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All in Good Time
By Tracy Dickinson | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: decorating features

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A Des Moines couple transforms their Waterbury home one perfect piece at a time.

Some people spend months researching and interviewing designers before they begin a home improvement project. Jeff and Jennifer Olson, though, just happened to walk through the right door at the right time.

“We were just out doing some shopping,” Jennifer says, “and we stopped in the Village Boutique.” Owner Myra Lynn Hansen showed the couple some of her favorite finds on the store’s furniture floor, and in the process, the Olsons learned about Hansen’s other business, MLH Designs, Inc.

“Jeff told her we had some work we wanted done at our house, and that’s how we got started,” Jennifer explains.

Hansen and fellow designer Jamel Fuchs met with the homeowners several times at the Olsons’ house in the Waterbury area of Des Moines to discuss ideas for improving the living spaces and decorating the home to better reflect the homeowners’ eclectic tastes.

“Originally Jeff and Jennifer simply wanted to get the home’s two fireplaces working, and they hoped to remodel the great-room and open up the space for family gathering and entertaining,” Hansen says.

After reviewing the potential projects, Hansen recommended starting with the more public rooms in the house and saving the great-room remodel for a later date.

“The great-room project will require some major structural work and demolition, so it’s a much more costly redesign,” Hansen explains. “But the other items on the Olsons’ wish list would give them a completely new look for all the main rooms of the home while providing added convenience as well.”

Starting at the front door, Hansen and Fuchs worked their way through the entry, the living room, the sunroom, the dining room, and up to the second floor.

“Jeff and Jennifer had several issues to be addressed,” says Hansen. “The fireplaces weren’t functioning. They wanted to get the laundry room out of the basement. Other than some key items—paintings and novelty pieces—that they wanted to keep, most of the public rooms were pretty bare, and the Olsons weren’t sure how to give the rooms a finished look.”

Hansen and Fuchs spent a great deal of time visiting with the couple to learn their tastes and their lifestyle before presenting them with ideas for transforming their home. And the MLH Designs team was careful to stay true to the Olsons’ unique style.

According to Fuchs, “When we first meet a client, we discuss how they live, what their needs are, what colors they like, etc. Then we work to create a design that will meet their needs and enhance their lives.” At that point, the designers present those ideas to the client.

“We never force our ideas and concepts on them,” Fuchs says. “That’s not our job. We offer them options to choose from.”

Hansen agrees. “Even if there’s a piece of art or furniture that a client absolutely loves that may not be to our liking, we absolutely make it work. It can be challenging at times, but that’s what we do.”

For the Olsons' tastes, the design incorporated animal prints and some brightly colored accents, with black as the unifying element in each of the main-level rooms. Over the course of nearly a year, MLH Designs completely transformed the house, including removing wallpaper, repainting, designing carpets, and adding window coverings.

“Very little was purchased off our store's floor,” says Hansen. “Jamel worked with our vendors to custom-design the furniture. She chose fabrics and hand-picked accessories that were just right for the Olsons. Everything was custom-ordered for their home.”

The front entry has new custom area rugs and a carpet runner for the beautiful stairway. Railings and trim were repainted, and furniture, mirrors, and art were added. The Olsons already had gorgeous dining room furniture, which the MLH Designs team accented with a custom-ordered light fixture and unique accessories.

“I think my favorite room is the sunroom,” Jennifer says. “It’s warm and comfortable and really reflects some of the things I love.”

Fuchs and Hansen added plantation-style shutters to enhance the room’s original tile floors and the inviting buttery gold walls. Plants, bold splashes of orange, leather, and zebra print accents add to the eclectic feel that perfectly reflects the Olsons’ tastes.

Frustration with the non-functioning fireplaces and the inconvenient laundry facility may have motivated the discussion with MLH Designs, but the Olsons ended up with much more than convenience.

“Everyone says to start with a piece you love and go from there,” Jennifer says. “But I was frustrated trying to make the things I had chosen work together. Jamel and Myra Lynn fine-tuned everything into rooms that we love. And the fireplaces even work, too!”

What started out as a casual day of shopping became something more lasting. With the expertise of MLH Designs, Jeff and Jennifer Olson are enjoying the home they’ve always imagined.


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