the exception of a dishwasher and an oven–for family members or renters who might want to stay for an extended period of time, and in that time maintain separation from the rest of the home below.
The landing at the bottom of the stairs opens to that living area, which flows without interruption into the dining room and kitchen. It’s a space ideal for board game nights and dinner parties, events with big, communal atmospheres. The double-height ceiling accentuates the feeling of openness here, fostering a volume of space that can accommodate the warmth and energy it inspires. On the eastern wall, the bookshelf that hugs the sides of the wood burning fireplace climbs to the full height of the ceiling. This fixture will house books, of course, but also a sampling of fine, distilled spirits, along with other items only to be reached with a library ladder.
The kitchen is replete with dining and prep space, home to an island, a table, and a breakfast nook to the north. The countertop along the west wall extends all the way to a pass-through window at the southwestern corner. It’s an ideal organization for distributing food and drink to those congregated in the side yard–a durable, xeriscaped gathering space that requires little maintenance and provides unobstructed views to the river.
On the easternmost end of the first floor, past the primary suite, is a flex space. The owner didn’t want the TV to be the focus of the living room, so this is where the screen lives, given audience by an L-shaped couch. A desk to the north of the TV allows this room to serve as an office, but it’s also capable of transforming into yet another sleeping quarters. True to the owner’s vision, however, the party doesn’t stop there. Just to the north of this flex space, the bunk room with its triple-stacked bunk fits every last person in.
Alpha Omega Geotech
BDC Structural Engineers