People’s homes say a lot about them. Are they minimalists or collectors? Do they love color or lean toward monochromatic? Do they draw a line between public spaces for show and private spaces more personal?
For Carl Bennum, an IT project manager, home is an “easy to live with,” yet visually pleasing collection of touchstones to family, friends, and favorite places.
Starting with a neutral palette of dark gray, tan, and cream, Bennum chooses texture over color, then draws a graphic line with black picture frames, black drum shades, and black detailing on bed linens and pillows.
In every tailored room, there are decorative objects with special meaning. In the living room, a gallery wall of framed family photos commands attention. On another wall, a gallery of Charley Harper bird lithographs from The Green Door Antiques takes flight; more hang in Bennum’s office.
Yet others are not obvious to the casual observer. On a side table in the living room, a brass elephant bookend looks like a little piece of sculpture. But it’s one half of a pair—his daughter in North Carolina keeps the other, an invisible connection made visible when he tells the story.
A basket of shed deer antlers is stylish, but it also references Bennum’s family’s farm near Coffey, Missouri.
Casual photos propped up on bookshelves capture unforgettable moments.
A small watercolor of a man fishing, hanging in Bennum’s office, is actually Bennum himself. A friend took a photo on a fishing trip and had a local artist render it in paint.
And photographs that Bennum took, and then printed in black and white, capture travel experiences from all over the world.
Some objects are estate-sale finds. “If I really like something, I’ll buy it and then figure out what to do with it,” Bennum says. “I may go to many estate sales without finding anything at all, and then I’ll find several things at once. You have to have an eye and do a lot of work.” Bennum repurposes, reuses, rearranges from time to time.
A sculptural wingback chair in toffee-colored leather in his late son’s room turned out to be a custom Ralph Lauren. A herd of sculptural horses prancing across the round dining room table began with just one.
Bennum bought an Asian-style lamp that resides in his daughter’s room upstairs because of its reputed connection to Harry and Bess Truman, who were thought to have come to the house to play cards with the original owners. “I don’t know if any of that is true, but I bought it anyway,” he says with a smile. It also didn’t hurt that it was a lamp. Read on.
Other objects come from antique dealers or art galleries. A heavy, ornate garden gate from Christopher Filley Antiques hangs in the entryway as graphic art. Two vibrant red contemporary Brady Legler paintings hang in Bennum’s late son’s room, against duck-egg blue walls. An Art Deco dental cabinet holds office supplies rather than instruments.
And to give these objects life, there is light.
“I have this thing for lamps,” he says with a laugh. And he does. In pairs or singles, they’re everywhere, more lamps that most would think to use, but somehow, they all work. There’s even one from the editor of this magazine, which Bennum found at her tag sale. But estate and tag sales weren’t the only places he hunted. “When Barbara Cosgrove had her yearly sale at her showroom in North Kansas City, I set my alarm and was the first one there,” he says. In each lamp, Bennum uses 15-watt bulbs for a soft glow that animates and accents, rather than beams.
And to reflect that light, Bennum is also fond of oversize mirrors that take over a master bedroom wall or lean against one, as in his daughter’s room on the second floor.
“Over the years, I’ve learned a lot, design-wise, from my friends,” says Bennum, including Darren Killen and Dustin Swartz of The Green Door Antiques in the West Bottoms and former Kansas City designer David Jimenez, now in Paris.
Now, Bennum is working on the backyard, surrounding garden art and sculpture with pleasing plantings. “I love to have brunch with friends on the patio,” he says. And make more memories.
The It List
Christopher Filley Antiques, 816-668-9974
Studio Dan Meiners