Spec House Whole Home Remodel
surface area
4035 sq. ft.
Iowa City
project Type
May 1, 2019

Whole Home Remodel - Remodelers Parade 2019

Few remodel projects took on the scope as this home. Having been left in deferred maintenance with many builders looking to demolish the site and start over, Amy quickly noticed the potential in the original footprint. The trouble was the home had very little to salvage. She stripped the home to its outer shell before lifting the home up to add onto its foundation, a previous 6'7", and expanding it to 9' so the walkout lower level did not feel like a basement. The task was daunting but the rewards were a beautiful lot with a large sited single-story plan.

The Challenge

With a serene natural environment, this 1960s ranch-style house has been completely reimagined. Featuring a more open interior and greater connection to the environment, the renovation has made this house as significant today as it was 60 years ago.

The house has a dramatic external and internal aesthetic designed to respond to the views. The design, with its low-pitched roof and angled siting, melds quietly with the scenery. Clean-lined elements stand out while contrasting with the land.

A white painted exterior of composite wood-like siding contrasts with the custom-made cedar shutters and plant boxes. Complementing the strong geometric form is a long porch with large cedar columns supporting its natural connection.

Arriving at the front door, there are views across the interior and out a window wall to the water. From entry, long wooden shiplap planks run horizontally through the foyer drawing the eye through the space, making it feel larger. The distinctive shape of the house adds to the comfort of its interiors.

The house originally had a very formal interior layout that was not well suited to modern living. A separate living room, dining room, and small galley kitchen in the main living areas meant there was no visual connection between spaces. Opening up the interior to the outdoors created a more continuous living space.

“An analysis of the existing structure revealed a re-ordering of spaces was possible,” says builder Amy Pretorius with Elevation Homebuilders. “A truss roof system allowed interior walls to be removed essentially creating an exterior shell to start over.” Ceiling heights in the lower level were commonly low during the original period of construction. To accommodate a more inviting and open lower level plan, the house was elevated to add eighteen-inches of ceiling height to the lower level. The staircase, once located in the center of the home, was moved to the front to allow for a more open living space and view to the river. The main living area is now comprised of an open floor plan with a large kitchen, dining and living spaces where tall windows are the focus acting as a visual threshold between the woods and expansive river views beyond.

Continuing indoors, the raw wood and exposed brick textures make a strong rustic statement. A large brick mantle defines the living area with built-in bookshelves flanking the fireplace. Natural elements were incorporated into the design including floating walnut shelving and marble-like quartz countertops in the kitchen. Painted white and light blue cabinets provide a sleek contrast to the more organic and textured elements.

Remodeling the home has also opened up the entire lower level of the house. A large wet bar opens to a family room and recreational/bonus area. On one end, a glass French door has a wine cellar that mirrors an opposing wall of glass that features a large sliding glass door with two glass doors on opposite ends. The flooring features a herringbone pattern which provides a more organic look. To reinforce the visual continuity, the same minimal material palette was used throughout the interior. For example, varying widths of shiplap create detail and contrasting textures including detail on the fireplace and wine cellar. A charcoal painted shiplap mantle and slate tile surround frame the large gas fireplace.

Changes to the owners’ suite include a new bathroom design with walnut cabinetry, marble-like quartz counters and a marble floor that provide an organic look that complements the woodland setting. A headboard wall features wainscoting detail that is also used on the large staircase. A bath in the lower level includes steam-ready fixtures for future installation of a steam shower. The look is balanced by clean-lined modern light fixtures and cabinetry alongside traditional decorative details. Spaces throughout the home offer the ultimate viewing platform with tall windows and glass sliding doors opening to a deck and patio spaces. Combining indoor and outdoor connections with open spaces has allowed the renovation to bring the home into the new century.  

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