Interiorssneak peeks

Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa

by Garrett Fleming

One day, a day like any other, prop stylist Joseph Wanek clocked in on-set. He moved about the studio, decorations in hand, prepping for an upcoming photoshoot alongside graphic designer Nick Sellers. It was the first time the pair had ever worked together, and from the moment they met, something was definitely there. The two kept it strictly professional for a bit until one evening, curiosities piqued, and Joseph and Nick went on a date. Fast forward three-and-a-half years, and they’re now living together in this pretty, plant-filled home in Des Moines, Iowa.

When they first got the keys, both guys were a bit curious as to how their personal styles would converge in the home. Joseph favors a more streamlined, industrial design, but Nick, a fan of all things mid-century modern, prefers being surrounded by items from his grandmother’s collection of vintage furniture. Working closely together, they’ve puzzle-pieced together the very best of their respective collections of flea-market finds and hand-me-down furniture. As you click through, you’ll notice that all of these belongings are surrounded by dozens of houseplants. They dot the space, creating a bright, greenhouse-effect — which the couple says is their favorite aspect of the home.

Joseph and Nick are loving how their home has come together, but if it weren’t for this duo’s keen eye for design, the space may have never reached its full potential. At first blush, the outdated kitchen alone was terrible enough to drive away any number of timid buyers. Its 1980s makeover had left it full of less-than-ideal furnishings: laminate countertops, vinyl flooring and outdated cabinetry, to name a few. For over a year, Nick and Joseph have toiled with its look, choosing to install concrete counters, a new backsplash and decking out the walls in a subtle, grey hue. With their first major project complete, the couple then went about painting and sprucing up the rest of the house. Without a doubt they’ve done a stellar job, and I’m so grateful they’re letting us take a peek at the results. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography courtesy of Lauren Konrad

Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
There were several projects the pair needed to undertake when they moved in. Keeping in mind all they had to accomplish, their art budget was kept modest. To save some money, Joseph visited the Des Moines Botanical Gardens and shot these pretty plants for the living room's wall. "We're glad we opted for a more DIY art approach because it is more personal, and we were able to get exactly what we wanted," the couple says.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
Graphic designer Nick (left), and Joseph (right), a prop stylist, met on-set three-and-a-half years ago. They started dating soon after, and a year and a half ago the couple moved into this ranch-style home together. It's a mix of Joseph's industrial aesthetic and Nick's mid-century sensibility.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
The living room's coffee table – an old shipping crate – used to sit in a building Joseph's family owned.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
The vintage crate is decorated with Pincushion Proteas, one of the pair's favorite flowers.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
The sofa's side table is made up of two old trunks the couple fell in love with at a flea market. The planter atop them, an Anthropologie find, holds another of their favorite plants: a Staghorn Fern. "We like to have our living spaces filled with items and things we love."
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
The armchair, credenza and other mid-century pieces throughout the space once belonged to Nick's grandmother. Her chair sits in front of the couple's plant collection. Both guys typically style their respective photo shoots with greenery, and many of the plants end up coming home with them.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
When the couple moved in, one of their decorating goals was to make their home feel like a greenhouse. Dotting the space with different plants makes "the space feel more alive," and this "organic layer of texture" brightens each room, no matter how chilly Iowa may get.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
Julio is a feisty feline. He loves hopping up onto the dining room table and playing around. Joseph and Nick's friend had the table sitting in storage for 10 years before gifting it to the couple.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
Further proof of just how well Joseph and Nick's styles complement one another is seen here in the dining room. The rustic farm table contrasts so nicely with the mid-century chairs from Wayfair and West Elm chandelier.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
The dining room's wine rack holds vintage Blenko glasses and sits under a painting from the 1960s.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
To keep friends feeling in-the-mix while Joseph and Nick are cooking, they set barstools here at the kitchen's pass-through.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
A tacky, 1980s renovation had left the kitchen in need of a major overhaul. The counterop looks great now that its laminate has been replaced with streamlined concrete against a new backsplash. Instead of replacing the outdated, knotty-wood cabinetry, Joseph and Nick painted it in Valspar's "Blind Date" and installed new hardware on the doors – a cost-effective way to spruce up the room.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
"To get a bold look in the guest room without painting a bright color on the walls, we opted to paint the doors black and the walls white. The contrast was just what we were looking for," Nick and Joseph say. The throw pillow is from West Elm, the pendant light is by George Nelson, and the door is painted in Valspar "Lincoln Cottage Black."
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
The rest of their home is filled with vintage finds, plants and sentimental mementos, but the couple chose to keep their guest bedroom simple. A copper lamp and bed frame from West Elm are two of the space's only decorations. This clean design helps visitors unwind after a long day.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
Rich and calming tones keep Joseph and Nicks' bedroom warm. I personally love the shock of yellow the Etsy bench provides. It sits in front of a bed decorated with CB2 sheets and shams.
Greenery Warms Up a Modern Home in Iowa, Design*Sponge
The 1,400-square-foot, ranch-style home was built in 1951. It features two bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths.

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  • Gaw-jus. :) I’m starting to truly realize the power of plants in the home. Love the metallics combined with greenery and woods. And what a cute cat! Lovely pops of color everywhere. Perfecto.

  • Love this home, and the plants! One thing that I noticed right away is the carpet, amazing! I’ve been looking for one like this forever, where is it coming from?
    Thank you!

  • I LOVE all the plants! Not only do they add a pop of green, lend an organic feel, and connect us to nature, but some houseplants actually clean the air too! In the past 4 months I’ve purchased over 20 house plants (some of which are quite large). My home is quickly turning into a jungle and I’m not sure my kids will be able to go to college if I keep this up ($$$ #cantstopwontstop), but I think greening spaces is *totally* worth it! Nick and Joseph did a great job.

    The DIY prints are terrific too. Did you mat and frame them yourselves or do you know of a place that does it on a budget?

    On a separate note, I loved seeing a space from a location other than one of the coasts!

  • The painted cabinets in the kitchen look so fresh and sleek with their gray paint and new hardware I would never have guessed they’re from the 80’s. In my mind, that’s so much more sensible than ripping everything out and buying new. Well done.

  • Love this–makes me want to go inside and explore. I like that it’s perfectly ordered yet not too precious. Looks very livable.


  • I LOVE this home so much! SO much!
    SO much personality in every corner. I think those botanical photographs are my fav element – it ties everything together! I think I will borrow that idea for the future!

  • I LOVE this home! My husband and I have the exact same aesthetic. Light walls, lots of plants, we even have a similar grey couch and that shelf in the main pic! Wanna be friends, Joseph & Nick? ;P

  • I think one of the best things about houseplants when it comes to decor is that many are timeless and fit into any design scheme. You can mix and match and the effect is still natural looking as shown clearly in this example through the various pictures. I especially like the little hanging plants in the kitchen by the window, an unused space put to good use… actually I might even steal that idea for myself! Also the photos for the frames is a really cleaver Idea. I’ve spent a long time looking for the perfect piece without joy… but why not take your own snap. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Who does not love houseplants presently? Probably, there are no such people or they are not enough. Green plants only the one look bring joy and rest and how many from the advantage. Having lodged in the house or the apartment of a plant, we bring the cozy, live and joyful atmosphere there. Of course, you should not fill rooms with various plants in a large number at all, so you will achieve nothing. It will be better to get several beautiful copies, it will perfectly improve your interior. It is also necessary to be accurate in the choice of exotic flora, you have to be sure that you will be able to look after them.