DRIFT-LESS HOME AND GARDEN: Spectacular Scandinavian home still looking for its forever family

What started as a dream and a wish became the best of times – and the worst of times. Scott and Melanie Rutman poured over a year of their lives into building their dream home in Decorah, only to find themselves on the road shortly after completion in July 2019.
The house was built in the Bruening Addition on Walnut Street, Decorah. This 3,928 square foot home was the Rutmans’ dream and vision. They had priorities for the home, but noted, “Trying to start a floor plan from scratch seemed overwhelming, so we visited a few new development neighborhoods around us to help us find a starting point.” a house plan the Rutmans had built in a new development in Castle Pines, Colorado, just 20 miles from Denver, where they lived before moving to Decorah, Melanie’s hometown and alma mater.
Melanie is the daughter of Mark and Jennifer Olson of Decorah, and she and Scott of Apple Valley, Minnesota, married in 2016. When the opportunity arose to return to Decorah to start a new chapter, they knew exactly where they wanted to live . “We were surprised that this lot was one of the last available in the Brüning supplement. It was in such a great position to capture sweeping views of the valley and David [Finholt] did a great job placing the house just right on the property to capture them. We even had a perfect view of the Nordic Fest fireworks from our deck,” Melanie recalls.

Start over
The Rutmans purchased the property in July 2018 and worked with Finholt Construction to build the home of their dreams. The vision came from a house layout they had liked at Castle Rock. “Our goal was a clean, Scandinavian-influenced design with lots of natural light,” says Melanie. “The focus of the interior design was on entertaining friends and family. The open plan ground floor allows multiple people to gather comfortably around the heart of the home, the kitchen.”
While the design for the home looks simple, David Finholt of Finholt Construction reported, “In general, modern homes look very sleek, clean, and simple, but building a home that looks like this isn’t easy.” The Finholt -Crew went to work and finalized the design and worked with several local contractors to bring this design to life. “The owners literally spent hundreds of hours researching materials, designs and products to get it just right,” he added. “They loved the house – it was exactly what they wanted.”

Local skills and expertise
The Rutmans sought to use local contractors and suppliers where available, sourcing their building materials from Decorahs Spahn & Rose Lumber, foundations and foundation concrete from Steve Falck, exterior retaining walls and flat backyard concrete from Legacy Concrete, with additional design input from Pinters Ridgeway Gardens and Pumpkins.
Tryad Kitchen & Designs of Decorah leveraged its 22 years of experience to provide interior design services for clean, open spaces and kitchen and bathroom cabinetry to accentuate the elegant look. There were many additions and final decisions made as the Rutmans explored their options to ensure the clean, open concept they were looking for. “The frame, steel siding, windows and roof were completed by Decorah’s Arik Seiler and it was a custom product with concealed panels and fasteners,” Finholt reported. “It’s definitely different for the area, and with all the things that are unique and different, it takes more time and more expense.” Finholt found that the open concepts require a higher level of finishing as the lines are simple and are clean and show errors or errors in the final product.
“Each project is different and even the wood finish around the front entrance was an aluminum product from Canada with a wood imitation. We learned a lot about how to get it out of Canada with customs and shipping,” noted Finholt. When trying new products, sometimes they need to see what works and have a “plan B”.
“The wide bezel was a steel product but has cupping and warping called oil canning, so we actually redesigned the entire bezel to remove the wrinkles and end up with a clean, smooth look.”
Johanningmeier Stone of Decorah supplied the Cambria worktops for the lustrous kitchen and bathrooms, while Fashion Flooring supplied the durable and easy-care flooring, which draws on nature with its rustic wood grain and muted colors to hide the appearance of everyday dust and footprints .
Bill Fullhart did all the plumbing and heating and Finholt Construction brought the final design to life with two generations of home building experience. Anyone can look at home plans, but it takes special skills to bring these plans to life with a unique design and special materials.

Focus on features
Open spaces, high ceilings, and the use of glass whenever possible not only contribute to the home’s airy, spacious feel, but allow for uninterrupted views of the Upper Iowa River valley and the valley from multiple vantage points, including the covered concrete balcony West side of Decorah. The property is within walking distance to the Trout Run Trail loop, Phelps Park and downtown Decorah.
Melanie explains: “We tried to take inspiration from nature and our surroundings, which is reflected in the color schemes we chose. We found a super unique limestone tile used for the kitchen splashback that we found very appropriate for the Decorah area and we loved the clean look. We wanted the floor to ceiling fireplace wall to have a natural stone look. Chad Heying did the work. Walnut is our preferred wood finish and it also suited the street we were on very well. So we’ve included lots of custom walnut woodwork throughout the home, with open shelving and wine racks in the kitchen, built in next to the fireplace, vanity in the master bath, bench in the mudroom and open shelving in the bar. We even found metal paneling that finished with walnut finish is printed and frames the front entrance.”
Minimalist fixtures draw the eye to the natural beauty showcased through the many windows, with the exterior being as much the star of this home as the beautiful finishes. The open great room offers a fully equipped chef’s kitchen with Dacor appliances and Cambria countertops and a 14 foot fireplace to enhance the ambiance of combined luxury and comfort.
Other designed spaces include a large conservatory suitable for a variety of uses, from home office to children’s playgrounds and yoga oases to morning coffee corner on a sunny Saturday morning, warmed by the gas stove. “My wishes for the conservatory with its two window walls were twofold. In the summer I wanted to be able to open all the windows at night to hear thunder and watch the lights over the cliffs when a storm blew through. And in the winter it was a place to enjoy the white winter wonderland while curling up with a good book by the gas stove,” said Melanie.
The master bedroom — one of four that the home offers — offers a queen-size walk-in closet and tastefully tiled walk-in shower, while the second bedroom also has a full bath.
The lower level is set up for play and entertaining with a 30′ x 28′ family recreation room with wet bar, sliding glass doors to the covered patio and two large bedrooms with a shared bathroom. The bathroom features custom tile work and a family-friendly aspect of privacy. “We’ve used this design a few times and it takes up a bit more space but works really well as the shower, toilet and vanity all have doors to add extra privacy for multiple users. The entire lower level has walk-in access to the yard as another way to bring the outdoors in.
The attached garage also offers three parking spaces and a dog run with a lawn at the rear, so that the four-legged friends are well equipped and have their own space.
The house offers plenty of storage options and allows all belongings to have a home, so the clean lines can help create a calm, uncluttered atmosphere. Perfect for coming home after a hectic day. The walnut accents also provided practical storage options, including the open shelving and wine rack in the kitchen, built-in closet next to the fireplace, double vanity in the master bathroom, storage bench in the bathroom, and open shelving in the wet bar—perfect for displaying a collection .

The next family chapter
The Bakkums, Jason and Katie, bought the property from the Rutmans in July 2021 and quickly moved in to make it their own with their family, two boys; Ace and Jagger. They, too, loved the house and all of its unique features, spectacular views, warm open spaces and clean lines.
The Bakkums were attracted to the house and also fell in love with the design and finishes, eventually closing the house, moving belongings to the new rooms and making themselves comfortable.
But, alas, fate had other ideas. The Bakkums are moving away from Decorah this June and heading to Florida to find a job they couldn’t pass up. The house has been on the market for a relatively short time and could be claimed by a family who outbid the Bakkums last July.
We hope the stunning Scandinavian home built by the love of family and friends on Walnut Street finally finds its forever family, who can put down their roots in the rich Decorah soil and grow memories for a lifetime. For more information on the Bakkum House, contact Harman Realty in Decorah at 563-382-2020.

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