Story by Megan Whitehead | Jan 01, 2018
Photography by Keith Borgmeyer

When building a custom home, every decision has a meaning and purpose.

It isn’t news to you that the most important part of planning a custom-built home is choosing contractors, builders, and designers that you work well with. The owners of this rustic home found that in Tina Davis, of Designs by Tina, and Adam Berhorst, of Complete Custom Homes.

Admittedly a bit over-the-top when it comes to organization, these homeowners were completely prepared when it came to layout and design. “One of the things we started with — and one of my first homework assignments for clients — is pictures,” says Davis. “If money was no object, what would your dream house look like? These homeowners had a grouping of pictures that was fantastic.”

From a family dynamic to personal touches to stylistic choices, every piece of this home was thoughtfully chosen and created.


With three young boys, these homeowners knew their home needed to be hard-wearing. You won’t find a white wall or cabinet in this house — they knew that would be a recipe for disaster. The base of the kitchen island is covered in rock because kicking (and therefore scuffing) is bound to occur.

The family even added a mudroom (with a door) to the layout with the boys in mind. Right next to the garage and kitchen, this room is a place for coats, backpacks, shoes, and laundry that can easily be hidden away in the event of unexpected company. Everything has its place. “It’s like a hub for the house,” says Davis. “It’s a landing zone, an organizational tool. It’s an amazing use of square footage for what happens in a family every day.”

“Every decision we made came down to what is going to be livable for us,” says the homeowner. “We said over and over we didn’t want a showroom house — we wanted a house that felt comfortable. That even drove our decision to not include a sink in our island. We’re all always gathered around islands, so we wanted that extra space. We checked every decision based on that.”


Light fixtures, backsplash, beverage areas: there’s a long list of pieces in the home that go overlooked despite adding a considerable amount of style to their surroundings. These subtle choices can set the tone that makes the whole house stand out.

In their beverage area, the granite and backsplash match the rest of the kitchen, ensuring a cohesive feel to the whole area. The sink in the bar has a hammered metal basin, adding an interesting dimension to the piece. “Everybody should do something different if they’re going to have a beverage area,” Davis says. “It makes the area look like it’s supposed to be a piece of furniture and not just a countertop with a sink and faucet.”

The backsplash, which extends through the kitchen, is made from travertine limestone. “It’s awesome because it’s natural,” says Davis. “You can’t find colors from nature duplicated like nature. Anytime you can pull a natural product, it looks so much better.”

To add interest and even more texture, the backsplash was specially configured above the stove to create an artistic piece for a subtle but commanding presence.
The shape and material of the light fixtures also serve a purpose. “I tell people all the time not to put glass in light fixtures if you don’t have to — because guess what you have to clean?” Davis says. “With the metal, it carries the same theme as their [cabinetry] hardware and the fixture above their dining room table. All that stuff has the same wood and metal component, as do many of the elements throughout the home.

“I think people really shy away from making overstated pieces in places like this, and they shouldn’t,” she continues. “Some people think their light fixtures need to be small pendant lights. When you do things that command more of a presence, though, it’s another visual that creates pieces of drama, like their fireplace.”


If you’re building a forever home, you want it to have little pieces of you throughout. In this home, two of the main design features hold sentimental value. Both mantels (yes there are two) were created from wood taken from the homeowners’ fathers’ farms. Both were cut down by the homeowners and their families and placed above the fireplace and stove hood. Also above the fireplace are giant antlers found — literally found, not purchased — by the homeowners on a hunting trip.

The rustic theme even speaks to the homeowners’ personality. To the chagrin of his wife, one of the homeowners continually joked about putting his hunting trophies above the mantel and on the walls of the family room. Instead, they found a great compromise in the natural elements and colors throughout the home and, of course, the incredible antlers.
The fireplace itself was a major decision-making factor for these homeowners. “The fireplace was the one thing we wanted to build the house around,” they say. “We have memories from cutting the tree down for the mantel now. It’s pretty special to us.”