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Minimalist Magic
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Lauren Konrad Photography, courtesy of Oakstone Homes
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Mixing spare and sparse with texture and character.

When Courtney and Heath Ruge decided to move from an older home in West Des Moines, they knew what they wanted:

  • Open-concept floor plan
  • Tall ceilings
  • Four or five bedrooms
  • A dedicated home office
  • A home gym
  • Touches of character

“We didn’t necessarily want a huge home,” Courtney explains, “but we did want to incorporate character. If we could have, we would have wanted a home with detail, like those in the South of Grand part of Des Moines.”

She “met” Katelyn Cheek, design director for Oakstone Homes of Ankeny, online, and they bonded. Katelyn’s husband, Brandon, is president of the company; her father-in-law, Bryan, is vice president.

Minimalism with charm

“What they wanted was a mix of fresh and modern paired with old-world charm,” Cheek says. “It’s something I call Modern European.” In essence, it’s a clean-line French look, but it includes organic textures, such as stucco inside and out for that layer of character and detail.

She uses the kitchen backsplash as an example. “Instead of shiny subway tile, we have the look of textured painted brick. It added a layer of warmth against the white cabinets and countertops.”

The home showcases a European flair, complete with window boxes, a stucco exterior, and an interesting roofline, as well as a three-car side-entry garage. The one-acre lot has a Polk City address and is in the Ankeny school district.

With oversize Pella windows, the home is bathed in natural light. A 12-foot sliding door in the living area opens onto a covered deck, which is attached to an open deck off the master bedroom. “My husband lived in California for a time, and we really like the indoor/outdoor feel of being able to live outside. The extra-large doors and windows give us that feel,” Courtney points out.

The home has 2,152 square feet on the main floor, which includes a great-room with living, dining, and kitchen areas; a home office; a master suite with bath, closet, and large laundry room; plus two bedrooms and a full bath. The lower level has 1,800 square feet for a large family room, two guest bedrooms with a full bath between them, and a dedicated gym. Down the road, 800 square feet in the bonus room over the three-car garage are ready for development.

“This fresh, white interior is a bit warmer-toned than most of the styles we’ve done because we wanted to add earthy, natural elements,” Cheek says. She cites the 26-foot ceiling in the great-room with a rustic beam at the top, along with a stucco range hood that goes all the way to the ceiling. The mantels on the fireplaces on the main floor and lower one are made of the same barn-wood beams for warmth and texture. Above the door to the walk-in kitchen pantry is an old-fashioned transom, or hopper window, for another vintage touch.

Heath, who grew up in Fort Dodge, works at Wells Fargo, and Courtney, from Des Moines, is with Royal Flooring. The two met at Iowa State University. They found their house plan online and tweaked it to fit their needs.

Home office

The home office, which can be entered from the front-door area or from the kitchen, is a vision in detail and works for the couple to share. The living room with fireplace and open floating shelves as a focal point is near the open kitchen that has a huge island with wood stools and two oversize pendant lights with black shades for a dramatic detail. Appliances are stainless; quartz counters are white with a gray swirl.

Nearby is the dining area with a black table and clean-line contemporary black Windsor-style chairs in front of large windows. An eye-popping large chandelier in a classic style hangs over the table.

Master suite

The master suite, which showcases a barn-board headboard and a textured area rug, opens onto a small deck that connects to the covered deck from the living area. Nearby, the master bath features a dual-head glass shower and an inviting soaking tub. The double vanity’s quartz counter looks like marble. Veined floor tile extends up to the ceiling in the shower for continuity.

Built-in cubbies flank each side of the nearby laundry room door providing extra storage.

At the other end of the house are two bedrooms, one for toddler Tomlin (“Tomi”), the other for her expected baby sister in the late fall.

The lower level contains a large family room with bar/kitchenette for serving drinks and snacks, two guest bedrooms with a bath, and a decked-out gym/workout room.

For the home and for the miracle of their children, Courtney and Heath live by the framed saying near the front door:

There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.

New Design Trends To Try

Katelyn Cheek, design director of Oakstone Homes of Ankeny, offers these ideas for what she sees as trends in home building:

  • More texture in homes, such as white-washed brick and stucco.
  • More natural details throughout the home, like interior stone-feature walls.
  • White oak stains for a lighter look.
  • More details to add character or interest, such as full-wainscoted walls.
  • A homey feel in interior colors, with warmer whites, nudes, mushroom, and terra-cotta and pops of bright here and there.


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