When Diane Glass and Jeff Means started entertaining the idea of downsizing, they had much more than a house to consider. They had eight acres near Carlisle with an historic 1860
farmhouse, a barn, a guest cottage, a pool, a prairie, two garages, and a tractor.
“When we moved there in 2003, it fulfilled a dream,” Diane says. “I envisioned garden parties and retreats for Tending Your Inner Garden, a spiritual renewal and growth program that Deb Engle from Winterset and I developed.”
At some point, however, caring for all that space and detail became overwhelming. “For me, it became too much of a luxury. And with last year’s bad winter, it became a huge chore for Jeff, who had to get up at 3:30 a.m. to plow out the walks and paths.”
Also pushing the move was the desire for more leisure time with not as much effort on maintenance of a large property. They wanted to be more a part of the life of the city of Des Moines, and they wanted to be able to lock the door behind them when they wanted to travel.
Diane, a spiritual director, musician, and writer, is the former marketing director of the Des Moines Register. Jeff serves as chair of the Behavioral Medicine Department at Des Moines University and also directs the Institute for the Practice of Ministry at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.
Both mulled a possible change, and one day after church the idea of moving clicked with both of them. They visited a real estate open house at Park Fleur, a high-rise building of condominiums, and became enamored with the idea of merging two units into one. “Our choices of locations were limited,” Diane explains, “because I wanted an indoor pool for exercise, and there aren’t too many of those situations around.”
Plus, they wanted to live on the main floor because it was important to be able to walk directly outside, not just look down from a balcony. They love to entertain at meetings and at dinner gatherings, so being able to use the patio area increases their entertaining space.
Realistically, the real estate market was bad, but the couple forged ahead. Diane went to a retreat in Montana and grieved the move. “There’s a slow inner process on matters like this. That’s how change happens.” But before they listed their Carlisle property, they hosted a 150th birthday party for their pre-Civil War home.
Diane and Jeff lucked out. Four months after listing their acreage, a family that loved old houses and had an 1890 home was thrilled to purchase this even older one.
Diane and Jeff sought help on the big condo-redesign
project from people they had worked with before, Robert Schoeller Interiors and Kurt Paulsen of Dean Paulsen and
Sons Contractors. “Both of them had worked with us in our
previous homes, so they know how we live and what we like,” Diane says.
Schoeller says, “Before they started, I asked them to bring the floor plans of the two adjoining condo units to me for
preliminary drawings. Remember, we were dealing with two units, each of which had a kitchen and bathrooms. Obviously they didn’t need all those double spaces, so we reworked the space.”
Paulsen, too, helped alter the space and dealt with breaking through the two units to merge them, keeping in line with code details, and moving plumbing and electrical details. Both kitchens came out; a new, larger one took their place. A bedroom wall came down to create a larger living room. A powder room in the larger unit became a tasteful bar area for entertaining—complete with vintage jazz and ragtime album covers for accent—and a small coat closet has new life as a display niche with glass shelves for artful pieces.
The couple ended up with about 2,100 square feet. The larger unit had about 1,250, the smaller one about 800 square feet. Their Carlisle home had about 3,900 square feet.
Books and Music
Schoeller knew how much books and music were part of Diane’s and Jeff’s lives. A floor-to-ceiling wall of bookshelves showcases books and objects d’art, reflecting the couple’s eclectic tastes and
giving a focal point and visual impact. “It was important to create a pattern for music, books, entertaining, and a collection of teapots,” he says with a smile. A grand piano sits in front of the bookshelves, and hand-done wallpaper in pleasing coral with gold overtones backs the bookshelf openings for color and for unifying the books.
Diane and Jeff had new sliding doors installed for energy
efficiency. And while it might seem that privacy could be
compromised on the first-floor unit on a busy street, not to worry. With berms and brick walls, that is simply not a concern. The
couple also enjoys the Park Fleur’s party room, the library, heated garage, and heated pool.
The dining end of the living room space is large enough for
the couple’s oversize table and chairs, and it’s perfect for dinner
parties. In addition, they cut through a kitchen wall to make a large pass-through to the living room. It visually opens up the space and also provides a serving spot for buffet-style entertaining.
For small meals, the couple enjoys the hearth-room feel of
one end of the kitchen. “Happy colors” define this area that
features kitchen cabinetry in butterscotch tones and soft, sunny
yellow in the dining and living areas. Cabinetry and the oversize bookshelves were fashioned in the Paulsen workshop. A cork floor and countertops made from ground seashells were environmentally friendly choices.
A colorful and welcoming guest room with a white metal bed likely makes visitors want to linger, and the master bedroom is a restful retreat. Diane doesn’t like a TV in the living area, but the master is big enough to have a sitting area at one end, perfect for reading or watching TV.
The teal color scheme takes its cue from a vibrant teal patterned Oriental rug Diane purchased on a trip to Tunisia. A large Asian screen that was in the living room of their previous home now acts
as a headboard behind the bed. Diane refers to the master suite’s style as Contemporary Asian.
In a New Light
This all is part of what Schoeller calls “putting your most treasured items in a new light.” If you love your
collected art, he says, the pieces likely will work
together in other ways in new spaces. Art in the former dining room now is right at home in the master bath. Whatever mixed before mixes now in new groupings.
In the master bath Schoeller used a space-
expanding technique: Big mirrors go from the counter to the ceiling with no backsplash in between. And
the spot where the second condo’s kitchen was
located now is a walk-in closet.
“This was the first time I have ever been involved in a renovation project like this, and it was an absolute joy,” Jeff exclaims.
The personality-plus condo took more than two months to renovate. Any regrets on the move? “I learned so much from living in the country,” he says. “I grew up as a city boy in Brooklyn, New York. Living in Carlisle was my first venture in
living that close to nature and the seasons. It was
a pleasure working the land and walking the land, and I loved it. Now I carry that feeling and
that experience with me without all the work and the worry.”
But bottom line: No looking back. This
DESIGN Robert Schoeller, Kurt Paulsen
CONTRACTOR Dean Paulsen & Sons Contractors
SHOWER TILE, KITCHEN BACKSPLASH Repschlager Tile & Stone
MASTER BATH, BAR & KITCHEN Schlievert Plumbing Inc.
FINISH CABINET DOORS, BATH WALL COVERING Eidolon Interiors Inc.
COUNTERTOPS Marbleworks, Toby Tyler
ELECTRICAL Weber Electric
DRYWALL RD Enterprises
INTERIOR DESIGN Robert Schoeller Interiors, homeowners