Monday, August 15, 2022

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At Home With

Ellen Butler


Ellen Butler loves the convenience of living downtown and above the new Hy-Vee.

Ellen Butler loves the convenience of living downtown and above the new Hy-Vee.

Downtown domestication

Ellen Butler had her eye on the new Fourth + Court apartments above Hy-Vee. Her employer, Happy Medium, designed the website and branding for the building, giving her an inside edge.

“Around the office, I heard someone say, ‘I think they’re going to start doing hard hat tours for units. ‘And I got the building manager’s contact information, and I said, ‘We would like a tour please,’ ” she says.

Butler’s persistence paid off. In March, Butler and her fiancé Geoff moved from their apartment near the Des Moines Art Center into the brand new 81-unit complex. Their more-than-1,255-square-foot, two-story, townhome-style unit includes two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, two balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over Court Avenue.

Luckily, the Fourth + Court apartments are pet friendly, as also having made the move downtown are the couple’s three pets: Juniper, a 5-year-old terrier mix, Puck, a 2-year-old tuxedo cat, and Malcolm, a 2-year-old domestic shorthair cat. Like most pets, the abundance of space doesn’t seem to matter as they loyally follow Butler from room to room. However, Puck does seem to enjoy the kitchen. The cat can often be seen lounging atop the kitchen cabinets.

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Having recently moved back to Des Moines from New York City, the humans in the apartment couldn’t be more thrilled with the amount of space.

“Obviously, you could fit our New York apartment into this apartment with plenty of room to spare,” she says.

Butler and her fiancé enjoyed all that New York City had to offer, but as former Des Moines residents the couple ultimately moved backed because of the quality of life. Des Moines’ renaissance also didn’t hurt.

“Cool things kept happening every time I would come back to visit, and I suddenly found myself really loving everything that was changing,” she says.

One of those things was the new Hy-Vee.

“We felt like the Hy-Vee was sort of the last puzzle piece to making downtown Des Moines genuinely livable,” she says.

In New York, their apartment was not in an ideal spot for hauling groceries, as they lived many stories up in a building without an elevator. The inconvenience turned grocery shopping into a chore, and they often found themselves contemplating if a trip to a store was worth it. Now, their as-close-as-you-can-get location to Hy-Vee has changed the way they grocery stop. Instead of making one big trip to the store once a week, they head down to the store on an as-needed basis, meaning they stop in most days.

“We often refer to it as our basement — ‘Just need to run downstairs to grab something from the basement,’ ” she says.

After moving into their new space, the couple got down to decorating, ultimately giving their home a modern yet fresh and classic feel.

“We were very clearly compatible in the mid-century modern kind of way. We both separately had similar eyes for things,” she says, noting Geoff’s leather chair and her Eames rocking chair.

The neutral color palette, common in many apartments, played into their aesthetic as well.

“We knew that we could take a little bit more of a risk, and that’s why we have a teal velvet couch,” she says.

houseThe mid-century furniture is accented by hints of gold, geometric prints and decorative pieces full of meaning. A few of Butler’s favorite items are not of the mid-century variety but are gifts from faraway lands. Butler’s uncle worked for JAG as an Army lawyer in Afghanistan and sent her a print. Geoff’s parents brought back a chessboard from Uganda, and Butler’s friend gave her an owl figurine from Morocco.

The windows are another stunning element, bathing the entire apartment in natural light. She looks out onto Court Avenue and can see the Principal building, the ultimate Pièce De Résistance for any downtown Des Moines location.

“I can’t get over the view. I love the windows and being able to wake up to such light,” she says.

As former NYC residents, the couple revels in living in the hub of activity, allowing them to continue living the urban lifestyle they became so fond of but at a much lower cost of living. Moving back was an easy sell.

“I’ve always sung Des Moines from the rooftop since I’ve been away,” Butler says. “But now being able to say the people are so amazing and the city is so amazing, too, I’m really proud of that.” ♦


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