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A Fresh-Faced Farmhouse
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
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Not everyone would jump at the chance to take a job transfer from bustling Philadelphia to West Des Moines. But Jacqueline and Dave Hill certainly did. The couple has moved before for her job in the financial industry. With today’s technology, Dave’s career as an architect can be done from anywhere. He was a partner with an architectural firm in Philadelphia.

The couple, who met at ages 15 and 13 in the Quad Cities area, knew that moving back to Iowa signaled a change in lifestyle as well. No more big-city living, and no more boarding Jacqueline’s two horses a distance away from the couple’s residence. It was time to move to the country. Wide open spaces, here we come!

It wasn’t easy building from half a continent away, to be sure. But the effort was worth it. “The views here are fantastic,” Jacqueline says. “Watching storms roll in is an incredible experience.”

“Watching sunsets is unbelievable,” Dave chimes in. “You don’t appreciate that when you live in a city.”

16-Acre Site
Finding the right property was tricky, of course. Jacqueline insisted on being on a hard-surface road so she could get to work in West Des Moines even in bad weather. She also wanted city water, rolling hills, and trees. The couple teamed up with realtor Kim Leonhardt, who helped in their search. She found a 16-acre site for them east of Adel, perfect for locating a home, a barn, and a stable.

By checking out builders approved by their mortgage lender, the Hills interviewed builder Marty Leonhardt of Martin Homes, among others, and decided to work with him.

“Certainly, this was my first time to work with clients who didn’t live here,” Leonhardt says, “but Jacqueline and Dave knew exactly what they wanted, so that helped immensely. And having Dave as his own architect was invaluable. We spoke every Sunday, and Jacqueline flew out here every other weekend. She took numerous digital photos and was the go-between for Dave and me. It really worked very well.” 

The builder says both members of the couple are extremely detailed people, so that helped even more in working out the details long distance. “This was such a fun and interesting project, especially working with the idea of having a barn and stable nearby. Bringing in architecture and an outlook from another part of the country made it even neater.”

“Indeed, it was a collaborative effort on all our parts,” Dave says. “Marty paid lots of attention to the details we wanted.”  

Studied Their Space
Jacqueline says the couple really looked at the “use factor” of the square footage as they planned the farmhouse. “If we weren’t going to use it on a daily basis, then we probably didn’t need it. For
example, our child is grown, so we didn’t need a bedroom for her. We didn’t need a formal dining room that would be used occasionally. Instead, we put our effort into the kitchen with an eating area.”
Leonhardt liked working with that concept. “We don’t need all the square footage that isn’t used all the time, and a more reasonable size makes more sense.” The Hills’ home has 2,300 square feet on the open main floor, plus a partially finished lower level.

To maximize the views, the Hills incorporated windows wherever possible. Then, as often as not, they increased the size of those windows. To gather in even more light, Dave added clerestory windows up high. Where possible, doors have an old-fashioned detail of transom windows, another trick to carry light from room to room.

To make the whole space even lighter, they bathed the whole interior in a fresh-as-a-daisy soft yellow. Even on a rainy day, the couple can enjoy interior light.

Lighting throughout the house carries the detail of iron, which plays into the farmhouse feel, as do globes that give the look of melting candles.

For a casual farmhouse feel underfoot, they installed hand-scraped golden teak flooring in wide-plank style. It not only looks great, but it’s a good surface for their three canine companions.

Stone Fireplace
Focal point of the great-room—living area, dining area, and kitchen—is a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. “I gave Marty a bad time when that went in,” Jacqueline says. “I told him he was blocking my fantastic view to the west. In reality, though, I know if we had a big window there, it would have to be covered because we couldn’t stand the bright southwestern sun.” The fireplace is a two-way unit, open on the other side to a covered deck, where the couple watches those magnificent sunsets and the pastoral valley below. Visitors often include deer and turkeys out for a stroll.

Nearby are an office and a room for the dogs. For interest, a sliding interior barn door closes off that part of the house. Outside the great-room on a small cocktail deck, another sliding barn-style door hides the gas grill.

The open kitchen already has been the centerpiece for gatherings of eastern Iowa relatives. Upper cabinetry is done in glazed gray mist with a pleasing appeal, and the lower part of the kitchen island is darker knotty alder. Some cabinet doors are covered in beaded glass, as are doors in a companion built-in hutch in the dining area. Countertops are granite, and stainless-steel appliances add a bit of contemporary flair in the welcoming kitchen. A country French touch—also a practical one—is a built-in plate rack.

An extended-length table with bulbous legs has been in Jacqueline’s family for more than a century.
Down the hall is the master suite with its own cozy fireplace and French doors to a small deck. Nearby is a huge compartmentalized master bath with detailed Travertine tile work in subtle earth tones and copper hand-hammered sinks. The walk-in shower has built-in shelves on one end to hold towels and toiletries.

Close at hand are Dave and Jacqueline’s organized closets—yes, hers is bigger—and both are alongside the laundry area. The placement means there’s no need for laundry baskets, Jacqueline says.
“Because the home itself is built down in a valley and because last spring was horribly snowy and rainy, there were some challenges in building,” Leonhardt says. “More than one truck had to be towed out, and we had to put gravel down the driveway several times so that vehicles could get up and down. But the result is worth it.”

Guest Suite
Downstairs is a guest suite, and visitors wonder why anyone would ever leave. With beaded-board wainscoting, it takes on a cottage-style feel. A hot tub outside French doors, along with coffee, popcorn, and a beverage refrigerator, makes the space extra inviting.

The exterior of the home and the barn down below exude farmhouse appeal: Both are painted in sunny yellow with white trim. One Pennsylvania detail the couple brought along is the rock formation they had put on the side of the long driveway. Dave explains that it’s called out-cropping. “We could have put boulders all the way down the driveway, but that’s not the look we wanted. Out-cropping means rocks are arranged in small groups in a random pattern. When a friend asked if those stones were already there in that formation, I knew we had achieved the look we wanted.”

Dave, who grew up on a farm, is thrilled to be back to the country life. Jacqueline, who got her first horse at age 13, is glad to have her two horses close by. “Getting here wasn’t so easy,” Dave says. “We drove cross-country with two horses, our dogs, and a cat. It took us four days to drive from Pennsylvania. But it all has been worth it, without question.”

The Hills are delighted to be back in Iowa. As we say here at this publication, “Welcome home.”


BUILDER Martin Homes
MATERIALS Beisser Lumber
TILE, COUNTERTOPS Bertini Marble and Tile
HARDWOOD FLOORS Beebe Hardwood Flooring
ELECTRICAL Summit Electric
HVAC Heartland Heating/Cooling
PLUMBING Herr Plumbing
STABLE/BARN MOAB Construction Co.




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