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This retreat integrates minimalist elements into a modest 1850’s farmhouse. Demolishing some well-intentioned but incongruous additions allowed tailored alterations to take their place, sympathetically updating the house for modern use. A weathered steel fence demarcates the property, its encircled lawn providing a sanctuary of calm laced with stone paths and shade trees. Although housing developments have replaced its fields, the homestead still strikes a commanding air.

A crisply detailed garage, gabled to match the house, accommodates two cars and overhead storage. A covered walkway with screen panels connects this outbuilding to the house while providing a welcoming outdoor enclosure. At the house, the covered walkway transitions to a glazed entry.

The building’s modest exterior belies the spaciousness of the main floor. Masonry and timber are left exposed, while new surfaces receive variations of white. Details are minimized to let wood, brick, steel, and light converse. A remnant of the original masonry fireplace anchors the composition, skirted by a suspended steel stair.

The stair provides access to the bedroom suite above, tucked within existing roof geometries. Fully-glazed dormers provide essential headroom, bathing the attic in light and framing views of trees and sky. The intimate suite includes a bedroom, bathroom, and laundry/closet.

The retreat presents an understated choreography of new and old. It expresses deep respect for the humble old farmhouse without delving into nostalgia or reveling in the rural past. The result is a comfortably stylish upgrade, assertively and unselfconsciously modern.

Project Type: Housing

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Completed: 2017


2020 AIA Iowa Excellence in Craft Award (Honor)
2017 AIA Central States Design Award (Merit)
2017 AIA Iowa Design Award (Merit)

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