Eric and Jen Willit swore they would build a new home. After surviving an extensive remodel of their last home that wrapped in 2013, they didn’t want to repeat the experience. So the plan for their next home was to avoid having to live again within the mess and noise of construction. “We could just be done.”
The couple chose a lot with the idea for construction to commence sometime in 2015. But they couldn’t get one spec home on a corner lot in the Tuscan Ridge neighborhood at 198th and Pacific streets off their minds.
“This was one of the first houses we looked at. We were pretty set on building, but we kept coming back to this house,” Jen says.
The plusses were numerous: six bedrooms and five baths with 3,000 square feet above grade and 4,000 total square feet, dark wood floors on the main level, stainless steel kitchen appliances in place, and a finished basement. It was plenty of room for the couple, their two boys, and any visitors. The high ceilings, arched doorways, and abundant windows that bathed the interior with natural light were also appealing. The in-demand neighborhood had been the site of the 2011 Street of Dreams and was located in the Elkhorn school district.
The Willits pressed forward with their intent to build, but couldn’t stop mulling over the idea of that lovely, move-in ready Tuscan Ridge house. It included some of the features the couple knew they would have to cut from their new-home wish list to meet budget, and many extras they hadn’t even thought of. They liked the colors, they liked the floor plan, they liked just about everything. And they realized the few things they didn’t love could be easily modified
Recognizing they could get everything they wanted—and more—by purchasing a finished house, the Willits ultimately decided not to purchase the lot, or build, and made that unforgettable home their own last August. The neighbors were warm and welcoming (“Like a small town”) and the Willits family immediately felt right at home.
“It was just meant to be,” Jen says.
After hiring Knight Construction’s Dana Knight to modify the kitchen island for improved functionality, replace the wrought iron stair railing with a warmer wooden railing, and install additional wainscoting, Willits now proclaims the home perfect for her family.
“It’s cozy. Comfortable,” she says, emphasizing that it’s a “family” home. “It’s where kids can be kids. You have to enjoy your own home.”
The house is even more perfect than the family expected, she says. Sons Evan, 12, and Ethan, 9, are far too young to drive, but the home’s enormous, 1,200-square-foot garage has been an unforeseen bonus for them: The boys not only have ample room to park their bikes and store their sports gear, there’s even enough floor space to bounce around a basketball in the wintertime. “I never thought we were looking at a garage when we bought this house,” Jen says.
She was also pleasantly surprised by another bonus feature; a sitting room off the master complete with fireplace that has become her “reading nook.”
“It was something I did not think I needed, but now I can’t live without it,” she says.
The professional couple (she’s a nurse anesthetist, he works as a risk reserve analyst at Hewlett-Packard) also like that a first-floor bedroom was easily convertible to a home office in which Eric can work from home on occasion but still feel connected. An upstairs bedroom serves as a “kids’ office” where the boys can do homework, play, or hang out with Harrison, the family’s new Labradoodle puppy.
After extensively landscaping their last home, Jen is eager for warmer weather and the opportunity to put some new ideas into place. In the meantime, she’s enjoying working on the interior. The home’s neutral palette with clean lines and white trim is ideal to showcase her “modern transitional with vintage mix” style that includes a fun, eclectic assortment of artworks and décor as likely to come from Junkstock (that outdoor flea market) as from a gallery.
“Some of the pictures on the wall are just things I love, that piece you find that just isn’t like anyone else’s,” she says. Some of the furniture is one-of-a-kind, too. Several pieces have been customized by her own hand, like the brand-new dining table she painted to create a vintage look, or a few refinished pieces that were already in the family.
“I tried to repurpose as much sentimental furniture as I could, like my grandmother’s bookcase I use as a shelf in my dining room,” she says. “And I have my sons’ changing table from when they were babies. I re-did that and we use it in the family room. I (also) re-did another table…I think maybe we had it growing up? I don’t really know where it came from, to be honest.”
Fortunately, the spacious home offers plenty of room for future finds and refinished treasures. “If I go out and find something, sometimes I don’t have a real place for it,” she explains. “I just want to incorporate it into my house.”