Adel home all set for entertaining and new adventures.
Story by Carol McGarvey
Photography by Tim Abramowitz
Featured in May/June 2021
It’s not impossible for people to have new homes built for them in another town or part of the country. But from Singapore? That was the task of Donna and Joe Muhs of rural Adel, whose new home exudes what Donna calls “rustic elegance.”
To set the stage, this acreage was discovered east of Adel while the Muhs were out on a bike ride, something that both Donna and Joe enjoy doing in their spare time. It had an A-frame log home structure that had been added onto several times in the past. After eight years living in their home, things were starting to be in need of repairs and definitely needed updating.
Together they sought out Cheryl and Greg Arganbright of Woodharbor Kitchen & Bath to remodel the kitchen and the bath on the main level. For seven years following, they enjoyed the kitchen and bath that had been designed to fit the style of the home and their entertaining needs.
Their rural life took a turn when Joe, vice president and general manager of the Des Moines operations for an international plastics distribution company, was asked to take a multiyear stint in Singapore. Donna, formerly the CFO of Sticks, Inc., the Des Moines-based art furnishings company, had never lived outside of Iowa. “With four children between us and two grandchildren at the time, another born shortly after we returned home to stay, and soon to be four, part of the package to sweeten the deal was that each of us could come home quarterly, together or separately.”
A year into the assignment, and during the three trips home, they were noticing things going amiss with their home. Discussions began about the possibilities of additional remodeling, perhaps another addition. But after inspecting some things that would have to be repaired, like the aged electrics and wiring, it became apparent that they would do better to tear down that home and start over. The lighting was in particular need of an upgrade, whilst many of the wall outlets were either in the wrong place or starting to show their age. It was when a buzzing sound coming from the electrical outlets could be heard that changes needed to be made. A call to an emergency electrician and a quick read of this article for professional electrical advice told the couple everything they needed to know – it was time to start over.
Their decision to choose the Arganbrights to build was a natural. There already was a great rapport in place. “Repeat customers are the best,” says Cheryl. “With structural foundation and other problems, we just didn’t think Joe and Donna would be satisfied with a situation that could mean lingering problems. We started talking about the ‘what if’ situations of building a new home.”
The couple had quite an adventure in Southeast Asia, visiting parts of China, Hong Kong, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. But at the same time, they were overseeing the building of their new home. “We are laid-back people, so we wanted something slightly rustic but comfortable, still keeping a semblance of the feel of the A-frame log home structure that was there before,” Donna says. During the tear down and building process, the couple donated custom kitchen cabinetry and gently used high-end appliances to Habitat for Humanity and newish windows and doors to the ReStore, which was a win-win for everyone.
“They had to trust us,” Cheryl says.
That wasn’t a problem, according to Donna. “We all worked so well together. They had sources and sent us photos and videos while we made decisions on finishes and other details.”
The 6,800-square-foot home has an open floor plan. A huge stone two-way fireplace in the great-room separates the living room’s welcoming seating area from the large kitchen and dining area that is warmed by knotty alder cabinets. A large semicircular seating bar that accommodates up to eight stools offers extra seating for grandchildren and for party guests. A dining table for 10 offers more dining space. Just off the living room is a wet bar area, which makes serving beverages and snacks to guests easy. A separate dishwasher in that area makes cleanup a breeze.
Between the kitchen and the three-car garage is a large laundry room, complete with hooks and baskets for jackets and boots. Nearby is a huge pantry for staples and small appliances.
Through French doors off the kitchen is an inviting sunroom with another fireplace. The room with lots of plants overlooks the backyard with a fire pit. Adirondack chairs and large stone slabs add ample seating.
Large wooden trusses in the living room, kitchen, and sunroom appear to emphasize the A-frame ceiling and the cabin feel.
More French doors open into the master suite, which features a huge closet. A sculpturelike soaking tub is situated under a “bling-style” chandelier for whimsy. A walk-in tiled shower with a river rock floor makes an earthy statement. A massive wooden headboard carries out the wood theme in the home. On the same side of the house is a guest room for grandkids, along with an office-workroom.
The home’s lower level, which has heated floors for comfort, is aimed at fun. Under the stairs is a finished playroom, currently an art studio for grandkids. Next to that space is a playroom chock-full of toys. A sliding barn door closes it off when not in play mode. The comfortable lower level has a big seating area for watching movies, tables for board games, a home gym, and wine cellar that holds 900-plus bottles. It also has three guest bedrooms and baths. One bedroom, the Sticks room, honors Donna’s former accounting career with a colorful headboard and dresser.
Workshops for two
A former garage on the property was retained when the earlier house was removed. During the building process, it stored furnishings. Later it took on a new life as Joe’s state-of-the-art woodworking shop and Donna’s silversmithing studio.
Joe fashions Adirondack chairs, patio furniture, cutting boards, and serving trays, as well as various commission projects. Donna sells her jewelry on Etsy and at art fairs in the area.
Joe, now retired, says, “I can’t wait to come out here each morning.”
“In Singapore,” says Donna, “we lived on the 29th floor and had no greenspace. We enjoyed exploring the culture, but it’s good to be home and be able to walk outside into nature.”
She says everything she envisioned in this home came true. “It’s the first home we ever built together, and we couldn’t be happier.”
And as for the entertaining the couple loves to do, she explains, “I always remember what my mother said: ‘The door’s always open, and the kettle’s always on.'” •
- Homebuilder Woodharbor Home
- Architect Shane Langos, Signature Design Concepts, Beisser Lumber
- Some furnishings Colorado Classics, Sticks
- Kitchen cabinetry Woodharbor Kitchen & Bath
- Cambria countertops CKF
- Stonework Stone Source
- Framing Hildreth Construction
- Drywall Griess & Ginder Drywall
- Insulation Kinzler Construction Services
- Appliances Factory Direct
- Electrical Deaver Electric
- Audio-Visual Audio Labs
- Plumbing Raccoon Valley Plumbing
- Plumbing fixtures Ferguson
- Flooring Legacy Flooring
- Windows Pella Windows
- Fireplaces Fireplace Superstore
- Landscaping Ted Lare Design Build
- Sprinkler system T&T Sprinkler Service