Waukee remodel overcomes pandemic challenges.
Story by Tracy Dickinson
Photography by tim Abramowitz
Featured in November/December 2021
After relocating to Iowa, a Southern couple bought a home in Waukee with a kitchen remodel in mind. That was nearly three years ago. “Overall, it took about two years,” say the homeowners. “But we couldn’t be happier with the results.”
The couple have moved numerous times over the years, and every home they owned required some work. “We’ve always done the work ourselves,” they say. “We don’t mind getting our hands dirty, so at some point in our marriage we’ve done all sorts of projects.”
This time they decided to bring in the professionals. “We knew we wanted to completely redo the kitchen as well as make changes to the laundry, and that would take a while. But we didn’t want to be without a kitchen during the renovation,” they explain. “So we decided to add a kitchen area to the lower level. That way we’d have a place for family later, but we’d have a working kitchen while the main level was under construction.”
After meeting with Jillian Lare of Morris Lare Interior Design and talking through some initial ideas, Lare recommended the team at Kaufman Construction. “We’ve worked with Jillian often,” says owner Devan Kaufman. “In fact, she worked for us for a while, and we’ve always had a good relationship.” This project was no different. It was a truly collaborative effort between the professionals.
“We’d already had some conversations with Jillian when Devan came on board,” say the homeowners. “We sat down as a group and discussed a preliminary plan for the main kitchen and laundry. Then we took him downstairs. Basically, we said, ‘Devan, this is your design area. What can we do with this?’”
As a design/build firm, Kaufman Construction was able to not only supervise the main level work, the firm also brought its expertise to every aspect of the project and helped make reality what Lare and the homeowners had envisioned.
Kaufman says, “In the lower level, the homeowners wanted a fully functioning kitchen, but they wanted it to feel like a bar for the future,” when it would be primarily used for entertaining. He suggested a streamlined cabinetry design and contemporary shelving, all in a darker finish for a more modern look. With bar seating, undercabinet lighting, and sleek hardware, the finished space provides everything the homeowners wanted.
“Kaufman Construction was great at seeing every detail of the project and making sure we knew exactly what the finished product would look like,” the homeowners say. “We were really focused on the functionality of each area, not just the look, and everyone involved felt the same. That made the process so much better.”
The custom hutch in the kitchen is a key example. Designed by Jillian and built by Kaufman’s finish carpenter, the piece features lighted display cabinets behind glass doors and deep drawers for storage.
Because the laundry room is also the mudroom, the homeowners were concerned about organization and storage. “We concealed the washer and dryer behind doors so everything can be closed up and clean when not in use. And we incorporated cabinetry so they have full floor-to-ceiling storage instead of just a closet,” Kaufman says.
“They not only incorporated ideas that we hadn’t thought about, but they went above and beyond to make sure we were going to be happy with our decisions,” the homeowners say.
The same was true for the main-level kitchen cabinetry. The homeowners had chosen a cabinet finish fairly early on, then made other selections based on that finish. “What they hadn’t realized is that the finish they chose required a glaze, which not only added to the cost, but it meant the final color would be inconsistent,” says Kaufman.
The homeowners say, “We really wanted that specific color since we had already made the hardware and backsplash tile selections based on that overall color. No matter how slight the differences, every other color option just didn’t work with the hardware and backsplash. We just had settled on something we liked.”
Fortunately, the cabinet manufacturer worked with the homeowners to match the specific color and to make sure the desired look was achieved as anticipated.
The entire project—from top to bottom—went much the same way: discussions, decisions, and potential hiccups that all worked out in the end.
“We had our first conversations in the summer of 2019 and started the actual work on the basement level that September,” the homeowners say. The goal had been to have the lower-level kitchen complete by Christmas. Other than a couple minor issues, they came pretty close to that target.
Then 2020 rolled in. “We had a lot of things going at once, and then we didn’t,” the homeowners say.
The onset of the Covid pandemic put the project on hold while everyone involved considered safety options and evaluated the broader situation. The main-level kitchen eventually got underway early in the spring. Because the existing cabinetry was in excellent condition despite its age, the homeowners opted to remove that themselves and resell it, leaving less demolition work for Kaufman’s team.
“All told, the whole thing took nearly two years,” says Kaufman. “Some of those delays were unforeseen. Some I wish we could have managed better. But everyone always agreed that the end product was the priority, and I feel like we were able to give them that in the end.”
“The things we really had our hearts set on like the pantry, the refrigerator drawers in the island, the fully integrated appliance panels, the custom touches to the laundry area, and the basement renovation, they did even more than we expected,” the homeowners say.
The objective all along was a timeless design that would look beautiful for years to come.
The homeowners believe their goal was reached. “Jillian and Devan really understood what we wanted and created a design with that in mind. It was worth the wait.”
With collaboration already in place, there is talk of a road trip to Colorado in Traci Baldus’s future. •
- Design/Build Firm Kaufman Construction
- Interior Design Morris Lare Interior Design