116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Life
Mary Zeran and Jeff Schipper have made a very lovely home for themselves — and their two Irish Terriers, Henry and Stella — in a craftsman style cottage on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids near Mount Vernon Road.
They moved in 12 years ago — on Schipper's 40th birthday to be exact — and have made it their own, complete with eclectic accents and family treasures.
Built in 1906, the house has several striking craftsman features that really drew the couple in when they were house hunting.
'The built-ins and the ceiling beams are what sold us on this house,' Zeran said pointing to the dining room. The built-ins specifically are a perfect spot for displaying all the couple's collections — shells her grandfather collected from the Pacific Islands while stationed there during World War II and dainty German wood carvings for example. 'I like things to be in cabinets so I don't have to dust,' Zeran joked.
This is Zeran and Schipper's second craftsman home, as the couple first lived in a one in the Seattle area before moving back to their native Eastern Iowa a dozen years ago. 'Jeff had lived near this neighborhood previously and knew it would be attractive to us because we like to walk our dogs and like older homes,' she said. 'And we do love this house and our neighbors are all so great and friendly.'
Zeran recalls having one day to search for their new home upon moving back to Cedar Rapids. 'This house wasn't even on the market yet, but we walked in and loved it right away.'
The home's living room — also on the main floor — is a favorite spot of Zeran and the dogs'. 'We like to sit on the couch and stare at the fireplace,' she said. 'The dogs and I do that for about half an hour each morning while I have my coffee.'
The couple also collects — either by purchasing or by inheriting — antiques which figure prominently into the layout. She pointed out the 'altar' in the corner of the dining room that they found at an antique fair in Solon. 'A lot of the stuff we have is because it was someone else's,' she said. 'We like really unique pieces.'
Not surprisingly, as Zeran is a third generation artist, the décor is scattered with unique artistic piece as well. 'We go to Mexico every year and my husband is really interested in Mexican pottery and so we are constantly adding to this collection,' she said, pointing out the display across the fireplace mantle. 'Some of it is ancient and some of it is new.'
Some of the couple's most eclectic pieces were even created by family members. Besides Zeran's own art hanging in the dining room, there are hand-painted plates by her mother and a custom lamp built by her grandfather. And Zeran's grandmother — who studied art at Iowa State University back in the 1920s — created an eye-catching trunk situated right near the front door.
While the couple has settled into the home over the past decade, they've also been hard at work to carve out creative space for Zeran. So when Schipper heads off to work at Rockwell each morning, Zeran simply heads downstairs to the basement where she's created a bright and fascinating studio space.
A collage artist who works with paint on archival plastic, Zeran has created work zones in her studio.
'I have enough space to do what I do, but I have to be super organized.' She explained that she has a 'wet area' where she does her painting and a 'dry area' where assembly of her pieces happens. Her colorized raw materials hang like a rainbow of inspiration along one wall. Scrap pieces are organized by color in flat file drawers. And large tables — on casters for creative flexibility — fill the room, giving Zeran lots of working space. The white walls simply allow her works in progress to jump off the walls.
'I paint archival plastic first, let it dry and then cut it, layer it and rearrange it,' she said, describing her work as exuberantly colorful, joyful abstract art. 'I like my color loud and proud,' she said, admitting to the ironic fact that bright colors don't translate to Zeran's interior design aesthetic upstairs. 'Looking at my living room and dining room (in comparison to my art), one might not know I live here.'
The basement underwent a transformation over several years to become Zeran's studio. Originally two rooms, they removed a non-load bearing wall as well as green paneling, a wet bar and linoleum flooring. They added a gas stove for heat and the studio is now serving as a very functional space for the busy artist.
'I love basements,' she said. 'I am down in this den and it has fabulous light. It's so bright in here. Plus it is a raw, almost industrial space. I am pretty messy when I work and I don't want to be too precious about the floors.'
Zeran, who does a lot of work for corporations and hospitals and currently has a solo exhibition on display at Gilded Pear Gallery through mid-February, has settled into a great living/working routine in her home. 'I like to have my studio in my house,' she said. 'It's so nice to not have to pack a lunch and the dogs can be down here with me.'
'I do keep studio hours because it's important for me to maintain a work life balance, so this a Monday through Friday gig,' Zeran added. She noted she has her office hours in the morning and spends her most creative hours — usually from noon to 5 p.m. — doing just that, creating. 'Inspiration for me happens in the making. And it's very easy to avoid going to work if you have to put on shoes,' she joked. 'It's just so nice to come down here and get to work.'