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A Lovely Welcome
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured gardens

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A revitalized front entry brings color and ease to a Des Moines A-frame home.

Joan McCloskey’s new front entry path is doing just what it’s supposed to do. It encircles guests with color, texture, and hospitality they can feel as soon as they reach the door.

In a neighborhood full of Tudor, Queen Anne, and Colonial homes, her A-frame adds a touch of surprise and interest. “The late Gordon Gammack, who was a war correspondent and later a columnist for The Des Moines Register and Tribune, lived to the north. I understand that he basically sold off his backyard, where this house stands.”

Joan and her husband purchased the home in 1974, eight years after it was originally built.


When it came time to add onto the home and upgrade some maintenance issues, such as adding a metal roof, Joan had an overall plan. She knows her way around blueprints. She was at Meredith Corporation for 36 years and was the building editor for Better Homes and Gardens magazine, for several special interest publications, and for the book division. Her late husband, Neil Kuehnl, was a Meredith executive.

Joan also wanted to bump out the kitchen to increase the size of the 5×8-foot space. In 2017 she worked with Beth Miller of BSB Design in West Des Moines. Miller later called in Keegan Lare of Ted Lare Design Build of Cumming for the outdoor remodel.

With the home’s orientation, the main entry is at the back of the house, just off the driveway. “I’m getting older, and so are my friends,” Joan says. “There were steep stairs that were not safe. The goal was to create an attractive space and to have steps make a gradual ascent. Wide places to stop on the way up the stairs would make the entry more manageable. I have studied Universal Design for years, and it’s important. Plus, of course, I wanted low-maintenance materials.” The goal of Universal Design is to make buildings, products, and environment accessible to all.


“Needless to say, this is a most unique space,” Lare says. “The main challenges were working with the elevation of the entry approach and also the large concrete supports at the A-frame’s foundation.”

Space was tight, too, for getting into the driveway to work, but he used smaller equipment to complete the task.

For the low-maintenance material, Joan chose Trex, a composite decking. There’s no upkeep, and it’s easy to clean off in winter. Rails to hang on to also help with safety. Cable rails on the decking give a contemporary look.

Lare wove his design magic by installing large square planters to add color and texture. “We fabricated silver containers of aluminum with a brushed finish, again for the low maintenance.”


He then added plant material magic. The first year he used caladiums, begonias, and boxwood. Plantings include one Japanese maple and a variety of shade-loving plants, including hydrangeas, hostas, astilbe, and rhododendrons. This year Joan opted for bright and showy impatiens in some of the planters.

On the other side of the home, a large deck, completed previously, also showcases bright oversize impatiens and expansive hostas.

“My reaction to the exterior has just been stunning,” Joan says. “Keegan’s vision included landscape volumetrics—yes, that’s a term—to use a relatively small amount of plant material to make an even bigger impact.”

She says he imagined a paradise and made it happen to give a gentle entry flow to the path leading to her home.


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