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Forging a New Life
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
HOME FEATURE June/July 2017
home :: home & garden :: featured homes

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A Cedar Rapids couple retires to Des Moines and creates an approach to a lifestyle change.

When Dr. Warren Verdeck, an orthopedic surgeon, and his wife, Connie, decided it was time to retire, they didn’t just retreat to their idyllic 7-acre spot outside Cedar Rapids.

Instead they made a huge change to many aspects of their life. They sold their country property, moved to the Waukee area west of Des Moines, built a new home, and created a new daily existence. Whew!

“We wanted a fresh start,” Connie says. “And with seven children and nine grandchildren in our blended family, we decided to move closer to the larger number of them. There are two children in the Cedar Rapids area and five in central Iowa.”

“On the acreage we were used to lots of privacy, so this has been a change, too,” Warren explains. “But it all is working out beautifully.” Plus, for the long term, they planned their new home to help them age in place. Extra-wide doorways and no-step thresholds address mobility issues. They had hoped those features wouldn’t come into play for many years. But during their first year in their new home, Warren—and the irony is not lost on him—had to have a total hip replacement.

The couple started over in another area, too. “For the new home and new outlook, we sold most of our furniture or gave it to our kids,” Connie says.

Transitional design

Enter interior designer Diane Young, owner of Trieste in West Des Moines. “Connie knew what she wanted and had a huge file of photos she had collected, so we knew we had a good place to start,” she says.

The designer defines the resulting look as transitional, with soothing, subtle colors that coordinate throughout the home. Connie even had a photo of a round-top extra-tall front door she wanted to duplicate.

When Young entered the picture, only the kitchen cabinetry had been chosen, so she worked closely with the homeowners on selecting finishes and details throughout the home.

“The experience of creating a custom home can be overwhelming,” Connie points out. “I couldn’t have done it alone. I highly recommend working with a designer to get a pulled-together look.”

Part of the plan for the new home was creating usable space for the couple’s individual passions—needlework and sewing for Connie and woodcarving for Warren. The resulting well-thought-out spaces are hobbyists’ dreams.

Passion for hobbies

Warren’s office near the home’s front entry has a classic desk and a wall of bookshelves. That’s not surprising. But when he taps the end of the shelves, the unit moves and becomes a doorway into his woodcarving sanctuary.

The neat row of carving tools looks as if the physician is ready for more orthopedic surgery. Instead, this is where he creates intricate architectural carved pieces from woods such as walnut, basswood, and butternut. Warren took classes from a master woodcarver in Austria and enjoys creating gifts for family and friends. He also plays four-string banjo and classical guitar. Some of the instruments act as artwork on the walls.

Connie’s passion is needlework, and her studio is a testament to that skill. “I learned to sew as a young girl, and I have loved various forms of needlework my entire life,” she says. Her bucket list included taking a class at the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court in England. It happened indeed, and there she connected with her current tutor who, incidentally, helped to design and stitch the lace for the beautiful wedding gown of Kate Middleton when she married Prince William.

Since then Connie has taken a number of needlework classes from this tutor at a retreat in a ski chalet near Geneva, Switzerland. Intricate pieces show her depth of skill. Plus, on the sewing side, her studio, full of storage and bookshelves, has four sewing machines tucked away in specialized furniture pieces. “It all has been an amazing experience,” she says of her broad learning curve.

One end of her oversized studio is set up as a family room for evening TV viewing. That allows her to work while she and Warren watch a program.


Designer Young and Connie had fun decorating a pleasant great-room, which includes living area, dining area, and kitchen. A faux-painted beamed ceiling creates an airy, open space. A focal point is the concrete fireplace. A wall of wood and molding hides a television.

Formal furnishings in a seating sectional and dining table coordinate in soft grays and beige. “We chose a patterned fabric for the dining chairs and built around them,” Young says. Nail-head details define the sectional, an entry bench, and the backs of dining chairs.

The kitchen has white cabinetry that contrasts with a dark island. Dramatic lighting, from one made to look like white twigs to glitzy chandeliers, throughout the home adds a bright look.

In glass-front lighted cabinetry new Juliska Country Estates china reflects a garden theme. Walls are rich, creamy taupe with white woodwork for a fresh look.

Besides Warren’s bookcase door, the kitchen has a walk-in pantry hidden behind cabinet doors. Pocket doors, a throwback detail, also give an efficient look.

Garden room

Off a huge wall of floor-length windows and sliding doors in the great-room is a special spot, a covered patio, complete with a corner stacked-stone fireplace.

A mudroom, large laundry room, huge walk-in closet, and the restful soft and serene sanctuary of the master bedroom suite and its marble bathroom complete the main floor.

The lower level, geared to grandchildren, features a sitting area for watching movies. The color scheme is gray, lime, and purple. The lower level includes an exercise room, a toy room hidden behind sliding barn doors, a guest room in graphic black and white, and a kids’ room with a bunk bed and two twin beds for overnight stays. Polka-dot comforters in teal, fuchsia, purple, and lime make the kids’ room pop. The home has about 5,300 square feet on two levels.

Another passion

Another passion of the couple is gardening, showcased in a small potting shed-style room behind the garage. On one outside wall Warren has created espalier apple trees in defined designs.

The large garden space has raspberries, blueberries, and raised beds for vegetables and herbs. “I transplanted 200 plants from Cedar Rapids,” says Connie, who has become a Master Gardener intern through classes in Dallas County.

So have Connie and Warren slowed down in retirement? Doesn’t sound like it, does it?

Cabinetry Kitchen Classics
Granite countertops, tile Bertini Stone and Tile
Appliances Factory Direct
Millwork (doors, windows, trim) Reese Builders, Moehl Millwork
Electrical A&J Electric
Plumbing TPI, Royal Plumbing
Andersen windows Beisser Lumber
Roofing Wolf Construction
HVAC, geothermal Wyckoff Heating and Cooling
Fireplaces, stone Fireplace Stone & Patio
Custom fireplace surround MPI (Mingo Products Inc.)
Carpet Premier Flooring
Central vac, stereo, security ATEC/Easy Living Store
Painting Des Moines Painting
Faux paint work Stonewall Designs
Interior design Diane Young, Trieste
Lighting Spectrum Lighting
Landscaping Timberpine, Country Landscapes, Miner Hardscape and Landscape
General contractor Denton Homes


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