June 23, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

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Originally published in July/August 2015 Omaha Home.

It’s bad form to upstage the guest of honor at any social gathering, but Natallia Intrieri had more than a little competition at her recent high school graduation party.

That’s because the Elkhorn South High School graduate, soon headed for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was up against the oohs and aahs that accompanied a christening of the stunning outdoor living space at the home she shares with parents Mike and DeAnn Intrieri on the banks of West Shores Lake.

“We’ve always wanted a pool,” Mike says, “but when we moved out here we thought that the lake would act as the water we were seeking.”

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“But it’s just not the same,” DeAnn adds. “Our back yard was this huge blank slate that we just stared at for the longest time wondering what to do with. We considered building a pretty extensive deck out here, but that idea seemed the opposite of what we had in mind. A deck, we felt, would somehow separate us from the lake, not connect us to it.”

The result, especially on a clear day when the light is just so, finds the pool, lake, and sky welded seamlessly together in a blue, bluer, bluest canvas for the home occupying a jutting point that affords dramatic vistas with 180-degree views.

“It’s funny how so many outdoor projects begin indoors,” says Burton Kilgore of Nature’s Intent, who tag-teamed with KC Barth of Artisan Pools in executing the effort. “The inspiration came from the home’s Tuscan/Mediterranean theme and decor. We took those same motifs outdoors and incorporated them into the design. Then we added layers of depth and visual interest in landscaping and other elements to form a cohesive space that works with the land instead of fighting against it.”

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In order to conform to the landscape, the various surfaces are situated on different planes. Even though the elevations rise in increments of only a few inches at a time in a gentle progression, the overall effect delivers subtle, eye-tricking “wow” not found in flat, single-surface configurations.

“That’s the nature of custom work,” adds Barth. “Creating different topographical focal points is key in a project like this. Hillsides and sloping areas were once considered spaces waiting be leveled. We look at them as design opportunities that give us a way to create drama.”  providing contrast to a carefully curated color palate are chocolate-hued border pavers. Add to that mocha-tinged mulch and contemporary tiki torches rendered in black steel instead of the customarily blonde bamboo, and the scene is balanced by just the right amount of contrast in these and other elements that serve to define the space without hemming it in.

The Tuscan-inspired home and its warm, mustardy hues is a wholly intentional nod to Mike’s heritage as the son of an Italian-born father who once toiled in the sweltering cauldrons of Pittsburgh steel mills.

Harmony is the keyword in this outdoor living space. After all, how could this most serene of settings engender anything but a calming, loll-around-all-day vibe? The only hint of strife the day of Omaha Magazine’s visit was a minor disagreement on whose brainstorm it was to install the gracefully arcing pergola that anchors one end of the grounds.

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Mike claims that it was an idea he stumbled upon during a visit to an upscale hotel during one of his many business travels. DeAnn insists otherwise. Natallia, with a roll of the eyes reserved by young people exclusively for their parents, took the opportunity to move the interview to the mechanical panel that manipulates the many inset lighting nodes and gurgling water features that are best experienced long into a summer’s eve over s’mores prepared above the glowing embers of the fire pit.

Not to be outdone, Mike took the helm in manipulating an array of switches to demonstrate various functionalities, but, still relatively new at this high-tech game, his attempt to activate something over there more often than not brought to life something over here.

Insert second playful, “Oh-Dad-style” eye roll here, this time joined by a cheerful wink from DeAnn.

“Well, you get the idea,” Mike beams with a shrug in jocular resignation.

Natallia had been mildly concerned about gate crashers at her graduation party, but only those of the amphibian kind. Unwelcome guests so far have been limited to curious (and who can blame ‘em?) frogs coming up from the lake for a midnight splash in the pool.

“This place is having us rethinking the whole idea of taking vacations,” says DeAnn as Mike and Natallia nod in agreement.

“Why bother going away,” Natallia adds, “when we have the nicest resort imaginable right in our own back yard?”

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