The Kleiboers spend much of their family time in their newly remodeled kitchen, which includes custom cabinetry. From left are Dawson, Katelyn holding Honey, Heather and Mike.
BROCK BERGEY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP The Kleiboers spend much of their family time in their newly remodeled kitchen, which includes custom cabinetry. From left are Dawson, Katelyn holding Honey, Heather and Mike.
As the saying goes: “Home is where the heart is.”

Ask Mike and Heather Kleiboer and they will tell you their newly remodeled home has plenty of heart.

Located just south of the Minnesota state line, off of Highway 52 about a mile from Prosper, the Kleiboers reside on a small farm that Mike knows especially well.

“My grandparents lived here,” he explained. “I have many fond memories of coming here as a kid.”

Mike’s maternal grandparents, Harlan and Norma Hovey, purchased the nearly 80-acre farmstead 50 years ago. They raised six girls in the two-story home that was built in the early 1900s.

“To the old timers in the area the farmstead is known as the ‘Johnny Rollins Place,’” joked Louise Kleiboer, who is Mike’s mother. “Mom and Dad transformed one of the upstairs rooms into a bathroom with a large storage closet and the other three rooms were used as bedrooms for us girls.”

Of course those girls grew up, got married and moved away; however, Norma and Harlan would remain on the Winneshiek County property until their deaths in 2002 and 2011, respectively.

“I always felt the house was too good to destroy,” Louise added. “That and the memories of a happy home filled with love were the basis for the decision to remodel.”

Louise bought the farmstead from her parent’s estate with a clear vision – to keep the house in the family for future generations to enjoy. She said her original concept was to do a small-scale renovation and create a vacation home.

The scope of the project grew when Mike and Heather – along with their children, Katelyn, 13, and Dawson, 12 – decided it was time for a change of scenery.

The Kleiboers put their Mabel home up for sale and set their sights on country living. The family of four knew there was a house waiting for them, and they also knew the house was in need of some much needed TLC.

“There is a lot of history in this home,” Heather stated. “We didn’t want to see that just buried in a hole and plant a new home on top.”

A contractor was hired to oversee the project; however, the Kleiboers and their extended family provided a lot of the elbow grease.

According to Heather, the dirty work of basically gutting the entire first floor began in July 2015.

“Louise did a ton of the demo,” Heather noted with a smile. “She’s small but mighty!”

The walls were stripped of the old plaster and lathe in order to be properly insulated, explained Louise.

New electrical and plumbing were added throughout the original house to meet current residential building standards. In addition, the basement and second-story staircases were removed and replaced with wider sets of steps, both of which are also up to code.

“We tried to keep as much of the original structure or key pieces of the original home in the renovations,” Heather explained, which included pocket doors, windows, woodwork and hardwood flooring.

During the exterior demolition process, the Kleiboers encountered an unexpected but welcomed discovery. Two semi-circle windows in the attic had been covered by the previous siding. They chose to showcase the decorative designs as part of the house’s new look.

Renovation was one part of Mike and Heather’s two-phased home improvement project. They also enlarged the footprint of their new living space with two additions.

The west side of the existing house was expanded to accommodate the master bedroom with a walk-in closet, full bathroom and laundry room.

“We added a full basement under the master bedroom,” Heather said. “It serves as storage space.”

The second addition is to the south of the original structure. It includes the main entryway, mudroom, basement stairwell, half-bathroom and two-car garage.

“I really like having the attached garage,” Mike added. “That’s something we didn’t have before.”

Something else the family didn’t have previously was immediate access to the great outdoors.

“My favorite part is just being outside,” Dawson said. He is a sixth grader at Mabel-Canton. “I like nature.”

His eighth grade sister, Katelyn, agreed. “I love having our two horses here.”

Heather, who grew up on a farm, explained that before their move they were boarding the horses – and had been for about 15-years.

“It’s nice to be able to have them just out the door so we can enjoy them,” she commented.

As for Heather’s top spots inside the house, “I love my kitchen with the raised bar,” she explained. “I can make supper and the kids can sit and talk or do homework together.”

“I also love my east windows in the kitchen and living room,” she continued. “They’re nice, wide and bright. I like to have plants in the windows to bring some of the outdoors in.”

The revised floor plan of the salvaged Hovey house includes an open concept kitchen and dining room, with a large opening into the living room. The kids’ bedrooms, a full-bathroom and a game room are located on the second floor.

The Kleiboers’ new home was move-in ready the week of Christmas 2015; however, Heather laughed that she doesn’t know if it will ever be fully complete. “But I look forward to finishing some of the projects we have started.”

Heather outlined that includes refinishing additional woodwork and interior doors this summer. There’s more cleanup to be done outside too, she said, adding they also plan on starting a garden this spring.

Late last summer and into the fall, Mike’s brother, Ernie, constructed a new deck. Both Mike and Heather expressed that they are eager to enjoy their first full summer on the deck, which is easily accessible from the kitchen.

As for lessons learned, Heather quickly said, “Plan ahead and save your money.”

“I would also research your contractors and make sure you choose one that has a great reputation,” she followed up. “We were fortunate to work with some great guys. I think that was huge as far as being happy with the end project.”

Mike said the house is much different than it was when he was a kid. When asked if his grandparents would approve of the new look, Mike responded, “I think they would just be happy that we’re here.”

Mike and Heather said the project never would have gotten off the ground had it not been for Mike’s parents, Don and Louise.

“It was a joy to be a part of the process and to see what we accomplished from day to day,” Louise added. “I especially like that we were able to create a safe, homey house for the next generation to call home.”

At a time when many old farmhouses are disappearing, the Kleiboers are proud to say they were able to preserve an important piece of their family’s history, and – at the same time – make the ‘Johnny Rollins Place’ truly their own.

“I don’t claim to have a fancy big house,” Heather concluded. “I don’t need all that, but I really like that we have a comfortable home that we really enjoy.”