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‘Warm Modern’ Full of Style
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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Upgraded details give a new look and life to an Ankeny home.

Dena and Tom Butler’s home isn’t that old, but already it is full of new life and new history.

The house was built in 2004 in the southwest part of Ankeny. The Butlers bought it in late 2018. Their new home represents a new start for the couple.

“I grew up in the greater Des Moines area, and I met my best friend Pam in middle school,” Dena explains. “Throughout our teenage years, we were close friends and were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.” Yes, she was in the wedding of Pam and Tom, who is now her husband. Dena moved away and thought she would never return to Iowa.

Twenty-five years later, within a couple months, both Pam and Dena’s husband had passed away. And five years later, in their shared history and their shared grief, Tom and Dena reconnected and were married. Dena had been living in Detroit and moved back to join Tom in Ankeny. The Butlers have five grown children between them.

Dena had downsized to a condo before moving back to Iowa. “Still,” Tom says, “rather than blending our furnishings, we decided a home that was new to both of us made the best sense.” Tom, a real estate agent with Keller Williams, represents Kimberley Development, primarily in the Otter Creek area of Ankeny. He looked to Troy Sydow and his crew from Kimberley Construction when it was time to update. “Sure, we’re in the same overall company, but I know and like Troy and wanted to help him out in that part of the business,” Tom says. “Because I love selling Kimberley homes because of their craftsmanship, I knew he would be the right person for what we wanted to do in our home.”


The to-do list (what builders call a “punch list”) for the remodeling included redoing the stairway surround to the lower level, creating a simple mantel on the floor-to-ceiling stacked-stone two-way fireplace between the living room and the kitchen, adding wood-grain laminate flooring in the living room and dining room, adding a statement double front door to enhance the entry, and gutting a powder room and laundry room.

Shortly after purchasing the home, there was a major water accident, so redoing the floors took priority. The Butlers chose LVP, luxury vinyl planking, in a mix of browns and grays and three widths for a pleasing base.

“We wanted a simple, timeless look,” Tom says. “It’s a blank slate, and we can do anything with it.”

With Dena’s design eye, and some help from Elements at Prairie Trail in Ankeny and Eden & Gray Design Build of West Des Moines (Hanna Shiplett), the home’s look is what Dena calls “Warm Modern.” “It’s a clean and spare look but with classic details to give it warmth,” she says.


The new double door features “rain” patterned glass, which allows light to come through but also lends privacy. The glass has a “rain on the pane” textural quality to it. Straight ahead, the living room is the focal point of the main floor. Its centerpiece is a huge 10-by-12-foot window that overlooks the 1.2-acre wooded property and in-ground pool below. Tom wanted 6-inch headsets on that window and others in the kitchen sitting area to emphasize the windows’ details.

Sydow also put tall 55-inch wainscoting on one wall of the living area for a classic touch. “This is one of the touches that really brings this project a finished look,” he says. “In general, our arm of Kimberley Development does residential remodeling. We operate with a give-and-take approach when meeting with homeowner clients. I always ask them about their wants vs. their needs as we set up budgets and assess the project.” He also breaks components down into option pricing.

Sydow helps set up a timeline for the remodeling. “We often use the same vendors as the home-building side uses for new construction, always looking at quality. We’re really pleased with how the Butlers’ project turned out,” he says.


Dena arranged the living room for conversation; the focus is a large square wooden coffee table. Around it are a gray sofa on one side, a gray love seat on another, two dark brown leather swivel chairs on another, and two off-white tufted campaign-style stools for extra seating.

Texture comes in various pillows on the upholstered piece. The subtle wood mantel on the two-way fireplace breaks up the stacked stone.

To the right of the entry is the dining room, defined by a column at a corner. Otherwise, the room is open. A long geometric open lantern-style chandelier with candle lights hangs over the large trestle table that is surrounded by six gray upholstered chairs and two tufted creamy linen master chairs. A textured macramé-style runner decorates the table. The chandelier coordinates with an open geometric light fixture at the front door and with two sconces over the wainscoting in the living area.

The powder room off a hallway got new fixtures, including a pedestal sink, and gray and white patterned vinyl flooring. Down the hallway, the laundry room was reconfigured to add some counter space.

Dena and Tom have settled into their new home. They love to sit on their large screened porch and relax. That area is their “no electronics zone,” Tom says.

Have their updating plans been deterred by the remodeling project? Absolutely not. Next up is the kitchen.


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