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Smooth Transition
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
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PLEASE NOTE: Photo download times will vary based on connection speed. Thank you for your patience.

With cooperation, a big move wasn’t a big pain.

Ideally, when a family moves to a new location, there’s time to check out the territory and get a lay of the land.

Ideally, too, for an interior designer helping those family members with their new home, there’s time to check out their existing home to see what they like and what furniture pieces she’ll be working around.

But for Michelle and Aaron Lentz and their son, Asher, 7, and for designer Laura Beeler of by Design in Clive, all those ideal situations didn’t exactly take place.

Aaron, an emergency medicine physician, accepted a job with UnityPoint Health System Iowa at the end of November. The family came and looked at 30 houses in a two-day crash course on home buying with Scott Wendl of RE/MAX, their Realtor. “We ultimately settled on a home we love in the Painted Woods area near Waukee,” Aaron explains. “We might have built a new home if there had been more time, but we didn’t want to move twice.” After all that looking, the couple bought the first home they looked at, a spec house by Rosewood Homes. It’s on a wooded lot, and they love watching the deer, bald eagles, and wild turkeys out their windows.

Aaron, originally from Kansas, and Michelle, an Oklahoma native, feel right at home “up north.” The location is good for Aaron, who can get on and off I-80 for work at Iowa Methodist, Iowa Lutheran, and Methodist West hospitals.

“Grown-up house”

The couple wanted this to be their “grown-up house,” Michelle says. “We decided to work with a designer and get new pieces for our new home.” Time, however, was of the essence.

Michelle did her due diligence on the Internet, seeking and finding a designer she felt could help the family put together their new home. Through numerous phone calls, emails, and reviews, they settled on Beeler.

“By the time we actually met face to face the first week of December, we felt we knew each other,” Michelle says. “I actually sent her a text that said HELP.” Beeler started sending ideas and photos to start the process. The Lentz family found a store in by Design that reflected the look they were after.

From their previous home in Wichita, Kansas, they kept only a sofa, a chair, and a card table.

The couple has been able to compromise and agree on nearly everything for their new home, but they do have slightly different tastes. Aaron, a graphic designer for four years before medical school, leans to midcentury modern or sleek modern; Michelle, formerly an assistant vice president of a bank, likes a more transitional feel.

A new role

The experience was a new one for Beeler as a designer, too. “Normally we don’t get to start with a clean slate,” she says. “Usually we start with some furniture pieces the couple has to work around. This was great but really unusual. I truly thought Bonita Clark, our store owner, was playing a joke on me when she said we’d be doing the whole house at once.”

“Laura really knew how to mesh our styles,” Aaron says. Beeler worked at ordering pieces all December and pulling together the look the family wanted. The spec had already been finished and painted, and she rolled with the neutral gray palette of the home. Laura created and presented to them a design for the whole house within a week. Then the ordering process started.

“Nearly 90 percent of the pieces were special orders, so we had pieces arriving in stages,” she says. The large home offers guest accommodations when family members visit.

The spacious open-concept living room has a custom organic look. A subtle tree design in the custom area rug reflects the scenery out big windows that look out over the woods. Two soft gray tufted sofas face each other for good conversational seating. They appear to float off the floor on either side of a large coffee table.

At the end of the conversation area, two comfort recliners in different but compatible sizes face the TV over the stacked-stone fireplace. White open shelving spaces flank both sides of the fireplace and hold accessories and personal items, such as family photos of special trips.

Orange for contrast

As a contrast to the gray, Beeler used rich orange as an accent color in sofa pillows and on the leather and metal ottomans in front of the fireplace.

Underfoot, wood-grained porcelain tiles are easy to clean, important with a young child and three dogs.

Between the open living area and the kitchen is the dining area. A long table of seared oak and a chrome base reflects the transitional look. Upholstered chairs add texture and comfort.

Cherry cabinetry with sleek chrome drawer pulls in the kitchen sets a rich tone. Even though the kitchen was already completed, Michelle had Mike Smith of Rosewood Homes extend the shiny gray backsplash tiles to the ceiling for a more finished look. Saddle counter stools are perfect for Asher to have a snack at the large center island with quartz countertops. The kitchen opens onto a covered deck, perfect for outdoor dining and entertaining.

Lower level

On the lower level is the man cave for Aaron and Asher. A 120-inch TV screen gives the room a theater feel. And a leather conversational sofa means everyone has the best seat in the house, Aaron says. An oversize round ottoman acts as a table. Its nail-head decoration adds a little bling. For effect, there’s a great theater spotlight floor lamp. Two swivel-and-glide chairs offer more seating. The kitchenette nearby is perfect for snacks. Roman shades add texture to three big square windows. Aaron uses a bedroom on this level on nights he is on call so he won’t wake the family.

On the second floor, Asher’s room is all boy with Canadian birch furniture, an outer space comforter, and shelves for displaying favorite toys. Nearby are a guest room and a game room for Dad and Asher.

The master suite is a getaway for Aaron and Michelle. The upholstered- linen headboard gives a tailored look. A chaise in front of a large window is a good spot for Michele to read and enjoy the wooded view. A huge vertical mirror standing on the floor makes a statement, and the bed’s comforter is in deep teal faux silk. Sleek table lamps rest on nightstands that appear to float.

Beeler describes the home as an organic transitional style. “It’s comfortable with touches of sophistication, and it will be a good home for this family. Nearly everyone likes transitional style because it fits with many tastes. It rests beautifully between traditional and contemporary. It’s a nice in-between style.”

She is a designer who loves to work with her clients. “We do homes that real people live in, so it’s important that they feel comfortable in them. This is a relationship business, so you really do need to know your clients and how they think and how they live. Needless to say, it’s my dream job, but it must reflect the people who live here.”


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