Tag Archives: fireplace

Living Large in the Backyard

July 31, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If there were but one thing to consider before building your very own epic backyard party central, equipped with all the essential grilling and barbecue fixtures, it is this: Your guests don’t have to live with whatever outdoor Franken-kitchen you cobble together from your inner Cro-Magnon desire for fired meats.

No, they rub their bellies, hopefully thank their gracious hosts, and go home. It’s you who must live with what remains.

The better approach, it appears, is the path Stephen and Joy Abels took on their West Omaha home.

From left: Stephen, Joy, and Chelsea Abels

“Be patient,” Joy says. “The best design is probably not going to be your first or second design.”

The Abels thought long and hard about what they wanted their backyard to be. They hosted regular gatherings, a tradition they knew would continue. They like pizza about as much as anyone else, but not so much that an outdoor pizza oven made a lot of sense.

And they knew they enjoyed hosting friends and family, but that didn’t mean they wanted to be a caterer—just grill some fine meats, maybe smoke the occasional brisket or prime rib roast. That would be sufficient.

From a practical design perspective, they most desired a space to spend comfortably warm afternoons and evenings with their guests.

But the Abels also knew their kitchen table overlooked the backyard from large facing windows. They didn’t want an expansive gray slab of concrete (with a few deck chairs anchored together by some sort of monstrous outdoor fire pit) to mar their daily view.

So they saved. They scratched out ideas on napkins and random scraps of paper. And they spent countless hours stalking the internet for other inspirations on websites like houzz.com.

They began planning three years ago, when Stephen went for an evening stroll through the neighborhood.

A few doors down, he noticed a neighbor’s impressive backyard fireplace. Stephen had no idea who the neighbor was, but in that moment, he turned up the driveway and knocked on the door.

“I introduced myself, said, ‘Love your fireplace, tell me about it.’ He said, ‘Come on in.’ And he gave me Hugh’s name,” Stephen says, referring to Hugh Morton, co-owner of Sun Valley Landscaping, the company that would eventually redevelop the Abels’ backyard.

The Abels wanted to create a space that felt “like Nebraska.” Morton was happy to listen and accommodate their wishes. The finished product fits perfectly in place.

Morton’s design includes native trees and bushes in the landscaping, brickwork resembling quarried limestone from Ashland, and even the calming white noise of a stepped water feature. Everything seems a natural fit.

Perhaps the neater trick is the elegant flow into the style of the house. Although built years apart, the outside living area transitions seamlessly with the style of the indoors.

“The challenge for Hugh was I wanted it to feel comfortable for four people or 40,” Stephen says. “And I think he did a good job.”

There’s plenty room for the epic backyard barbecue, if the mood strikes; or a tranquil afternoon of quiet study for the family’s four home-schooled children; or just another one of their weekly church group nights of about two dozen people.

It’s exactly what they need it to be, when they need it. As it should be.

They put in the time, making sure the space was just right.

“And whatever you think it’s going to cost,” Stephen says, “round up.”

Visit sunvalleyomaha.com for more information about the company responsible for the Abels’ backyard space.

From left: Christian, Cameron, Stephen, Chelsea, and Joy Abels

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of Omaha Home.

Sentimental Journey

May 3, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Michael Heaton had a royal curiosity, which he ultimately satisfied by buying a palace.

Eleven years ago, Heaton and partner Barry Burt happily occupied an adorable English Tudor home in Florence, which they had lovingly remodeled. That’s when the Chiodo Palace came calling.

“I never thought we’d leave [the Florence house], but my friend Christy, who’d just started with NP Dodge, said ‘Michael, you’ve got to come look at this amazing house with me,’” Heaton says. “So, we came to look four times and would just sit on the floor fantasizing about living here…then we just went for it. I’ve never regretted it. It’s been an adventure.”

The Chiodo Palace, near 25th and Leavenworth, was built in 1922 by Vincenzo Pietro Chiodo. Burt and Heaton, together nearly 20 years, have worked diligently to preserve the legacy of one of one of Omaha’s more unique, storied homes since purchasing it in 2006.

Chiodo immigrated from Southern Italy to the United States in 1885 at age 16. He studied in Chicago before settling in Omaha, where he operated a tailor shop, then found his fortune in real estate.

“He owned 50 homes in the area,” Heaton says. “This was one of many he built, and his primary residence.”

According to the Nebraska State Historical Society, Chiodo wasn’t so much an architect or builder himself, but he had ample vision and funds to support the proliferation of his real estate empire.

“He was billed the first Italian millionaire in Omaha and was also very politically active,” Heaton says.

In fact, Chiodo was an Elk and a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus. His titles included Italian Vice Consul of Omaha, State Supreme Deputy of the Sons of Italy, Knight of the House of Savoy, and Cavalier of the Order of St. Gregory.

Heaton lights up when sharing stories of days gone by in his abode, many of which were relayed by longtime neighbor Angelo Bonacci, now deceased, who worked at the Chiodo Palace as a young man when it functioned as the consulate.

“Chiodo was very popular, and described as an elegant man,” Heaton says. “He could be seen walking the neighborhood and his domain wearing a long, white fur coat. When the Santa Lucia Festival parade made its way through the neighborhood, they always stopped in front of the Chiodo Palace and saluted Vincenzo, who’d be sitting up on his veranda. You can just picture him up there with the crowds passing by.”

“‘Chiodo Palace’ is what Angelo said they called it,” says Heaton, who believes the moniker comes from “palazzo”—Italian for a large, palatial building.

Chiodo passed away in 1949 at age 80, but his grand domicile lived on to weather years of general dirt and disrepair, water damage, and updates like ill-placed drop ceilings and gaudy, yellow wallpaper that spoiled or obscured the home’s unique character and verve.

Heaton and Burt, who are members of Restoration Exchange Omaha, purchased the house to preserve its history.

“We knew it had been an important house in the past and, seeing the sad condition, we thought we could have some fun, restore its appeal, and get the history back as much as possible,” Heaton says.

For Heaton, who owns and operates Legacy Art & Frame in Dundee, preserving historical homes and objects is a longtime interest.

“The house is a mix of styles,” he says. “The outside is very Craftsman. There’s some Italianate detail with the dentil molding around the tops of the eaves. The stained-glass windows are a mix: Some [feature] traditional designs, but in the dining room there’s a very Frank Lloyd Wright Mission-style design. So, there are unexpected elements here and there.”

The interior swims with stunning, rich mahogany woodwork, accented by a striking fireplace constructed of rough-hewn, imported Burmese stone. Colorful, original tile surrounds the floor of the fireplace, featuring a horseshoe that’s open into the room and closed toward the hearth.

“That was to deter unwanted spirits from entering the home through the fireplace,” Heaton says.

In the sunroom above another fireplace, a large painting in memoriam to Chiodo’s wife and daughter, both named Caroline, remains molded right onto the wall.

Ornate, hand-painted, original murals on linen grace the tops of walls throughout the main floor.

“Each of these murals depicts different aspects of Italian culture and Roman life,” Heaton says of the incredible illustrations of accolades, life phases, arts, animals, and plants.

“I love these dragons,” Heaton says, zeroing in on a mural. “They’re griffins, protectors of the empire, and their protection allows wealth and prosperity to extend from them, so they turn into these leaves. I’m just so glad no one ever ruined them.”

Part of one dining room mural suffered water damage prior to his ownership, so Heaton completely—and 100 percent convincingly—reconstructed it.

“I rebuilt the wall, put linen on the top, created a stencil off another wall, transferred it, and then, over about four weeks, hand-painted it,” he says.

With the scope of work Heaton puts into his home and a handful of rental properties, you’d think he had extensive training, but no. He says just the occasional HGTV show or YouTube video help him complete home projects.

“My grandfather was a real hands-on kind of guy, so I learned lots about working with wood, building, and fixing from watching him,” Heaton says. “He could do it all, so I just kind of hung out with him a lot.”

Like Heaton and Burt, Chiodo himself preserved Omaha history.

“Chiodo was a preservationist way ahead of his time,” Heaton says. “He got the salvage rights to the original county jail and courthouse, and used all of the marble, stones, cobblestones, and other materials he harvested from that in several of his other properties.”

We’ll never know whether Chiodo was a sentimental preservationist, simply a cunning businessman, or perhaps both. As for Heaton, that case is closed.

“I’m painfully sentimental,” he says. “That’s my inspiration.”

Visit Legacy Art & Frame on Facebook for more information about the homeowners’ business.

This article appears in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Mike and Lynne Purdy’s Electrochromic Dream Home

February 20, 2017 by
Photography by Colin Conces

It’s immediately clear that Lynne and Mike Purdy’s beautiful northwest Omaha home is something special. However, the longer you stay, the more you zero in on the many small-yet-mighty details that make it so.

“It’s those little details that make it just right,” Lynne says. “There’s a reason for everything we did design-wise, and there isn’t one thing we’d change.”

That includes everything from smart windows and touch faucets to 18-foot ceilings, a shades-of-grey palette, pocket doors, waterfall counters, hidden kitchen outlets, a programmable doorbell, a fireplace in the wall that serves two rooms, and bathroom drawers customized to the sizes of Lynne’s hair products, among other distinct aesthetic and utilitarian touches.

The Purdys, who met on a fortuitous blind date in 1977, are self-described “empty nesters” and transitioned to their home in Deer Creek Highlands in March 2016, after breaking ground one year prior. Mike, an architect and president of Purdy & Slack Architects, designed the home based upon he and Lynne’s extensive, collaborative exploration of what they wanted in their next home.

First, the couple knew they wanted to live on a golf course, so when they found a Deer Creek Highlands lot they were smitten with, they persevered in attaining it. The community is home to the third nine of the Arnold Palmer-designed Players Club at Deer Creek golf course.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better neighborhood or better neighbors,” says Lynne.

Mike’s design was informed by the logistics of the site.

“Lynne wanted an open plan with our master suite adjacent, so we had the floor plan in mind,” he says. “I wanted to keep the views of the golf course, plus the sun in the wintertime comes up on the axis of the large window and the great room.”

Mike refined his design until it was everything the Purdys wanted and he received approval from the neighborhood’s architectural review committee.

“The challenge was creating something unique and contemporary, but not so radical it wouldn’t blend with the neighborhood, and also something that facilitated the way we want to live,” Mike says.

Mike also designed the Purdys’ previous home, where they raised sons Bryan and Keith and lived for 28 years, but the couple says it was a family house, not an empty-nester house.

“It was a beautiful home, but our family grew, then left. Our current home is an adult house, but still with room for the kids to come visit,” Lynne says.

Indeed, the downstairs bedrooms, family room, and walk-out patio are designed to welcome Bryan, Keith, and their own expanding families, including Keith’s 4-year-old identical twin daughters, whom Lynne says “love coming to Gaga and Papa’s house.”

Mike embraced his creative side while designing the home.

“With architecture, you try to get a reaction from people,” he says. “It’s like a piece of art—meant to draw out emotion and create conversation. That’s what I tried to do with the house.”

“One of the design elements I wanted to do was to hide the front door so there’s a little bit of mystery as you approach the house the first time,” Mike says of the slightly obscured front door that bucks street-facing tradition. “It creates a different experience, and then you make the turn into this big space, so it’s kind of a surprise.”

The first thing visitors will notice upon entering—after the Purdys’ adorably petite white pup Holly—is the 16-foot-wide, 18-foot-high, attention-commanding window that overlooks the golf course from the rear of the house. What you wouldn’t immediately notice or know is that the window panes are SageGlass, an electrochromic glass that can be set to various levels of tint via an app. The window can be dimmed by row or pane, or even programmed to react to the level of sun or clouds.

“It’s a commercial-grade glass we’re putting in some of our office buildings. They don’t require blinds and save energy from heat gain,” Mike says. “In wintertime we keep ours mostly clear to maximize the heat gain. In summertime we keep it pretty dim so it doesn’t heat up the home as much.”

Mike estimates that within 20 years most new windows in homes will be this type of dynamic glass.

“It’s newer technology, but I expect it’ll become standard and you’ll find it in the houses of the future,” he says.

Whether through the giant window or from the glass-railed cantilever deck outside, the Purdy home’s crown jewel is the incredible, ever-changing view that’s shown Lynne and Mike sublime sunrises; pop-up “lakes” born of hard rains and golf course curves; wildlife like ducks, hawks, and frogs; and confused golfers seeking errant balls.

“We’ve enjoyed every season here,” says Lynne. “In the morning I have my coffee and look out the windows … it’s just beautiful all the time, whether it’s a layer of snow or a sunny summer day. And relaxing on the deck after a stressful day is the best. In the summer we’re out there every night.”

Speaking of nighttime, Lynne says the home is prettiest after sunset when the flameless candles and decorative lit-glass spheres she’s placed throughout the house turn on. Just like everything else, that’s by design.

“You come home at night, and you want a relaxing space space. The soft light gives you that,” she says. “That’s also typically when you entertain, and I want everyone to feel relaxed and at home when they visit.”

Visit purdyandslack.com for more information about the homeowner’s architectural firm.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Colonial Expansion in Loveland

October 1, 2016 by
Photography by Dana Damewood

On the edge of the Loveland neighborhood stood a modest colonial house. When it was built in 1940, the home had a mere 1,320 square feet. When the Ahlers family bought the home in 2009, they made big plans to overhaul the colonial beauty.

transformations7The Ahlers underwent a 2,600-square-foot addition to make space for their growing family. They enlisted my help with the renovations.

In the Ahlers’ home, it was important to keep the charm of the original colonial style while subtly incorporating modern amenities. I began the four-year renovation process with one goal in mind: “Make the spaces usable, livable, comfortable, and beautiful to the unique needs of the family using this home.” Striving to keep the home’s original design in line with the new addition resulted in some uniquely shaped spaces that were unlike modern counterparts of contemporary construction. My expertise in space planning and construction would bring sense and structure to furnishing otherwise awkward spaces. As a result, I custom-designed many of the furniture pieces exclusively for these rooms.

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One of these challenging spaces was affectionately nicknamed the “big empty room.” In the beginning, there was literally nothing in the space other than two dog beds and a child’s trike with plenty of room to ride. Our goal for the space was to create an area where the family could read books together, watch a movie, work from home, or gather with friends and family. I got to work designing the multi-functional space—beginning with wall-to-wall bookshelves nodding to the colonial feel of a traditional home library. The bookshelves were painted dark gray to keep the look updated. Natural grass cloth wallpaper softens the walls, bringing texture and warmth, while bold patterns mix with a contemporary color palette of navy and tangerine to keep the room fresh and modern. The custom draperies diffuse the bright afternoon light, and the wool carpet tiles (perfect for pets) bring cohesiveness to the room. The various furniture groupings allow for many different activities to take place in this versatile space, and now their young son enjoys reading in the room and saves the trike riding for outdoors.

transformations8In the master bedroom, the look is traditional with a fresh color palette. Neutral linen fabrics with a soft damask pattern adorn the bed, while custom draperies in a bright grass-green color, along with black-and-white accents, liven the neutral color palette. I created a small seating area for watching morning cartoons and designed a custom kennel table for the unique use of the space for the family. Finally, what traditional master bedroom would be complete without an en suite bathroom boasting a custom claw-footed bathtub, crystal chandelier, classic black-and-white plaid wallpaper, and puddling green linen drapes?

The kitchen plays center field with honed marble countertops, custom white cabinetry, and an intimate fireplace. A challenge in the kitchen was where to share meals. The narrow footprint was another area where I customized the space for the needs of the family. The light in the morning is truly fantastic in this room. To capture that light and inspire family meals, I designed a narrow dining table stained in a deep black hue, which could take a beating and accommodate the dinette area. The result is a family-style area with room for eight.

There is a cohesiveness in this house that is anchored by the family’s deep-rooted East Coast ties, flair for subtle modernity, and interest in creating family tradition. This house reflects those qualities for this family, and I couldn’t be happier to help create this way of living for them.

Visit asid-neia.org for more information. OmahaHome

*Correction: The printed version incorrectly identified Paul Pikorski of Amoura Productions as the photographer.

 

River Stone Fireplace

January 7, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Kurt and Beth Bratches moved to Omaha from Connecticut just over a year ago, one of their must-haves was a home with a fireplace. “I grew up with a fireplace,” says Kurt, owner of All Things Home, a remodeling service.

A former day trader, Kurt and his family would often escape the buzz of Wall Street in the serene calm of the Adirondack Mountains, where cozy lodge rooms were commanded by roaring stone fireplaces. The Bratches channeled their vacation nostalgia as the focal point of the living room in their warm and inviting Country Club home.

Built in 1932, the home needed a few updates. “The fireplace was tragic,” Kurt says. “I tore everything out.” Beth, an interior designer with The Designers, came up with the design.

“I always think it’s important to let the house speak to you a little bit,” she says. “The paneling is not something we would have chosen. I think it was done in the ’60s, but when you look at design, that’s kind of coming back. Let’s just replicate that design there so it goes with the house,” she says.

“The key is to update it without taking away the character and integrity of the house,” Kurt says. He first used a hand chisel to take out the existing hearth. “That was the un-fun part of it. It’s messy.” He then built the box and the surround. For the mantle he used a piece of reclaimed cedar from a friend’s barn in Connecticut.

He used mason screws to secure the box to the masonry. “The idea is to put your fasteners on a spot that can be hidden.” Kurt then used a sheet of birch over the top. “I laid it up like a frame and then I put the pieces in between it and framed it all out,” he says.  He finished it with crown molding and gave it a coat of satin paint. “Satin gives it a nice patina.”

A tip from a pro? Kurt first taped the dimensions of the fireplace on the floor to experiment with the stone’s placement, like putting together a puzzle. “That’s how I figured out where everything was going to go,” he says.

The entire project cost $400 and took about a week to do. “You buy quality lumber. It just comes out better,” he says.

The cedar for the mantle wasn’t the only material that took a circuitous route to Omaha. The Bratches collected the project’s river stones from such sites as the Long Island Sound, Rhode Island’s Block Island, and Omaha’s Standing Bear Lake. One of the stones stands out among all others. The one engraved with the word “home” was a gift from their daughter.

The Bratches’ self-styled river stone fireplace now serves as a visual collection of some of their favorite memories…a love story written in stone.

Faux Fireplace

October 24, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Like an e-book without pages or a tweet without wings, a modern fireplace doesn’t need flames to be among the hottest of home trends. That’s exactly what Angie Hall, a busy mother of four, created for the dining room of her spacious, yet cozy West Omaha home.

She says that after the initial phase of installing the fireplace mantel and surround, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. “Sometimes, I don’t always know how I’m going to get to what I want,” she explains, “so I just kind of leave it.”

Hall’s ability to let projects brew, and her taste for “otherness,” blend together in revealing a unique style of rustic-meets-slightly-Victorian.

The last thing she wants is for her house to look like she ordered it directly out of a catalog. “I like interesting things that are not in everybody else’s house,” she says.

No stranger to home projects, Hall is an outside sales rep for Lumbermen’s, a hearth and home store. She began her career at The Fireplace Center in Lincoln, a store owned by her mother, Maureen Sutton. But Hall attests that anyone can do this project, “as long as you are not afraid to get some tools out.”

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First, the mantel had to be trimmed because it was too tall for the room. She then hired a contractor for the difficult task of mounting the mantel.

To give the gypsum mantel and surround the look of limestone, Hall coated them with metallic paint and wiped over that with a black glaze, “to give it a dirty look,” says the woman who honed her painting skills at the Kelly S. King Academy of Faux Painting and Decorative Finishing in Omaha.

When she came upon a trendy glass tile at Menard’s, she knew it was perfect. “I loved the colors.” And the tile’s unconventional placement? “I thought it would be cool to run it vertical because I don’t like doing things they way they are supposed to be done,” she says with a mischievous laugh.

The most challenging part for Hall was figuring out how to cut the tiles for the arch. That’s when her mother’s flair for home design came in handy. “We both like projects, so we just jump right in and get it done,” says Sutton. The two crafted a template, and practiced using a tile saw on some cheap ceramic tile Hall had laying around.

Short two pieces of tile, Hall returned to Menard’s, where she also found a solution for the hearth—the white tile that resembles brick. “I originally was going to put an antique mirror there.”

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The cast iron relief in a fleur-de-lis design was a gift from Sutton found while antiquing. Hall highlighted it with some metallic paints. “I jazzed it up a little. I didn’t like it plain.”

Combining savvy in antiques, a frugal sensibility, and a little bit of elbow grease, Hall achieved the perfect look.

“I like finding things that need a little love that I can make my own,” she adds.

Total time spent was about eight hours. Costs will vary, depending on materials selected. Tile can range from as little as $30 to the-sky’s-the-limit for this fun project.

Installing an Outdoor Fireplace

August 29, 2013 by

One of the fastest growing backyard trends is an outdoor fireplace. When deciding to install your own, one of your first choices is to select the fuel type. Will it be a wood-burning unit, or are you looking for the convenience of gas? If you decide on wood fuel, make sure to pick a fireplace location with proper clearances for good draft and check your local building codes to make sure you are in compliance.  If you select a gas-burning fireplace, managing the smoke and draft are not issues. Keep in mind you will need a gas source, whether it’s propane or natural, and there may be some plumbing and possibly some trenching required to get the gas line to the fireplace unit.

Once you’ve decided your fuel type and fireplace location, you’ll need to determine what it will be made of. The two basic types of construction are custom masonry and prefabricated. The benefits of masonry construction are that it will most likely last a long time and will produce more heat, if that is a priority. The prefab units are built as a metal shell with a metal chimney and often have a firebrick liner, replicating the look of a masonry fireplace. Because there is less mass, they may not produce as much heat. On the plus side, a prefab fireplace allows for a faster, easier installation.

Most outdoor fireplaces are finished with a stone or brick veneer. There are many varieties in terms of size, shape, and color to choose from, so coordinating your fireplace look with your home’s style or color is easy. Whatever outdoor fireplace you choose, you are sure to have some memorable times sitting around the fire with friends and family!

To see a selection of options for your outdoor fireplace, visit the Lumbermen’s showroom at 13709 Industrial Rd. in Omaha. For more information, visit lumbermens.biz.

Balance & Harmony

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Angel Stottle

As an interior designer (and a Libran), Susan T. McMannama, ASID, has always sought balance and harmony within her projects. In the case of this recent remodel of the lower level of a home in Champions Run, harmony was needed to balance the wife’s desire for a contemporary feel with the husband’s desire for a hideaway fit for a transplanted Texas Longhorn.IMG_4569_web

There were a few must-haves requested by the homeowners: a full-size kitchen for entertaining, plenty of storage, a wine room, a fireplace, and a bedroom for frequent guests. The husband wanted to include a pair of Eames chairs and ottomans. Plus, all of the finish materials should be easy to maintain, and the colors needed to flow from space to space.

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Space for the guest bedroom area was found by relocating the door to the furnace and storage room, creating a hallway that separated the quiet area from the more active spaces. The new entrance to the furnace/storage room included double doors. A Murphy bed system was implemented within new cabinetry on one wall of the bedroom. Luxurious bedding from The Linen Gallery was used to add softness and a pop of color. The bedroom could double as a home gym.IMG_4606_web

A quartz material was used for the abundant countertops in the kitchen, and a glass tile mosaic, selected by the husband, was used for the backsplash. The custom cabinetry, which was stained and glazed, can store all of the dishes and equipment for any size gathering. Lighting, both underneath and inside glass cabinets, added sparkle and helped illuminate the couple’s glass and bottle collection. The travertine-looking ceramic tile floor flows from the kitchen through to the wine storage room and into the bathroom and hallways. Custom counter stools were upholstered in a woven leather fabric.IMG_4499_web

After relocating the door to the bathroom, the original tub/shower was removed and a new walk-in shower with a floating bench took its place. A sleek, hand held faucet and an oversized showerhead were used to balance the size of the shower. The original vanity received a new quartz counter plus a glass vessel sink. Marble and glass tiles were used to frame the existing mirror.

The symmetrical sectionals in the sitting/viewing area flank the pair of Eames chairs and ottomans. A new fireplace and TV were built into a recessed area that formerly held a big-screen TV. Light oak “drinks” tables harmonize with the black leather. A mica wall covering was installed on the fireplace wall and also on the wall with the buffet.IMG_4628_web

To keep marital harmony in the family, a photo of a Texas Longhorn was hung above the buffet. Two more steers soon followed for the sitting area, followed by a fourth in the wine room. The final Longhorn was hung in the hallway to the bedroom, with a treasured antique bench (hers) placed below for balance.

A Rockbrook Renovation

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Imagine having a home you love, then finding a home you love even more. The new home has additional space and is in a great neighborhood that’s ideal for your growing family. In fact, you happen to find your new home even before it’s on the market. A kind neighbor nearby tips you off that a beautiful, spacious home will soon be for sale. Excited and eager, you walk across the street and head inside. Fingers crossed, you walk up the porch steps and through the front door. And then it hits you.

You cross the threshold. While the home looks lovely on the outside, the inside has a style that’s not quite your own. The layout, design, and furnishings aren’t exactly what you and your spouse had in mind. But the house has potential. And so you make the purchase and begin renovating and redecorating. This is precisely what happened to Davin and Allison Bickford of Omaha.

Allison and Davin Bickford in the kitchen with their daughters.

Allison and Davin in the kitchen with their daughters.

The young couple and their 3-year-old daughter moved from their cozy Aksarben home to their current home just a stone’s throw from 108th Street and West Center Road. The move to their new home, its renovation, and the birth of their second daughter spanned just a few hectic months that also overlapped Christmas last year. By all accounts, the Bickfords were ambitious to create their dream home in short order.

They knew several of the families in and around their current home. It was an ideal neighborhood, one where homes were routinely sold with little to no advertising necessary.

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“The former owner was packing up the house when I realized it would soon be for sale,” Allison explains of the District 66 neighborhood. “This is a close-knit, welcoming neighborhood with lots of small children and impromptu driveway parties.”

When the Bickfords, both 29, closed on the home last year, they began planning for major renovations to the main floor. Initially, the kitchen was closed off from the rest of the home. Carpet was everywhere except the bathroom. And the color scheme was generally dark.20130313_bs_9339_Web

This being a home where they planned to spend the next several years, Davin and Allison opted to rethink the main level. Working alongside Omaha interior designer Julie Hockney, the Bickfords removed the kitchen’s outward-facing wall to create a more open and spacious floor plan.

The Bickfords enjoy entertaining with family and friends and designed a kitchen where conversations could still take place during meal preparation. Today, the kitchen boasts white cabinetry, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, a farmhouse sink (which Allison called her “must-have” piece) and, perhaps best of all, an open countertop connecting the living space.20130313_bs_9418_Web

“Davin and I knew the style that we wanted, but we weren’t sure how to mix everything together,” Allison says. “We like to entertain and wanted our home to feel warm and entertaining, but also with that elegant feel. Lived-in and classic but comfortable, too.”

Hockney worked alongside the Bickfords throughout the renovation and redecoration. The walls were painted a dark gray. White crown molding and new floors were installed to give the home a sleek, modern, and spacious feel, yet still warm enough for their two young daughters.20130313_bs_9499_Web

A large, gray couch and patterned chair fill the living room, along with a refurbished bench below the main window. (The Bickfords joke that their new living room pieces fit their style and design aesthetic; however, all of the fabric has been treated to avoid stains from spills and other in-home mishaps. They are the parents of two small children, after all.) The living room’s fireplace also received a major facelift to match the updated décor and design throughout the main level.

Hockney says she worked hard to ensure the home portrayed a modern, classic design that was combined with new and vintage pieces. The living room bench, for example, is a repurposed coffee table that’s been topped with a seating cushion.20130313_bs_9436_Web

Davin and Allison sold most of their furniture when they moved into their new home; now, they’re slowly filling it with pieces, light fixtures, and other accessories that they truly love.

“We wanted to start with a clean slate and fill it as we go,” Davin says.20130313_bs_9470_Web

The clean lines and sleek design of the kitchen and living room continue down the hall into the bathroom and the guest bedroom: white furniture and accessories, gray walls, and modest pops of color here and there. New light fixtures abound throughout the main level (several of which are small pendants) offering a cozy glow both day and night.

Color abounds in both daughters’ bedrooms, facets of which are holdovers from the Bickfords’ Aksarben home. One bedroom is awash with pink bedding and pink accents. The wall is a gray-and-white chevron pattern, continuing with the gray and white hues throughout the home. The other daughter’s bedroom is largely a soothing, pale green with white accents, giving it a cozy feel.20130313_bs_9530_Web

The Bickfords’ master bedroom and adjoining bathroom are next to receive facelifts. Just as with their young family, their home’s beauty is growing and maturing every day.

British Regency, French Chic

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“My favorite thing in life is to read a book and be cozy,” confesses Julie Kenney. So when she is designing a space in her Dundee home, she thinks, “Would I want to sit here and read a book?”

Thus, it is no surprise that one of her most-loved spots in the house is a small chair and robin’s egg “poof,” as she dubs the felted, flower ottoman, tucked by the fireplace in her living room. On cold, rainy days, a crackling fire with cup of tea and engrossing book are the tickets to contentment.20130111_bs_0634 copy

Kenney and her husband bought the Georgian brick 13 years ago. Though the architecture is purely British Regency, her interior decorating is unabashedly French chic. She mixes wood, iron, and upholstered furnishings and is drawn to crystal chandeliers and light fixtures. Silver-framed snapshots capturing family and friends are clustered on a French country side table, and works by local artists Paula Wallace and Dan Boylan hang conventionally on walls and unconventionally from molding and overlapping windows. Kenney would call it “shabby chic,” though even a cursory peek into her foyer would indicate it is more “chic” than “shabby.”20130111_bs_0640 copy

Kenney only fills her home with items she loves, though the space for which they are intended is rarely where they end up. “I buy things because I like them. Then, I find a place for them,” she reveals.

The sideboard in the entry called three other spots home before landing in its present location. But it shouldn’t get too comfortable there; Kenney has a propensity to move smaller pieces of furniture and decorative accents around. It keeps things feeling fresh in her home, she says.

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She also likes to pair investment pieces with inexpensive finds. To wit: the high-back upholstered couch facing the fireplace and the chair kitty-corner to it in the entryway. The couch was a substantial purchase. Its Old World character and metal stud trim caught her eye. But then while perusing the nooks and crannies of McMillan’s Antiques on 50th and Leavenworth (the day the Kenney family moved into the house, no less), she spied her sofa’s black sheep of a step-brother—a slightly banged-up wingback chair very nearly the same color with almost identical bronze-stud trim—and promptly purchased it for a song.

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But that is Kenney’s way. Be open to possibility. Look for fun additions in the most unlikely spots. The crystal chandelier in the dining room is a modern (albeit a good one) replica of a French antique. She made the chairs at the ends of the table her own by reupholstering hand-me-downs from a friend. The hanging light fixtures on either side of the bed in the master bedroom were cast-offs from another friend who thought them “God-awful.” Kenney didn’t. She snatched them up off her friend’s front stoop (literally) like a wide-eyed kid given free rein in a candy shop.

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Whimsy is important to Kenney. Function does not preclude fancy; utilitarian does not mean ugly. After searching for a canister set in vein, Kenney decided to store her dried goods in glass containers. Cluster them on an antique silver tray and you’ve added another layer of interest. The greenery adorning her kitchen light is last Christmas’ mantel decoration. “I use the bay leaves in soups and cooking all year,” Kenney shares.

And the miniature serving platters filled with lemons and limes? They are actually antique silver ash trays. So, yes, they come out at parties still…But to a healthier end this time around.

Small spaces are her favorite. Sometimes, it’s just a nook she has created in a larger room: her reading spot or her children’s computer space, tucked into the corner of her living room and delineated with a bookshelf “wall.”

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Sometimes, it’s an actual room. Guests, she says, gravitate to the butler’s pantry during gatherings, with its Toile paper and dimpled and dented concrete countertops. She is particular to her office space off the master bedroom. The walls are painted black and white stripes—“because I’ve always wanted a black-and-white-striped room”­—and the ceiling is papered. An oversized red, lacquered mirror which was intended for her foyer adds a dramatic pop of color to the room.

Large or small, home for Kenney is where her family gathers. “I would rather be home than anywhere else,” she contently confides.