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Barn Again
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
HOME FEATURE June/July 2018
home :: home & garden :: featured homes

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A contemporary farmhouse respects the past and has fun with the present.

In a state where farmhouses and barns have dotted the countryside for generations, it’s refreshing to know that the concept of strong farm buildings still endures and stands proudly.

Contemporary farmhouses are finding their way to acreages, large farms, and neighborhood streets in town. “It’s a timeless and classic look,” says Kevin DePhillips of Homes by DePhillips. A home he built for Pam and Curt Lang in Johnston is a stunning case in point.

Set on a wooded lot, it exudes upscale charm while being unmistakable in its nod to structures of the past, complete with board-and-batten-style siding. The Langs—she from Omaha and he from Grinnell—met at Iowa State University in the mid-1980s. After marrying, they lived for 16 years on his family’s farm near Grinnell, then 16 years in the Quad Cities, where Curt ran a John Deere dealership group. With four grown children (two married) in various locations and Pam’s mother in Omaha, they decided a central location made sense. Curt farms the family land, so he wanted easy access to I-80.

“We had a definite vision for the home we wanted to build,” Pam explains. “We interviewed four builders and settled on Kevin. He just got what we wanted to do and went all out to make it happen.” This is the third home-building project the couple has tackled, and they were pleased with the process and the results.

They settled on a contemporary style but had lots of farm memorabilia to incorporate. They even had DePhillips go to their farm to see the barn they loved so much. It was built in 1916. They found a wooded lot that backs up to the Saylorville Lake Preserve, so nothing will be built behind the house. The Langs delight in the fox, deer, and wild turkeys that visit.

Collected look

Although the couple has lived there only a year, the home has the look of being collected over time. A welcoming entry is a testament to that. The black and cream floor tiles in a modified fleur-de-lis pattern give the look of an area rug. A statement piece is an extra-long church pew from the Langs’ former church. Five large photographs taken by Pam on the couple’s many trips throughout the world personalize the space.

Huge floor-to-ceiling open shelves display treasured items. Behind that are built-in shelves for Pam’s 1,000-plus book treasures gathered over time and, yes, organized by the Dewey Decimal System, exemplifying her attention to detail. An entry table and basket are from China. “We enjoy buying art when we travel,” Pam says.

Meghan Blum and Brielle Allen from Meghan Blum Interiors helped with some accessories and furniture choices and with scale in the large space.

Off the entry is Curt’s office, separated by a sliding barn door. His ancestors operated Lang Dairy in Grinnell; framed copies of the company’s advertising in the Grinnell Herald-Register hang on the wall. A metal milk box for home delivery from the dairy sits on the floor.


The great-room at the back of the home is the main gathering spot. A dramatic wall of windows is the focal point of a room with a 24-foot ceiling peak. “That wall took a little bit of engineering,” says builder DePhillips. “Looking out that window wall with the breathtaking wooded views is amazing.”

The dining room part of the great-room celebrates the heritage of their farm. “A huge walnut tree had to come down,” explains Pam. Broadway Builders took that tree and made an extra-long dining table that seats 10, 12 if needed. Upholstered chairs surround the table. Walnut throughout the home warms the white interior. The fireplace mantel came from the farm. Beams at the peak add to the barn effect.

The kitchen end of the gathering space is defined by a huge island, complete with upholstered-back stools for casual meals and conversation. Five clear-glass pendants hang over the island. Subtle swirled gray and white quartz counters complement the white cabinetry. A lovely surprise for visitors is the walk-in pantry, where the stand mixer is ready for use and often-used dishes and glassware are at hand.

Off the great-room is a welcoming screened porch based on a similar structure at the Sister Bay cottage in Door County, Wisconsin, where the family has vacationed for 30 years. “Everyone loves the porch swing and the casual setting,” Pam says. A cedar ceiling adds to the porch feel.

Master suite

The master suite on the main floor includes a laundry room, walk-in closet, and bath with double vanity, walk-in shower, and soaking tub. The bedroom is large enough for a seating area.

Pam’s creative space is on the second floor in a balcony room overlooking the great-room. A large work table allows her to spread out projects; drawers and baskets give her room for storing supplies for paper crafts, fabric, handwork, and her special love, photography. “I used to have to projects on the kitchen table, so this is fabulous,” she says.

Artwork and paintings and small items from trips to Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Ireland, and many other spots decorate three bedrooms on the second floor, perfect for when family and friends are home or visiting. Mixed in with contemporary room looks are items such as an old workbench from Chicago and reupholstered Haywood-Wakefield chairs in one of the bedrooms.

Curt even thought out a practical detail of the garage. A single garage door at the back of the garage opens to the backyard and the fire pit area. That way, food and drinks can be served out of the elements and guests can move easily around the property. The Langs love to entertain.

The crisp contrast of all-white walls with black-edged large windows throughout the home gives a sparse look with definition. It’s a perfect backdrop for showcasing historical pieces, Pam says. “I’m an emotional collector. I love to showcase Curt’s farm-related heritage. Doing it this way gives a fresh, eclectic feel of combining old and new.”

“This modern farmhouse concept is so appealing,” DePhillips says. “That big window wall in the great-room makes you feel as if you’re in a treehouse. It was so great to work with Pam and Curt and to bring their vision to life.”

Builder Homes by DePhillips
Design Aller Design Group
Kitchen design Kitchen Classics
Countertops The Stone Shop
Windows Andersen Windows
Materials Beisser Lumber
Siding Louisiana Pacific Smartside
Plumbing fixtures Plumb Supply
Plumbing Schlievert Plumbing
Electrical A&J Electric
Flooring, stone Flooring America
Custom wood Broadway Builders
Lighting Spectrum Lighting
Furniture and design Meghan Blum Interiors
Appliances Nebraska Furniture Market
Landscaping Outdoor Design Solutions


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