A “Modern” Sears Home – Decorah Journals
For 30 years Nancy Barry, an English teacher at Luther College, has made Decorah home.
As retirement neared, Barry decided it was time to look at his forever home in a different light and make changes to meet his future needs.
That’s why last spring Barry remodeled his nearly century-old home, adding about 200 square feet of space while making it more accessible.
The nearly 1,700 square foot home is a modern Sears Craftsman home. The 1916 and a half bungalow story began as a kit home sold through the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog Perched atop the hill on Hollihan St., it offers perfect views of downtown Decorah , from the Winneshiek County Courthouse to the Luther College campus.
In 1990 Barry was completing his graduate degree from the University of Iowa. She heard about a position open in Luther’s English department and began her career in higher education in the spring of 1991. This is what led Barry to look for a house in Decorah and find the home of her dreams.
“I love the house. I was drawn to it immediately. I saw it and thought it was a great place to live and a great investment, ”she said.
A percolating idea
As Barry neared her 30th birthday at her beloved home, she began to think about what life would be like in the future.
“I realized that I wanted to grow old in this house. I decided that one of the things I was tired of was going to the basement to access my washer and dryer and wondered if it wasn’t better to have a bigger room on the first floor floor, ”she said.
In the spring of 2019, Barry attended the Decorah Home Show, where she began asking what it would take to renovate her home. After obtaining an initial set of drawings, she consulted with various builders before choosing Marla and Kent Klocke of Design Solutions and Klocke Construction. Barry finalized the details with the Klocks, confirming a spring 2020 construction start date.
The plan was to move the laundry room from the basement to the first floor. What used to be a small bedroom has been enlarged to put the master bedroom on the first floor. She added a new main bathroom on the first floor. She also decided to remodel the kitchen by changing the location of the stove and refrigerator and updating the cabinetry.
To allow more sunlight, a tubular skylight was installed on the stairwell.
“I really like having the solatube. It was important for me not to lose the amount of natural light that the house already had, ”she said.
In total, she added about 200 square feet to the house.
The addition to the back of the house meant that the backyard had to be redesigned. Calling it the saddest part of the project, Barry noted that a walnut tree had been cut down. However, she asked the skilled carpenter in the Decorah area, Paul Bauhs, to help her reuse the tree in a table. In addition, a sidewalk was sunk
leading to the garage.
The new exterior reconfiguration allowed Barry to put in a circular patio.
In a pandemic
When Barry started the project, she had no idea the world would be in the grip of a pandemic in the spring. However, its remodeling was able to continue.
“When the time came to start, it was just before the start of the pandemic. So I decided to go ahead with the project not knowing the extent of what the pandemic would bring. I felt very safe with the same very small team coming to work during the pandemic, ”she said.
For the first two weeks of the project, the team worked outside to lay the new foundation. Then they moved on to work inside. This was while Barry was teaching his Luther students remotely after the COVID-19 campus was closed.
“It was a bit noisy but it was actually fascinating,” she says. “I felt safe. It was a very small team that Kent works with. It was the same people who came to the house every day.
“When they moved inside I was asking Kent what the noise figure would be for the day. I could go to Luther and do distance education in my office on campus. What was interesting was that I could really follow the work. I could see what they had done every day. I knew what they were working on. Kent was great to work with. He answered all of my questions, most of which were motivated by curiosity. I felt like I was totally involved in the project.
“I really enjoyed seeing the project stripped down. The house is very well built. It really made me appreciate the quality of the materials that went into the making of this house and the skill of the carpenters who built it.
With just a few bumps and reconfigurations along the way, the project wrapped up in mid-summer. The only thing left is a bit of outdoor landscaping.
“Kent and Marla were extremely helpful in taking this original drawing and helping me make the decisions,” Barry said. “I really worked closely with Kent and Marla and really appreciated their help.”
Now that the dust has settled, Barry is overjoyed that he made the decision to update his home.
“The shower is my favorite. I have a large walk-in shower which is really a good thing, ”she says. “I really like working in the renovated kitchen. I love the large bedroom on the first floor which has a south facing window.
“I’m just thrilled with the remodel,” she said. “I think they’ve respected the feel and the design of the house in a really good way.”
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