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There's a Story to That
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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A Des Moines remodel decades in the making.

Old houses are full of history. For many homeowners, that’s much of the appeal: the worn stair treads that tell of years of family footsteps, the weathered brick exterior that’s stood up to decades of snow, even the sloping floor in the kitchen testifying to the settling of the century-old foundation.

When Greg and Deb Anderson bought their north Des Moines home in the ’80s, it already had quite a story to tell. The couple bought it, knowing they had a diamond in the rough. But it was definitely rough.

“We got it for $20,000 because it still had damage from a fire 10 years before,” Greg says. “But that was still a lot of money for us at the time. We had to do most of the work ourselves because we just didn’t have the money to pay someone else.”

Living on a tight budget necessitated some creative remodeling decisions over the years and a lot of sweat equity from the couple and their children. “We thought about replacing the windows, but, again, we couldn’t afford it, and most were in good shape,” says Greg. “So I’ve been scraping and painting and caulking a window at a time over the years. It’s been 30 years, and I’m almost done,” he laughs.

Last year the Andersons were finally ready to undertake a serious kitchen redo. As with so many older homes, the attraction of historic character and materials didn’t make the old appliances, old electrical work, and old insulation any more appealing. The challenge was finding a balance—21st-century convenience and efficiency with the feel of the century-old home they loved.

That’s when AIM Kitchen & Bath entered the story.

“We had seen homes done by AIM, and friends highly recommended them,” says Deb. “We started the conversation with Alex [Marske, AIM designer] over a year ago, but it was months before we actually began the project.”

“It was worth the wait,” Greg says. “The lead carpenter was so skilled at problem-solving, and his artistic abilities came into play over and over.”

The focal point of the kitchen, as intended, is the custom range hood designed and built on-site by Brian, one of AIM’s master carpenters. AIM was able to wrap the hood with complementary tin panels from the same company that made the tin ceiling Greg had installed 20 years ago. The entire ceiling was then repainted in a dramatic gloss black to accent the island.

“It’s not a large kitchen,” Marske explains. “So part of the challenge was creating a functional layout that didn’t feel cramped.” In order to leave enough space for traffic flow on the “public” side of the room, yet provide space for multiple tasks in the “work” area at the same time, he recommended an offset appliance layout rather than a standard work triangle.

“By offsetting the sink, stove, and work area, the space between the island and the wall cabinetry doesn’t feel squeezed,” he says. “You can have the dishwasher open and not be bumping into the person at the stove.”

AIM gave that same attention to every detail of the project, from paint colors and lighting design to maximizing the space amid the quirks of the old structure. “Replacing the old wood floors and leveling everything out meant we had to raise the floor,” Marske says. “But that also affected the height of the stairs off the kitchen.”

“They could have just left that or told us we had to replace the entire flight of stairs,” Greg says. “Instead, Brian took the time to adjust the bottom few risers so the change in height is hardly noticeable.”

In place of an old hutch that had stood in the far corner of the room, Marske designed a built-in piece that has the appearance of furniture. With space for buffet serving when entertaining, the new hutch also offers lighted display space, additional storage, and a creamy white finish to brighten that previously dark corner.

The Andersons have a tale to tell for nearly every piece of furniture and each room of the house—the antique buffet with the bullet holes in the doors, the fireplace surround Deb painted herself, and the dining room furniture custom-built to match family heirlooms.

When AIM took on their kitchen remodel, the firm not only became the Andersons’ design partners, AIM became part of their home’s history. And that’s a story worth hearing.


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