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Remodeling in Phases
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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There are advantages to working one project at a time.

Chris and Sue Smith live in a new home in Johnston. Well, sort of.

They formerly lived in Urbandale and wanted to downsize, so they purchased their one-story home in 2010. The home was built in 1983. For the Smiths, it’s truly a new home; in remodeling it to suit their needs, they have moved walls and widened doorways to get an open-concept feel.

By design, they have planned their multiple remodeling forays in phases. “I don’t call it remodeling,” Sue says. “I say that we reconfigured our space.” Mostly they have reworked their home with the help of Devan Kaufman of Kaufman Construction.

Their very first project upon moving in was to move and remodel the kitchen with a former central Iowa company, Homeworks. With that project, the original kitchen became the dining area, and the dining area morphed into the kitchen.


They met Kaufman at the Tour of Remodeled Homes. “We just liked his design and inspiration,” Chris, a programmer for Wells Fargo, now retired, explains. “We had some ideas. Devan got what we wanted, and he had great ideas about how to get there.”

Kaufman first tackled two bathrooms in 2014. One, off the main hallway, is for guests primarily. Even though it’s compact in size, it’s large in visual design. It contains a corner shower with glass doors. Also, Sue points out, Kaufman suggested a taller vanity in an appealing light wood, which would take it out of the trendy feel and into a timeless one. “I just love how it turned out,” she says. She is a legal assistant at Corteva, formerly DuPont Pioneer.

The other bathroom, off the master bedroom, is larger and also has the higher-counter vanity. An interesting detail is a large drawer that has a plug-in inside the drawer for a hair dryer. Sue says that takes all the clutter off the counter and keeps it in that drawer. “That’s really clever and so efficient.”


The couple brought Kaufman back in 2016 to rework their front porch entrance. “It just wasn’t safe for visitors,” Chris points out. “Devan did renderings of how it could look, and we loved it. The columns have a slight touch of Craftsman-style detail, and it’s really nicely done. We just love it. It not only looks great, but now it’s safe for visitors.” Landscaping, including colorful hydrangeas and a stone walkway, was done by Iowa Outdoor Products. Along the way, the homeowners replaced original windows with all Pella Windows.

This year they called on Kaufman again to rework the great-room. A big sticking point with the couple was that the fireplace was in the corner, Chris says. “To enjoy it, we had to turn our backs on the rest of the room and on the windows. It just didn’t feel right.” Another detail Sue wanted was to add some ceiling interest, which happened with shiplap.

Another point of consideration was a sunroom off the main room. “It was either too hot or too cold, and now we can use it year-round,” Sue says. “Devan got what our vision is for the house. We want it to be a gathering place for our family, and we want to enjoy it ourselves.” The Smiths have a blended family of three children and five grandkids.

Kaufman moved the fireplace to an outside wall and made it a focal point of the great-room, complete with a Smart TV on it. The fireplace is in a contemporary style with a stucco chimney to add visual interest. What’s cool is that on the sunroom side, which has been made into a permanent room, it’s a two-way fireplace with a completely different personality on the sunroom side. There it has decorative blue patterned tiles, more befitting that room’s purpose.


The sunroom with its A-frame ceiling, wood ceiling, and large windows overlooking the backyard and new patio made with Belgard bricks and pavers placed by Des Moines Hardscape is referred to as “Sue’s sanctuary.” “My husband wanted me to have my own getaway room, where I could go to read and relax. It’s just wonderful,” she says.

So what’s the advantage of doing so much remodeling in steps or phases? “For one thing,” says Chris, “you can space out the financial part. We wanted to have one big project done before we started on another.”

Sue agrees. “Plus, there’s another factor. Sometimes you change your mind or you see a new product or finish you want to incorporate. Doing remodeling in pieces allows you to change your mind and get the look you want.”

Kaufman says clients vary, of course. “Some homeowners have a grand plan, and others don’t. They just know they want more done at some point.” From his perspective, it’s about developing quality, trust, and service that brings people back.

“If homeowners have a specific budget, we can certainly tailor our designs to accommodate that.” He says people shouldn’t be afraid and shouldn’t overthink what they want to do. “We know it’s hard to bite off a remodeling project and finances all at once, so we can certainly get the look they want in phases.”

The Smiths and Kaufman have come full circle. They met him at a Tour of Remodeled Homes, and this year their home will be on the tour.

“It’s a great tour for getting ideas and for seeing what can be done,” Kaufman says. “Except for the very first year, I have participated in each tour.”

Tour of Remodeled Homes

Sponsored by the Remodelers Council of Greater Des Moines and the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines, this year’s tour will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, September 21 and 22, at 16 locations around central Iowa. Tickets cost $10.

For more information, check out


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