A How-To Guide to Houseplants

by STACY DOWNS |  photos by ANNA PETROW

The slooooow start to the season has us pondering this question: What should you add to your home to shoo away blah weather and make it feel fresh like spring year-round?

The antidote and the answer: Houseplants!

However, most of us aren’t born with a green thumb. Sure, we could help solve that problem by reading one of the many books on the topic, but to make it easy on ourselves, we called an expert.

Jaclyn Joslin, Kansas City interior designer and owner of Coveted Home, has us covered. She fills her Country Club Plaza store as well as her clients’ homes and her personal abode with smartly placed plants.

“A place without plants looks like no one lives or works there,” Joslin says. “Just a few plants can change the feeling of a space. They bring it to life.”

HOT HOUSEPLANTS

Yes, there is such thing as a trendy type of houseplant. No doubt in the past few years, you’ve seen succulents. Everywhere. Even the grocery store.

“They’ll always be popular because they’re pretty low-maintenance,” Joslin says. “But a lot of people think you don’t have to water them. And even though they require a lot less water than most plants, they still do need some water and attention.”

Joslin waters her succulents every week or two.

This year, sculptural plants are taking center stage. Think the ones with the large fan-like leaves, such as banana trees or palms.

The most popular of the popular, though, is the split-leaf philodendron (Monstera deliciosa) with its heartshaped leaves that can reach more than a foot long and wide. As the leaves mature, they develop holes in the center that eventually elongate all the way to the edge of the leaf, splitting the leaf into smaller sections.

TRIED, TESTED, AND TRUE

If you’re looking for simple beyond succulents, Joslin suggests a pothos plant (Epipremnum aureum).

“They’re perfect for the office because if the leaves wilt if you forget about them for a while, they will pop right back up with a little water,” she says. “They’re a very popular plant, but beware: pothos is toxic if ingested by children or pets.”

Joslin also likes snake plants (Sansevieria). They don’t need much light or water – just water once every few weeks.

Another easy-peasy type is a rubber plant (Ficus elastica).

“It is versatile, and can do low or high light and is low maintenance in terms of watering,” she says.

The plant is so low-maintenance that Joslin waters only once every two weeks.

If you’re looking for a challenge…

Joslin often gets compliments from clients and customers on the showy fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) at Coveted Home.

The fiddle-leaf fig is one of those tall, sculptural numbers you see on magazine covers. Its leaves are shaped like violins — that’s how it earned its name. Its waxy, dark, dramatic foliage provides a striking contrast to the light walls of sun-filled rooms.

“They’re popular, but I don’t recommend them to everyone,” she says. “They need a lot of sun and they don’t like to be moved. A lot of people end up killing them because they do take a lot of responsibility.”

But, in their defense, they are stunning.

PLANT POSITIONING

There’s typically a plant in nearly each room Joslin designs:

• In the kitchen on counters and open shelving.

• In the living room on a coffee table.

• In the office on a desk.

• In a bedroom next to a dresser.

“Plants make good endcaps for bigger pieces of furniture,” she says.

Joslin loves adding tall plants to a room for height variation.

“They get bigger than your floor lamps,” she says. “It’s a great way to take your eye up and across the room.”

In rooms without much floor space, Joslin hangs plants from the ceiling.

Plants also can provide the panacea to odd nooks and crannies.

“There was a spot next to a fireplace that looked so dead,” she says. “I put a plant there and it finished that corner.”

Besides making a room look better, plants help a room feel good, too. They’re natural air purifiers, removing pollutants by absorbing them through their leaves and roots.

So after the disruption of construction in Joslin’s home, her plants provided an aesthetically pleasing and serene source of comfort.

Sea Change

by PATRICIA O’DELL |  photos by TOM STYRKOWICZ

Can you smell the ocean? Feel the sand between your toes? Maybe hear the rhythm of the waves? Lina Dickinson and Melanie Bolin, founders of Mer-Sea, a line of products inspired by the sea can, even when they are home in Kansas City.

“We are travelers,” says Bolin. “Sometimes we are actually traveling and sometimes we are just tapping into that mindset.” Business partners for over five years, both women lived in California before moving to Kansas City for their husbands’ careers. Once they were settled and had their children in the groove of school and activities, they realized that they had similar dreams.

Bolin and Dickinson were interested in starting a business and both still felt a strong connection to the ocean, though they were happily planted in the Midwest. They agreed that the sea would be their muse. It may have seemed a curious plan for partners who were landlocked.

“One of our biggest advantages is that we are not by a beach,” says Bolin. “That gives us the gift of focus.”

The friends remember how elementary starting the business was. With backgrounds in product development, business, and sales, they had solid skills and experience. The creative essence of the company was built on instinct. They began developing scents, testing formulas, and making decisions about packaging. Then they began to market.

“It makes me laugh now,” says Bolin. “We didn’t even have an accountant then, and I was processing orders. I wasn’t even using a ledger. I just had this notebook and I’d write down the 24 orders and cross them off one by one as we filled them.”

Specialty retailers began to find Mer-Sea through their website and word of mouth. Soon there was an accountant and significantly more than 24 orders. The business was growing and Mer-Sea hired sales reps to handle their nationwide accounts. Then they had a big surprise.

“Anthropologie found us,” says Dickinson. “It wasn’t in our vision that we were ready for that.”

In fact, the upscale, cool-girl boutique with stores nationwide sought them out and wanted them to develop a collection exclusively for the brand.

“Anthropologie is known for building small businesses,” say Bolin. “We have ongoing storylines with them, and they have really raised the bar on creativity for us.”

As the business enters its sixth year, the partners talk of Mer-Sea like another child.

“We talk about it growing up,” says Bolin. “In the beginning, everything that happened was perfect, like a baby’s first smile.” “Then we hit the terrible twos,” she remembers, laughing.

“But even now, as the business is older, it’s still like parenting. We are learning to let go. We have to let other people do their thing.”

Each woman is grateful to have the collaboration.

“Our desks are side-by-side. We text each other in the evenings. It works so well to have two people involved in the decision-making process. One may hesitate and the other can see that we are ready,” says Bolin.

“The dialogue moves us forward,” Dickinson agrees.

“Sometimes when we’re busy and both on the phones, Lina will just push her chair back and say, ‘This is awesome!’ It’s a great energy,” says Bolin.

Dickinson admits that there are challenges.

“Balance is difficult. It takes so much time and energy. Whatever I have left goes to my family, so my poor friends get shortchanged. Sometimes I’m not sure if I have any friends left, “ she says, laughing.

She is, however, adapting.

“I didn’t know if there would ever be a time when I wasn’t involved with everything. But, as we have grown, I have been able to let amazing people around me take things off my plate.”

The partners – and the business – continue to move forward. As Mer-Sea grows, Bolin and Dickinson understand that expansion may come in different directions.

“Some of it people tell you – what they want to see – either verbally or through sales,” says Bolin.

While Mer-Sea has been successful in fragrance and home goods, the company is expanding the travel mindset to include soft goods like a broader line of travel wraps, new bags, and jewelry.

“We’re starting to have conversations about where that may take us,” says Dickinson.

Still, the devil is in the details. Bolin is responsible for product design and she’s focused – and excited – by small details that make the products stand out. It’s important to both women that they are constantly learning, doing interesting things, and engaged in the world around them. They are creating product for people who see the world in the same way.

“We are discovering new things, seeing what is possible that a short time ago wasn’t in our view,” says Bolin. “It’s a traveler’s mindset.” .

To find Mer-Sea products at retailers near you or to shop online, visit mersea.com.

Taking Root in Kansas City Soil

words by EMILY & STEWART LANE  | photos by ANNA PETROW

Warmth and comfort. Style and innovation. One might think these things couldn’t possibly overlap in one dining experience, yet Black Dirt has found a way to coalesce these disparate elements. From the team that brought us Justus Drugstore in Smithville, Missouri, Chef Jonathan Justus, a James Beard Award nominee, and Camille Eklof, have added to the food landscape in midtown with the opening of their second restaurant.

EL: They say the best things are grown in the black dirt of Missouri. Chef Justus is taking this notion to heart with his new restaurant located in the 51 Main building just south of the Plaza. Upon arriving, one can tell there are various pockets of space in which to dine, each offering a distinctive environment. We were led into a room of small tables, all housed under an incredible art piece they referred to as their “tree sculpture,” which is exactly as it sounds and more. Twisted and tangled roots interspersed with industrial lights set the stage for our evening.

SL: When Emily and I dined here for the first time, there were so many tantalizing items on the menu, and we wanted to try as many dishes as possible, so we opted to dine off the small-plates menu. But before we had our first bite, we had our first experience. Our charming and well-informed server, Tony, brought me an Erlenmeyer flask filled with a bourbon cocktail and cherrywood smoke. The stopper was removed releasing smoke and the cocktail gently into my glass. A quick “cheers,” as we enjoyed our drinks and snacked on the house-made “29-Hour Bread” with Shatto butter.

EL: The bar menu is impressive and filled with craft-cocktail creativity, just like Stewart described. There is also a well-curated wine list with plenty of wine-by-the-glass options. Naturally, there are Missouri wines featured. This local emphasis is prominent throughout the menu, and we loved seeing the black-garlic paste from Kansas City Canning Co. used in the small-plate shrimp special we enjoyed near the beginning of our meal.

SL: Chef Justus shows a mastery of techniques and flavor profiles with each dish. The pecan pear salad with compressed pear, spiced pecans, and apple cracklin’s was a clean and refreshing introduction to our meal. In contrast, the Missouri Caesar with brûléed romaine and catfish croutons was made even more special by the signature dressing: house-dried trout replacing the anchovies, creating a much lighter and more balanced flavor.

EL: None of these dishes are fussy or ostentatious. While beautiful on the plate, I never hesitated to dive right in, and mess things up a bit. Upon receiving the picturesque duck-egg fettuccine with crispy wild mushrooms, crème fraiche, arugula, and lemon zest, Tony instructed us to “…mix it all up! It’s much better that way.” Indeed, he was correct.

SL: Our server aptly guided us through the menu, as there were many dishes wecouldn’t resist trying. Duck confit fritters topped with beet-pickled cabbage and a butternut squash and malted-barley puree were crispy outside, rich and soft inside, with the acidity of the pickled cabbage to cut the fat, while the sauce added the final element to round out the dish. The octopus was not only texturally perfect, snappy outside but soft inside, but the high flavor notes of radish, red onion, greengoddess dressing, and perfectly crisp acidulated potatoes created an amazing flavor journey from start to finish.

EL: At the conclusion of our meal, just when we were convinced another bite wasn’t possible, Tony suggested the flourless chocolate torte with a banana and chocolate-chip ice cream and strawberry sauce. As a woman who is five-months pregnant, it didn’t take much persuading for me to indulge. And it was worth every bite. That’s a good way to summarize the whole experience at Black Dirt; every taste is purposeful, well executed, and more delicious than your last forkful. We’ll be back soon… perhaps for the entrée menu, perhaps for the bar menu. Either way, Black Dirt is perfect for any occasion, big or small.

Designing for Community Impact: The Story of Kansas City’s Nile Valley Aquaponics

A project architect in HOK’s Kansas City office, Tony McGrail is a lead designer for a proposed expansion of the Nile Valley Aquaponics urban farm. Nile Valley represents an innovative and sustainable model of producing fresh, healthy food while also rebuilding a community and mentoring at-risk youth. Here, McGrail discusses how community impact and architecture merge – and why he believes in Nile Valley’s grassroots mission to nourish our city.

First of all, what is aquaponics?

The simple definition is that it’s the symbiotic relationship of growing plant and animal life together. In the case of Nile Valley Aquaponics, the animals are fish, specifically tilapia, and the plants are fruits and vegetables. The fish generate waste that is used to fertilize and feed the plants. The plants filter water and return it to the fish. Nile Valley’s name comes from Egypt, where the Nile River has nourished life for millions of years in this natural process.

Tell us a bit about Nile Valley and its mission and purpose in Kansas City.

Nile Valley is the brainchild of Dre Taylor. Dre is a civic activist who a few years ago founded Males 2 Men, an organization that provides mentorship to kids growing up in and around the East Side of Kansas City. This part of the city is historically black and impoverished with a preponderance of crime. Dre was born in the neighborhood and has committed his life to trying to improve it for future generations, with Nile Valley being an extension of that. The neighborhood is also what is known as an urban food desert, with very few options for those seeking nutritious and healthy food. With Nile Valley Aquaponics, Dre is now producing tens of thousands of pounds of fresh fruit and fish, as well as jobs and education for those in the community.

How did you get involved in assisting Dre in his efforts?

Dre’s Nile Valley endeavor has come a long way from the school basement where it started. The property where it now sits was largely abandoned and primarily owned by the city’s land bank and a not-for-profit. As Dre worked with those entities to acquire the property, he began to fix up the land. His efforts got some publicity in the local news, which generated a buzz. Around this same time, I was involved in a leadership program with the Kansas City chapter of the AIA, Pillars. I was fascinated with Dre’s story and reached out to him to see if our program could do a charrette that could provide him with concepts for Nile Valley. We spent a half day touring the property and working with him, creating a handful of sketches. Dre was like, “This is great! Can you do some more?” So I brought it up to the HOK leadership team here in Kansas City.

What was the reaction from the Kansas City team?

They were a little skeptical at first. Designing farms that operate on fish-water is not exactly an established HOK practice area or market. Not to mention, aquaponics was a fairly new concept to many. But they quickly realized the many layers of this project, especially when it comes to sustainability and community. So we agreed to provide some pro bono renderings and designs that might help Dre and his vision to expand the farm. And since we’ve become involved, we’re now exploring how this type of sustainable food production could be part of other project types, such as stadiums, mixed-use developments, health-care facilities, airport terminals, and commercial office spaces as a way to provide people with access to fresh food. What started here in Kansas City has the potential to change communities across the world.

Tell us about your plan for Nile Valley. Did you have to study up on agricultural design beforehand?

The concept of aquaponics was not completely foreign to me or my HOK colleagues on the project – Jake Baker and J.J. Nicolas. We all graduated from the Kansas State architecture program, where we studied aquaponics as part of our environmental systems class. What I hadn’t seen before was an aquaponics system like what is used in a greenhouse on the scale that Nile Valley does it. And I have to say, what he’s done with limited resources and support is amazing. They’ve dug three trenches (much of it by hand!) that are 100 feet long and deep enough (6 feet) that they provide geothermal warmth in the winter. His greenhouses are made of plastic tarps that, in colder months, he covers with a transparent black cover to capture solar heat gain and keep the indoor temperature a balmy 60- to 80-degrees Fahrenheit. Our design opens up the site, making it transparent and welcoming to the community. We want it to be a place where people can hold events and where kids can come and learn about farming and food. It proposes new, permanent greenhouses, additional community grow beds, and repurposing the shipping container presently on site into a market and store. We envision that the expansion could double the amount of food currently grown on the site and ensure it remains a beacon for sustainable living in a neighborhood most in need.

What’s next for Nile Valley Aquaponics?

Dre and Nile Valley are in the middle of a capital campaign for the expansion, with two parallel organizational entities being formed. One would maintain nonprofit community outreach and educational programming and another would make the food production a for-profit entity. This would allow them to accept both investor and philanthropic capital as well as grants and alternative funding.

How to Use the Bluetooth in Your BMW

Being able to connect your phone to your BMW using Bluetooth is one of the first things most owners want to do, and why not? You can receive calls without having to take your hands off the wheel, and can even stream your music. This keeps you and your family safe, as you’re not having to fumble with your cellphone when driving. But you might be worried that it’s too complicated, or that you need to go through a lot of difficult steps. So Ted Lindner, one of our Client Advisors, is here to walk you through how to connect it for the first time. After you’ve paired it, you don’t need to run through the whole process each time. This is just for the initial setup.

From the BMW iDrive’s home screen, you first need to scroll over and select the “Communication” button. Then go down to “Manage mobile devices” and select that. Then select “Connect new device“. Next, select the first option, “Telephone“. The iDrive screen will now display an ID number for the vehicle. In your cellphone’s Bluetooth menu, you’ll need to search for the device with that name and number, and select that. Go ahead and allow your phone to connect, and give it any permissions it needs for your contacts. If your BMW has Apple Carplay, like our X5 here, the iDrive screen will ask if you want to use that.

But that’s it! Communication, Manage mobile devices, Connect new device, Telephone. Four simple steps.While BMW iDrive is a very powerful system, it is much easier to navigate to what you need than you might expect. So once your phone is connected, you have all of your phone’s capabilities at your fingertips. If you have any questions or issues, please feel free to contact us at (785) 266-8480.

Position Available: Sales Specialist

BMW/ VW of Topeka, a leading high-end, luxury dealership in the Topeka automotive market, is looking to add a qualified SALES SPECIALIST to our team! We have an opening to sell luxury automobiles (mainly new car) and be rewarded for it with one of the best pay plans in the area. You have support from a fully integrated CRM system and leads from a growing internet program.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY

BMW / VW of Topeka offers a unified team environment, great benefits, and ongoing training, and support for its employees. Previous automotive sales experience is preferred but not required. Apply today or refer a qualified friend. You can apply by visiting the following Web site at www.soaveautomotivegroup.com/careers or you can respond directly to this ad with your resume. We look forward to hearing from you!

Job Responsibilities include:

  • Provides excellent customer service by helping customers select a vehicle that fits their needs
  • Explains product performance, application, and benefits to customer by describing all optional equipment available
  • Demonstrates new (and used, when necessary) vehicles
  • Maintains up-to-date knowledge on new products, features, and accessories available a
  • Maintains a prospect development system by following up with active prospects using the Dealership’s Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)
  • Follows up with previous customers for referrals and future sales
  • Works without constant supervision

In addition to competitive pay, we offer our associates the following benefits:

  • Health, Dental, Vision, Life, and Disability insurance
  • 401(k) plan with company match
  • Paid Time-Off
  • Employee Vehicle Purchase Program
  • Professional work environment, with job training and advancement opportunities

Qualifications

  • At least 1 year dealership experience is preferred

Job Type: Full-time

Grand Opening

On June 15th, we had our official Grand Opening party. That involved clearing the majority of our cars out of the showrooms to make room for dinner, drinks, and a DJ. The Volkswagen Atlas and BMW M4 GTS stayed put as the pampered guests, of course. We just want to extend a huge “thank you” to everyone who made it out with us to celebrate!

Getting to this point has been a very long and difficult road, but we are finally here. We could not be more proud of our new facility, and the opportunity to better serve the Topeka community.

But for those of you who were unable to make it, here’s a peek at how the night went!

Position Available: Sales Specialist

Our BRAND NEW, STATE-OF-THE-ART facility is complete, and now we need YOU to be a part of our growth and success!

BMW/Volkswagen of Topeka, a leading high-end, luxury dealership in the Topeka automotive market, is looking to add a qualified SALES SPECIALIST to our team! We have an opening to sell luxury and used car automobiles and be rewarded for it with one of the best pay plans in the area.  You have support from a fully integrated CRM system and leads from a growing internet program.  

BMW/Volkswagen of Topeka offers a unified team environment, great benefits, and ongoing training and support for its employees. Previous automotive sales experience is preferred but not required. Apply today or refer a qualified friend. You can apply by visiting the following Web site at www.soaveautomotivegroup.com/careers. We look forward to hearing from you!

Job Responsibilities include:

  • Provides excellent customer service by helping customers select a vehicle that fits their needs
  • Explains product performance, application, and benefits to customer by describing all optional equipment available
  • Demonstrates new (and used, when necessary) vehicles
  • Maintains up-to-date knowledge on new products, features, and accessories available a
  • Maintains a prospect development system by following up with active prospects using the Dealership’s Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)
  • Follows up with previous customers for referrals and future sales
  • Works without constant supervision

In addition to competitive pay, we offer our associates the following benefits:

\Health, Dental, Vision, Life, and Disability insurance

401(k) plan with company match

Paid Time-Off

Employee Vehicle Purchase Program

Professional work environment, with job training and advancement opportunities

Qualifications

At least 1 year dealership experience is preferred

Job Type: Full-time

Come Grow with Us

You may have noticed that we’ve been doing a small bit of remodeling at BMW/VW of Topeka. Well, remodeling might be an understatement. We’ve been building a brand new, top of the line showroom to better serve the Topeka community, and now that it is nearly complete, we’re looking to expand our team. We will be looking to fill sales, service, and parts positions.

We are looking to build a team that can grow with us as we expand. We will train for all departments, so if you have a passion for automobiles, and dedication towards providing excellent customer service, we’d love to bring you along for the ride.

Apply online at www.SoaveAutomotiveGroup.com/Careers. BMW/VW of Topeka is part of the Soave Automotive group, which also includes Mercedes Benz of Kansas City and Aristocrat Motors.

The History of the BMW Roundel

The BMW roundel is one of the most famous logos in the world. Even people that know nothing about cars can recognize the BMW logo. But do you know where that logo came from? It’s probably not what you were told. A lot of people believe that the logo is supposed to represent a plane’s propellor spinning in front of a blue sky, as a way of showing the company’s history with aircraft engines. Except the image that everyone points at for this was made in 1929, a full twelve years after BMW registered their trademark of the logo.

So if it’s not from aviation, where did that logo come from? Well, the idea of a round logo ringed by the company name was taken from their predecessor, Rapp Motorenwerke. As for the logo itself, that comes from simple hometown pride. BMW is from Bavaria, a region in Germany. Here is the flag of Bavaria:

So if you put that flag inside a circle, you wind up with something remarkably close to the current BMW logo. So that’s it. No impressionistic aircraft depictions, no obscure metaphors, no confusing symbolism. They are just proud of where they came from. And from that, came one of the most iconic images in the history of the automobile. There’s something special about that.

That logo still adorns all BMWS today. So come down and test drive one yourself.