August 20, 2012 by
Photography by minorwhitestudios

Charlie and Sherri Magnett were driving through Omaha’s Little Italy neighborhood when they spotted the vintage Dunsany Flats building near 10th and Pierce streets. It was built in 1901 to house railroad workers. They found their dream condo inside. The deck first caught their eye.

“The deck sold us on this condo,” says Sherri. A glass wall leads to a spacious deck with a ceiling fan, couch, and chairs. Their deck overlooks a “green” roof where living plants flourish. The colorful roof provides insulation for the garage below, keeping it warm in winter and cool in summer, as well as a pleasant view for condo owners.

Sherri Magnett admires her view of Little Italy.

Sherri Magnett admires her view of Little Italy.

Charlie and Sherri were so struck by what they saw, the Millard-area homeowners sold their place two years ago, then bought two Dunsany condos and melded them into an airy 1,900-square-foot home. A brick wall was removed and replaced with sliding oak doors that were the original unit’s front doors. Windows flood the rooms with natural light.

The original exposed brick walls and woodwork that were new the day the building opened more than a century ago were retained and restored during renovation. Ornamental iron flower boxes sit just outside the windows of the condos.

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The media room is wired for sound. Electronics are hidden in a closet to give the room an uncluttered look. Posters from movies popular with family members—which include daughter Page, 19, and son Chase, 22—hang from the walls. Each chose a favorite movie to feature: The Wizard of Oz (Charlie); Silence of the Lambs and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Sherri); Reservoir Dogs and Forrest Gump (Page); and Boondock Saints and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Chase).

Movies made in Nebraska are saluted in posters that line a hallway leading to the bedrooms of Page and Chase: Sideways, Election, Up in the Air, and About Schmidt. Reverend, a fluffy white puppy who lives with the Magnetts, appears not to have a favorite movie. We would have guessed 101 Dalmatians.

Son Chase spends a good chunk of time in the media room.

Son Chase spends a good chunk of time in the media room.

The couple invested in a system that uses a strip running along the upper wall with wires that hang down to hold the posters, making the hanging job easier. Also on the front hall walls are framed maps that Charlie collects. Shelving in the hallway was custom-made for them from 100-year-old salvaged wood.

They’ve had as many as 50 guests in their double condo. But it’s unlikely the neighbors were annoyed by noise. Acoustical flooring, 12-inch-thick masonry walls, and a sound-proofing system assure privacy and quiet. “You barely hear your own footsteps,” says Charlie.

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The custom-designed, European-style kitchen was Sherri’s project. Cabinet doors open accordion-style above the Corian counters. “The one thing Charlie wanted in the kitchen was an integrated kitchen sink (sink and countertop are formed together),” she says.

“We bought the appliances on eBay,” adds Sherri, who relishes a bargain.

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Bedroom closets feature backlit, glass doors. Lighting makes it easier to find clothing and shines through the glass for a soft light in the bedroom. An attic was added by the Magnetts to supplement the storage space already available. A metal ladder folds down to allow access to the attic, which doubles as a bedroom when Chase’s friends visit.

Before settling into the Little Italy neighborhood, Sherri checked City of Omaha plans and learned the area is targeted for revitalization. The Blue Barn Theatre’s new building is scheduled to go up by 2014 across the street from their condo.

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There’s a lot going on in walking distance. They can stroll to the Old Market, Durham Museum, and TD Ameritrade Park, where Charlie caught the College World Series. They can watch July 4th fireworks from Downtown Omaha and hear music from Stir Cove across the Missouri River.

Charlie now has only a seven-minute walk to Union Pacific headquarters where he is an engineer. Sherri’s commute to Peter Kiewit, where she is an IT worker, also is shorter than from Millard.

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They wanted to be closer to their jobs and closer to the center of action. “There’s so much to do. It’s a different lifestyle,” says Charlie. “We’ve been talking for five years about doing this.”

They found new friends and a lively neighborhood in Little Italy. The couple ride bikes and attend ball games with neighbors. Sherri and a friend won this year’s tournament on the neighborhood bocce court, even though she had never played.

“We know everybody by name,” says Sherri.

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