Text by Edward Keegan
Des Moines–based firm Substance updated this 1980s Iowa City, Iowa, home so extensively it seems it was built in the 21st century. The architects added just under 300 square feet of new construction (less than 10% of the house’s 4,725 total) while clarifying the plan’s organization and modernizing the finishes and amenities.
The designers identified three “slices,” or zones, of space under the existing gabled roof—one each for eating, living, and sleeping. They then organized the renovation strategy, executed by McDonough Structures, around them. Partitions were removed to make the organization more apparent, creating open spaces that run from the front to the rear of the house. These light-abundant spaces are filled with what the architects dub “finely crafted objects”—kitchen cabinets, a loft, the staircase, and an entry closet in a palette of oak, steel, and quartz—that solve functional needs with sculptural means.
The original windows were enlarged to showcase the one-acre wooded site from each interior space. The exterior has been similarly simplified, reclad in metal siding and roofing, turning what was once dated into a fresh, contemporary start.
They kept the original form and rearticulated it as three different slices of space. It’s a clever way to reuse a 1980s house.
—Juror Janet Bloomberg
Builder: McDonough Structures
Size: 4,725 square feet