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A Nearly Impossible Dream
By Tracy Dickinson | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
FEATURED REMODEL JULY/AUGUST 2013
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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A Des Moines couple needed the right builder to make their dream a reality.

When everyone tells you it can't be done, you can either give up or you can find someone who shares your vision. That's how Tom and Julie Drew of Des Moines teamed up with Kaufman Construction on their outdoor living space project. Owner Devan Kaufman not only understood their dream—he made it happen.

"We'd been in the house about five years," Julie says, "when we started talking about doing something with the patio area."

The existing space consisted of some large flower boxes along the back wall of the home and a very small, aging patio. Julie envisioned a spacious, covered sitting room open to the landscaped backyard. A natural with an eye for detail, Julie had specific ideas about what she wanted, so she had an architect draw up plans for her.

And that's when the dream hit a snag. Julie's vision included attaching a new roof to the home's existing one, which required not only precise roof design but incorporating a major support beam through the home's existing back wall.

"We held on to the plan for about four years, and we talked to at least four different contractors," Julie explains. "Every one of them came out, looked at the site and the plan, and said it just couldn't be done."

Then someone recommended Devan Kaufman and Kaufman Construction to the Drews.

"Devan looked at it, and said, 'No problem. We can do this,'" Julie says. "And they did."

Not only did Kaufman turn Julie's long-awaited dream into reality, but the team made it even better than she had imagined.

"Julie already had a concept," Kaufman says, "but a lot of the specifics weren't there. We spent a lot of time selecting the details and really putting that concept together."

Because Julie is an avid cook and the Drews entertain regularly, they knew they wanted an outdoor cooking area that could also serve as a comfortable space for guests. Choosing the right appliances was one of Kaufman's favorite parts of the job.

"Julie's a cook, and I'm an enthusiast," he says, "so it was a lot of fun shopping for the different grills and things. I'm envious of the grilling station she's got now."

The central island includes a gas grill, a smoker, and a sizzler that allows Julie to quickly sear meats and vegetables or even bread. And a stainless-steel bar provides additional dining space.

The original plan called for a stone fireplace on one "wall" and columns to support the roof. Kaufman suggested moving the fireplace to the corner, making it more of a focal point and opening up the traffic pattern from the back door through the new "room."

"Devan also recommended only using the stone at the base of the columns instead of all the way up, like I'd planned," Julie explains. "And he was right—the painted wood blends in with the fence and makes the space feel so much more open than it would have felt if we had huge stone columns all around."

The Drews have been as pleased with the small details Kaufman recommended as they were with the larger features. Touches such as indirect lighting and a unique ceiling design give the space character and make it pleasant both day and night.

"Even though it's on the west side of the house, it's comfortable out here all day," Julie says. "I come out in the morning and have my coffee. We sit out here in the evening. And with the lights on and the music playing, it's a wonderful place to sit and read."

The Kaufman team began demolition work on the old space between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2011, and Julie wanted it done in April.

"We told her we'd do as much as we could while the weather held," Kaufman says. "It turned out to be such a mild winter, we had the fireplace done before it got too cold."

Julie was impressed with the entire project. "They worked hard. They cleaned up every day. It was just amazing." In fact, the crew had to remove part of the fence and landscaping to get the equipment and materials in, and the Drews decided to just replace the sod between the new space and the flowerbeds. But other than one bush, every bit of existing landscaping remains in place—and so does the fence.

"There's nothing I'd do differently," Julie says. "We love it so much, we're out here constantly. I counted last year; there were only five days all summer that we didn't use it."

Guests love it as much as the Drews—it's the favorite location for Thursday night wine nights. And Devan Kaufman still wants a grilling station like theirs.

You know you've done it right when even your builder is envious of your new space.

 

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