Family First

The Sturms designed their home with family activities in mind

By Glenda Winders

After living in the same house for 23 of their 35 years of marriage, John and Yvonne Sturm had already been thinking about moving, and their adult children had been urging them in that direction, too.

“We had two stories and a basement,” Yvonne says, “and we didn’t need that going forward. But we wanted someplace where our children and our grandchildren would enjoy coming to visit.”

They were looking at possible neighborhoods when COVID-19 hit. John, working from home as the CEO of Johnson County REMC and president of local internet provider J.C. Fiber, got bored, so with Yvonne’s input he started designing a house.

The couple wanted the new home to reflect their personalities, which they agree are different — she is the “beachy, carefree extrovert;” he is the quiet, organized introvert — so they took those qualities into consideration and made compromises all along the way to end up with a plan that made both of them happy.

“She wanted the kitchen adjacent to the living room, which is popular,” John says, “but I don’t like the noise.”

The compromise here was to put the dining area between the two rooms as a kind of buffer. The resulting great room provides a space where they can gather with their family and friends, but cooking noises and the sound of the dishwasher are farther away. They also wanted a pool, but while she enjoys the sun, he prefers to sit in the shade. The solution was to add a covered porch near the pool deck where they can spend time together. She wanted a front-to-back view through the house and he wanted a big front porch, so those went into the plans, as well.

“I had it all drawn, the whole footprint,” John says. “Then I had an architect do the blueprints. When I showed it to Duke they took it to the next level with elevations and pitches and finishes.”

He’s talking about Duke Homes, builders of the Aberdeen neighborhood in Bargersville. The couple had several requirements for where their new home should be located, and when they came here to look, they knew they were home.

“I’m really high on Bargersville in general,” John says. “I’m involved with a lot of the community planning because I’m working with the utility, so I’m aware of what they’ve got going on. They’ve got great plans for the future — parks, trail systems and retail opportunities.”

Yvonne has fond recollections of John’s dad teaching their three children about nature, so she wanted a place where they could give their grandchildren the same kind of experience. They thought for a while about buying a small home and a second lake cabin or vacation cottage, but Aberdeen’s “agrihood” offered everything they wanted in one place: 90 acres of common area, community gardens, a barn and crops with a farmers market yet to come, fruit trees, a community center, pickleball courts, two large stocked lakes for fishing and thickly forested trails. They can ride their bikes on the quiet country roads, and golfer John is just five minutes away from a course. Duke also arranges activities for families such as a farm day, an ice cream social and a nature walk.

“It’s like living at a resort,” Yvonne says, and John adds, “You can do a lot of things right here without going anywhere. That was appealing to us for bringing our kids and grandkids in and being able to fish and hike. All of the things we like to do are right here — and I don’t have to maintain two properties.”

It turns out the Sturms were exactly the kind of people the creators of Aberdeen hoped to attract.

“We hoped we’d find those individuals and families looking for a different kind of neighborhood,” says Isaac Duke, vice president of sales and marketing for Duke Homes. “We envisioned a place where residents would care for their neighbors as themselves, a place where people wouldn’t drive into their garage, close the door and never engage with those around them. That is at the heart of the ‘wellness lifestyle’ theme.”

The Sturms emphasize that they designed their house with the whole family in mind. Yvonne grew up in Anderson and John in southern Indianapolis before they met at Ball State and later married. Both come from close families where large get-togethers and overnights with grandparents became cherished memories. Today their own family consists of son Evan and his wife, Carly, who are parents of 2 ½-year-old Hadyn; Patrick and Haylee; and

Hannah and Mason, parents of Brooks, who is not yet 1. Since they all live within an hour’s drive, guest rooms weren’t as big a priority as having plenty to do.

John kept his design to 2,500 square feet on the main floor and a 1,600-square-feet finished basement.

“We could have gone bigger,” he says, “but we right-sized it for what we needed. We didn’t want to make it any bigger than it needed to be.”

To that end they scaled down spaces such as the pantry and laundry area to stay within their budget and space allowance as they added options that Duke had available — a nook where children can take off their boots and hang up their coats and elegant detailing on the woodwork.

The main floor consists of the kitchen — all crisp white and stainless steel with multiple windows and an island with stools to seat four. A double oven is handy for the get-togethers they like to have, and small shelves hold photographs and family mementos. Tiny windows in the upper cabinets reveal other treasures. A table outside by the pool is perfect for a summer lunch or can accommodate additional guests for dinner. The walk-in pantry is accessed by a sliding barn door whose black hardware matches the drawer pulls and cabinet handles. Faucets here and in the bathrooms are brushed gold.

A dining table that seats six leads on into the main living room. Here the walls are white with deep gray insets that provide low seating and higher shelves around the white-tiled fireplace, where an electric fire glows and a large-screen TV is mounted for good viewing from all around the room. The floors throughout the main level are engineered hardwood. The furniture is in neutral colors with accents of coral and teal, which the seating area on the back porch (with its own electric fireplace) mimics. Abstract paintings in neutrals and teals complete the look.

“I’m a bright-colors person,” Yvonne says, and her husband echoes, “The colors were 100 percent ours.”

The house has four bedrooms — three on the main level and one in the basement that is bright and cheerful thanks to the light coming in from the egress window. The walls in the en suite master are pale blue that Yvonne says is a nod to her love of the beach, as is their powder room, wall-papered with bright blue palm fronds.

“We had some passionate debates,” John says, laughing, but they agree that creating their home was fun.

A plus in this suite is the roomy walk-in closet with a window and plenty of space for his-and-her hanging racks, shelves, a bench for putting on shoes and even space for setting up an ironing board.

The scaled-down laundry room nearby is still spacious enough to house a washer and dryer, folding counter, sink, cupboards and shelves for more photos. One of the bedrooms is equipped with a crib, and the Sturms have converted another into an office. A desk on one wall is where they can work on their computers (Yvonne is a special education teacher at Center Grove Middle School North) and built-in shelves across the room hold their collection of books. The bathroom that serves these rooms is also the pool bath. In their previous house people had to walk through the kitchen to get to the shower, so a bathroom directly accessible from the pool was a must.

The couple had to do a fair amount of winnowing belongings before they moved in. That being the case, they didn’t need a lot of extra storage space, but they wanted more room for family activities, hence the basement. In addition to the bedroom and bath on this level, there is comfortable seating for watching television and a regulation Ping-Pong table where John and his sons like to play. Floors here and in the laundry upstairs are luxury vinyl planks.

A cozy nook created for the grandchildren houses their toys. Hangings on the wall teach how to count to 100 and the months of the year and days of the week as well as provide the rules for playing here: Use your imagination, laugh, have fun. A storage room doubles as the couple’s workout room, with walls covered in the family photos they didn’t have room for in displays upstairs.

“John and Yvonne were a pleasure to work with on their home,” says Mark Belton, senior project manager for Duke Homes. “Their project was a bit unusual, as they came to us with house plans that John had drawn himself. There were some changes made to the plans prior to construction, but they were definitely well prepared. They were also one step ahead during the entire build, always having their lighting, plumbing and other selections made earlier than required, which really streamlined the process.”

The couple moved into their home last November.

“Nearly a year later, we know we made the right decision,” John says. “We just keep finding things we like more and more about the area. We’ve got great neighbors. We’ve met a lot of them, and they’re good people.”

One of John’s favorite parts of living here is having his coffee on one of the porches each morning. In the front he looks out over a lake; in the back his view is cornfields and trees. He also prizes the 3 ½-car garage with an epoxy finish on the floor that makes it easy to keep clean. In addition to space for their two cars and the golf cart in which they tool through the neighborhood, he also has room where he can “just piddle around.”

The Sturms both agree that they accomplished what they set out to do.

“Our family is very important to us — they’re who I am,” says Yvonne. “I’m sure we will enjoy sharing our new home with them for years to come.”