Rustic hideaway

Cedar Rapids family's home sits on 6 secluded acres

It sits on six acres, the rustic stone and reclaimed barnwood house seeming to erupt from the earth in an architectural geyser. The back faces a forest of locust trees, their slender trunks soaring to the sky. It’s pure nature out here, a serene quietude reigning. The property is steeped in history, having once been part of the old Cherry farm — Cherry as in the longtime Cherry-Burrell Co., (now Evergreen Packaging Equipment).

What’s remarkable about the house is that even though it’s just off busy East Post Road SE, it shares that trait so singular to Cedar Rapids: It’s private, but still just minutes away from the hub of activity in the city — with easy access to Marion and Hiawatha.

Innovative homeowners are Terry Dean Cooper, 47, and his wife, Dr. Terri Lyn Cooper, 46, who live there with their three children, Cole, 18; daughter CJ, 14, and Carli, 9. The house doesn’t look typically Iowan by design — actually, the couple’s design, although Terry Dean did the planning. Having traveled widely, the two liked the rustic looks of homes in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Colorado.

Rustic, yes, but features had to fit the busy lifestyle of Terry Dean, president of Acterra Group of Marion, a company that builds fueling systems for aviation, and convenience stores plus backup generating systems — and Terri Lyn, a chiropractor and acupuncturist who has Wholistic Wellness Clinic and Spa in Hiawatha.

“It’s livable, lovable, family-oriented,” says Terri Lyn of the house. “Our children have been invited to sleepovers but they want to be home — and,” she says with a gusty laugh, “I want to know what they’re up to!”

Family is the core of the couple’s lives and Terry Dean says when he’s home and not working in his den he’s with the kids in the living room, or family room, or downstairs in the theater.

The house took two to three years to design, 15 months to build and was completed in 2007.

The result is space and amenities galore. It totals 7,620 square feet, has 10 rooms besides six bedrooms, five full baths, two half-baths, four fireplaces and a five-stall garage. It has whole-house audio, meaning the system does everything from announcing a person’s presence at the door to playing music throughout the house — even different music in different rooms.

Those 10 rooms include a game room, theater room, media room with kitchen (no stove) for the kids, an exercise room, gymnasium and a laundry room with a computer workspace for Terri Lyn.

You’ve heard of a bathroom having radiant heating in the floor? All the rooms here have radiant-heated floors. And there’s enough granite in the kitchen and bathrooms to start a cemetery.

It’s a “smart” house, too, with most everything programmable and even computer/phone-manageable, from lights to locks.

One might ask — why such a large home? Ironically, the couple’s first design from an architect was for an even larger house. It didn’t suit them so they designed their own. Terry Dean says, “I worked on a house that showed the lifestyle we wanted to live….

“I was the general contractor, from planning to management. Some of the (hand) work I did, like the built-in cabinets in the closets, the built-in entertainment center and the whole-house audio system.”

That was fine with wife Terri Lyn. “My husband likes projects — he drives us all crazy if he doesn’t have a project to work on,” she says, laughing. And the size? “I don’t know that we planned it that (large) but we love it and use every square inch. We also have three dogs, a cat and a guinea pig. We foresee room for our children to come back when they’re gone from home. It’s also a nice space when family comes to visit.”

The Coopers used a decorator, Lori Wiles of Lori Wiles Design, to help with the interior look. It saves money in the long run, asserts Terri Lyn, because you don’t have to redo things that didn’t turn out as you thought. “Lori was an amazing help,” she says. “Her color memory is unbelievable.”

The easygoing Wiles says she thinks in 3-D, her subconscious registering infinite details. The expert designer can “see” a room or effect — an immense asset to clients who, well, can’t. Wiles is based in Eastern Iowa but has clients all over the country.

The magnitude of the rooms and the scale of the features are, without exaggeration, mind-boggling. Stepping into the slate entry/hallway, one looks ahead into the living room, which has a giant cathedral ceiling of around 28 feet with the rear wall all windows looking out on the wooded landscape. A rough-hewed stone fireplace soars to the full 28 feet and is an impressive 18 feet wide, a monument to the mason’s art.

Walls and furnishings throughout the house are largely in earth tones: browns, honeys, taupes — with splashes of color in unexpected places, for instance, a green cabinet that graces a hallway wall. Then there’s a colorful objet d’art on the wall in the main hallway upon entering the house.

Two fat custom-made sofas and four outsized chairs are also seen in the living room, complementing a hand-knotted wool rug in browns and beiges. The house is an interesting combination of slate, reclaimed barnwood floors and carpet.

All the rooms are on a scale that would leave most of us breathless. This includes the magnificent 28-foot-by-24-foot kitchen. It sports a beveled granite countertop; hammered copper sinks, a double-oven Wolf gas range with pot filler faucet, two Sub-Zero refrigerators with humongous freezer drawers, two dishwashers — and a walk-in pantry.

The linear counter/bar has two angled “wings,” the design ideal for family eating — or to lay out a giant buffet. The Coopers entertain frequently. “A small event is for 10 people,” Terri Lyn says, and they’ve had 40 for dinner with 100 at other events. The Coopers have a cleaning service in every two weeks.

Accompanying the kitchen is a sunken “gathering room” where the family can hang out. It’s home to an intriguingly angled fireplace, also in stone. In a hallway off the kitchen is the laundry room and office for Terri Lyn. Here are four LG washers and dryers for doing laundry “in half the time” (the master bedroom has a third set.) And — ta dum — a dumbwaiter for sending and returning laundry upstairs. “It’s the best thing I ever did,” Terri Lyn exclaims.

The 30-foot-by-50-foot game room sports pool- and pingpong tables, foosball and pinball. The workout room has a full array of equipment and the 18-foot-by-24-foot theater room features 10 oversized leather loungers facing an 8-foot screen.

Asked if there’s anything they would do differently, Terry Dean says “We put in a geothermal heating system and it didn’t turn out like everyone said it would …. it was disappointing to say the least.”

Terri Lyn says the couple’s mission was to have “a family home where the kids want to be, where other family can come and feel very comfortable.” She loves to be cooking in the kitchen, with the kids doing their homework — aka family time.

Does she have a “mission accomplished” feeling? “Yes. My only thing is it’s a lot more work than I thought.”

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