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Published November 06 2010

Impressive Offutt house part of annual home tour

The Ron and Karen Offutt home is grand, but it’s also a home to grandparents.

And so their Italian Tuscan-inspired home at 401 Harwood Drive S., Fargo, features a baby grand piano and a hand-painted ceiling dome, but it’s also filled with friendly personal touches.

“That’s what my goal is,” Karen says. “I want my home to feel warm.”

The Offutt home is the jewel in the crown of the 24th annual Homes for the Holidays, an event running today and Sunday that has become a holiday tradition for people in Fargo-Moorhead.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to see some of the area’s most beautiful homes decorated by some of the best local merchants and get ready for the upcoming holiday season,” says Jan Schlacht, event chairperson.

The fundraiser is staged by the local chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta. Proceeds will benefit the Northern Plains Botanic Garden Society, as well as diabetes research and education, diabetes camps for children and scholarships.

Old-world charm

It was interest in helping the service-minded sorority that prompted the usually private and low-key Offutts to open their home to the public.

Ron Offutt is founder and chairman of R.D. Offutt Co., the nation’s largest producer of potatoes, and chairman of RDO Equipment Co., which owns the largest network of John Deere agriculture and construction machinery dealerships in the country.

The couple moved into the home a decade ago and spent considerable time renovating and adding on to it.

The house’s grand foyer is a showstopper. Cream-colored, polished travertine tile gives the home a formal vibe. A crystal chandelier hangs over a gleaming, black baby-grand piano, which isn’t just for looks – Karen loves to play it.

The chandelier hangs from a dome, with an interior that was handpainted in soft golds by a Minneapolis artist. The dome was built to replace a more contemporary translucent skylight that had been installed by the previous homeowners, says Craig Helenske, the architect who headed the project. The dome’s old-world look fits in seamlessly with the Offutts’ more traditional décor.

A grand radius staircase, leading to guest rooms upstairs, forms an elegant backdrop to the piano. The staircase will be decked out with decorations for the home walk by designers at Shotwell Floral.

Off to the right is a formal living room, where you’ll find the first of the home’s six fireplaces. In this room, as with the whole house, the décor melds collectibles from the Offutts’ travels with favorite keepsakes, such as photos of grandchildren or family heirlooms.

Original artwork is interspersed throughout, including an Ellen Diedrich watercolor which playfully incorporates the faces of Karen’s four granddaughters into a backdrop of flowers, and twin portraits of Ron and Karen by local artist Patrick Shannon.

Reclaimed kitchen floor

If the kitchen is the heart of any home, this house has a warm and vibrant one.

The kitchen area is filled with stainless steel Viking appliances and high-end fixtures yet seems as cozy and unpretentious as a farmhouse kitchen.

Sunlight spills in the west windows onto the large, round table in the informal dining area. Maple-glazed coffered ceilings add an old-world ambiance, and burnished cabinets give the space a timeless charm.

One of Karen’s favorite features here is the rustic, variegated look of reclaimed chestnut floors. “It’s the best floor ever,” Karen says. “It doesn’t make a difference if it’s clean or dirty. It always looks good.”

The maple-stained cabinets with residue detailing were custom-made by a Canadian cabinetmaker. All work surfaces are granite – save for the teak-topped center island. “It’s water-resistant. All we do is oil it,” Karen says.

A lot of planning and forethought went into every detail. The farm-style sink features an unhoned granite face. Formed from a single block of black stone, it is extremely easy to clean and maintain, Karen says.

The pot rack over the center island cunningly combines storage with built-in lighting. Seeded-glass cabinets over the sink allow light from the adjoining family room to shed extra natural light into the kitchen.

And the Viking stovetop features a handy pot-filler faucet, which saves Karen from lugging heavy, sloshing stockpots across the kitchen when cooking pasta.

Dramatic family room

The family room is dominated by a dramatic, 18-foot-high ceiling, a fireplace with an oversized stone mantel and a bank of windows gazing out at the river.

With such striking proportions, this room could easily feel museum-esque. But Helenske and the Offutts worked to make this space inviting and livable. The ceiling was dropped slightly and covered with hand-scraped wood. Comfortable chairs, favorite collectibles and an assortment of family photos were also added.

“For as big as this home is, it still feels homey,” says Schlacht.

The family room flows seamlessly into a natural-stone patio, ideal for summertime entertaining. This outdoor area also features a pond with miniature waterfall, a pergola and a built-in grill area. It leads to a pavilion retreat – a detached room that can double as a man cave.

“That was intended to be a guys’ retreat. It’s a place for Sunday afternoon football games, to smoke a cigar with the guys and to have a glass of wine,” Helenske says.

The small, glassed-in structure is warmed by a fireplace and heated floors. It’s situated to offer privacy when the family is on the patio.

The outdoor spaces were planned as meticulously as the interior.

“It was purposeful in trying to frame the yard and doing it in such a way to provide an anchor to the mass of the house on the other side,” Helenske says.

That mass includes a large master suite on the east side of the house. Although not on the tour, the master suite includes a closet/dressing room, private bath, conservatory area, exercise room and his and her garages.

If you go

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525