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HOME INTERVIEW: CHENTELL SHANNON

Introduction

My name is Chentell Shannon, and I am the owner and lead designer of Convivial and Verdant. I began Convivial in 2014 with the vision to build a company that created beautiful, functional, ceramic wares for the home, table and garden. I wanted our wares to be durable, timeless and thoughtful - wares that would set the scene for conviviality. I opened Verdant in 2020 with the vision to pair our ceramic wares, specifically our vases and planters, with the beauty and fullness of plants and flowers. 

In 2020 I was able to transition my role in both companies from a hands-on, operational role of working within production, to embrace more of a visionary and orchestrative role for both companies. This professional change coincided with the personal, home change that I had been laying the groundwork to make as well.

A small back story...  

My husband and I have been in Kansas City since 2013 and we have moved every 1-2 years since. We have a fascination for learning and experiencing the charm of different homes and discovering nuances of new neighborhoods. For years we have found joy in driving around Kansas City and dreaming about different homes, envisioning what stages of life we’d be in to “buy a house that style” or “restore a house of that size”. It has become a part of the DNA of our relationship, our goals and our long-term career plans. 

In 2016 we were able to purchase our first home, a small bungalow in East Brookside, where all of the structural and interior work was updated, leaving the fun of paint colors, fixtures and countertops to update. This was our first experience having full access to work within a home, updating it aesthetically and designing it how we felt would be best for the space. We loved it. We quickly felt the drive to continue. After updating the home, we placed it on the market for rental, and began looking for our next neighborhood, our next home. 

While searching we lived in a tiny 750 sq/ft apartment with our two Dalmatians, Cash and Yoncé. We were looking for a Historic neighborhood that would be rich in beauty, yet accessible in price. This led us to the Historic North East of Kansas City, a neighbor known for its rich history, diversity and sprawling landscape of beautiful concourses and trails for it’s residence. For years we drove through the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood streets looking for the right house for us, hoping we’d catch it quickly as it came onto the market. Years later, we found our current home, what I always refer to as “big, brick and beautiful”....the three B’s I love in an old home.

This home was the perfect next step for us to develop our skills in restoration of homes, and for me to continue my work as a designer, in a new medium. As my work at Convivial and Verdant has become more visionary and administrative, working on homes has become a new avenue for me to keep my design and craftsman skills developing.

What I have loved most about it? It has truly brought me new appreciation for Convivial and Verdant and the categories we create within - home, table, garden. As I work to restore a home within these three, distinct categories in mind, I have become even more appreciative of the products we create and how effortlessly they bring those spaces to life. 

Your current space is relatively new. Tell us about how you chose this home? What qualities or details spoke most to you prior to moving in? 

The features I loved most about this house from first visit were the Historic details. The previous renovators were very careful to maintain the remaining historic details that were in and outside of the house - the carved detailing above the windows, the ornamental staircase, the study’s pocket door and the original, dark-stained wood trim throughout the bottom floor. Their work provided the perfect base for us to come in and elevate the home with details that would compliment the style and age of the home.

Can you walk us through the process of designing your home. How are you setting up your home to function? 

We can start with the downstairs for this visit!  As you most likely already know, a lot of old homes of this size are very narrow and compartmentalized. Our downstairs has five main sections - entry way, study, living room, dining room and kitchen - each with four walls distinguishing the space from another. The two first challenges we saw with our space were. 1.) The size of the dining room, not being sure if it would accommodate our full family indoors.  2.) The study seemed as if it would just become an underutilized, redundant room if we didn’t design it well. We decided to address these aspects of our home first!

Stephen and I love to host. Our go-to dinner party size is 12 guests, which we can, with a very, very cozy fit, squeeze into our dining room as is. However, we also love to host company events and have vision for hosting larger, personal parties as well. For example, our company holiday party. Every year, after our teams have completed the holiday season, it is our tradition to host the entire team and their significant others at our home for hot soup, games and gifts. With Convivial growing this year to be a 20-25 person company, we knew we needed to design our space in a way that we’d be able to host 40-50 people. A fun challenge for this old, narrow home! So our first big home projects were to remove the wall between the dining room and the kitchen and to build an outdoor patio for extended hosting. The wall is down, check! And our backyard now has a patio, check!

Our backyard was a dump-zone when we moved in. It was full of glass, trash and rubble. We spent all spring removing 40 tons of discarded material and bringing in 30 tons of new hardscaping material to build a substantial brick patio. Phew! It was a feat! Our back patio now holds a long, narrow table that can accommodate 18+ guests. This paired with our indoor capacity of 12, gave us a big boost in our goals to be able to host larger! We are brainstorming additional seating options now and enjoying the strategizing and dreaming process.

The second big project I have been working on is stylizing the interior space of our downstairs, and it all began with the effort to dream up how we could best utilize our front room - the study. I wanted the front room to be a statement room when you walked into the home. I wanted it to set the tone for the rest of the house. It has a formal wood mantel and a historic, black, steel fireplace. Such depth! Being someone who loves games, puzzles and cards, I felt very inspired by this room being renovated as a “Game Room” or a “Play Room” with a small seating area for these activities.  Eight months later, after replacing the fireplace tiles, skim coating the walls, installing crown and wall molding details and painting the room, it is now complete with a game table, chairs, storage (for our games, books, puzzles and heirloom items) plants/planter, and finished with a piano for daily learning and play. This room has already been enjoyed for numerous game nights. And a plus... it also gives us additional seating for large events. A win, win!

Describe your general aesthetic. What main principles come to mind when selecting or collecting items for your home and arranging them?

Minimalistic. Historic Modern! Something I think about often with the spaces we live in, and even more so with moving from a 750 sq ft apartment to a 1600 sq/ft home, is that I want to design our home in a way where excess belongings and decorations are not needed, no matter the size of our living space. The most prominent way I address this is by installing architectural moulding to the walls within our home. This gives the home a sophisticated, finished feel, without actually acquiring more belongings. It keeps us from having to buy wall art  or excess furniture to make the house feel lived in.

Living minimalistically benefits the amount of cleaning and organizing we need to do. It eliminates time needed to go through items we own to decide if we need them anymore or not. It makes moving easier when the time comes again in the future.  Last, maintaining minimal belongings and choosing to invest in the structural decor or features of the home also increase value. Most often when purchasing decor, you lose value in those items, rather than gaining value. This intentional design principle also feels like a win, win! I love those double wins!

How are you curating Convivial wares within your home?

Of the items I do collect for our home, of course I have all categories of Convivial featured. How can I not! I love the products we create and it is a true joy to use them daily. This house specifically, because it is full of historic and dark walnut features, I am very drawn to our Minimal and Ivory wares. They always compliment. They always elevate. They always brighten.

In our unrenovated Kitchen you will see a dinnerware collection sized and ready to host parties of 20+ guests. And in our living spaces you will see vases with fresh flowers from Verdant on our tables. You’ll see planters filled with plants of all sizes and varieties from Verdant in every room. Last, you’ll see candles at arms reach for enjoyment. Right now my go-to is Amber Santal and Jasmine + Eucalyptus!

What transformations, big or small, are you most proud of so far?

When I stand outside of our home at night, I love looking into the windows of our home and feeling as if the interior style we are building for the home matches the exterior style. Cozy. Classy. Historic. I feel most proud that the transformation of our home is feeling thoughtful in design and quality in finish. Last, I am proud to share our home with our friends and family! I am not one who feels a home needs to be pristine to be presentable or finished without flaw to host. Rather, I love sharing the transformation with our friends and family - sharing the details that make the process interesting. It’s fun to bring people into the process, to share the realities of design and to share with them what I am learning.

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