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Modern luxury at the lakes

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With an award-winning design, a contemporary lake house makes the most of every square inch. On one side, floor-to-ceiling windows span 35 feet across the width of the home, offering a stunning view of a small sheltered bay on East Lake Okoboji.

To the delight of John and Jean Darnell, a bevy of boats often set anchor out there, spending summer afternoons soaking up the sun. They wanted a great view and they got it.

Having the vacation home gives them reason to be giddy.

“It’s fun being able to anticipate going to the lakes,” she said. “It’s not too far from Sioux City. It’s the perfect distance to get away.”

Following John’s retirement in 2002, they dipped their toes into the lakes area real estate market, buying move-in-ready homes, before taking the plunge and building one of their own.

“Our first place up here was your old proverbial cabin,” he said. “Our next move, a two-story that would sleep I don’t know how many people. And then, we saw this lot here and liked the location.”

However, the long narrow lot presented design challenges. The sloped parcel had a buildable footprint of just 35-by-70 feet.

John and Jean wanted to maximize the outdoor living space and views of the lake.

The Okoboji home, designed by Nathan Kalaher with PLaN Architecture, delivered those all-important aspects and captured top honors in a state contest. The project received an award for excellence in design from the American Institute of Architects, Iowa Chapter.

At the center of the shared spaces, a concrete wall anchors the home and serves as a chimney for two fireplaces – one indoors, one out. The multi-purpose pillar extends to the lower level patio, where John and Jean like to spend a lot of their time.

“Everybody wants to be outside when they get up here,” she said. “They want to head outdoors.”

The outdoor entertaining space was carved out by placing part of the upper level on stilts.

On any given weekend, three generations may gather at the three-bedroom, four-bath home.

Their daughter, her husband and three children, ages 2-9, visit when they can but often keep a busy schedule with baseball, soccer and other activities.

John and Jean wanted to have a place to get away from it all.

The laidback lifestyle suits the Sioux City couple.

He likes to throw a line off the dock, but he’s not what you’d call a “die-hard” fisherman. She doesn’t mind cooking in the streamlined kitchen, where she can look out at the calm, blue waters.

Together, they enjoy taking their boat out for a leisurely cruise around the lake.

“We try to come up every weekend and if we can’t, we try to come up during the week,” she said.

The contemporary design makes the 3,000-square-foot home feel more like a vacation spot – something completely different than their Sioux City home, which they described as very traditional.

Adding to the home’s modern luxury, the main floor master suite poses a relaxing retreat with a private courtyard. The perennials will soon bloom in shades of purple, orange and pink.

Also, on the upper level, the kitchen features a white glass-tile backsplash, waterfall countertops and environmentally-friendly Lyptus wood cabinets.

Exposed ductwork and steel framing exudes an industrial feel that’s softened by accessories and finishings – cowhide print cubes, colorful paintings created by Sioux City artist Jamie Bowers and beautiful blonde hardwood American mahogany floors throughout.

“I’d rather keep it simple and clean,” Jean said about the minimalist design. “And then, it’s easy to clean.”

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