Tag Archives: hardwood floors

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

November 5, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The first thing you notice when entering the Metcalfe Park-area home of Andrea and Brian Kelly is that which is missing.

The most common architectural element found in the brick, Tudor-inspired homes that dominate the neighborhood, one bisected by the snaky meanderings of Country Club Avenue, is an arch that separates the living and dining rooms.

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It’s a bold stroke to swing a sledgehammer at such a signature detail, but taking down the arch was central to a vision of transforming this traditional home into a showpiece of contemporary design.

Oh, and it probably didn’t hurt that the couple behind that vision are both architects known for innovative thinking in the spaces they create.

“It’s natural for people to get into a new home, look at it as a blank page, and think about what to add to it,” says Brian, a professor of architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“Our philosophy was just the opposite,” explains Andrea, formerly of Randy Brown Architects and now stay-at-home mom for the couple’s 6-year-old son, Jackson. “It started with what we knew we’d be subtracting from it.”

Next to go was much of the ceiling in the living room, a decision that eliminated almost 100 square feet of second-floor living area in a home that holds barely 10 times that amount to begin with. For this couple, the word “area” is merely a formulaic measurement. Space, on the other hand, is a theoretical construct felt at a gut level.

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“Our aim was to increase the spatial dimension of this place,” Brian says. “The overall effect is that the house feels bigger. And we gained tons of natural light down here that used to be wasted up there,” he says in pointing to an upstairs window that now illuminates much of the home’s first floor.

A six-month study trip to Europe helped validate the couple’s notion of scale.

“People ‘live small’ in Europe,” Brian says.

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“Our home is still very American,” Andrea adds, “and it’s downright grand in scope compared to how most people live in Europe. This is a lesson in efficiency, livability, and defining the balance between personal spaces and communal spaces. It really suits our family well.”

The home juxtaposes natural materials against those that are decidedly industrial and hard-edged.

Organic hues in untreated lumber and hardwood floors blend with perforated aluminum, plexiglass, and naked steel. Factory stamping marks on wood and wax pencil numbering on metal are left untouched in evoking a raw sensibility. The original fireplace survived, but the mantle above was replaced by a bent-steel picture rail. Alligator clips attached to wires suspended by magnets allow a funky, quick-change approach to displaying family photos.

The absence of window treatments? The desire for simplicity, openness, and clean lines, Andrea says, trumped worries about privacy. Geography also lends a hand in eliminating sight lines for prying eyes. The home sits on a hill overlooking Metcalfe Park, and the back is shrouded by dense greenery.

Splashes of color erupt in marigold, grey, and in artwork—much of it created by Brian, Andrea, and Jackson. The dining area features orange Eames chairs that gathered grease for four decades in the auto body shop of Andrea’s father.

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Brian did most of the work himself.

“He’s more of a designer and I’m more of a planner,” Andrea says. “I’m into the technical aspects of construction and wanted to do a budget…detailed drawings…the works.”

“Wasn’t gonna happen,” Brian says with a chuckle. “I didn’t want to think too much about it when it came to process. For me it became an experiment, an in-the-moment experience.” When you set out to do the unexpected, the professor explains, stumbling onto a few surprises along the way can serve as a gateway to learning.

Save for the use of perforated aluminum cladding on an exterior handrail, neighborhood dog-walkers are afforded no hint as to what lies beneath when they pass the home that looks like so many others in the tree-lined neighborhood.

“And that’s the whole idea,” Andrea says. “That’s why we call this place the wolf in
sheep’s clothing.”

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jLofts on the Market

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nestled among the quaint brick buildings in the heart of Omaha’s Historic Old Market sits a modern building made of glass and concrete on the corner of 13th and Jackson streets. jLofts on the Market are upscale condos that first went on the market in the spring of 2009, and according to Sandi Downing, the listing agent for the lofts, have been in high demand.

One of the major selling points of the condos is that new owners get to select the finishing touches: everything from the style of hardwood floors to the granite countertops. Downing says the newness of the building, amenities, and concierge services set it apart from other residences in the Old Market. Every loft has a balcony, high-end Bosch appliances, and large walk-in closets. And in a part of town where parking is scarce, the climate-controlled parking garage is a revelation.20130401_bs_9653_Web

The concierge services at jLofts are impressive. The property has a reception room on the main level with package delivery and reception. There are dry cleaning and laundry services available. They will check on your residence and walk your dog if needed. Shoe shine and repair, reservation booking, car washes and detailing, and valet parking are all part of the services provided. The building also boasts a fully-equipped fitness room.

This high standard of luxury comes with a price. The cheapest condo, at just over 850 sq. ft., starts at $239,000. The top-floor penthouses, with 14 ft. ceilings and more square footage than most houses—anywhere from 2,245 to over 5,000 sq. ft.—start at $750,000 and go up to $1,750,000.20130401_bs_9689_Web

Downing says that many people are drawn to the carefree lifestyle of loft living. There’s no yard work or maintenance. Plus, with a thriving social scene just blocks away, there’s always something to do. According to her, “More and more people are thinking of coming downtown,” and adds that the demographic for the building is all over the map: young and old, singles and couples, young professionals and retirees.

“A lot of things have happened in recent years in the Old Market…the Holland Center, the new stadium, the swim trials, to name a few. It’s an exciting time to live in the Old Market,” she says with a smile.20130401_bs_9686_Web

Diane Speck owns a condo at the jLofts and has resided there for almost four years. “I always loved the downtown location,” Speck says. She has lived in other downtown buildings, including The Riley Building, but was waiting for a place like her current loft to become available. She was looking for something in the Old Market that was new and provided the extensive amenities that the building offers.

“I don’t have to worry about a thing when I travel. I park my car in the garage, and I’m set,” Speck says. The concierge takes care of everything, she boasts, which provides her peace of mind.20130401_bs_9665_Web

The location is one of the major aspects that attracted her to jLofts. She is just a brief stroll from international cuisine, bars, two grocers, and the arts and entertainment district.

“Everything I need is right here within walking distance,” Speck says, adding, “I never would have made an investment of this caliber at a different location.”