The family reaches for the sky

The old water tower on Elm Street in Iola has not been used for years, in addition to housing a few antennae and an occasional gathering place for red-headed vultures.

Max and Candice Grundy want to change that.

Iola artists — from transplants in Utah, to Los Angeles — proposed to transform the city’s old infrastructure into a one-of-a-kind tourist destination.

The Grundys want to convert the tower into a high-rise Airbnb, complete with an observation deck to provide 360-degree panoramic views of Iola and the surrounding countryside.

“There is so much natural beauty here,” said Max Grundy. “The sky is such a radiant blue and the grass such a vivid green. The scenery can be so amazing and you will be able to see it from a high vantage point.

The idea came from an offhand comment from a friend in California, who wondered if something like a converted water tower would work on the West Coast.

“That’s when the light bulb went out,” Grundy said. “We have a water tower here in town.”

The Grundys propose that the tank part of the tower become a split-level living space, comprising an open floor plan and attic, with windows around the perimeter to provide unobstructed views of the countryside in all directions.

The lower parts of the reservoir portion of the tower would contain utilities, such as water heaters and HVAC systems. Occupants would access the living quarters and observatory via a freight elevator using one of the tower’s legs.

Grundy’s proposal was briefly discussed by members of the Iola City Council at their June 13 meeting, which would obviously require a transfer of ownership to the Grundys, and whether Iola’s purchasing policies would require putting the turn in competition with all potential buyers.

“There would be people who could outbid us, sure, but there won’t be many people who could do what we would do,” Grundy said. “We would get there. We have all the connections to build it, to design it to be safe.

THE GRUNDYS grew up in Utah and moved to Los Angeles in 2008 as Max and Candice’s artistic careers took off.

His designs of hot rods and all things automotive soon caught on in Southern California, as Grundy eventually struck deals to create designs for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). commercial popular among builders and car enthusiasts.

Grundy describes his art as “retro-futurism, a bit dark, but a bit light at the same time”.

Iolans Max and Candice Grundy proposed to turn Iola’s old water tower into an “elevated living” project. Courtesy picture

Grundy’s work eventually caught the eye of a Disney representative, which led to a whole new line of work with the House of Mouse. Grundy helped come up with design ideas for Cars Land, a Disneyland attraction featuring the movie ‘Cars’, as well as with other Disney franchises including ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ”Frozen’ and now ‘Star Wars”. (His latest piece is a painting of Darth Vader inside a canteen.)

“We’re not that big, but we’re happy to be part of it,” Grundy said.

But despite all of their professional success, the Grundys soon realized that life in Southern California was unsuitable for their young family. They have two children, daughter Church, 12, and son Ace, 10.

“When it all hit with the pandemic and the riots, we had had enough,” Grundy said. “There are a lot of advantages to living there, but it was time for us to leave.”

A friend invited the Grundys to visit his home in Cameron, Mo, a northern suburb of Kansas City.

They found Missouri intriguing. “It’s a beautiful state, but something didn’t click,” Grundy said.

Namely, they couldn’t find a home to their liking, he explained.

“We knew we were looking for a mid-century model home,” he said.

Their real estate agent found such a home on North Kentucky Street in Iola, owned by the late Mary Lea Wright.

“It was like stepping into a time capsule,” Grundy said. “It had the original mahogany walls. We love that kind of stuff from that kind of era. He was in really good condition. It just needed to be refreshed. We fell in love with it. It felt like home”

Not wanting to buy a home without checking out the community first, the Grundys spent time learning about Iola — and loving what they learned.

Grundy likened the atmosphere of Iola to a cross between Mayberry and Marty McFly’s hometown in “Back to the Future”.

“It was perfect for us,” he said. “The city center is so clean and organized. The old buildings are kept in good condition.

The Grundys moved to Iola in mid-2021 and have since been busy renovating the home.

“We repainted the whole interior and installed new floors,” he said.

Next on the to-do list is the outdoors, and a stable will soon be expanded and transformed into the couple’s studio – complete with a workshop for the cars.

In addition to his art, Grundy also enjoys restoring vintage hot rods. He usually completes one each year for the SEMA show.

He continues to work in Los Angeles, or wherever his artistic business takes him.

“We’re about to have everyone realize that you can live anywhere you want and make a living,” Grundy said. “You can work online, and here it’s so easy to go to an airport and fly wherever you want.”

GRUNDY is eager to share his vision of the water tower with anyone who wants to know more.

He and Candice — she’s also a talented artist who can work alongside her husband — have worked on building design before, including designing what became SEMA’s Los Angeles headquarters.

“It was really a fun project,” Grundy said. “We haven’t done a lot of architecture, but we always have.

“We love all things design and try to get involved in whatever we can,” he continued. “We love that kind of country, small-town vibe. It’s been really nice for us to get out of the madness.

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