Home & Garden

At home: World travelers lead a colorful life

Art lovers and talented artisans, the Haighs refreshed their Midcentury Modern with their own point of view

Tamra Koehler, a close friend, painted the piece in the dining room and gave it as her way of saying thank you for helping with a move. (Photos: John Thomas, fisheye photography)
Tamra Koehler, a close friend, painted the piece in the dining room and gave it as her way of saying thank you for helping with a move. (Photos: John Thomas, fisheye photography)
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Ron Haigh stepped inside this Midcentury Modern house in southeast Cedar Rapids around 20 years ago and fell in love with it. While installing the tile, he told the owner at the time, “If you ever want to sell, let me know.” In 2000, Ron and his wife, Lynn, got the call. The owner was moving.

“I was the one who wanted this house,” Ron said, adding his wife “had to warm up to it.”

“I did not love it because it was dark inside,” Lynn explained. “The dining room was like a cave.”

“I'm afraid of doing all monochromatic neutrals the way most people are afraid of color."

- Lynn Haigh


At the time, Ron, Lynn and their two daughters lived in a 1920s Dutch Colonial. Lynn agreed to the move if they removed the wall between the dining room and kitchen.

“We bought the house, the business, and the dog all in the same year,” said Lynn, who, with husband Ron, owns Adams Tile & Stone in Marion.

The signature characteristics of Midcentury Modern architecture — an open floor plan and lots of windows — gave the house a framework for Ron and Lynn to transform it into a bright, light-filled backdrop for their artistic, eclectic style. Removing the wall between the dining room and kitchen improved the flow of the house and opened sight lines from front to back, pulling in more natural light. They also enlarged the opening between the dining room and sunroom.

The house originally had very few light fixtures, so the Haighs added lighting to every room. “We painted every stitch of the house,” Lynn said. They also changed all the floors and remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms. “We lived with it for a while to figure out what we wanted to do,” Lynn said. “I like being able to live in it and get a feel for how we’re going to use the space.”

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The kitchen, remodeled 17 years ago, is as fresh and relevant today as it was when they completed the project. Little did they know, many of their choices would become hot trends, such as the glass tile backsplash, the galvanized tin light fixture over the sink and the barn-door hardware. In fact, interior barn-door sliders weren’t even available when they remodeled the kitchen.

One of the issues in the space was a tight network of doors, which opened into each other. “We didn’t want to do pocket doors,” Lynn explained. Instead, the Haighs purchased the barn-door hardware from a tractor supply store, enabling them to keep the doors in the same place but improve the function. The tractor supply store is also where they saw sheets of corrugated tin, which became trim details in doorways and the ceiling finish in the sunroom.

“We love a mix of materials,” Lynn said. “Ron is such a good craftsman. He’s good at tile, but he can figure out how to do other things as well.”

They’ve done most of the home’s updates themselves. They’ve also brought back interesting display pieces from their travels. “Ron and I both like art,” she said.

Lynn is a native of Cedar Rapids, and Ron is originally from Brisbane, Australia. They met in Washington, D.C., and lived in Australia for nine years before moving to Cedar Rapids in 1993.

“The house is great for entertaining. It has a really good flow,” said Lynn, which is especially important when family from Australia visit and they may have up to 20 people staying in their home at one time. There’s plenty of room for everyone to gather, with the sunroom, dining room, kitchen and spacious living room all opening to one another.

Lynn’s background in commercial art is expressed throughout the house — through bold design and color choices. Framed pieces made by her daughters when they were little are displayed alongside Lynn’s own artwork and purchased pieces. The towering palm tree in the living room was part of a furniture-store display in town that Lynn wanted for quite some time before the store was ready to part with it. She gave the white-brick fireplace a pop of burnt orange to help it stand out. “I’m afraid of doing all monochromatic neutrals the way most people are afraid of color,” Lynn said.

The colorful palette plays well with a layered mix of materials and textures — including a stunning variety of tiles from their store, such as the colorful slate in all the main living areas.

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The couple revitalized both bathrooms and the master bedroom with dramatic tile. Quartz tile in the master bedroom adds a feature wall, totally changing the feel of the space. Lynn played with texture in the all-white bedding to mimic the texture on the wall.

When Ron framed the walk-in shower for the smaller bathroom, he sized the shower to accommodate full-size 2-by-4-foot porcelain tiles. The metallic finish adds sparkle to the walls. On the floor, dark marble cut to resemble pebbles ground the look. The main bath has a highly textured split marble on the exterior wall and plank marble tile on the floor.

Lynn advises her customers to decorate their homes for their own taste, not for resale.

“I tell people to do what you love, do what you’re drawn to. Don’t choose something because you’re going to sell your house in five years,” Lynn said. “We bought our house in 2000 and have been changing things since.”

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