Country comfort — TheGazette

Country comfort - TheGazette

Cedar Rapids couple takes hands-on approach to building dream home in Vinton

Editors note: This is the second of a two-part series showcasing two homes built in Vinton more than a century apart.

VINTON Its the house that Roger and Barb Beau built in more ways than one.

It sits on the crest of a hill on 1.1 acres overlooking a bucolic panorama of the Iowa landscape: green fields mantled with waving corn, one rolling hill seguing into another.

Its a peaceful, serene scene, punctuated by the occasional sound of a mooing cow, or the call from the many species of birds fluttering about.

The house itself is modified Country French, its exterior accented by a swooping gable bordered in dark brick thats repeated in the window lintels. The house beckons invitingly to visitors through a Wisconsin stone entrance.

Inside theres almost 3,500 square feet of convivial comfort on two levels, a home that continues the Country French theme but with such 21st century features as an open floor plan and a whole house sound system.

What is most remarkable, however, is what took place behind the scenes. Roger, 65, and Barb, 64, were not the type of homeowners who selected house plans, a builder and a contractor, then waited to move in.

Whats astonishing is the amount of work they put into the house, assessed at $330,000, but that probably would enjoy a more realistic market value of $350,000. The couple spent five years just finding the right site.

The Beaus, both retired Qwest phone company employees, then methodically went about educating ourselves, says Roger, attending Parade of Homes and home shows, and exploring house plans on websites.

While Roger read two how to books on home building and talked to professionals, Barb pored over dozens of decorating and home magazines.

Roger used his natural curiosity and decades of experience in the many facets of building maintenance to research everything from house plans to contractors to geothermal heating systems to shapes of doorways.

The couple happily decided on a Country French house plan from Ahmann Design of Hiawatha, feeling it was perfect for their needs. They modified it some, eliminating the second story, expanding the dining room and having a walkout lower level. I love how this plan brings the outdoors inside, as there is an abundance of 6-foot-tall windows, says a beaming Barb.

Design decided, Roger became his own general contractor and estimates that the cumulative work he and Barb did amounted to a savings of $100,000. Sound high? He received at least one bid for a general contractor alone that equaled 10 percent of the total home cost. Then there were fees for the individual contractors.

Barb was happy to leave the structural details to Roger and he was more than happy to leave the decorating perspective to her. They converged into a blend of old and new. The old was translated into the overall Country French design, then such features as arched doorways, wood floors, pieces of antique furniture, and some vintage window treatments. New was seen in green features such as four-zone heating/cooling and a radon gas vent system.

Roger got three bids from builders and also from each trade. Then he made his decision not always on cost, but who he thought would do the best job at the best price.

He went on to lay all the red oak floors, install the central vac system and wire the whole house sound system. Barb and he painted the walls in every room and he hung the wallpaper for the striking half-bath, with its marble vessel sink and marble floor.

Country comfort - TheGazette

The Beaus started building in May 2010 and moved in December to the nine-room, three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath home with a spacious 1,162-square-foot lower level. It sports a family room with wet bar, exercise room, two bedrooms and a full bath. A garden room houses garden equipment.

I was there every day to look things over, Roger says. It was an experience, building this house. But I loved every minute of it.

Says Barb: I wanted our dream home to be a place where we could live out our days and welcome family and friends. My goal in decorating was comfort and chic. I found this in the Country French style where you can mix plaids with checks and toile with a little paisley thrown in . It also lent itself well to our antique and Amana furnishings. I love walnut and wicker. Instead of purchasing new pieces I had the old reupholstered and it was reborn.

Walls are earth tones and furniture fabric, with a few exceptions, is soft and muted. They have a large collection of Amana solid walnut furniture and a number of family heirloom pieces.

The couple have two married children: Tracy, 40, of Clive, and Travis, 36, of Overland Park, Kan. They have five young grandsons.

Outstanding features of the house start with the living room fireplace, where five species of native Iowa birds are carved into the deep basswood mantel. We get every one of those birds at our feeders, Barb says. Theyre the goldfinch, cardinal, chickadee, woodpecker and indigo blue bunting.

The couple made generous use of granite in mellow beige/brown/black in the kitchen/family room/master bath, the latter of which has separate his-and-her areas. Toile Austrian shades provide accent to the windows.

One of the most charming rooms is the four-season sunroom, furnished in white wicker. It leads to a 16-by-14-foot cedar deck.

I had a sense of satisfaction that everything came together, Roger says. I get up in the morning and look out at all the wildlife and trees. Its wonderful. Im amazed at what we accomplished. We came from pretty humble beginnings and I cant believe we are where we are.

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