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A Special Spot
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Paul Gates, Courtesy of The Mansion
HOME FEATURE April/May 2017
home :: home & garden :: featured homes

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A contemporary home, part of the Wakonda Living development, soaks in beautiful golf course views and makes a design statement.

With a bank of full-length windows the whole width across the back of his home, Jim, a Des Moines professional, gets to see the changing of the seasons up close and personal.

His home of 18 months at the Hubbell Homes community called Wakonda Living, across the north end of Wakonda Club’s golf course, is a custom-built home in the area that offers detached villas and attached twin homes. Architect Doug Wells of Wells + Associates of Des Moines designed the home. Jim’s home is the only one designed by a non-Hubbell Homes architect.

“I wanted an open, airy plan to take advantage of the great views,” Jim says. “The spot has a calming effect after a busy day. It’s very tranquil, even in the summer when golfers are whizzing by.”

Plus, he wanted an open plan to accommodate entertaining and sharing his home with friends. It has worked; he has had up to 90 guests at a time. With a patio with a pergola effect, a fire pit, and the golf course views beckoning, the outdoor area serves as a natural room. It generally is divided into cooking, dining, and living spaces. The home has nearly 4,500 square feet on the main and lower levels.

“It was most important to have the patio level be the same floor level as the great-room to extend the living space,” says the architect. “Also, we worked around Jim’s art collection, which was so important in our planning.”

Homes at Wakonda have narrow lots. But Wells says, “We knew where the other homes on either side would be located, so all window elevations were high so windows wouldn’t be facing other windows in homes next door.” The floating fireplace also opened up the whole great-room visually and became a focal point of the seating area.

He also points out that the homeowner was involved in every aspect of the design. “That’s always a good thing,” he says.

Wells’ designer Amy Snitker helped in the finish selections throughout the contemporary home, along with some of the furniture pieces. Then, with the recommendation of a friend, Matt McCoy, Jim chose to work with designers Emily Steding and Joe Boehm of The Mansion in Des Moines. They had worked with McCoy on his home.

Clean slate

“This was a beautiful clean slate to work on,” Steding says. “Jim has a beautiful and eclectic art collection, so we treated the space somewhat like a gallery. The art pops, and we wanted there to be art each time visitors turned or went down a hallway.”

Indeed, the collection includes several Mauricio Lasansky pieces, several Grant Wood pieces, and works by Scott Charles Ross, Father Moore, Alex Brown, and Sarah Grant of Des Moines, among many others.

To enhance the visual warmth of the space, Steding and Boehm added subtle colors and texture to furnishings and details. “So there wouldn’t be heavy draperies, we opted for unobtrusive roller shades, which cut the harsh light but blended into the background,” Steding explains. And, aside from an overscale orb-shape chandelier over the dining table, lighting also is understated.

The designers point out that from the front door, for example, artwork leads the eye through the length of the home and to the other end. Exemplifying that is a female metal shaman sculpture from the Southwest at the front entry to greet guests. Outside on the patio is a male version to welcome guests during their stay.

Custom pieces

The two designers helped in selection of rugs, bedding, pillows, accessories, kitchen barstools, and various vignettes. Boehm, working with Don Short of West End Architectural Salvage, helped to create the master bed headboard and the desk in Jim’s home office, which is made of reclaimed Iowa wood.

“I also had to convince Emily and Joe that I was serious about really wanting a fun, fun wallpaper in the front entry powder room,” Jim says. He got his way and enjoys the giggles when visitors note the whimsical monkeys in the bold and colorful wallpaper design.

“The space in this home works almost like loft space,” Boehm points out. “It is subtle but dramatic at the same time.” He also likes the strips of wood used on the expanse of windows in the great-room because they tie the interior to the exterior.

On the main floor is the great-room with its open, soaring space for the living, dining, and kitchen functions of the home. With a 35-foot ceiling at the peak, along with an exposed steel beam, skylights, and white cabinetry, the room is dramatic and large. “People always comment on the huge amount of cabinet and storage space,” says the homeowner. “The space works beautifully for entertaining.”

A long dining table in the middle of the room, seating 10, works well for setting up buffets. The fireplace, which appears to float, offers more storage at the hearth level. It’s the only wood-burning fireplace in the development. Kitchen countertops are swirled porcelain from Rowat Cut Stone & Marble. A handsome basket weave backsplash is made of marble strips. That look is repeated in the master bath.

The main floor has a guest bedroom, known as Sarah’s room, for when Jim’s daughter visits from Atlanta, Georgia, with her family, and Jim’s office. It features an original James Audubon painting of turkey vultures and a great natural view out the window of a creek and rock bridge. The office also has a sliding barn door with a contemporary feel to close off the office from the great-room.

Master suite

The master bedroom suite has high windows that give a headboard effect and also a subtle blue-gray palette. The high windows act as pieces of art, Boehm says, as the sky vista changes hourly, daily, and seasonally. The master bath has a huge walk-in shower with glass walls and a spa tub, a favorite of two visiting grandchildren. A walk-in closet and a nearby laundry area make efficient use of space. Another sliding barn door with frosted panels separates the bedroom from the bath.

A bedroom for the grandchildren is on the lower level. Dr. Seuss artwork decorates the shower area. Another guest bedroom, which Jim refers to as “Mom’s room,” highlights a beautiful portrait of his late mother.

Another area, something of a “fan cave,” features sports memorabilia from the University of Iowa, where Jim played golf. Nearby are a wine cellar and a huge storage room, which is under the three-car garage.

Rachel Flint, vice president of Hubbell Homes, says, “Working with Jim on this home was such a pleasure. He knew the details of all the components of building and designing it. It was great.” Also, she says, the Wakonda Living community, now completely built, has exceeded all of the company’s expectations. “It is such a highly unique neighborhood that we started nearly a decade ago.”

“This home fits so nicely in this neighborhood,” Boehm, former senior projects interior designer for Better Homes and Gardens magazine, says. “This south side neighborhood is one of the most surprising spots in Des Moines. On either side of Fleur Drive for several blocks are lots of midcentury modern and other interesting homes. It’s all undiscovered by many people.”

“And I love the convenience,” Jim says. “It’s five minutes from downtown and four minutes from the airport. Plus, the Gray’s Lake area is a whole wonderful world unto itself. So many nationalities and languages are represented there each day. It’s just a great treasure for the city.”

Interior Design The Mansion
Headboard and Desk West End Salvage
Window Treatments Onthank Interiors
Builder Hubbell Homes
Architect Wells + Associates
Excavation Detrick Excavating
Masonry Centurion Stone
Steel Iron Works
Millwork Moehl Millwork
Trim Carpenter, drywall, painting 1st Interiors
Framing materials Gilcrest-Jewett
Roofing materials Lumberman's Roofing Supply
HVAC Wyckoff
Electrical Kline Electric
Plumbing Premier Plumbing
Cabinets KBI
Countertops Rowat Stone
Stainless trim Ackelson Sheet Metal
Flooring Louie's Floor Covering
Shelving Contractors Services of Iowa
Appliances Nebraska Furniture Market
Data Audio Labs
Lighting Spectrum Lighting


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