Text | MELODY PARKER
Images | Brandon Pollock
The broad front porch is an invitation to pause and soak in Iowa’s countryside. With its crisp white columns and symmetrical dormers, the home’s architecture speaks of tradition with affection — and a nod to Craftsman lines.
But the real welcome begins at the front door, where guests are likely to be ushered in by the family’s golden retrievers.
Inside the entrance, the foyer opens into a T-shape. Large 20- by 20-inch tiles set in a diagonal border emphasizes the unexpected drama of a central staircase positioned horizontally across the space. Visually, the effect draws the gaze through iron railings and beyond into the great room and its expansive view through floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s also a glimpse of the back veranda, as inviting as the front porch.
Steve Johannes built the home from plans the homeowners, who relocated from Michigan, found in a magazine and overhauled to suit their own lifestyle. They admired Johannes’ woodworking skills and asked him to built the cabinetry and handle the finishing, noting “it would be nice if he could build it. We needed a builder. He called back a few days and said, ‘what if I build your house?’ Steve has great perspective and an eye for proportion. He made it happen and captured who we are as a family,” she says.
She also added to the mix Rhonda Staley, IIDA, from The Mansion in Iowa City. The interior designer knew she had to work with a few particulars, including the family’s Oriental rugs and passion for cherry wood. “They brought with them things they loved and wanted to incorporate into their home. It needed to be warm and inviting and flow with particular colors and finishes. I loved the rugs, the cherry and the rest of it, and I pulled out fabrics and details I thought she’d love,” Staley explains.
Brazilian cherry hardwood floors flow through the main level like a river, seemingly impervious to dogs’ toenails and daily wear-and-tear. Soft white walls provide the background for the great room’s striking barrel vault ceiling, massive fireplace and built-in cabinetry, all in a rich, deep cherry finish. The pale walls also balance the large, square white columns that frame the space.
Staley pulled soft teal green from the Oriental rug for the chenille-upholstered sofa. A subtle floral pattern dresses one set of club chairs, a neutral solid fabric grounds the opposite ones, and turn-legged hinged end tables add to the room’s traditional appeal.
Hidden in the fireplace cabinetry is a secret door into the wife’s private office and personal retreat. Yellow patterned wallpaper and pale wainscoting sets the stage for a Stickley desk and pair of yellow striped wing chairs.
In the dining room, the vintage Stickley table, chairs and sideboard were purchased at auction. Traditional damask wallpaper complements the formality.
The roomy kitchen is the home’s nucleus. The homeowner’s favorite butter yellow color is played against a decorative tile backsplash, functional island and wrap-around Juparana granite counter tops. Quarried in Brazil, the granite is warm with peachy to yellow tones with black veins and swirls.
“It has nice movement and looks great with cherry,” notes Staley. “And it’s such a large part of the kitchen, she had to be happy with it. The counters are wide to hide kitchen mess from view, and cherry paneling on the refrigerator and pantry wall is a finishing architectural touch.”
The comfortable, cozy family room is part of this hub, and an outdoor kitchen/grill room is perfect for their frequent entertaining. “It’s a four-season space we added two years after the home was built. We use it all the time, but I think we enjoy it most in the winter. I like to sit out here with coffee and watch the snow fall and deer run through the yard,” the homeowner says.
“There’s wonderful flow through this house, and it really is perfect for large or small gatherings.”
The search continues for the perfect rug in the master suite. For now, the barrel-vault ceiling hugs the room with its king-sized bed, towering headboard and marble fireplace. Again, the homeowner chose yellow for the color scheme, warmed by the cherry floors. In the master bath, the freestanding tub sits beneath a floral stained glass window.
On the lower level, entertaining is the name of the game. The character-filled, granite-topped cherry bar holds center court with plenty of seating. There’s also a theater and big-screen TV for watching movies, football and other sports.