Cat & Scott live in a mid-century brick project haus

February 28 |

The offbeat occupant: Cat Rocketship, artist, organizer, House Captain, Offbeat Home managing editor

Other occupants: Scott (husband), Nelly (most popular cat in Des Moines)

Approximate square footage: 2000-3000 sq. feet

How many bedrooms? 4

Lives in: Des Moines, IA, USA

When did you move into this home? October 2010. Sooo…4 months ago.

Let's start with the neighborhood. What's it like where you live? When we started home shopping, we lived downtown and loved it. We just needed more space. Our goal was, "Find the closest possible house to downtown DSM."

It didn't seem feasible once we really started looking. The houses near downtown were either too expensive, in need of too much care, or just too crappy.

And then we stumbled upon the South Side. It stays pretty separate from the rest of the city, so it was easy to overlook. Once we got in we found it was old, well-established, within walking distance of downtown, and FULL of the kind of brick houses that were really high on our wish list.

Our kitchen, (hi recycling!) and living room #2 -- with a bar, guitars, and folding chairs.

We're on a hill, so we can see for miles to the east. I work from home and we have one car. On the rare occasion that Scott takes the car instead of busing to work, I can walk downtown, and also to restaurants, our favorite bar, and an old Italian grocery.

Our kitchen table
Our kitchen corner -- with a Subway booth which weighs about 200 pounds and has moved with us twice -- and art by Chris Roberts.

What's the most offbeat thing about your home? Rockethaus used to be a duplex, and the previous owners were a mother and adult son who needed full time care. This means it was partially de-duplexed, but still contains four total bedrooms, three family/living rooms, and two kitchens. This was a deal-breaker for other shoppers, but it's perfect for us. We're makers. We like to embark upon projects.

Scott in the baking kitchen.
Scott making COOKIES in the Baking Kitchen. (I win.)

Scott pretty much has the run of the downstairs kitchen, in which he bakes cookies, breads, and muffins — when we aren't brewing beer and I'm not rinsing paintbrushes in that sink. We also have enough space for a storage room, and I'm using part of that space for a screenprint setup.

The dining room table -- in front of our lovely bay window.
Vintage 60s lounge table in front of our lovely bay window. Driftwood from Texas.

What's your favorite feature in the house, offbeat or not? The house-size-to-lot ratio. I didn't want a big house because I didn't want a huge lot. I didn't want to waste all that land! But since we wanted space for each of us to work in, we were ideally shopping for a three bedroom home, even though we probably won't have kids. It was a problematic balance.

And then we found this space. The lot is barely larger than the house — 50 feet deep and 100 feet long, on a corner. There is very little lawn to take care of, but enough space for a large garden, a rain barrel, compost bin, and outdoor workspace.

Our liquor cabinet. And a Nelly.
Rockethaus' bar cabinet. …And a Nelly. What can I say? Nelly likes friends.

What's the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? Our biggest challenge is filling all the space. We're twentysomethings with a modest budget and apparently super picky taste. We have some plans, but not a ton of time — we bought curtains for the bedroom at the beginning of January and I JUST put them up last week.

The biggest challenge will just be having patience in all the dreams we have for our home.

The ballroom. One day it will have furniture.
The ballroom, and color-arranged books. We like books.

What's your favorite feature of your home? Lots of windows.

I just threw this in here for Nelly. You can see from the ballroom into the kitchen and through to a smidge of living room #2.

What's the most important lesson you've learned from this home? Our first apartment was 1 bedroom, 450 sq. feet. Second: two bedrooms, 800 sq. feet, but we mostly lived in the living room/kitchen. Third apartment was a 650 sq. foot studio. We've been relearning how to have our own space and not spend every moment together. This is a lesson two only children are very, very happy to learn.

A closer look at the ballroom's telephone nook. If you need to make a call, you'll be disappointed -- I cut the cord.

What's your grandest plan for the space? Me, personally? I want to turn this into an itty bitty urban homestead. All the studio space and project space and gardening land we need. Not to be completely self-reliant, but enough that we supply a lot of our own needs.

My studio. Art by Van Holmgren.
I'm working at one of the THREE tables in my studio. Yeah. I have room for three. Rabbit painting by Van Holmgren.
My vanity in the bedroom. And a Nelly.
My vintage vanity in our bedroom. And a Nelly looking out the window.

What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? Our home is very offbeat because of what makes it right for us. This was our house wishlist:

  1. Make it brick.
  2. Give it a small lawn, with space for gardening.
  3. Must have a garage.
  4. Must be close to downtown.
  5. Must have ample project space.

This house was on the market forever because it was WEIRD. It has an extra kitchen, the smallest lot ever, and it's on a busy street. Is it going to be hard for us to sell? Probably. But that extra project kitchen, lack of lawn, and proximity to the action are what make it the perfect house for us.

When we started shopping, I didn't really think a house was a good choice for us. Once I figured out that we just had to be particular enough to choose a home which matched our very specific needs — which are much different from other home buyers — buying made sense. Offbeat shoppers should be super, super particular about finding the right home for their needs.

Any stuff or services you want to recommend? We have LOVELY ART in our home. Visit Chris Roberts and Van Holmgren's sites, and read our post about No Tengo Miedo Clay tomorrow.

Show me the decor porn!

  1. You've a lovely home, and a lovely Nelly.
    I'm delighted by your ballroom and a bit green with envy about the two kitchens for projects. :D

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  2. Love your home! I've been reading your blog and I totally dig it. My cousins live in Iowa, so I love seeing parts of it that I've never been to and your slice looks good!

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  3. Cat, I am so in love with your house! Former duplexes always used to bother me for the fact that they had those two kitchens, but the way you utilized the space makes so much sense! I suddenly want two kitchens! <3

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    • When we were originally house shopping we really wanted a two kitchen house. We were living with a large group of roommates at the time and things were getting stressful. However, we realized that almost all of our fights and conflicts came down to use and cleaning of the kitchen. We figured if we could find a house with two kitchens we could keep our housemates, AND our sanity. Sadly, we couldn't find one in our budget so the household split in two, but I still kind of pine for a two kitchen house. We still LIKE the idea of a house full of our tribe, even if our current one can't really accommodate it full time.

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      • Two kitchens sounds SO great right now! We recently bought our first house, and while there are things I LOVE about my kitchen (great tile, granite countertop, 2 sinks, 1 with a potfiller!)I can't stand the lack of space. The former pantry had been converted into a full bath (again, awesome) but that means that there is NO storage space!

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  4. Awesome! I come to check out the new Offbeat Home, and the first name I see is a familiar fellow-artist from my old hometown Des Moines! The Southside is overlooked too often, and that's a lovely house. I would kill for two kitchens.

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  5. Wow! If I had two kitchens I'd probably live and work in one of them…

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  6. As a fellow Des Moines enthusiast I wish the South Side was more appreciated. I think I'll add two kitchens to my list of house 'wants'. It would be perfect for cupcake parties.

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  7. I loved offbeat bride I enjoyed the journaling aspect and the other brides ideas. I am currently trying to create a home. NOt just a box in which to live but to carve out a place for my own self expression. Something the grandkids can riffle through when I'm gone.

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  8. Lovely home! Great artwork and retro pieces, and such a nice feel to your home. And a baking husband? Hard to beat.

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  9. Is it easy to find good Mid-Century in IA bc nobody knows about it? I recently relocated to FL for a hot minute and the selection is SICK.

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  10. Another former Des Moines resident here–I'm glad to see my hometown get some love on Offbeat Home. Also, your use of space & 2 kitchens is great!

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  11. This is fantastic! Super jealous of the two kitchens. Also, seeing all the space and the fantastic bones of your place, my mind runs wild with ideas. The benefit of owning too – you can take your time getting a sense for what you want to do or not do, if you're so inclined. But as it stands, I love how airy and clean and light feeling everything is. I can't stand clutter! Good job seeing this space for the opportunity it is, and getting creative!

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  12. great tour! must've missed it when it was 1st posted. thx for the mention/link! directly produced a print sale! SWEET!

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  13. where did the bookshelves come from? I love them!

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