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A Gradual Transformation
By Tracy Dickinson | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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Johnston homeowners take a slower approach to making over their family home.

After nearly two decades in their Johnston home, Brian and Patty Laurenzo decided it was time to do some updating. So Patty began studying home magazines and collecting ideas.

That was more than two years ago.

Patty says she had some ideas but wanted the assistance of a professional; she was just hesitant to have a stranger decorate her home. “I really wanted someone who would take my ideas and create a whole design and look from that,” she explains. “But I’d heard other people talk about how designers just do what they like, not what you want.”

But then she read an article in Welcome Home about a project of designer Myra Lynn Hansen of MLH Designs. “The homeowners in that story talked about how great Myra was to work with and how she took their ideas and worked with them. It sounded just like what I wanted,” Patty says.

So the Laurenzos contacted Hansen. And that’s how their long-term relationship began.

Hansen says, “The Laurenzos like to work slow and do things in stages. This has been an enjoyable process, not a one-time project. And I’m just fine with that. You have to work with how they’re going to live—it’s their home after all.”

Since that initial meeting in 2015, the Laurenzos have been gradually updating nearly every room in their two-story home. “Our first project with Myra started in the powder room,” Patty says. “The look she created with textured and aged walls, the paint color, the window treatment, the sink cabinet, the lighting—the whole feel of the house really started there.”

When the couple began talking about redoing the kitchen and family room, Brian and Patty knew they wanted to achieve that same feel. “We wanted to open it up and brighten it up. It was much darker before with heavy window coverings and dark woods,” Patty explains.

Hansen’s solution not only addressed the new ideas the Laurenzos had but incorporated some of their favorite pieces and the overall style of the home. New cherry cabinets in the kitchen, upgraded appliances, and a stunning quartz-topped island with contrasting cabinetry offer the updated style the couple wanted and a look reminiscent of the Italian countryside.

“Myra created these new window coverings, too, that just opened up the room and let us enjoy the view, which is one of the main reasons we love this house,” Patty says. Large windows in the family room offer a gorgeous view of the Des Moines skyline framed by elegant, butter-color drapes.

“Most of the furnishings are new, but one of my favorite features is the ancient stone niches on the fireplace wall, which were designed by MLH and manufactured and shipped from Arizona,” says Hansen. “Those were custom pieces painted and ‘aged’ by local artist Jill Kaldenberg. They weigh about 400 pounds each and took three men to install.”

“The stone niches, the new softer lighting, and the new brick wall surrounding the fireplace—it all gives an Italian theme. And with a name like Laurenzo, that seems appropriate,” says Patty with a laugh.

Beginning with those first projects in 2015, the Laurenzos have worked with Hansen to redo everything from the front door to the back. They’re currently finishing some work on the second level, including the master bedroom.

“I just love how she tied everything together so it flows from room to room,” Patty says. “Things like the lighting, the carpets, even the window treatments coordinate from one room to another. The whole house has this warm glow now. Everyone who comes in here comments on that.”

In the end, although both Hansen and the Laurenzos joke that they still aren’t done, Patty was thrilled to discover that Hansen worked exactly as described in that back issue of Welcome Home.

“We would talk about a look we were going for, and she would give me different selections. We’d go over the pros and cons of each and work through it together,” Patty says. “It never felt like it was just her design. I was always a part of the decisions.”

Hansen says, “I think a lot of designers will go in and do what they want to do. But you have to listen. You have to work with homeowners for the way they live—kids, dogs and other pets, and extended family. It’s not my house. I want to make it their home.”

This one has the Laurenzos’ style written all over it.


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