Writer: Hailey Allen
Photographer: Golden Photos DSM
Within a tranquil wooded enclave on the banks of Sundown Lake near Moravia, Iowa, an A-frame house quietly demonstrates a harmonious blend of modern design and classic charm. From its perch atop a gentle slope, it welcomes guests into the secluded setting with stunning views of the serene water below.
Jessica Lemmo, founder and creative director of Alt Design Studio in West Des Moines, started working with homeowners Dan and Kay McElroy in the fall of 2020 to create their dream lakeside escape and polished off the project two years later. The custom home features a two-story covered deck with cedar ceilings, a callback to the natural surroundings, and asymmetrical windows that give the home a unique twist. Since panoramic views were a top priority, the building’s exterior shows off the strategically placed window angles that extend to the lower level walkout.
Inside, there’s a cozy yet contemporary ambiance, with an open layout that combines the living, dining and kitchen areas. A soaring A-shaped ceiling adds airy elegance, a minimalist tile fireplace anchors the living space, and mid-century modern furnishings add comfort and style. All told, the home is 2,800 square feet with four bedrooms and three baths.
Inspiration for the home’s style came from vacation cabins of the 1950s and ’60s, when the A-frame style peaked with the mid-century modern movement. “Our love for this period of design was matched by our clients’ style goals, and we didn’t look back,” Alt Studio lead designer Holly DeGoey wrote in a note on the design.
“Nestled in the midst of nature is where A-frame design shines, [like] the forest, the mountains, the lakeside. Their iconic large, peaked windows flood the interior with natural light and spectacular views of the outdoor surroundings,” DeGoey said.
Outside, a spacious deck extends from the main living area and wraps around one side of the house for dining al fresco and watching the sun dip below the tree line. Just beyond the walkout basement patio is another relaxation spot, not far from a fire pit that’s just right for roasting marshmallows and illuminating ghost stories in a campfire glow.
Sundown Lake covers about 400 acres and was created in the 1970s. The private development is an ideal getaway location for the lakeside homeowners and their guests, with spots for fishing and swimming near the shore, or getting out on the water for boating, skiing and tubing. A public beach and docks are also available, with a common area for picnics and other gatherings.
Quartz countertops and neutral wood elements feel fresh and new with a bold color on cabinets. The navy blue echoes through other decor items around the house, like the funky chairs on Page 54. Stainless steel appliances and wooden chairs add more texture and visual variety.
DeGoey pointed out the intentional window design: “We took that classic concept and added an asymmetrical spin.”
The staircase and lofted second story are outlined in a black multi-line railing topped with a light wooden handrail to soften the look. The style repeats on the outdoor balcony, unifying the two spaces.
The open layout combines the kitchen, dining space and a place to hang out or read a book by the fireplace. A soaring ceiling makes the main floor feel spacious.
A bright patterned rug and throw pillows complement the lush views of the outdoors.
“We are big fans of bold color,” DeGoey wrote. “The mid-century modern style naturally boasts its own signature color palette, so finding patterned rugs, artwork and pillows that supported our design scheme came together smoothly.”
She offered some pro styling advice: Use neutral colors and natural materials for general interior elements or specific furniture pieces. Then incorporate bold punches of color in accessories that can be swapped in or out.