Visitors to the home of Kathryn and Neil Mandsager of Johnston, Iowa, use words such as "lively" and "fresh" to describe the colorful rooms. Kathryn prefers to sum up her decoration style as happy.
"Foremost, I want our home to be comfortable. I love color, and I love to play with it," says the busy mother of five children, ages 9 to 23. Indeed, she does: Visitors entering the two-story Colonial house are met with a virtual explosion of color and detail. Rooms portray a sense of French country and eclectic styling, with a wonderful mix of antiques, shabby chic pieces, and festive prints in fabrics and wallpapers. Making the home most interesting, though, is the collection of Midwestern art the Mandsagers have integrated into nearly every room.
The couple's passion for showcasing art with Midwestern roots or themes began by chance. "We got started some years back when I saw a print in the window of a store in Valley Junction, a old-town section in our area. I knew Neil would love it," Kathryn says. "After that, we just started looking for pieces we like and that reflect the Midwest. There's not a particular theme we look for, but rather, the expression that the Midwest means home to us." In fact, instead of taking a trip, the couple purchased a colorful oil painting of a farm scene by Santa Fe artist Jean Jack, who has Iowa roots, for their 25th wedding anniversary last year.
When the family moved into their home 10 years ago, Kathryn had a grand scheme in mind to blend wonderful French colors, fabrics, and details. Her favorite colors are orange and red, but its yellow that gives her home's main level a sunny disposition. The entry, guest room, kitchen, family room, and sunroom all glow with a rich citrus hue. Each main-floor room also features a bit of red, and toile prints in various colors recur throughout the house. Even on a gray day it would be hard to be depressed in these surroundings. "In any season, it always looks like sunshine in our home," Kathryn says.
Near the entry foyer, a joyful French blue-and-yellow wallpaper envelops the room that doubles as a guest room and a sitting area. An iron daybed gives the space versatility. Artwork, including photography by Neil, a perinatologist, or high-risk obstetrician, along with baskets and plants, evince a sit-and-visit outlook.
Just off the foyer, opposite the guest room, the living room is a cozy space made for leisurely conversation and lazy evenings at home. Deep blue walls and white woodwork lend a restful feel, while the oil painting by Jean Jack entertains the eye.
At the back of the home, an eat-in kitchen, family room, and sunroom flow together to form one large space where the family often gathers. The kitchen sees lots of action, but as busy as the Mandsagers are, thy make a point to eat dinner together as much as possible. The room features cheery yellow walls and white cabinets with black hardware. Kathryn used magnetic paint in a diamond pattern behind the built-in desk for posting notes and family schedules. She also turned a nearby closet in the kitchen into storage and serving space for entertaining. The shelves hold platters and the drawers store linens and accessories.
Two seating areas open off the kitchen. A family room, complete with fireplace and piano, showcases eclectic art pieces, from china to pottery. For easy maintenance, practical slipcovers, which can be washed, cover furnishings. Black-and-white pillows trimmed in red pompons and simple shuttered windows ensure a summer-fresh appearance.
A sunroom, formerly a three-season porch radiates warmth, with its combination of bright berry-and-yellow fabrics in plaids and prints. Kathryn used outdoor wicker side chairs and a Boston rocker, along with shabby chic accessories such as side tables and a wall cabinet, to carry out a garden theme. The cabinet, lined with old newspaper, houses a collection of white ironstone pitchers, perfect for bunches of wildflowers from a local farmers market.
Upstairs, Kathryn and Neil enjoy a getaway area in a master suite sitting room. A soft sage-and-cream color scheme lends a relaxing feel to the space. A sectional sofa, tufted ottoman, oversized pillows, and books further the restful ambience. The room originally was the master bedroom, which now occupies the area under the eaves that housed a nursery when the children were younger.
Although her pieces of Midwestern art are important, Kathryn's favorite framed artwork hangs in the sitting room. In the hand-printed scrawl of a then-small son who is now a tall teen are these words: "Roses are red, violets are blue, Super Man's fast, but I love you. Kyle."