written by:
photos by:
January 16, 2009
For years, Eileen and Jelle Kiesling spent much of their time in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, she as a teacher, and he as a manager for Royal Dutch Shell. Reaching semi-retirement, the couple, who live in the Netherlands, were looking for a vacation home back in the United States, specifically northwest Arkansas, where Eileen grew up.
1 / 4
2 / 4
3 / 4
4 / 4
kiesling house exterior axe portrait
Berryville, Arkansas, where Jelle Kiesling’s vacation house is located, may be the self-proclaimed turkey capital of America, but here he’s seen chopping wood—not getting ready for Thanksgiving.
Kiesling House

For years, Eileen and Jelle Kiesling spent much of their time in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, she as a teacher, and he as a manager for Royal Dutch Shell. Reaching semi-retirement, the couple, who live in the Netherlands, were looking for a vacation home back in the United States, specifically northwest Arkansas, where Eileen grew up.

Their search had been difficult. “What we wanted,” Eileen says, “was a house that was both modern and affordable and based on a stock plan. And when it turned out that we couldn’t find anything modern, we decided that the only way to get the kind of house we wanted would involve an architect, which, inevitably, was going to be expensive.” Then, one day, while on the Web, Eileen chanced on architect Gregory La Vardera, and the couple found a design that fit all of their requirements.

Dwell readers may remember Gregory La Vardera as a recipient of the magazine’s Nice Modernist award in 2003 for his contributions to our online community. On the Dwell discussion boards up to six hours a day, La Vardera grew increasingly intrigued by postings from people looking for modern stock plans. After an in-depth Internet search, he discovered, much to his surprise, that very few entities were selling stock plans and the plans he was seeing were not to his liking. He recognized a great opportunity. “This constituted my start into selling modern house plans,” he explains. He began working on
a set of designs and was soon ready for business. “Many architects are wary of stock plans,” La Vardera says. “Too many turn out to be insipid. That said, though, stock plans are just a fraction of what an architect would charge, so it’s a great value for the consumer.”

After purchasing home plans from La Vardera through his website www.lamidesign.com for $1,000, the Kieslings’ next step was to hire a builder for their 1,420-square-foot modern home. That wasn’t easy in Berryville, Arkansas. “All the people who work for Wal-Mart and the people who supply Wal-Mart are building $1 million and $2 million houses all over the place,” Eileen says “It’s easy for a builder to find work.” But the Kieslings were lucky. Their builder, who was tiring of log cabins, decided that building a modern vacation home was just the change he needed. “Basically,” Eileen says, “I stayed around during the construction phase and acted as the general contractor—which means I learned more than I ever wanted to know about building! It was interesting but hectic to say the least.”

While Eileen dealt with the day-to-day drama inherent in ground-up construction, La Vardera watched the building’s progress on the Internet from his office in Philadelphia. Jelle posted photographs of the home as it was built in Berryville, and even teamed up with La Vardera to write a construction blog. This entry, filed by Jelle, was posted in early spring of 2005: “Builder tried to clear land and dig a hole for the foundation. Machinery got stuck and had to be towed out, but [the driver] finally got a hole dug!”

The Kieslings’ willingness to take on general contracting duties themselves helped keep costs under control, and their Berryville bungalow was completed by mid-2005 at a final cost of $150,000. “We love the look and feel of it,” Eileen says of their new retreat. “It’s as if we were living in a tree house. And there’s no wasted space; we utilize every single inch.”

Their architect would like to see more people building modern houses. The country’s housing stock, he generalizes, is “1 percent modern and 99 percent conventional. But that said, there are lots of people out there who like modern houses and can’t find them.”

La Vardera remains hopeful. “The tide is starting to turn. Lots of people are unserved at the moment, and there are others who have never been exposed to modern at all. Many people are looking for something new. They’re
eyeing the possibilities.”

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment living room vertical oak slats
For the modernists among us, these spare spaces are a dream come true.
February 08, 2016
The square fountain at the courtyard's center is a modern rendition of a very traditional feature in many Middle Eastern homes.
From a large gathering space for family or a tranquil sanctuary, these seven designs feature some very different takes on the ancient idea of a courtyard.
February 08, 2016
stdaluminum 021
Since windows and doors are such important aspects of your home, it’s always a good idea to take the time to evaluate how they fit within the lifestyle you want. Whether you’re in the middle of constructing a new home, or you’re considering replacing your current setup, there are multiple elements to consider when it comes time to make the final decisions. Milgard® Windows & Doors understands how vital these choices are to the well-being of your home and has developed ways to turn the process into a journey that can be just as enjoyable as it is fulfilling. Not sure where to start? We gathered some helpful insights from their team of experts to help us better understand what goes into the process of bringing your vision to life.
February 08, 2016
modern fire resistant green boulder loewen windows south facade triple planed low-e glass
These houses in Broncos Country prove modern design is alive in the Rocky Mountains.
February 08, 2016
french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016
senses taste products
Ambience is a key ingredient to any meal—materials, textures, and mood all impart a certain flavor.
February 07, 2016
senses smell products
The nose knows: Though fleeting and immaterial, scent is the lifeblood of Proustian memories, both evoking and imprinting visceral associations.
February 06, 2016
design icon josef frank villa beer vienna
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.
February 06, 2016
senses sound products
From an alarm to a symphony, audio frequencies hold the power to elicit an emotional call-and-response.
February 06, 2016
Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016
distant structure lakeside prefab norway facade stones green roof
Dwell has traveled all over the world, from Tasmania to Indonesia, to report on modern houses.
February 05, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment master bedroom atrium
Get ready for a weekend of rest with these sleepy, little cocoons.
February 05, 2016
lamp show 99 cent plus gallery 0
At Brooklyn's 99¢ Plus gallery, 30 artists and designers re-imagine the lamp in an illuminating light show.
February 04, 2016
Hidden storage stairwell with raw brass hardware
Having ample space to stow items is a daily struggle—peep these modern homes for some ideas on maximizing your square footage.
February 04, 2016
modern fairhaven beach house blackbutt eucalyptus living room Patricia Urquiola sofa
Whether it's along a coast in Australia or the French Alps, wood provides a natural touch in these interiors.
February 04, 2016
Glass and steel sculpture in Printemps store of Paris.
In the Paris' venerable Printemps department store, two Toronto-based firms were tasked with enlivening a new atrium and creating a unique experience for visitors. YabuPushelberg, partnering with UUfie, designed this stunning steel "sail" embedded with vibrant dichroic glass.
February 04, 2016
Monochromatic Master Bedroom in Copenhagen Townhouse
Whether it's to maximize limited light or create a soothing interior, these five projects go white in a big way.
February 04, 2016
EQ3 Assembly quilt by Kenneth LaVallee
The new Assembly collection from EQ3 celebrates up-and-coming figures in Canadian design. Discover this newly appointed class, which debuted at Toronto's Interior Design Show, here.
February 03, 2016
The Greenhouses of Half Moon Bay
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 03, 2016
Deck of Australian addition to Edwardian home.
A 1,500-square-foot home in Melbourne welcomes a modern black and white kitchen, dining, and living area.
February 03, 2016
open plan concrete home in japan
Embracing the organic, imperfect material, these raw concrete surfaces are a step up from exposed brick.
February 03, 2016
Renovated DC Row House loft space with Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair.
The classic designer's signature and comfortable forms continue to be popular in homes today.
February 03, 2016
Zinc-roofed cabin France.
An architect builds an energy-efficient home near one of France’s most popular pilgrimage sites.
February 03, 2016