Modern Makeover

Written by Judi Russell
Photos by Paul Gates

Audrey and Harlan Rosenberg’s bright, contemporary co-op came about thanks to their ability to see what a dramatic difference 15 months of renovation could make. The couple teamed with contractor Scott Crose of Crose & Lemke Construction Inc. and designer Catherine Thomas to turn a dated, chopped-up home into one with great flow, sleek surfaces and pops of colorful artwork.

When the Rosenbergs decided to move out of the house they had built in the South of Grand area and into smaller quarters, they looked to a nearby spot Audrey had long admired. “I’d always wanted to live in this building,” she says of the couple’s new home at 4004 Grand Ave. Constructed in 1969, the building is a cooperative, unusual for the Des Moines area.

Before moving day in April 2012, though, came months of tearing down walls and reconfiguring the floor plan. Up came old carpet and down came out-of-date wallpaper, replaced with bleached maple floors and granite surfaces. The result is a home that’s comfortable for day-to-day living as well as for entertaining. Best of all, upkeep is minimal, which makes it easy to leave when the couple wants to take off. Harlan, who retired from his urology practice two years ago, and Audrey, a longtime volunteer for the Des Moines Symphony, both enjoy traveling.


Elegant Entryway
A bright, uncluttered entryway sets the tone for the Rosenbergs’ home. The closets seen in the before photo were removed, and the space gained was used to make a bigger laundry room with lots of storage. During parties, the room can be used as a bar. Richly toned bleached maple floors set off smooth white walls, and the absence of crown molding and baseboards gives a clean, contemporary vibe. The aqua door lends a surprise shot of color, while the bench, a keepsake from Audrey’s mother, is a nod to the past. Over the bench hangs a portrait by Navajo artist R.C. Gorman, which the couple bought on a trip to Aspen. Designer Catherine Thomas used a computer program to help the couple visualize how their many pieces of art would look in different places in the apartment.


Opening Up
In the living area, a television hangs suspended against a wall of granite trimmed by bleached maple. Here, as with all the home’s TVs, unsightly power cords and cables are hidden. A linear gas fireplace replaced the more traditional one original to the apartment. The couple purchased the glass coffee table top at the Des Moines Arts Festival; the table’s wooden curlicue base was custom made. Over one couch hangs artist Donald Sultan’s “Black Roses,” while glass doors behind the other couch let in light from the patio. Just beyond the black leather chairs is Audrey’s Steinway piano.

Throughout the apartment, the couple has art by notable regional, national and international artists, including Dale Chihuly, Sarah Grant and Tomas Lasansky. With so many of their artworks and longtime possessions used throughout the new space, Harlan Rosenberg says they rarely miss their larger home.


Crisp and Contemporary
The renovated kitchen looks nothing like the tired room it replaced. An island with bar stools separates the working portion of the kitchen from a breakfast area. Cabinets fronted with frosted glass shimmer, while oversized drawer and door pulls make a dramatic statement. Audrey Rosenberg says the many wide drawers make putting away dishes a snap. Conveniences include a wine refrigerator, warming drawers and a Thermidor glass-topped oven. Under-counter track LED lights resemble little glowing beads. Playfully curved track lights work side-by-side with recessed cans, while an ethereal glass chandelier spotlights the kitchen table. Collectibles from the Rosenbergs’ many trips decorate countertops. Windows in the breakfast area, like all the home’s windows, are hung with blinds instead of heavy curtains.


Double Duty
A guest bedroom does double duty as a home office. A sleeper sofa and built-in bleached maple cabinets and drawers accommodate visitors; the space can be closed off from the kitchen via a pocket door. A built-in desk has plenty of room for Audrey Rosenberg’s computer, while travel treasures on the shelves provide color. Horizontal blinds let in lots of light. A television mounted across from the sleeper sofa allows guests to watch TV in privacy.

Close by is a second bathroom with a luxurious tub surrounded by granite and accented with decorative tiles. Both of the co-op’s bathrooms are equipped with grab bars, and all the hallways are wide enough to allow for wheelchairs.

Any overflow items the Rosenbergs have can be stowed in a storage room in the building’s basement, and the couple also has two underground parking spaces.


Stylish Comfort
The master bath carries out the same black-and-white color scheme used throughout the home. To make the spaces flow, style items are repeated. For example, the master bathroom’s sinks, faucets and soap containers are identical to those in the guest bath, and the etched stone on the wall in the master bath echoes the pattern of the decorative tiles in the second bathroom. As an accent, the triangular pendant lamps introduce a new shape. Granite and tile surfaces make the bathroom easy to clean, and for comfort on winter mornings, the floor is heated.

As part of the renovation, the master bathroom’s tub was removed. In its stead is a spacious shower with seating and an adjoining space to hang robes and towels. The room’s unfussy cabinetry and gray, black and white color scheme bring this bathroom out of the last century and in to the present one.

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