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Delightfully Dutch
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Ben Lochard
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An Urbandale collector is surrounded by her colorful Dutch heritage.

Ruth DeCook of Urbandale grew up Dutch on both sides of her family in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. Then, when she came to Pella to attend Central College, she met her husband, Arvin, also, of course, with the same heritage.

After college and a high school teaching stint, she became the mother of three daughters, Carla Kregel of Iowa City, Greta McCarty of Johnston, and Sara Davis of Des Moines. All the while, Ruth was collecting antiques, Dutch artwork, and perfecting her artistic skills. She is a longtime quilter and needleworker, which she does with deft and a lovely color sense.

A look around her spacious apartment at The Reserve on Walnut Creek in Urbandale shows her skill at arranging vignettes of treasures, many of them Dutch-inspired.

Especially Lace

It was not surprising then in 1984 that she opened a colorful shop in Valley Junction called Especially Lace. “My brother-in-law in Pella imported Dutch lace, so the shop was an outlet for that,” she says. “Also, we carried many quilts and antiques, which I loved.” In 1996 daughters Greta and Sara took over the shop, now called Sisters.

Throughout her home are examples of other hobbies and pastimes, from redwork embroidery to painted gourds to mosaics to pen-and-ink bookmarks.

“The mosaics came about quite by accident,” Ruth explains with a chuckle. “On one Thanksgiving a son-in-law bent over. When he rose, he accidentally knocked down a shelf that held Zell Dutch pottery. I gathered up the pieces and put them away. Several years later I saw some garden pots that a neighbor had decorated using tiles. I liked the look and decided that I could do something similar with my broken dishes.”

Intricate designs

That led to a long fascination with mosaic design. Most table and floor lamps in her home have been decorated in the distinctive style. Ruth has a stash of dishes from garage and tag sales that she has broken for the interesting component parts created by breaking. Over the years, she has created special projects and custom orders. A small tea table in the dining area shows off a most colorful top.

And even though there’s not a real window over her kitchen sink, Ruth created a window-frame mirror, perfect for seeing the reflection of the wooded area around The Reserve. The frame is colorful with intricate mosaic china pieces.

Ruth continues her study of antiques in a Questers antiques study group and enjoys the various treasures reflecting her heritage in her home. She displays items such as a rich wool tablecloth from the Netherlands, a Dutch biscuit box, and a scene made of felt of Dutch children at play.

A beautiful Dutch platter, needlework samplers, and Dutch tile displays are hung throughout the home. There are Dutch pillows, a tulip pitcher, and a basket with a wooden shoe collection. One pair belonged to Ruth’s mother.

A painting of a Dutch woman by an artist in Orange City, another Dutch Iowa town, is special, as are a photo of a window with Dutch lace and a window box of flowers.

Dutch pottery

A cabinet in the family room of the apartment is chock-full of numerous pieces of Dutch pottery, all in the classic blue and white scheme. Other pieces are displayed atop kitchen cabinetry. Antique game boards also add interest to the mix. A collection of Droste’s Dutch cocoa powder tins adds a sweet touch.

Ruth’s husband, Arvin, who had a stroke three years ago, resides at Deerfield Assisted Living in Urbandale. The couple has six grandchildren and one great-grandchild, with another on the way.


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