Carroll home defies era of its design
April 15, 2014
It was her dream home. Marilyn Setzler grew up on a farm east of Carroll. Every time she drove through town, she wondered what it would be like to live in the house located at 126 W. Eighth St.
Two years ago, and more than 50 years later, she grabbed her chance to find out.
Originally constructed in 1953 for Bob and Estyl Wright, the house was designed by John Normile, architect and a former editor of Better Homes and Garden magazine, and built by finish carpenter Cliff Moore, a premium builder in the region who worked on several homes in Carroll and Glidden. The carriage and ice houses that had sat on the lot were moved - the carriage house to a lot on Ninth Street and the ice house to Setzler's childhood home to become a tool shed. The lot was flattened and a retaining wall built to hold back the neighbors' yards.
With the goal of keeping the home as original as possible, Setzler quickly enlisted the services of local interior designer Tom Schmitz. The day she closed on the home in 2012, the pair rushed inside to tear down the heavy drapery curtains covering the windows.
The Wrights were a wealthy Canadian farming couple, Setzler said. Their home was designed for entertaining, with an open floor plan and wide windows that defied the typical layout of the era.
"This house transcends 1950s architecture," Schmitz said. "In a lot of ways, it is pretty classic, timeless."
When the Wrights lived in the home, they filled it with works of art and furniture, much of which was eventually donated to the Brunnier Museum in Ames. This museum was one of the first stops for Setzler and Schmitz.
"We weren't trying to replicate their style so much as capture the flavor of the time," Schmitz said.
The home opens into a wide open living room with plush white carpeting and yellow and gold accents - yellow is Setzler's favorite color.
The original, handcrafted parquet floor that begins at the home's threshold and runs throughout wasn't admired by Setzler or Schmitz initially. But a sander and new coat of varnish quickly changed their minds. The golden 9-inch-square tiles, each comprised of six 1½-inch strips, are now a visual highlight of the home.
The dining room is also decorated in shades of gold with a heavy, dark wooden table centered under a chandelier. Silver and crystal accents adorn the walls, and a small black statue of a dancer stands silhouetted against the curved windows on the north side of the room.
"I always wanted an elegant house," said Setzler of the inspiration for the decor.
Her favorite rooms, depending on the time of day, are the small den and sunroom. The living and dining rooms are formal - but the den and the sunrom allow guests to "put their feet up."
The sunroom, with its original tile floor, is the perfect location for morning coffee the newspaper, she said. It has hosted many chats with friends - "if these walls could talk," Setzler said with a laugh.
The sunroom holds an element of mystery in the home. Though it is in the original blueprints, the bricks used in its construction differ slightly from the rest of the home, and a stained glass window sits in an inner wall with no access to sunlight, making she and Schmitz wonder if the room was an addition.
Setzler spends her evenings in the den. Constructed in knotty pine original to the home, it features built in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with windows tucked between bookcases. A sliding door built into the western wall of shelves enables the home owner to hide a wet bar, tucked into the corner of the room.
Such small details are what make Cliff Moore homes unique, said Schmitz. Other details include the precise measuring of sliding doors that hide in the walls of the dining room, tops of drawers in the original kitchen that allowed them to become step stools, and a range of sizes of built-in drawers in the home's closets.
Setzler has filled the shelves with historical fiction, books on languages, decorating, history, art and biographies. The home's original pencil-drawn floor and landscape plans hang framed on the walls.
The kitchen is the only part of the house that received more than a cosmetic upgrade, said Stezler. It was completely remodeled, now featuring white cabinets, a white marble floor and a seamless black granite counter top, with a lighted cabinet along one wall featuring a selection of china.
The bathrooms are the rooms that most reflect the era of the home's construction. The original green, blue and yellow ceramic sinks match the floor and wall tiles.
Throughout the home, Setzler's collection of mannequins accent the rooms' various color schemes, adding a piece of history themselves. In the master bathroom, an angel statue from the old Maple River parish sits beside the mirror. In the living room, a bust that originally belonged to the Wrights serves as a quiet centerpiece opposite her Steinway Grand Piano.
The home also has a third bedroom and bathroom above the garage that served as a maid's quarters when the house was built. Setzler has converted this area into a sewing room.
"I still can't believe I live here," Stezler said. "I love the history."
With the exception of some of artwork collected by Seztler and her late husband, the majority of the furniture and decorative pieces were purchased specifically for the home. As Setzler and Schmitz showed off the house, they maintained a friendly banter between them.
"Tom is fun to shop with," Setzler said, adding that they got along better once Schmitz stated trusting her with some of the design decisions.
Their next project is an apartment Setzler recently purchased in Iowa City - a 14th floor construction of glass and concrete, the contemporary style will be completely different than her Carroll home, said Schmitz.
The purchase was prompted by a desire to recapture the culture she left in Minneapolis, Minn., said Setzler.
A 1961 Kuemper High School graduate, Setzler attended Morningside College, where she received a bachelor degree in music. She met her husband, Ron, who accepted an engineering job at Honeywell, and the couple moved to Minnesota.
Her husband died in the 1990's, prompting Setzler to return to Carroll in 2002 to be near family. She drew on her Minneapolis work as a librarian in the Robbinsdale Area School District to write two local books - "This Place Called Carroll County, Iowa" and "Cathedrals Among The Cornfields."
She met Schmitz when her niece, Linda Schirck, recommended him to help her with her condo remodel. The pair immediately clicked - the Iowa City project will be their third.
"Some clients become best friends," Schmitz said.
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