They say you can never go home again—but Kara Habrock managed to make it happen. The Louisville, Nebraska, native was living in Omaha with her husband when they felt pulled back toward their small-town roots.
“We’re both from a small town and just couldn’t fight it,” Kara says. “I never envisioned I’d be back in my little hometown, but it’s worked out great.”
Monty Habrock, whom Kara met while attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is originally from Emerson, Nebraska.
The Habrocks first moved to an old home on five acres just outside of Louisville. They lovingly remodeled the house, but it still wasn’t quite the right fit for their family, so they considered moving again. Kara had the perfect alternative in mind; in fact, it was a house she’d had on her mind practically her whole life.
“This was definitely my idea,” Kara says, of the Habrocks’ current home, a 100-year-old, two-and-a-half-story, remodeled farmhouse poised on a hill at the edge of town. “I grew up two blocks away, and my bedroom window looked right at this house. There was an old barn with Dutch doors where the new barn is now, horses, and a paddock. I’d walk over as a little girl and pet the horses. This house was like an anchor on the end of town, just that big old white farmhouse, and I just loved it as a kid.”
In fact, when Kara was 12, her parents actually considered buying the same farmhouse, but instead opted to build their own new home.
“I was just devastated. My mom still laughs to this day and says, ‘You never got that out of your head, did you?’ It was definitely a longtime dream,” Kara says.
Initially, Monty was not onboard. But the family had a front-row seat to a consistently re-emerging “for sale” sign each Sunday as they drove past the house on their way to church. In the end, it was a simple twist of traffic that brought Monty around.
“I surprised her on a Sunday morning. I was going into town for coffee and nearly got hit by a truck pulling out on the highway from our old house. I thought, ‘My kids are driving soon, and that could happen to them.’ So, I came in and said, ‘Kara, let’s buy that house.’ It’s only six blocks from school, I thought, they can’t hurt themselves,” Monty says with a laugh.
“I was in the shower washing my hair when he said that. I’ll never forget it. I called the realtor that afternoon before he could change his mind,” Kara says.
Due to its age and the Habrocks’ ultimate vision, the property needed lots of work. They both work at Roloff Construction, originally owned by Kara’s father, Larry Roloff. These days, Kara is vice president and general manager; Monty is vice president and chief estimator. The majority of their work is underground, for example, sewer projects for MUD and establishing the underground infrastructure for the CenturyLink Center and TD Ameritrade Park. Although they don’t specialize in the type of construction needed to renovate their home, their experience nonetheless proved helpful.
“The line of work we’re in, it makes you see what’s possible,” Kara says. “We have an eye for looking at a piece of ground and visualizing the possibilities, where a lot of people can’t. We knew it was possible, but it would be a long project.”
The Habrocks enlisted Steve Cramer of Cramer Kreski Designs as architect, Tom Slobodnik with Slobodnik Construction Group as builder, and Mary Murphy of the Interior Design Group as decorator.
“We had a great team put it together,” Monty says. “They really understood how we live and are all meticulous.”
Kara adds the team had a great eye for the Habrocks’ love of “old-fashioned style with a modern twist.”
“I’ve always had to reconcile my love of old things with my love for sleek, modern things. The inspiration for the design and decor of the house was to make that all make sense together in an eclectic mix of old and contemporary,” Kara says.
Kara says it was crucial to preserve as much of the original, traditional foursquare farmhouse as possible, despite the need to basically gut it to update wiring, plumbing, heating, and air, while also executing an add-on.
“I can still tell where everything in the house was,” says Kara, pointing out features like original doors that have been repurposed within the home and a stretch of siding from the original home that has been relocated to an entryway.
The Habrocks replaced the dilapidated old barn with a new structure they have dubbed the “party barn,” where they have hosted family graduation and anniversary parties, school and church club meetings, and other affairs. The barn is a bright, airy space with a kitchen, bathroom, and large main area that can be easily converted for any occasion. The family, which includes daughters Claire, 19, and Sophie, 15, as well as Foster, a 14-year-old mini Aussie, and Kooper, a 2-year-old full-size Aussie, even lived in the barn for eight months in 2013 while the main house was being completed.
The Habrocks love entertaining family and friends—whether that is a couple dozen folks for Thanksgiving or a small, impromptu gathering for Game 7 of the World Series—and their warm, laughter-filled home is the perfect space for welcoming guests.
“We’re very casual and like to have people over. We did not want it to be formal. We wanted open spaces with great little nooks,” Kara says. “It’s a very lived-in house, and the biggest compliment we get is when people come in and say, ‘Oh, it’s just so cozy and comfortable’ because that’s definitely what we were going for. We love being home.”
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