Winter wonderland: Cedar Rapids couple uses wooded lot as inspiration for holiday decorations

The mantle is topped with silver trees and ornament hangers at the Thuente home in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The mantle is topped with silver trees and ornament hangers at the Thuente home in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Stepping inside Amy and Eric Thuente’s home on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids this time of year is like walking in a winter wonderland.

Amy, the home’s lead decorator as she and her husband agreed, used the home’s setting on a large wooded lot as inspiration for all of the holiday decor.

“I thought that living in the woods it would be nice to bring some of the outside in,” she said, pointing out the birch logs, snowflake and reindeer decor while noting the importance of kid-friendly items. “I’d say it’s very country farmhouse decor but with a touch of glitter. And there are lots of deer because so many visit our home throughout the year.”

There also are touches of buffalo plaid in every room, a particularly meaningful decor choice for Thuente, whose father — an avid outdoorsman who often wore buffalo plaid (red and black checks) — died earlier this year. “It’s a tribute to my dad. It reminds me of him every day.”

The two-story windows in the great room let in ample light and offer a beautiful view of the park like backyard.

“When I walked in and saw these windows, I loved it,” said Thuente of her first tour through the home. “It looks beautiful out here during all the seasons.”

A stunning 12-foot Christmas tree is the highlight of the spacious great room.

“It’s a family affair to get the tree put together and decorated,” she said.

Every surface got a touch of holiday spirit, including the stairway leading to the second floor — what Thuente calls the “kids’ zone” or “toy land.” The railing is covered in garland.


Thuente said she chose the holiday decor and woodland theme so that much of the decorations could be left up during the long winter and not just through Christmas.

An advocate of decorating with pops of color, Thuente said they chose to have the home’s first floor painted a neutral gray with white trim. Typically you’d find teal accents throughout the home, but during the holidays, red takes over.

The Thuentes bought their home nine years ago when they knew they wanted to have children and since have had four. They have remodeled and updated the home to fit their busy lifestyle.

What once was the home’s formal dining room at the front of the house, for example, has been transformed to meet the needs of a family on the go.

“We used that dining room just a couple of times,” Thuente said. “It was just wasted space before.”

They reconceived the space as a mudroom, laundry room and art room for the kids, complete with a large center island great for creative projects.

“The kids are big into art, and they love to hang out in there. It’s so functional.”

There are built-in lockers for hanging coats and backpacks.

“That is my favorite feature,” said Thuente, pointing out that each locker has a name plate for each child and upgraded electrical outlets that allow for charging the kids’ iPads.


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A custom barn door mounted outside the room serves as a decorative and functional way to close the mudroom space off from the home’s main entryway.

Thuente said the kitchen is another favorite spot as it serves as the heart of the home.

“It’s where we gather, where we hang out after school,” she said.

While the Thuentes have remodeled the whole main floor of the home, the kitchen has perhaps seen the greatest transformation. Last year, they embarked on the project to give the family hub more space as well as to lighten it up, including new flooring, cabinetry, countertops, and backsplash. The project finished up last summer just as Thuente gave birth to their fourth child, a daughter.

“Eric got the kitchen put back together and all cleaned up and it was so nice to come home to that,” she said.

The large island with gorgeous quartz countertop they added is now the central feature of the kitchen. It’s where they play board games, the kids do school work and where they eat many meals.

“It’s all very kid-friendly and functional,” Thuente said.

Before the redesign, the cabinetry was a dark wood and the colors were more earth tones. Now the kitchen is bright with white cabinetry.

“And we opened up a wall and relocated the laundry room because we wanted a larger kitchen,” said Thuente, noting that they now enter the home from the garage through their new mudroom as opposed to the kitchen.

The Thuentes also opted for laminate flooring to keep up with the fast pace of family life.

“There’s a lot of chaos here,” she said. “But this is so much more functional and we love it.”



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