Local designer Arlene Ladegaard shares illusion-worthy tricks for opening up a space

Photo by Nate Sheets

If you were to ask Arlene Ladegaard what makes her stand out from other interior designers, she would probably point to her knowledge of recognizing and utilizing scale in a space. The longtime designer and owner of Design Connection, Inc. can thank her residence in Europe for that—after living in Los Angeles post-college, she and her husband called Switzerland home for seven years.

“By the time I came back to the United States and to Kansas City, the design looked really strange to me,” she says. “Everything looked really big and the scale looked huge. In Europe, they’re very clever about space and how they work with it.”

See what she learned and how she uses her talents at her own home in Leawood.

Living Room

Ladegaard first used this drapery fabric for a client, and she loved it so much that she decided to use it in her own home. “I think print drapery gives the space more of a personality and sets the tone,” she says. The space outside the large windows boasts a ton of greenery, which ties into the textiles around the windows and in the throw pillows.

The Courtyard

This home’s biggest selling point for Ladegaard was the central courtyard. Courtyards are a common element in breezy California homes, and Ladegaard says it reminds her of her time living in Los Angeles. “We can entertain in our courtyard, keep our doors open and have a nice air circulation inside our home,” she says.

The Entryway

One way to make a space feel larger and significant, Ladegaard says, is to add a mirror to it, which is perfectly demonstrated in this open entryway. “If the mirrors weren’t here, the space would feel unimportant and small and uneventful,” she says.


Ladegaard installed a big island in the center of the kitchen for more work and storage space—the spacious drawers are deep enough to fit her pots and pans. She went with a dark java wood finish, which she says is not only timeless but can be easily touched up if it’s nicked. The sheen of the brown tile backsplash contrasts against the substantial white range hood, whose size pairs well with the large-scale pendant light fixtures.


Ladegaard says this room was small in size, so she had to use her scaling techniques to make the furniture fit and look just right. “I purposely had a very light carpet, light walls and white ceiling,” she says. The monochromatic tone of the room opens up the space and makes it feel bright.

Ladegaard recommends having a light fixture over a bed. “You can add direct LED lighting,” she says. “It is an inexpensive way to add drama to a space and lights up any artwork over the bed.”

Additionally, the airy glass lamp bases on the nightstands make the light sources seemingly disappear into the room.


Ladegaard loves to add shimmery or textured wallpaper to her designs because she feels it adds depth and dimension to a space that flat wall paint can’t achieve. “This was a really dark bathroom, and the wall coverings added a lot of light,” she says. “We also freshened it up by adding mirrors, and changing out drawers and hardware.”

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