A downsizing of global proportion

Written by Kathy Weiss

Photos by Reggie Morrow

When John and Pary Weber downsized from their large family home and one-acre property, they sought the usual things: Freedom from lawn care and home maintenance. Yet, they didn’t want to relinquish the privacy and “feel” of a house.

Where they’ve landed since is technically a condo, but it isn’t. And that makes all the difference.

Private and quiet, vibrant and globally sophisticated — the Webers have created a soothing retirement retreat, nestled in a wooded enclave of north Coralville known as Terra Ridge. John is an Iowa native now winding down from a busy career with Phillips Medical and Pary is a retired research scientist who was born in Iran.

Colorful Persian rugs, authentic Iranian furnishings and luxurious textiles in upholstered furniture and draperies all come together to give an exotic richness to their stylish 3,600-square-foot detached condominium. Built by Terry Lavery, the home caters to the couple’s desire for carefree living, yet offers ample space for personal pursuits and entertaining guests. The best part is that they no longer have to think about snow removal or lawn care and even John’s Monet-inspired flower garden gets watered when they’re away.

John and Pary worked closely with the builder to modify the original floor plan, while adding architectural details that give their home its distinctive character. For instance, they removed the walls planned for a central stairwell leading to the lower level and added painted wood railings.

“We wanted the feel of a grand staircase,” John said, with more natural light.

They also enlarged space designated for a sunroom to make a more spacious family room, accessed from the main living area by two doorways separated by a two-sided fireplace. A pair of matching oriental screens obscures the lines of standard sliding glass doors, illustrating a clever trick the couple employed to hide the ordinary.

The Webers are world travelers and collectors of fine furnishings and artwork who share a keen sense of style. Among their treasured finds are two antique fireplace mantles reclaimed from Philadelphia row houses. An artisan trimmed them to fit and now the gleaming white façades blur the line between old and new, giving the two separate areas on each side a historic period appeal. On the living room mantle rests a pair of antique gold embellished blue glass candlesticks, cherished keepsakes from Pary’s childhood home, Iran, with the image of a king from a long ago dynasty.

An interesting collection of furnishings, lighting and accessories place the finishing touches on an extraordinary living environment where every element seems to have a story. A pair of chairs from the movie “Twister” came to them by way of their Hollywood producer-daughter, Mina. An antique Iranian samovar used for serving tea reminds them of Pary’s brother, who owns a tea plantation on the Caspian Sea.

A vibrant oil painting of a Persian melon was purchased in Versailles, France, to mark their 40th wedding anniversary. Along with a hall mirror from a Victorian house and countless other pieces of original art and collectibles, these possessions “keep this from looking like a tract house,” John says.

“Most of the pieces we found when we travel,” he explains. “We work with Dwell,” he added, referring to the retail home furnishings store in Coralville. “They import from all over and they help us coordinate everything.”

Unlike some cookie-cutter condos with an expected floor plan, the Webers’ home exudes a sense of uniqueness.

“The kitchen here is as large as in any house we’ve ever had,” Pary says  as she poured tea into cups on the shiny granite surface of the center work island, which doubles as casual dining space. They chose less expensive Formica for peripheral countertops in a color that blends well with the white wash finish of the maple cabinets.

The lower level has more room to kick back and relax. This casual, yet refined setting for reading and watching TV has a third fireplace and a colorful collection of circus themed prints by Byron Buford.

One of two guest bedrooms nearby was designed with slumbering grandchildren in mind. John’s childhood bed is among the antique furnishings, dressed in a cozy flannel coverlet with handmade dust ruffle. Vintage frames on the wall hold photos of the grandkids. Overhead, a beaded chandelier gives the room an endearing charm, “$76 at Lowe’s,” John announces with a chuckle, looking up at the fixture. “It’s not about price,” he acknowledges, “but without that light, the room is more predictable.”

In another area of the lower level, planned storage space was converted to an office for John with a daylight window and 14-foot-long closet. On the opposite end of the family room, double doors lead to a patio, a favorite spot for socializing with neighbors.

“We have a nice block and such a nice mix of people from all over,” Pary says, noting that they were the first buyers in Terra Ridge. They naturally assumed the role welcoming those who followed. “We get everybody together quite often,” she said.