Kohout Residence by Knowles Blunck Architecture

Kohout Residence by Knowles Blunck Architecture

“In designing the Kohout Residence, architect Kirk Blunck faced a subdivision design code that read like the recipe for a classic McMansion…”
– Bruce D. Snider, residentialarchitect.com

Kohout Residence by Knowles Blunck Architecture

Cowboy (1887) via Wikipedia (public domain)

Cowboy (1887)

Sandwiched between the Missouri River from the west and south and the Big Sioux River from the east lies an unincorporated patch of sand and grass called “Dakota Dunes”, where the First Nations and cowboy alike may have drawn water.

The current feature draw of Dakota Dunes is a golf course and broad swaths of green space around which are strewn cookie-cutter homes – each with an identical shingled roof with siding and trim or brick drawn from a select-a-colour sample.  They’re nice but blah, because, although Desert Dunes is unincorporated, it’s not the wild west.  This is a housing development drawn with a heavy hand and a long list of restrictions and guidelines. Nirvana for some, anathema for others – and not a shiny bit of contemporary or modern style for miles and miles*.

That is until you get to the watery end of one looping trail (they’re virtually all trails in Dakota Dunes), where we find the product of New Century cowboys – an architect and client pair that bucked the trend and found ground for their different ideas in a sea of bland. Kohout Residence does toe the line as far as the exterior colour palette is concerned, through flat white-cedar siding and board-formed concrete walls forming stone-like patterns. Even the roof appears to be clad in community-common cedar shingles. These concessions and the location at the remote end** of a trail probably went some distance to pacify the expected protestations of the Dakota Dunes master planners. Which leaves Knowles Blunck Architecture free to explore with a butterfly roof, clerestory windows, walls of glass, that artfully formed concrete and not a hint of a hip-roof or ganged-gable-end in sight. Over 7,300 square feet and a four-car garage are cleverly concealed without pretending to be a McMansion or McAnything.

Foster Residence by Eichler

Foster Residence by Joseph Eichler

The exterior hints at California modern with echoes of Eichler bungalows – revealing little to the street -side and opening the interior wide to the private landscapes – yet it is firmly planted in the mid-west with prairie grasses, a tabletop lawn edged with concrete instead of paved with it, and frontage on a lazy bend in the great Missouri river. Well, maybe not so lazy.  This hook in the Missouri and its nearby confluence with the Big Sioux lends this location to seasonal flooding, with good illustrations in the satellite images from Google and Bing.  Depending on the season,  these images show the western face as riverfront (the river inlet left after flooding), high and dry summer prairie beachfront and full lakefront during high water times.  As well as the river getting a little too close at times, the golf course cart path seems to meander a little close to the eastern side of the property, potentially compromising privacy for the residents.  A nice touch is the water feature with waterfall, mirroring the river flowing oh-so-nearby.

As told through an interview with residentialarchitect.com, the thoughtful design and quality build have won over this conservative neighbourhood, garnering multiple purchase offers even before the client could move in.


* There is this quasi-geodesic dome about 2.5 miles away, but it shouldn’t be counted as contemporary. Or modern.
** Unfortunately the GSV car mistoook “No Outlet” signs for “No Inlet” / “Do Not Enter” and we miss out on Street View for the court-ended streets trails of Desert Dunes. 


Kohout Residence by Knowles Blunck Architecture Mapped by Architourist.ca

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Kohout Residence by Knowles Blunck Architecture 42.491569, -96.505285 Kohout Residence by Knowles Blunck Architecture


Bing Map Gallery


Google Map Gallery


Watery Neighbours Gallery

Some nearby neighbours didn’t fare quite so well during flooding, as illustrated in Google Street View images of a nearby collection of homes. This community is visibly decimated with multiple neighbouring homes destroyed by flooding. These images also show the lag between Street View and satellite images – in this case Street View is more current than the satellite images.

This series shows captures from Google Maps of the cartographer’s view, the satellite’s view and an overlay tracing the mapped Missouri banks versus high-water images. 


Property Location

Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, USA Dakota Dunes, South Dakota


Kohout Residence by Knowles Blunck Architecture

From the architect:

Situated on the edge of a contemporary suburban development, the client purchased a site flanked by views of a golf course and the Missouri River. A design that would interact gracefully with the landscape to unlock the potential of its views was requested by the client; subsequently, the design is a departure from the overwhelmingly popular idea in the area that a large footprint can (or is necessary to) capably capture vastness of one’s imagination. This project instead seeks to harbor quaint views and the amenities of modern living as a medium for an auspicious family life.

A palette of simple organic materials including: wood, slate, natural steel and glass were assembled to blend the vernacular language of the rural mid-western landscape with the building. The gentle interaction between the natural landscapes and the building began with the yard being framed with planted prairie grass and use of landscaping features that bled the boundaries of where the “landscape” ends and where the “building” begins. The drive-way /entry side of the house is clad in materials that are firm and offer a clear sense of privacy and street side protection to the relations going on inside. Contrastingly, the backyard side of the residence, clad in glass, is treated as an extension of the interior commons areas – a stage for exploration and performance.

Upon entering, a board-form concrete wall creates a central gallery (with forced views of the exterior and suitable surfaces for displaying art) that leads into the heart of the home – a kitchen/ hub area that overlooks the commons spaces (dining, living, and outdoor.) From this commons area the division of space becomes clear – the lively from the serene and the intimate from the distant. The board-form wall doubles as spatial point of reference and an instrument for dividing the private/ sleeping spaces for the adults from the children. For instance, the master suite retreats from the bustling living space to grant the patrons privacy and tranquil views of the river. Similarly, a steel staircase transitions from the public realm above to the children’s private play-space; while a sheet of opaque glass, that serves as the pantry floor, begs the young mind’s eye from this space to the events going on above. The design cohesively accepts and playfully stages the daily demands of the clients – in play, in rest, and in living as an interconnected family unit.


Project: Kohout Residence, Dakota Dunes, S.D. Architect: Knowles Blunck Architecture, Des Moines, Iowa Interior designer: Mary Dale Johnson, Sioux City, Iowa General Contractor: Connelly Tiehen & Sons, Dakota Dunes Photography by Cameron Campbell, AIA, Integrated Studio Project size: 7,320 square feet Lot size: 1 acre