home reno: finding the house


In 2016, Zach and I bought a really simple two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in Sherman Hill, a historic neighborhood just outside of downtown Des Moines. It was 10 years old, had tall ceilings, and was move-in ready. No repairs, which neither of would successfully complete anyway without help.

We loved living here, despite my car not fitting in the garage and being on the third floor and only having stairs (hauling groceries is a chore). It was close to everything and being in a condo meant no outdoor maintenance. The only thing we needed to care for when traveling were our cats.

In 2019 we started seriously exploring buying a home with a yard and more space to start a family. Both of us have always loved the work Rally Cap Properties does in urban core neighborhoods in Des Moines; Ryan is really intentional about preserving old housing stock and renovating it with integrity and fantastic design. So we scheduled a pizza date with the owner, Ryan, and were excited to explore the pre-sell option he offers.


A couple months after getting together we knew we were on “the list,” so when we saw the email come through that a 1909 craftsman was open to preview near Ingersoll we jumped. Ryan shared his vision for the space, gave us a tour of the deteriorating home, and created a list with all of the projects he would do for his list price.

Zach and I liked a lot about the home, saw the potential in it, and considered how incredible it was to live so close to downtown, our favorite eateries, a bike path, and a future elementary school. We weren’t sure if we were ready to jump on the opportunity simply because we love Ryan’s work and it was ready for us or if this was “the home” for us. For about a week we noodled on the pros and cons of the location, the size of the home and being able to grow into it, and the tiny backyard.

There was so much the home didn’t have, but also so much the home did have.


We knew for sure we didn’t want a massive home with unused space, we wanted something with character and love the charm of an older home, and we wanted to be in an urban neighborhood. It hit the biggest checkboxes and all of the upgrades we wanted to make were and are totally possible! Like gutting this whole kitchen…


As of writing this blog, we’re a few months into the process and major work is being done on the roof and master suite upstairs. The next blog post, I’ll share some of the inside and outside projects that are in the works that have us both excited to move in this winter.

Check out Rally Cap’s work here!

HomeEmily Steele