March 3, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

First-time visitors to the home of Cory and Teri Wehrbein often let out an audible “wow” or “whoa” when looking up, around, and through the property. Located on an acre of land off Bay Road in rural north Plattsmouth, an area still confusing to MapQuest and GPS, the home elicits spontaneous utterances of amazement for its creative, distinctive qualities.

The white exterior of the U-shaped home catches the eye immediately, contrasting with earth-toned neighboring homes spaced generously along the street. A row of oblong windows rises above the roofline, giving the illusion of a two-story home, when, in fact, it’s a one-story design. The windows, architecturally known as clerestory (pronounced clear story), catch the sun’s morning rays from the east and fill the white and gray interior with plenty of light and warmth during the cold Nebraska winters.

Columns of untreated cedar hold up the front porch’s metal overhang, while several cedar planks lie horizontally across the front window. More than an act of whimsy, the modern, external window treatment pays homage to Cory’s roots.

“I grew up on a dairy farm between Plattsmouth and Louisville,” says Cory, who, along with his brother, owns a landscaping and design company. “Teri’s and my goal outside was to have a modern-looking farmhouse and the clerestory mimics a barn.” Looking around, Cory adds, “There’s a story to everything we designed.”

 

The Wehrbeins’ story goes back to fifth grade, when they met. They married 15 years ago and have two children Mila, 9 and Micah, 7. Their ideas mesh perfectly and the house they designed, with the help of architect Jeremy Carlson of Omaha, reflects their personality: warm, welcoming, and lots of fun.

Walking through the front door, the eye catches a family restaurant-style dining booth of light hickory wood across the large room, just off the kitchen. “One of our children’s cousins says, ‘This is like eating at Applebee’s’,” laughs Teri. The space is just as social as a neighborhood bar and grill. The kitchen, dining room, and living room encompass one area.

True to the Wehrbeins’ vision, the open-floor design with clean lines and vaulted ceilings, coupled with a modern, yet simple, décor, makes interacting with guests a breeze. Windows on three walls add extra airiness and openness to a surprisingly boundary-free interior. Heck, even the dishes, cups, and glasses sit in full view on open shelves above the sink, an idea Teri grasped long before it became a more commonly accepted convenience.

The dining booth’s cool factor is surpassed only by the fireplace, which fills the entire north wall. Built from hundreds of interlocking pieces of hickory wood treated with four different colors of stain, the fireplace resembles a giant Tetris video game. There’s a story here, too.

“We knew we didn’t want stone, so Doug Kiser [of d KISER design.construct] came up with the wood idea,” explains Teri. “He had all the pieces cut, had them all numbered, and just pieced it all together.” The fireplace won a top national award among entries from 1,600 woodworkers, and the home was featured in the 2011 American Institute of Architects’ Home Tour.

A stairway next to the fireplace, the only steps in or around this “zero entry” home, leads to an unfinished basement, which the couple plans to renovate soon.

Oh, the possibilities…

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