By Katie Mills Giorgio, for The Gazette
When Donald and Kendall Krouse moved to the Cedar Rapids area more than a decade ago, they weren’t sure they would get involved and connect with their new community.
But then they stumbled upon a house that begged to be more than a place to just sleep and eat.
“Opening our hearts and our home to other people has been such a gratifying experience,” said Kendall, noting she strives to live by the notion that she and her house serve the Lord.
The couple moved into the home 10 years ago, after relocating from Kentucky, with their two sons. The location of the home near Seminole Valley Park was a huge draw for the Krouse family. In fact, Kendall went door-to-door asking if anyone would be moving from the neighborhood soon as there were no homes for sale at the time they started looking.
“There’s an eclectic mix of homes here because there was a diversity of builders,” Kendall said. “Some homes are older and some newer and there are retired couples and newlyweds. Plus, I love that we have sidewalks on both sides of the street and that we have access to the park and the walking trails.”
The Krouse family did a fair amount of renovations to the home shortly after moving in. They started by expanding the main entryway.
“When we bought this house you’d walk in the door, and you’d have to go right up the stairs or go left into the living room,” Kendall explained. While the front stoop is smaller than it once was — though still grand with a stone and wood portico — the entryway now has more space and provides a more welcome entrance.
The large living room features a wood-burning stove which Kendall said her family enjoys. “I grew up in Canada, and I remember there being times when we’d go without electricity for days, so having a (wood-burning) fireplace is important to me,” she said. “When we have a fire going, it just changes the way the whole house feels.” While the ceilings are soaring in the living room, the space feels as cozy as a ski lodge. “I enjoy reading or playing the piano in this room,” Kendall said. “At nighttime, we say our evening prayers in here. It’s where we congregate as a family.”
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The house has many large windows and skylights throughout that bathe the home in natural light and make the house feel like it is nestled right into the woods. “We enjoy watching the changing colors of the trees,” Kendall said.
The kitchen saw one of the most dramatic transformations when the Krouse family began to renovate. Once a small galley kitchen with green linoleum, the now open-concept kitchen lends itself well to hosting big gatherings and is one of Kendall’s favorite spaces in the house.
“I always told myself that if I ever had a chance to design a kitchen, I’d have an open-concept because every time we’ve had a party, everyone always ends up in the kitchen,” she said, noting they’ve hosted everything from a wedding shower buffet for 50 people to Kendall’s monthly book club meetings, which
regularly include some 20 women. “We have just loved being able to do that,” she said of entertaining. “If you build it, they will come. Plus, it forces me to clean,” she laughed.
There’s plenty of seating in the kitchen, with the large dining table set for 12 and a cozy conversation corner. Plus, there are double doors leading to a screened porch — with more seating — just off the kitchen. With the doors open letting in the breeze and nature sounds, along with the large windows across the west side of the kitchen, the Krouses and their guests are able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the large, wooded backyard.
The expansion of the kitchen allowed for a larger master suite to be added upstairs. It is a stunning space with a cathedral ceiling and a stained glass window featuring a dove. “That was a special gift from my husband,” Krouse recalled. “We have been to Rome and that reminded us of the stained glass we saw there.”
The home renovation took about 15 months. “We lived in the house while we renovated it, which was challenging,” she said, but noted it also gave their teenage sons the opportunity to help with demolition and other projects.
Even though their sons are now grown and living on their own, the couple continues to make updates and changes to their home.
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Most recently, the Krouses have put in a garden — fenced to keep out critters — and have added solar panels to the home to lessen the environmental impact. They expect to save some $1,400 on their electric bills in the first year alone. “It’s been really cool to see how our energy usage has changed.”