Reaching its potential: Couple restores Walcott home
Jeff Cook/Quad-City Times The kitchen was gutted, losing everything but the built-in cabinet along the back wall. Note the “tin ceiling” backsplash under the cupboards and the black, white and gray tile floor that John laid himself. The striking cat on the floor is Jackson, a Maine Coon, the official cat of the state of Maine and the second-most popular cat breed in the world, according to the Cat Fanciers' Association.

When someone tells you that a home has “a lot of potential,” beware. It’s a tip-off that there’s something amiss.

For instance, the 1904 home that John and Samantha Beukenhorst bought in Walcott, Iowa, during July 2007 needed a lot of everything: cleaning, gutting, rebuilding and updating.

But after a year of hard, hands-on work and about $30,000 spent for materials and contracted jobs such as plumbing and hanging drywall, the Beukenhorsts have turned the former rental property into a showy home for themselves, daughter Hannah, 13, Samantha’s mom and six cats.

Part of the showiness can be credited to Samantha’s keen eye for color and design. The couple also uncovered some happy “finds” during the clean-out/demolition, such as a beveled glass window in the parlor and fir and oak floors throughout.

One outstanding new feature is a 70-by-30-inch stained-glass window on the staircase landing that was made by Eric Van Hese of Davenport. The window displays a tree/sky/flower scene in shades of green, blue, salmon, aqua and white.

Samantha had wanted a stained-glass window anyway, and when the Beukenhorsts tore out wood paneling in the stairwell, they found the perfect spot: the opening where a plain glass window originally illuminated the landing.

 “I always hoped to have the chance to build a window like this in the right place. The right place is key,” Van Hese says. “On this project, all the stars lined up.”

Some work on the home remains, mostly on the exterior. The couple expects to tear off the enclosed front porch, returning it to its original open look, and install a new screened porch on the side. And down the road, Samantha expects to switch to a three-color “painted lady” paint scheme.

Among the highlights of the home are the kitchen, formal parlor and upstairs hallway:

Kitchen — This was one of four rooms that was gutted; everything was thrown out except a tall, built-in cabinet along one wall. Samantha refinished the cabinet with a “distressed” look, dressed it up with new hardware and filled it with ceramic chickens, a favorite collectible, and heirloom dishes.

The walls are dark green, the floor is black, white and gray tile that John laid himself, the countertops are a granite-pattern Formica and the appliances are black/stainless steel. For backsplashes, the couple applied the kind of metal used for tin ceilings.

In the middle of the kitchen, they installed a 63-by-35-inch island they created by topping stock cabinets with a rectangular Formica countertop. They screwed short pillars, or legs, under the portion of the countertop that overhangs the cabinets, creating a snack bar.

Formal parlor — Off the living room is a set of French doors opening to a formal parlor, Samantha’s favorite room. “It’s so peaceful in here,” she says.

This room was covered with paneling, and when they ripped it off, the family discovered a hidden beveled window set in a bay. The couple made this a focal point of the room, flanking it with sconce light fixtures and installing an electric fireplace below.

As in all rooms of the home, they refinished the floors, which were “pitch-black.”

Among the eye-catching furnishings/accessories in this room are a painting of a woman in a billowy white dress that had belonged to Samantha’s mother and a kidney-shaped desk with shelves on the front that belonged to her dad.

Upstairs hallway — The upstairs contains four bedrooms and a bath, plus an unusual hallway layout that reminds one of a hotel. Because of this, the couple — in a bit of whimsey — nailed numerals, such as room numbers, above the doors.

They also exposed the brick chimney from the furnace for a loft-like look.

The Beukenhorsts had been living in a smaller house in Muscatine, Iowa, when they bought their Walcott home because it offered more space and they liked its style. “I like that I can use dark, rich colors,” Samantha says. “Our other house was too small.”

Both work at the HON Industries Geneva plant in Muscatine, Samantha as an upholsterer and John as a fork lift driver.

Alma Gaul can be contacted at (563) 383-2324 or Comment on this story at

Lost cat was part of remodeling project

Everyone who remodels has stories to tell, but the Beukenhorsts’ have one involving a cat that was lost for five days.

While floorboards in the upstairs bathroom were torn out, a cat name Stitch got into a small crawlspace, walked about 15 feet to the other side of the house and then “forgot” how to get back, sort of like a cat getting stuck in a tree.

But because Stitch didn’t cry or make any sounds, the family thought she was lost, that perhaps she had slipped outside while construction workers were going in and out of the home.

Finally, someone heard the tinkling of the bell around her neck and figured out where she was.

To get her out, John Beukenhorst drilled a series of pencil-sized holes in the floor and threaded a wire through the holes to prod her out.

All’s well that ends well.

Van Hese creates glass art in his spare time

Eric Van Hese of Davenport got started making stained glass more than 15 years ago when he and his wife fell in love with a lampshade they couldn’t afford.

Van Hese made his way to the former Landin’s Lamps on Moline’s Avenue of the Cities, a stained-glass store, and “hasn’t stopped since.”

By day, he is an environmental chemist doing stream and pond samplings for Q-C Analytic Services of LeClaire, Iowa, but he works in his spare time under the name The Glass Advocate, doing commissioned work such as windows and lamps.

His art has been displayed in the national calendar of the Association of Stained Glass Lamp Artists and at MidCoast Fine Arts exhibitions.

He also has amassed a warehouse of art glass by traveling to and buying from factories around the country. He sells this glass retail to people who are looking for just the right shade of color for their projects.

Van Hese’s custom work is not cheap; a 28-inch hydrangea lamp might sell for $4,500, for example. But it represents 200 hours of work and is handcrafted in the United States, he points out.

More information about Van Hese can be found on his Web site,



Here are four design ideas Samantha Beukenhorst incorporated into her home that you might want to try, too:

Distressed finishes

Create an instant “country” look by distressing the finish of a piece of furniture. Samantha began by painting these cabinets with a creamy base coat, then sanding and staining with brown, wiping off the stain with a soft cloth. Here, Buddy the cat relaxes in one of the drawers.

Chandeliers in unexpected places

Jazz up your lighting options. Samantha hung this fancy chandelier in the downstairs bathroom.

Custom chair rail

Create a custom chair rail by combining two off-the-shelf molding patterns — rope and scallop — into one piece.

Mix-and-match finishes

Mix two kinds of finish for added spark. Instead of finishing her garage-sale dining room chairs with just one color, Samantha highlighted the natural wood finish with a painted accent on the back. The couple also reupholstered the seats, covering them with two layers of foam and topping with fabric they stapled on the bottom.