white kitchen two-height island parthenon quartzite

Des Moines Home Show Expo 2018 Project Reveal

Last Fall, which now seems like a lifetime ago, I heard from a previous client that they were thinking of selling the house I helped them update and building a new home in the northwest corner of Clive, Iowa. In our early conversations, the plan was to sell their house, move into a rental, and prepare to build in 2019. I was eight months pregnant at the time and thought that sounded perfect. We would have over a year to work on the design, and I would be on firm footing as a new mom before they broke ground.

It didn’t actually work out that way. My clients had an opportunity to purchase a lot in Angel Park, which was the planned site of the Des Moines Home Show Expo 2018. This particular lot was adjacent to the incredible biking trail system we enjoy here in Des Moines with a fabulous view as well. They had already selected a builder – K and V Homes – so all we needed to do was get the house designed, built, and furnished by the beginning of July 2018.

I think my clients would agree that being part of a home show was a pretty wild experience. Building a home is always emotional. Building a house on an accelerated timeline, knowing 12,000 people are going to be touring it, was kind of crazy.

The clients toured other houses built by K and V, which served as their inspiration for the exterior. We also looked at house plans online that met the criteria for the lot and the spaces they needed. At the top of their wishlist were a large open kitchen, a luxurious master suite, a formal dining room, and a separate office. We worked with Plum Design to merge the inspiration photos and spatial elements into a truly custom home design.

Dining Room and Office

When you first enter the home through double doors, the dining room is on your left and the office is on your right.

transitional dining room revere pewter

We added an applied molding detail to both rooms painted in white semi-gloss to match the trim. This architectural detailing adds so much character but doesn’t feel as heavy as beams or coffers on a nine-foot ceiling.

transitional dining room revere pewter

We incorporated touches of black throughout the home to add contrast and a little drama. The black French doors with beveled glass panes, which lead into the office, are painted to match the office cabinetry. Polished nickel hardware adds a touch of sparkle.

home office black french doors

The amazing ladies at Pottery Barn at the Jordan Creek Mall helped us with styling the office for the Home Show Expo. Olson Larsen Gallery provided much of the artwork seen throughout the home.

Home Office Paneled Ceiling Revere Pewter

My clients can close the French doors when they need a little privacy, but the glass panes help the room to feel more expansive and connected to the rest of the home.

Home Office Paneled Ceiling Black Doors Revere Pewter

Great Room

From the entry, you can see right out the large great room windows to the wooded bike trail. We used dark stained hickory for the flooring throughout much of the main level. The hickory has a subtle open grain that is enhanced by the dark stain. It feels incredibly rich and elegant.

transitional living room stacked stone fireplace place benjamin moore revere pewter

The ceiling in the great room is a full two-stories, and we ran the stacked stone fireplace all the way up to serve as a dramatic focal point for the open great room. My clients wanted built-ins on either side of the fireplace, but they didn’t want them to feel heavy or distract from the fireplace. We arrived at this minimal asymmetrical design after several rounds of revisions.

stacked stone fireplace samsung frame tv revere pewter

We selected the Samsung Frame TV for over the linear fireplace because we didn’t want to break up the beautiful cream and beige stone with a big black box. I’m so happy that they chose this TV because it doesn’t detract from the restful mood of this room the way a regular TV would have done.

transitional living room stacked stone fireplace place benjamin moore revere pewter


The kitchen is my favorite room in this custom home for many reasons. First, it’s size is appropriate to the scale and stature of the home. Second, it’s placement in the home allowed for it to transition seamlessly to the outdoor entertaining space with a door to the deck and large windows behind the sink to let in light and the view. Third, it is truly a cook’s kitchen with professional grade appliances, tons of storage, and an enormous island.

white kitchen two-height island parthenon quartzite

My clients challenged me to design a huge island with seating for six with two distinct zones for cooking and eating but they did not want the dining area to be at table height. I admit that I was initially flustered by this request. Then they found an inspiration image of a two-height island with a very slight drop down. I suggested increasing the thickness of the main level countertop to further distinguish between the two zones. This design detail allowed us to create a 13′ island with seating for six, topped with stunning Parthenon Quartzite, without seaming the stone. We did have to cut down the counter stools to accommodate the reduced height of the dining countertop.

white kitchen two-height island parthenon quartzite

The curved cabinet style range hood was custom built for this project. We selected soft gray, beveled glass subway tiles for the backsplash. They pull out some of the gray veining in the Parthenon quartzite and add a subtle depth and dimension to the room. I love this modern interpretation of such a classic design element.

glass subway tile backsplash, curved cabinet style range hood

white kitchen with dark island, dark hickory hardwood floors

This kitchen is completely open to the living room pictured above with only a change in ceiling height to distinguish between the two spaces. We incorporated this cabinetry style hutch as a transition piece between the kitchen and living spaces. It’s also convenient to the dining room through the short hall you can see on the right.

white cabinet hutch with wine storage

We tiled the back of the glass front cabinet to make it feel like the glass subway tile was flowing up through the cabinet from the backsplash. I think this little detail helps this piece to feel more special than just more kitchen cabinetry. The glass cabinet and backsplash are also fully lit, which creates some really pretty sparkle with all of the glassware.

Des Moines Home Show Expo 2018 white stacked wall cabinets, glass subway tile backsplash, Parthenon quartzite

Parthenon quartz

Master Suite

The master suite in this home is truly a dream. The bedroom gracefully accommodates a king size bed with large nightstands, a dresser, and a long bench in the window nook with plenty of circulation. The windows look out over the bike trail and into the trees.

upholstered king bed, transitional bedroom, sherwin williams agreeable gray

upholstered king bed, transitional bedroom, sherwin williams agreeable gray

The bedroom is at the back of the house, while the closet looks out onto the front, with the bathroom in between. In the photo below, you can see the connection between the three spaces through the sliding barn door.

barn door in bedroom

The large bathroom features an enormous walk-in shower, free-standing tub, double vanity with a makeup table, linen closet, and separate water closet. My clients expressed that they used their time getting ready each morning to connect with each other before beginning their busy, often hectic, days. I wanted this space to feel like a special retreat – light, soothing, and relaxing.

double vanity with makeup table

The layout of this bathroom meant that quite a bit of the floor tile was visible. I designed the ceramic floor tile to be laid on a 45-degree angle, which creates movement through the linear space, and incorporated a marble mosaic accent. The wainscot tub surround echoes the detailing on the dining room and office ceilings.

master suite freestanding tub and shower patterned tile floor

square freestanding tub, wainscot tub surround

Love this marble detailing in the shower.

I designed the vanity with custom mirrors trimmed out to match the cabinetry so that the entire wall would feel like one unified element. This also allowed me to drop the mirror at the makeup table so that my client can use it while seated.

Jack and Jill Bathroom

My clients have two little girls, and they share a Jack and Jill bathroom on the second floor of the house. We wanted their bathroom to feel youthful and fun but also have staying power so they won’t get tired of it as they get older.

gray and white bathroom with makeup vanity

We chose pale gray cabinets and paired them with white marble look quartz countertops and gray ceramic floor tile with a linen texture. Oversized crystal knobs add a whimsical element to the cabinetry and echo the crystal detail on the sconces.

jack and jill bathroom

We used an economical subway tile for the shower surround but installed it in wide gray and white stripes to make it more interesting and add some pattern.

striped subway tile shower

At the back of the niche, we installed a fun marble penny round that incorporates the gray and white from the field tiles. The curved shower rod helps the standard tub/shower combo to feel more spacious, and a classic hotel style shower curtain never goes out of style.

striped subway tile shower gray and white

Lower Level

In the lower level of this home, we designed a compact bar for entertaining, which connects to the patio. It’s adjacent to this gorgeous pool table, which is the centerpiece of the lower level. On the opposite side of the pool table (not shown, is a two-sided stacked stone fireplace) with another living area behind it as well as a regulation shuffleboard table.

Des Moines custom home, basement bar

The tile we selected for the bar backsplash is another favorite design element in this house. It’s a carved stone tile from Walker Zanger that coordinated perfectly with the quartz countertops. It unifies the wall cabinets and adds texture and dimension to the wall behind the television.

Des Moines custom home, basement bar

Olson Laren Gallery provided both of these fabulous art pieces. The piece on the right is a photograph of the Des Moines skyline feating 802 Grand by Justin Rogers, and the one on the right is a sketch layered on architectural vellum by Timothy Frerichs. You can see more work by both artists on the gallery website.

Powder Room & Mud Room

The powder room and mudroom are situated behind the kitchen and conveniently located off the garage. I am a big fan of making the powder room accessible to guests but not right in the middle of things. We wanted this powder to feel special and little different from the rest of the house, so we installed a floating vanity in a textured finish and topped it with the same Parthenon quartzite as the kitchen. Floating the vanity makes this small room feel bigger by allowing your eye to continue under the cabinetry with the flooring. The texture on the sconce is a reference to the textured cabinet doors and capiz mirror frame.

Transitional style powder room floating vanity

The mudroom is a simple but functional spot that connects the home’s laundry, pantry, and powder room to the garage and serves as the family’s main point of entry. We left the bottom portion open for easy shoe storage.

dark stain mudroom lockers

I hope you enjoyed this little tour! There were so many more spaces in this home I would have loved to photograph. If you’d like to see the photos all together, please visit the portfolio page.

The clients started this project with the intention that this was their forever home, and they envisioned their children growing up here and then returning with their partners and families. While this house may seem large for a family of four, we designed it to accommodate large family gatherings and host multiple grandchildren in the years to come. I am incredibly proud of the results we achieved together with K and V and all of their partners, vendors, and subs.

This house was one of six that were available for the public to tour as part of the Des Moines Home Show Expo 2018. It won first place for its kitchen, master suite, livability (tie), and craftsmanship, among several others, and it received the Best in Show award. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who helped with all of the finishing touches and staging, especially Angela and Kristin at Pottery Barn Jordan Creek, Skylar Adamson of West Elm Des Moines, Mark Goodrich of Olson Larsen Gallery, and Jessica Rae.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Touring the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

On Saturday, we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday with a trip to the Des Moines Botanical Gardens. I’ve lived in Des Moines for almost eight years and driven by the large dome visible from 235 countless times, but I’ve never visited until now. Everyone in my husband’s family loves plants and gardening, with him being a landscape architect by day (and grill aficionado in his spare time), and my sister-in-law an avid gardener in charge of the family garden center.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

We were blessed with an absolutely beautiful afternoon and we began our visit with lunch on the patio of Trellis. The food was fresh and plentiful with a view of the spectacular water gardens.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Afterwards, we toured the indoor tropical gardens before making our way outside to meander through the lush perennial and annual plantings.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

I love plants myself, particularly tropical houseplants and perennials, but I don’t know very much about planting them or keeping them alive. I’ll leave that to the experts.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

My favorites, of course, were the large tropicals like the split leaf philodendron and fiddle leaf fig as well as the rex begonias.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

This flower dripped down from an interesting vine growing up and over a trellis.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

I’d never seen a hibiscus with coloring as dramatic as this one.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

I can definitely see myself returning to the Botanical Gardens during the winter months to help alleviate my seasonal affective disorder and feel like it’s summer again for a little while at least.

Later that evening, we went out to my father-in-law’s for a dinner and a swim. I couldn’t resist the obligatory puppy photos, since they’re so good at posing.

Booker’s sister lounging poolside…

Photo Aug 06, 4 11 16 PM

And Booker in the grass at sunset…

Photo Aug 06, 9 39 32 PM

These late summer evenings in the 70s and low 80s are so pleasant and enjoyable. Here’s hoping the heat stays away, and the mild days continue.

Photo Aug 06, 9 22 13 PM

Photo May 17, 6 51 11 PM

Pretty Blooms Out On the Trails

One of the things I most love about where I live is the easy access to an extensive system of biking and walking trails. The trail that we use is a short five-minute walk away and follows Walnut Creek. I have been enjoying my early evening walks so much now that the weather is better. Many of the native prairie flowers are in bloom as well as the honeysuckles, which smell so sweet and fresh.Every day I notice something new to appreciate about

Every day I notice something new to appreciate about the stretch of trail that I walk. Yesterday, I saw a family of ducklings going for a swim in the creek. On Monday, Booker and I ran right into a young deer. We see groups of deer fairly frequently, and they don’t seem to be afraid of us at all.

Today I stopped to take some photographs of the flowers that were blooming alongside the trail. I know they’re just weeds, but I really love them, especially the phlox.

Photo May 18, 4 29 47 PM

Photo May 18, 4 32 37 PM

Photo May 18, 4 35 28 PM

Photo May 18, 4 36 37 PM

Photo May 18, 4 38 31 PM

Flowers - Windsor Heights Iowa


Photo May 17, 6 51 11 PM

I’m really grateful every day that I can easily get out into nature and be surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers while I walk.

Iowa Nice - Why I love living here

Iowa Nice: Why I Love Living Here

Last week, I happened to stumble upon Stephen Bloom’s December 9th opinion piece on The Atlantic website about rural Iowa, which has garnered much attention, mostly negative, including from his own colleagues and the University of Iowa President. It was so fantastically stereotypical, out of touch and just plain wrong that I couldn’t resist reading it over again and then out loud to Keegan, marveling over the idea that someone might pull over while I’m walking my lab to ask me if I hunt him. For the record, that’s never happened to me once in three years, and I walk him a lot. (I’ve been to two weddings here, and neither of them involved a jello mold.) I can’t get over how a journalism professor at a major university who has chosen (not been forced) to live here for over twenty years could so irresponsibly misrepresent Iowa and everyone who lives here.

Iowa Nice - Why I love living here

I won’t lie: I moved here with misgivings. I spent the first twenty-eight years of my life on either coast, and over five years of my adult life in major cities (San Francisco, Phoenix, Portland). I love skiing and swimming in the ocean, two activities not to be found here in Iowa. I enjoy visiting New York and Philadelphia and the energy, excitement, culture and diversity that can be found in a big city – not to mention the food or the shopping. But, after living in Iowa for just over three years, I have to say that I really love it here too.  My top reasons Iowa is a great place to live:

Iowa Nice - Why I love living hereWinterset, Iowa

1. It’s beautiful. Prairies and rolling hills are beautiful in a way completely different to the Appalachian mountains, the Oregon coastline, the San Francisco Bay, the deserts of Phoenix or anywhere else I’ve ever lived. The variety of color that can be found in the landscape, especially in Fall, is simply breathtaking.

Perry, Iowa

Perry, Iowa

2. It’s clean. The city is pristine as any I’ve ever visited, and so is everywhere else for that matter. We live in Windsor Heights, and the pride of ownership is evident in every home. People here care about where they live.

3. It’s fun. Since moving here, I’ve seen many of my favorite bands in concert, including O.A.R., Wilco, Gomez, Guster, Ingrid Michaelson, Sister Hazel, Joe Purdy, and Barenaked Ladies. Des Moines has great restaurants like Django (my personal favorite), Baru 66, Centro, La Mie, Sbrocco, Sakari Sushi and many more. The East Village is filled with unique shops like Domestica, Porch Light Antiques, Found Things, Seed, Eden, Ephemera, Aimee, AllSpice (and more), where I can find unique gifts, home decor, stationery, and clothing without having to brave the mall, though Jordan Creek is just as nice as any big city mall. This summer we attended the International Food Festival where we ate Turkish, Ecuadorian and Ukrainian. On my list of things to do next are the Bacon Festival, the Iowa State Fair, 80-35, Iowa Cubs games, and Bucs hockey games (we can walk to the stadium), and the Des Moines Art Festival.

4. It’s accessible. After living in cities like San Francisco and Phoenix, the traffic here in Des Moines is a walk in the park. I like to laugh at the Sunday morning real estate show when the host describes literally every home as twenty minutes from anywhere you want to go, but it’s really true! And, for us, most destinations are within 10-15 minutes.

5. It’s easy to be healthy. Our house is a quarter mile from the entrance to a system of bike trails that crosses the entire metro area. We also had access to the same trails when we lived twenty miles south in rural Cumming, Iowa. I walk our dogs along this trail almost daily, and it’s always beautiful and clean. We live less than a mile from the YMCA, and there are tons of options for fitness like Cross Fit, Kosama and Farrell’s, plus your typical gyms like Gold’s, Planet Fitness and AnyTime Fitness. You can also participate in a number of events like the Hy-vee Triathlon, the Des Moines Marathon and RAGBRAI, plus numerous smaller races. In November 2010, Trader Joe’s opened in West Des Moines, and a Whole Foods is scheduled to open later this year, not to mention locally owned Campbell’s Nutrition. During the warmer months, locally grown produce and meats are available through a plethora of CSAs and farmers’ markets including the Downtown Farmer’s Market, which is incredible.

Statue of a Girl at Iowa StateStatue of a Girl – Ames, Iowa

6. It’s creative. If you have read this blog for a little while, you know that I make jewelry and participate in Market Day, which is a monthly art + craft show that runs from May to November. In addition to selling at Market Day, I have met amazing artists and crafters and purchased unique, handmade artwork, pillows, baby clothes, stuffed animals, hand dyed yarn, scarves, soaps, and stationary that I’ve given away (reluctantly) and also kept for myself. If you want to learn more about painting, ceramics, jewelry making, photography, knitting or just about any other craft or creative pursuit, there is some place here to do it. Check out Des Moines Community Education and the Des Moines Art Center for a wide variety, class lists as Fishlips and Studio Fuzzishu for jewelry making, Ephemera for knitting, just to name a few of the many options.

7. It’s close to nature. This past October, we drove a quick and easy two hours to Lake Keosauqua, where we rented a small cabin with a view of the water, hiked with our dogs in the state park and visited several of the small Villages of Van Buren (which were neither scuzzy nor infested with meth addicts, Mr. Bloom). There are countless places where you can hike and camp and fish all over the state; so many that we had a difficult time choosing where to vacation.

Iowa Nice - Why I love living here

Orchard at Sunset – Cumming, Iowa

8. It’s nice. Iowa is nice. People here are nice. When I first moved here from Northeastern Pennsylvania, I went grocery shopping at Hy-vee. The checker asked me how my day was, if I had any plans for the weekend and if I needed help out to my car. I went home in amazement and told Keegan how surprised I was that the checker actually talked to me, pleasantly. He said, “Yeah, people here are nice.” It took me a while to get used to how nice and genuine Iowans really are, but now it’s my favorite part of living here. If you haven’t seen the cheeky (NSFW, use headphones) yet serious video by Scott Siepker and Paul Benedict, it’s the perfect rebuttal to Stephen Bloom and the rest of the media who would stereotype Iowa without taking a moment to step outside of their own haze of condescension and self-importance to actually experience what a wonderful place this is.