By Samantha Ludeking, Driftless Journal Production Manager
With a son and a Dachshund in tow, it was 2013 and Andy and Trisha Smith were looking to relocate back to northeast Iowa in search of their “forever home” with room to grow.
Fast forward to 2023, they’ve grown their family to three kids and two dogs, while also creating a harmonious indoor space for their family’s needs and interests, including a home office, game room, home theater, a main floor with space for entertaining and a newly-finished backyard oasis.
Inside the “forever home”
“Our realtor showed us houses in Ossian, Ridgeway and Decorah,” Trisha explained as the first steps the Smiths took in relocating from Des Moines to northeast Iowa, where the two grew up; Andy in Cresco and Trisha in Ossian.
When they couldn’t find a house that checked all their boxes, they decided to build – and build quickly. They purchased a lot that summer in Ossian’s Kuhn Addition, across from Silver Springs Golf Course, and were moved into their new home by January. Fortunately, they were able to live with Trisha’s parents in Ossian through the building process. In hopes of moving along quickly, however, they chose a prefabricated home.
“Time was part of it, but honestly, having less decisions to make was a benefit,” laughed Trisha.
The Smiths worked with Kelly Builders of Decorah to choose and customize a floor plan that would meet the needs of the family they hoped to grow. They were able to incorporate the “must have” features they were looking for in a home – a gas fireplace, a large kitchen with pantry, a master bedroom on the main floor, along with three additional bedrooms and an office in the home and a flat driveway for kids to play. Knowing that she
would be working remotely for a Des Moines-area accounting firm, Trisha designed an office space with natural light and an electric fireplace, creating a space that would be comfortable for years to come.
The family’s home theater set up was part of the original plan, as well. With help from the team at Kelly Builders and Chris at Holthaus Electric, a projection screen, projector TV and sound system was installed in the basement family room. “Use the professionals, they know all the tips and tricks,” Andy recommended. “Sure, we could have done it, but how long would it have taken, and would it look as seamless?”
In the following years Andy and Trisha filled the house with another son, a daughter, and things the whole family enjoys together.
An outdoor oasis
The original landscaping at the Smith home was done by Morris Landscaping out of New Hampton, as well as the stone walkway to the Smiths front door. They also created a built-in firepit area in the Smith’s backyard. The firepit and a composite deck were only the first steps in building the backyard retreat the Smith’s enjoy today.
A few years passed and the Smith’s invested in a swim spa, a hot tub and pool in a single unit. This perfect combination of fun and relaxation is 19 and a half feet long, eight feet wide and five feet deep. A considerable investment that they said they would make again. “We use it all year long, Andy shovels a path to it all winter. There is monthly maintenance involved, but it’s worth it for our family,” explained Trisha.
With the installation of the swim spa, the Smiths decided it was time to invest in solar panels to counter the extra power it used. They called Ken’s Electric of Oelwein who set them up with the appropriate solar array for their needs.
The next part of the project was adding some shade to the backyard. “We wanted a covered space where we can relax and enjoy the outdoors with grilling and dining space. And with kids and dogs, we wanted the security and privacy of a fence,” Trisha explained.
Tony with Osmundson Landscaping took this request and presented his design concept for their backyard. “He showed us video and photo renderings, it was a really nice way to see it presented to us. We only made a couple changes,” the couple agreed.
Work on this most recent project began in October 2022 and was finished in early summer 2023.
“I think there are always delays in construction; contractors are booked up, weather creates delays. Our advice would be to get in line early, get on the schedule with the contractors you want to use,” said the Smiths.
The finished product, the Smith’s backyard oasis, includes a composite deck that stretches to the swim spa on one side and a pavilion on another. Under the cedar pavilion, a granite countertop from Johanningmeier Stone sits atop a beverage fridge, next to cooking and dining space for the family of five, plus guests. Stepping-stones lead to a stone firepit with built in seating on one side and outdoor furniture on the other. The Smiths enjoy “campfire movie nights” with a rolling entertainment center that includes a TV and bluetooth speakers. “We thought about having it all mounted in the pavilion, but, having it mobile means we can position it to watch from the swim spa, firepit or wherever we want,” explained Andy.
“It was a dream of how we wanted to use our outdoor space for family time,” Trisha explains of the entire project.
Having built a home and lived in it for nearly a decade the Smiths have some advice to share. “Know what your budget is and stick to it, but also keep in mind the things that are easier to spend a little more now rather than a lot more to add or fix down the road,” offered Trisha.
The couple agreed, “Think long-term, know your square footage. There are some things you need to spend your budget on during the building process, you can add that outdoor kitchen down the road, it’s a lot harder to add more indoor living space later.”
The planning process “is like going to the grocery store hungry; you’re going to like everything that’s a little better than what you’ve got right now,” explained Andy. “Think long-term.”
And outlets, more outlets! “It doesn’t matter how many outlets you have, it’s not enough,” laughed Andy.
As far as more projects for the Smiths, Andy joked, “Maybe a lazy river and then we can be done.” While Trisha raised an eyebrow and smiled, “Heated floors. I wish we would have thought of that!”