August 3, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It was the west of times, it was the east of times, it was the age of reclaimed beams, it was the age of refined beams, it was the epoch of open spaces, it was the epoch of distinct spaces, it was the season of floor-to-ceiling windows, it was the season of double-hung windows, it was the spring of wrought iron railings, it was the winter of wood railings.

It was a tale of West Coast style versus East Coast style. And this special story takes place not in Napa Valley or the Hamptons, but right here in Omaha.

Laura Atkinson and Amy Baltzell met around 2004, when their kids were part of the same playgroup. At the time, the two women had a lot in common. Their kids were close in age, Laura attended high school with Amy’s husband, Beau, and both families held an interest in NASCAR. Then they grew apart.

The Atkinsons' West-Coast-style home

The Atkinsons’ West-Coast-style home

Amy’s family moved to a home in the Skyline area and Laura’s family moved to northern California for her husband Steve’s job. While the Atkinsons loved the Bay area—the laid-back feel, being surrounded by the redwood landscape, living in wine country—they missed their family in Omaha. In 2014, they decided to move back.

The Baltzell family, meanwhile, built a new home near West Shores Lake in Waterloo. After looking around, the Atkinsons found a home built in the mid-1990s on an acreage close to 184th and F streets.

Laura and Amy still have a lot in common. They both spend a lot of time with their kids, they both live out west, and their paths cross from time to time. But, now that both women are living in their forever homes, one aspect of their lives is like night and day: their
decorating styles.

Laura’s home is decorated in West Coast style, an approach dedicated to open spaces, minimalist themes, and repurposed materials. Amy’s home is decorated in East Coast style, a genre known for more defined spaces, classic lines, and detailed woodwork.

“West Coast style is simpler, whereas East Coast style tends to use more antiques and a lot more accessorizing,” says Susan T. McMannama, a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers who has practiced nationally for more than 30 years.

Their styles have just as much to do with their tastes as they do with their lifestyles.

A look inside Laura’s West Coast-style house provides a glimpse of what she loved about living in the Bay area.

The Atkinsons' living room

The Atkinsons’ living room

“We spent a lot of time up in the wineries in Napa and Sonoma,” Laura says. “We would go to the vineyards and see the kitchens where chefs would come in to prepare meals. Our home is kind of based off of that. Everyone is welcome—it’s a ‘no worry’ type of vibe.”

The spaces in Laura’s home are open, and all flow together. The windows are large, with narrower trim, providing a generous view of the outdoors. The ceiling in her hearth room is accented by wood beams created from reclaimed wood. And her kitchen is open, reminiscent of the kitchens she experienced in California, with handmade subway tiles and pendant fixtures that hang over her island.

Laura’s husband often travels while she stays home with their three daughters. So, “the whole idea was: when we can get together as a family on Friday, we’re going to cook together, sit down, have a glass of wine, and unwind,” Laura says. “The house is out on an acreage, surrounded by nature, so we wanted to create a very Zen lifestyle.” 

The Baltzells' East-Coast-style home

The Baltzells’ East-Coast-style home

Out on West Shores Lake, Amy’s East-Coast-style home also has a relaxing vibe, but it’s more nautical, in a way that you might see in the Hamptons rather than Napa Valley.

“I’ve always liked things that look timeless and classic,” Amy says. “Ten years from now, I want to be able to look at it and feel like it’s still in style.”

When Amy and her husband, Beau, were designing the house, they would often look at real estate in the Hamptons on the Sotheby’s website to find ideas.

Amy’s home is also relatively open; however, her spaces are more defined, more distinct. She incorporates antiques, memorabilia, old photos, and bits of Americana on a beadboard wall.

The Baltzells' living room

The Baltzells’ living room

The centerpiece of her powder room is a mirror created from an old horse collar. Old lanterns frame a console table and hang from the ceiling in the hallway. And her rooms are accented by double-hung windows, deep crown molding, and oversized columns. The exterior even adds to the East Coast, Hamptons-esque feel, with peaks, square windows, and heavier trim.

While both homes have a completely different feel, they do incorporate some elements that are universal to both styles, such as a farmhouse sink, stone fireplaces, and metal light fixtures, McMannama says.

These homes will continue to change over time. Laura is putting together ideas for renovating the upstairs bedrooms. Amy is considering ways to reorganize the garage. Regardless of what they change or update, they are both committed to staying in the style they’ve established for their home.

Because, as Amy says: “Everything is decorated exactly as I like it.” OmahaHome

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