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In balance with nature
Elm Grove home defines contemporary design with organic elements


October 2012

The catwalk was integrated into the design of the Elm Grove home from the couple’s previous home in Iowa City. "We wanted to bring the outside in and we wanted to be able to stand above the yard," says homeowner Craig.
Photo by Doug Edmunds


When an Iowa couple gave the nod to an open canvas for Doug Wells to express his creativity, the result was an architectural masterpiece nestled between two kettles on a wooded lot in Elm Grove.

"He designed a home for us in Iowa City. This house we decided to let him have a free hand," says Craig, the homeowner.

"He likes to push the limit of architecture," adds his wife, Pat.

The neighbors were certainly excited to see the condemned house that once graced the lot torn down, to be replaced by a magnificent contemporary home that blends into the wooded landscape.

The beautiful architecture begins on the exterior with subtle traditional elements including limestone walls and lap siding. "It has a lot of elements that are traditional to the neighborhood," Pat says.

The home may contain some traditional elements, but the exterior steel catwalks and floor-to-ceiling windows unveil its true identity.

The home, designed by architect Doug Wells, appears split into two living areas with a 700-square-foot foyer diving the space. The gray siding and limestone chimney blend with the wooded landscape.
Photo by Doug Edmunds

The interior space begins outside the front door, where travertine tile and a skylight design carries through from the front hall to the outside.

Once inside, an open concept awaits with short walls that define the rooms instead of enclosing the areas. "I like walking in the front door and essentially being able to see the first floor with no walls to the ceiling," says Pat.

Craig enjoys the variations in the architectural design. "It has a sculptural quality. The feeling changes as you walk through it," he says.

The attention to detail is evident such as the travertine tile throughout the first floor meticulously laid so the walkways are defined with stainless steel borders in a north-south or east-west pattern. The tile in the "rooms" is laid at an angle to define the spaces.

Wells, of Wells & Associates in Des Moines, Iowa, had a vision of integrating the outdoors with the interior creating not only a perfect balance with nature, but an inviting place for the homeowners to reside.

A dramatic wall of windows set at an angle greet people as they enter the kitchen. The zebra wood "floating" cabinets on the wall give a sense of privacy to the space. A curved island topped with Laurentian marble and black granite accent the beech wood cabinets and stainless steel pulls. A wall of cabinets under the glass windows allows for maximum storage space and an uncluttered feel to the kitchen.
Photo by Doug Edmunds

The fire feature defines the area between the library and family room, providing a warm ambiance. Pat and Craig wanted a fire element in the room without having to construct a second chimney in the home. The antique wooden bench along the wall was from a church and sits next to a portrait of the couple’s daughter. The door leads out to another catwalk on the east side of the home.
Photo by Doug Edmunds

Floor-to-ceiling windows, at 9-feet-6-inches tall, are the exterior walls along the hallway and living room area, giving the sense of being outside.
Photo by Doug Edmunds



The open concept begins at the front door where visitors see directly through to the back of the house. Wood dividers in a skylight running the length of the hall double as an artistic element and support system. "We thought it would be interesting to put a long slash through the house," Craig explains, regarding the skylight. Due to the lack of floor-to-ceiling walls, I-beams are strategically placed throughout the home to support the ceiling. A long credenza is used during entertaining and has an LCD light along one edge that changes hues on a timer. 
Photo by Doug Edmunds



This story ran in the October 2012 issue of: