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Adapting to Life's Changes
By Tracy Dickinson | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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A West Des Moines home is transformed to fit the owners’ changing lives.

When you buy your first home, you’re usually focused on budget. For your second purchase, you might focus more on neighborhood schools or the number of bedrooms. Needs and wish lists change as your life changes.

Dave and Janet Manning’s life has changed significantly in the nearly 30 years since they built their home in West Des Moines. But thanks to Janet’s design expertise and the right remodeler, their home is adapting to life’s changes right along with them.

“We had younger kids when we built this house in the ’80s,” Janet says, “so I designed the main floor to make that easier.”

The family room and main living spaces were set off from the kitchen and dining areas to give Janet space to work and the kids room to play. Keeping the kitchen separate, off a narrow hallway with a swing-door entry, meant noise from the kids’ activities didn’t travel into the kitchen. And features like the corner fireplace and built-ins in the dining room were ideal for 1980s living and entertaining.

But now, with the kids mostly grown and their life moving at a different pace, the Mannings decided it was time to reconsider their home’s design, starting with the kitchen.

Having run her own design business for nearly 20 years before being sidelined by a serious illness, Janet took on the project’s redesign herself. She worked with remodeler Joe Williams of Williams Remodeling LLC in Waukee to bring her vision to life. The result is a gorgeous space that blends with the home’s original design while reflecting the Mannings’ timeless style and current needs.

“Janet wanted to open up the space and eliminate the wall dividing the kitchen from the rest of the house,” Williams says. “We had to bring in a structural engineer to advise us because that was a main load-bearing wall.”

Removing that wall also meant rerouting much of the ductwork and electrical for the floor above.

“There weren’t any real surprises on this project,” Williams says, “but it took some planning to make the design work. But Janet had a great design, and we had great people to work with.”

Janet agrees, noting that the granite countertop and the cabinetry were the result of some talented suppliers. “I think it took seven guys to bring that island countertop in here,” she says. “And it’s just perfect.”

The custom cabinets, designed by Janet and created by Swan Creek Cabinetry, provide more than storage. They are the design’s foundation and a stunning work of craftsmanship.

“I knew I wanted lattice work on the cabinets because I wanted ceiling-height cabinetry, but it would have been too stark with just all that white,” Janet says. “Swan Creek did a phenomenal job. They even warrantied the lattice work, even though they’d never done lattice before.”

The creamy white cabinets topped with a coffee glaze are accented by a geometric backsplash in shades of cream and sand that echo the lines of the lattice work.

“Whenever I did kitchen designs before, we would have to paint outlet covers to match the backsplash or run an electric line at the edge of the counter along the base of the backsplash. We chose these pop-up outlets in the counters instead, and I just love them,” Janet says.

In addition to opening up the kitchen, Janet’s design called for removing the golden oak storage cabinets in the dining room and reorienting the corner fireplace. The new stone fireplace is gas rather than wood-burning. There’s room for a flat-screen TV above. To make up for the lost dining room storage, the oversize island is a wealth of hidden storage.

Williams also removed a window seat, replacing it with lower windows, and installed a telescoping door and double windows in place of the original sliders from the dining area to the three-season room.

Despite the major changes involved in the renovation, the process went fairly smoothly, taking just under four months from beginning to end. Janet says that was the result of Williams’ skill and his wonderful subcontractors. Williams attributes it to Janet and her design.

“The design was all Janet’s, and she knew how to make all the pieces work together,” he says. “I just had to follow her excellent plan and bring the suppliers together.”

Physical issues forced Janet Manning to step away from the design business for several years. Working on her own project was the ideal way to reenter the field, and she is excited to be taking on new assignments.

When they built the house a few decades ago, the Mannings cherished that private kitchen, separate from the rest of the home. But changes in their life have required other changes, too, and that open space with room to move easily around the kitchen offers a much more relaxing environment that suits their lives today.

As their lives continue to change, Janet expects they’ll find ways to adapt more of their home. Next on the list? How about a home office for that budding design business?


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