Tag Archives: interior design

A Fresh Homemade Kitchen

August 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Out of all the genius quotes from world-renowned architects and designers, Kylie Von Seggern’s favorite comes from a celebrity chef.

Her profile on Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture’s website lists the words of Anthony Bourdain as her favorite quote: “Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them—wherever you go.”

The mantra manifests itself throughout the architect and interior designer’s professional work and private life.

Von Seggern prefers adaptive reuse to high-profile mega projects, and she embraces community engagement and activism. Her responsive ideology is likewise evident in the renovation of her home in the Hanscom Park neighborhood.

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While house shopping in 2015, she wanted to find an older home with built-in character. That’s exactly what she found in her current residence, built in 1908.

The previous owner had lived there for 50 years. The warm gray interior featured dense wood trim, exquisite detailing, and the creek of wood floors. It was the perfect combination of good bones and room for updates.

For the interior remodel, she proposed “more of a modern upgrade” than a total overhaul. The kitchen, however, lacked the rest of the house’s inherent character.

She recently renovated the kitchen to achieve a crisp, airy gathering space. She replaced the limited cabinetry and floors. But she kept the kitchen’s existing plaster walls.

For Von Seggern, the kitchen is important because everyone is always there—regardless if there’s a party or not. Part of the reason stems from her roommate being a chef.

Throughout and beyond her home, Von Seggern’s approach to design and architecture resonates with creative culinary instincts: Like a great homemade meal, “It tastes so good because you made it,” she says. 

Growing up in Lincoln, design-oriented interests eventually led her to the architecture program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

While at UNL, she participated in a 2010 study abroad program to Guatemala where she learned vernacular cinder-block building techniques.

In Guatemala, she began hypothesizing the duplicitous meanings of a home. Von Seggern ultimately realized, “Not everyone wants a McMansion,” and more importantly, “functionality over aesthetics” takes precedence.

She also studied abroad in Germany before completing her degree in Nebraska. With such international experience, her attraction to the Bourdain quotation becomes obvious. The preceding sentence of the full direct quote is: “If you’re [young], physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel—as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to.”

She began working at Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture after completing her Master of Architecture in 2013, and she began lending her voice to local architectural advocacy efforts as a volunteer at Restoration Exchange Omaha.

Von Seggern’s volunteer work allows her to have a direct impact in Omaha while developing skills in navigating city bureaucracy and finding ways to remain responsive to older architecture instead of reactively always looking for the new.

Back in her home on the edge of Hanscom Park, her kitchen is a perfect example of her finding this balance on her own terms.

Visit alleypoyner.com/kylie-von-seggern for more information.

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

Home Is Where the Oven Is

July 18, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Nicola Shartrand decides to spend a lazy summer morning with her two young children in their home near Lake Manawa, odds favor the happy trio baking sheets of cookies before noon in their newly renovated kitchen.

When she drives deeper into Council Bluffs to the family’s bakery, often with kids in tow, she makes hand-painted macarons, tortes, breads, cookies, and dozens of cupcakes, which then fill space in the display case, ready for public consumption.

And when John Shartrand takes the family across the Missouri to their restaurant that bears Nicola’s name, they no doubt top off the meal with Nicola’s award-winning Italian lemon cream cake.

The Shartrands’ life revolves around the food created in three different kitchens. The family travels back and forth along the routes that connect the points in their life: Nicola’s Italian Wine and Fare at 13th and Jackson streets in Omaha’s historic Old Market; Stay Sweet, Nicola’s—their bakery at 805 S. Main St. in Council Bluffs; and their gracious home in hues of gray on a quiet cul-de-sac.

The restaurant represents 15 years of ambition, hard work, and faith rewarded; the bakery, which opened in December, symbolizes dreams fulfilled; the new home kitchen has its own story, one with deep meaning for the family.

“John knew I had been putting in all these hours all these years at the restaurant, and he said, ‘You’re going to wake up one day and the kids will have graduated high school, and you will have missed the whole thing,’” Nicola recounts. “He said, ‘You love baking, you’re really good at it, why don’t you practice while you’re at home? Let me run the restaurant at night.’”

And so the original home kitchen became a laboratory for perfecting and tweaking popular dishes served at Nicola’s Italian Wine and Fare, creating new dishes, and developing recipes for baked goods. Nicola experimented for six months on the lemon cake “because Martha Stewart said every restaurant should offer something lemony.” Once perfected, the light, moist, not-too-sweet lemon cake exploded on the scene. As a result, demand for all her baked goods exploded.

So did the family kitchen.

“I pretty much destroyed it from overuse,” Nicola says, laughing as she proceeds to list a litany of problems. “We went through every single major appliance. The cabinet doors fell off from constant opening and closing. The stove went out. We needed a bigger refrigerator. And it was a really cramped working space.”

For Nicola’s birthday two years ago, John announced he would build her a new kitchen. “I wear many belts,” he quips.

The couple used a computer program offered by an assemble-it-yourself home furnishings store to measure, design, and order the materials for the new kitchen. The transaction could have gone better.

“They told us our plans were too ambitious, that we were out of our league,” John says. And when it came time to lug 279 flat boxes out of the store, “they said they wouldn’t help me.”

Undeterred, John loaded a U-Haul truck by himself, drove home, and emptied every little chrome knob and handle, every shelf, drawer, door, and cabinet from the containers. It only took a month to transform the culinary space.

They painted the new cabinetry gray to match the wall coloring. The cabinetry—above and below the long kitchen counter—helps provide 50 percent more storage space than before.

A narrow floor-to-ceiling pantry pulls out shelves and drawers to hold foodstuffs categorized by cans, bottles, and paper, “so nothing gets lost inside it,” Nicola says. Two bottles of industrial-size Worcestershire sauce appear prominently in front, as does a gallon of olive oil, which she affectionately refers to as “the best stuff on earth.”

A backsplash made of off-white, 3-by-6-inch glazed subway tiles provides a simple, clean, classic look.

The couple complemented the backsplash tile by placing an off-white, solid slab of quartz on top of the kitchen island, located in the middle of the open floor plan.

Underneath, a cabinet with 20 drawers of different depths neatly holds everything from dozens of spatulas (Nicola keeps breaking them) and half-used bags of fennel seeds to large pots and pans.

A two-door stainless steel KitchenAid refrigerator shares the kitchen’s color scheme with its gray interior, and the double-oven stove “makes cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the family really easy,” Nicola says.

The doting husband’s wish for his wife, to spend more time with Stavros, 9, and Gigi, 7, has resulted in personal growth for Nicola. Her stay-at-home baking experiments proved so popular she now supplies other restaurants and coffee shops with her sweets. She also takes special orders.

The extra income enabled John and Nicola, who both grew up in Omaha, to purchase a brick-and-mortar commercial space in Council Bluffs last November, which handyman John transformed into a full-service coffee bar and bakery. With its commercial-grade mixers and appliances, Stay Sweet, Nicola’s has taken over as the primary baking site.

John now works 14-hour days. He opens the bakery to start the espresso machine and bake muffins, intersects with Nicola and the kids in the afternoon, then crosses the bridge to oversee the restaurant.

The reward for all this hard work: a happy family.

Visit nicolasintheoldmarket.com and staysweetnicolas.com for more information about Nicola Shartrand’s culinary enterprises.

From left: Stavros, Nicola, and Gigi Shartrand.

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

Colorado Modern

January 22, 2017 by
Photography by Tom Kessler, Kessler Photography

How do two people, each with an appreciation for very different tastes in design, come together to build their perfect dream home?

When our client came to us, the husband leaned more towards a contemporary, midcentury modern look, while the wife loved a Colorado-inspired design. We knew the challenge of marrying these two concepts would be great. But the final product would be even greater.

Lisa Cooper, Allied ASID, and Kris Patton, ASID, feel there is no higher compliment than to obtain new clients by referral from a previous client’s friends and family. This new home construction project was no exception. In order to realize the clients’ multipart vision, we teamed with Marshall Wallman, vice president of design at Curt Hofer & Associates, and his team to create this dream home.

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Our clients enjoy the topography and ambience of Colorado and the architecture of that region. They also like things a bit more contemporary, so we tried to meld together a vintage Colorado midcentury modern look for their new home. While the home itself was meticulously planned to achieve this design, the lot the family selected was just as important. A space with abundant trees would set the perfect tone for a woodsy, private residence.

The home’s curb appeal sets the tone for the design elements that wait inside. The entrance—with its vast windows and incredible sightline from the workspace all the way to the dining room—makes a strong introductory statement.

Main and lower levels of the home feature similarly strong design conceptualization in the fireplaces. They aren’t located on exterior walls, as fireplaces typically are; rather, the hearths are positioned in the centers of the rooms (to be more architecturally integrated into the spaces). Carefully placed windows allow for ample natural light to pierce the space. Not having a fireplace in a traditional placement, flanked by windows, adds interest.

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Powder rooms on each level also provide an opportunity to get creative, and they incorporate high-end elements such as a stainless steel vessel sink, which perforates a quartzite countertop, and walls tiled in a 3D relief.

A color palette of natural tones with blackened steel blue, fern green, aged ore, slate gray, and metallic burnt merlot creates an ambience that possesses an elusive balance between vintage and modern appeal. We relied upon myriad materials to achieve the design our clients desired. Natural stone, used in both the exterior and interior of the home, gives a rugged, earthy feel. A mix of concrete, weathered and reclaimed woods, organic natural stone surfaces, and quartz work symbiotically. Wood ceiling details, a kitchen backsplash fashioned of fern gray subway tiles with a vintage pattern, and handcrafted wall coverings all add to the unique flavor of this home.

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Perhaps one of the most striking elements of the home’s design scheme is the incredible use of light fixtures as art pieces. In an effort to avoid a predictable sea of sameness, we used a multitude of finishes from bronze to antique brass, to polished nickel, creating an acquired look in which each piece can be outstanding.

People oftentimes look at lighting as functional, and they forget that light fixtures can be beautiful, artistic pieces in the home. For this project, we used sconces in the hall to transform industrial design into artful sophistication. The dining room fixture is a chandelier crafted of Cupertino wrought-iron branches, each supporting a delicate chain adorned with a single crystal bead. The entry pendants are made of distressed mercury glass, dressed in antique brass chainmail. And the nursery fixture is feminine and fresh, suggesting a vintage flower design with its glass petals and chrome detailing.

The challenge of melding our clients’ appreciation of contrasting aesthetics of design proved to be a thought-provoking opportunity to create a true standout of a project… and their enthusiasm encouraged our efforts. They seemed to truly enjoy the process, expressing energetic and positive feedback on every aspect of their new home construction. The end result was a dream home with a cohesive design and a unique look…and two very happy homeowners.

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This article was printed in the January/February 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Visit asid-neia.org for more information.

MEET THE DESIGNERS

Cooper

Lisa Cooper

The interior design industry is fast-moving, challenging, and multifaceted.  I love that I have the opportunity to be creative and technical, all in a day’s work. Our clients are amazing people, and the projects that I’ve had the chance to work on have been extraordinary.

Patton

Kris Patton

Design is my passion, and to have the opportunity to receive an education and the experience it takes to gain knowledge and expertise in this industry is such a privilege. I have amazing clients and have had the chance to work on incredible projects.  I wouldn’t trade this career for the world!

 

Clean, Classic Design with a Contemporary Twist

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The style of this newly constructed home reflects the clean, classic taste of the homeowners with a contemporary twist. The homeowners’ main issue was a strong preference for neutral colors. Whenever they previously tried to inject color into their décor, they quickly grew tired of it.

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I chose to embrace their love of neutrals and add interest with contrast and texture. For example, I chose a soft gray on the walls, but a dark, rich, wide-plank floor to add warmth. The fireplace remains neutral in color but adds interest with its stacked and staggered rough stone pattern. The light stone next to the dark floating wood shelves adds crispness to the space.

Color was strategically placed in the intricate great room’s ceiling to accentuate the architecture. The same deep blue-gray color was added to the dropped ceiling above the pendant lights in the kitchen.  The kitchen is spacious enough to house a 10-foot island. To add a splash of contemporary design to a classic white kitchen, the cooktop tile was laid vertically in a herringbone pattern.

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The same concept was used on the exterior: crisp white and gray stacked stone, bright white trim, and a smoky gray vertical siding.

All the design elements came together using timeless, classic neutrals, and a few splashes of soft cool colors. The homeowners couldn’t be happier with their new home! OmahaHome

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Custom Build

April 21, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For Kevin and Amy Brokaw, it’s the small details that make their home their home. Little, unexpected things—wallpaper that looks like industrial-chic metal panels. An undercounter cabinet that pulls out to reveal rows of wine-glass storage for the couple’s stemware collection. Another cabinet that lifts out and locks flush with the kitchen island counter; a gleaming KitchenAid mixer propped inside. A glassed-in shower in view of a flat-screen TV. A cubby inside the shower perfectly sized for a bottle of beer.

They’re the details that make a place belong to the Brokaws, who thoughtfully overhauled the Old Market condo they bought in 2013 to be a home full of the little things they wanted, plus some they didn’t even know they did.

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Kevin’s Air Force career brought the Brokaws to Omaha seven years ago; they settled in Papillion, the second of their two daughters still in high school. They bought a suburban ranch house with a landscaped yard and a fire pit and a lot of interior space. After their last daughter graduated and moved out, they started thinking of something more interesting.

“With just the two of us, it was kind of boring,” Amy said.

They’d lived in numerous states and countries before coming to Nebraska. “In Europe,” Kevin said, “we could walk to restaurants and shops. Here, in most of the suburbs, you can’t really walk to anything.”

The Brokaws had Omaha Performing Arts Season tickets, and they’d always enjoyed spending time Downtown and in the Old Market. They’d just never thought about living there.

One evening while they were in the process of considering new homes, Kevin called Amy and asked her how she felt about looking at some condos in the Old Market. He’d lined up visits for that night. And when they got to the 1214 Howard Condos, they fell in love.

First, there was its prime location. Second, there was two-car parking and spare storage space—a boon in the Old Market. And third, there was the early-1900s building’s small size (it houses only eight units in all) and signature downtown character. “I like the exposed brick and the timbers and the wood supports,” Kevin said. “They don’t make buildings like this anymore.”

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As it was, the two-level loft the Brokaws purchased “needed a facelift,” Amy said. The space was dated, with wood laminate floors and carpet. The couple worked with Vantage Design & Construction, who gutted the condo and started fresh. The biggest investment, Amy said, was the new flooring—custom-stained hand-scraped hickory on both levels. Amy, a nurse, has asthma, and having easy-to-clean surfaces is a must—the reasoning behind the blinds chosen for the windows, too.

Neutral walls showcase the couple’s in-progress art collection, which includes numerous pieces by local artists and one vintage print salvaged from the old Neon Goose.

Becki Wiechman, a partner with Omaha’s Interior Design Group, helped the Brokaws incorporate customized details—including the innovative cabinetry along the kitchen island, as well as a generous corner kitchen pantry and dedicated beverage storage with a wine fridge, freezer, and cooler ideally situated between the kitchen island and dining area.

“It’s a great place to have a party,” Amy said.

The Brokaws had to downsize when moving from their ranch home to the condo, but they didn’t want to give up everything—hence the grill top built into the stove, vented all the way out so grilling is still an option.

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Upstairs, the open floorplan is broken into small areas—the bedroom, an office space and, across a catwalk, a dual workout and reading area. The master bath has that shower in view of the TV—Kevin’s request—and a freestanding tub with its own built-in cocktail space. A salon-style cabinet gives Amy a place to stash grooming tools; an on-counter cabinet is outfitted with hidden outlets so the Brokaws can plug in their toothbrushes out of sight.

Nearly all of the furniture came from their previous home; integrating it all into the new space really was just a matter of getting the details right, Wiechman said.

“Truly, when I work with a client, whether for a home out west or whether for a remodel of a condo downtown, I do what works for the homeowners and what they want to get out of the space,” she said. “They did a good job of taking their existing style and making it fit the new space.”

And they had incentive. “We do a lot more since we moved here,” Amy said. “Our friends like to meet here. We’ve started bike riding along the bridge and doing trails. We walk to the College World Series and the Holland Center and Blue Barn. Some weekends we don’t get in the car at all and are really busy.”

Amy said having a patio behind her home had been important to her—something she thought she’d have to compromise living downtown. Turns out, she didn’t.

“Now,” she said, “my outdoor seating area is the Old Market.”

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The Persistence of Memory

February 27, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A brilliant band of wildflowers will soon bloom in Kelsie Hollingshead’s garden. Forget about the fact that she’s an apartment-dweller with no plot of land to call her own. And never mind that the fresh tendrils of her vibrant harbingers of spring will push through the soil of a garden that is a full 20 miles from where she lays her head at night.“My grandfather planted those wildflowers,” she says, wiping a tear from her cheek. “He planted them the year before as we planned our wedding so that they would be beautiful for the reception,” she says, reflecting on her August 2013 nuptials to Sean Hollingshead. “Those flowers remind me—reminded all of us that night of the reception—that a little part of him was still with us.”

Her grandfather, Patrick Clarke, founder of NorthStar Financial Group, had perished in a plane crash along with one of his sons, Dr. Scott Clarke of Springfield, Mo., nine months before the wedding.

Clarke’s wildflowers still thrive on a majestic hilltop near Schramm Park State Recreation Area. The site offers a panoramic view of the Platte River far below, and the 50-acre country retreat is known to the Clarke clan simply as The Farm. Its main structure, The Barn, is home to family gatherings most every Sunday. The rustic, 4,600-square-foot lodge was built in 2009 by Curt Hofer & Associates. Downhill from The Barn is the sleeping quarters known as The Bunkhouse.

The subtext of any story on these pages is a testament to how our homes reveal who we are, how we live, and what we value. Such stories are usually accompanied by words-words-words on architecture, landscaping, appointments, and interior design. There will be none of that here. The accompanying photos will have to suffice as a substitute for the customary narrative dedicated to descriptors of the floor-to-ceiling variety.

Instead this home story will keep the focus where it should be—on one family and how the persistence of memory creates a legacy.

“My dad didn’t built this for himself,” says Todd Clarke, Kelsie’s father. “He didn’t even build it for his kids. He built it for the grandkids, and one day, for their kids and generations to come. Each and every member of the family has a different way of remembering him. His presence is always particularly powerful when we are here at The Farm.”

Memories can sometimes be triggered in unexpected ways. What kind of 14-year-old boy would list a common household chore, for example, as one of his favorite weekend activities?

That would be Todd’s son, Brooks.

“I don’t get to see my cousins much during the week,” Brooks says. “Out here we get to play foosball, ride ATVs, and play indoor football. Those are all fun things to do, but cleaning out the shed is my favorite.”

A raised eyebrow is the only signal Brooks needs to realize that he has just introduced something of a disconnect.

“Oh, you don’t understand,” he continues. “Those are grandpa’s things out there. That’s where he kept all his tools. Playing with all the stuff in the shed reminds me of him and how we used to…” his voice trails off as a pensive expression creeps across his face, eyes averted.

“Patrick and I were blessed with a terrific family—beautiful kids and beautiful grandchildren,” says family matriarch Lana Clarke. “This was his dream. It’s our place where memories are made. I count my blessings every day we gather here. I know he’s looking down on us, smiling.”

Each of the coming days will grow longer as the eagerly anticipated progression to spring breaks into a trot and then a gallop. Gardens slowly thaw and bide their time awaiting attention. The flowerbeds on a certain wind-swept hill overlooking a ribbon of water are no exception.

That’s where you’ll find Kelsie Hollingshead tending to her wildflowers.

From Frenzied to Functional

December 23, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

January is Get Organized Month, so we asked local author and clutter coach, Cyndy Salzmann, to transform from frenzied to functional the tiny laundry room of a busy Elkhorn family.

Cyndy Salzmann and her bag of tricks.

Cyndy Salzmann and her bag of tricks.

Salzmann is the author of seven books, including her recently released Organized by Design: Using Your Personality to Get and Stay Organized, and she takes a unique approach to organizing a space. “A lot of clients want to start a project by digging into a closet,” says the pro who has also appeared on A&E’s Hoarders. “I insist on first digging into their personalities to make sure we design systems that produce long-term results.”

Dave and Debbie Raymond have a blended family of nine and need every inch of their 2,900 square-foot home. They use the laundry room for much more than just soap and suds—it’s command central for winter wear, cleaning supplies, gift wrapping, and is an overflow area for wayward kitchen items. Unfortunately, the multi-functional room ended up being more of a “multi-mess.”

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 ASSESSMENT

“I ask each new client to take a personality inventory,” says Salzmann. “Test results as well as discussions with family members indicated that Debbie’s creative bent led to ever-changing systems of organizing things—a source of frustration for Dave, who is orderly and perhaps a bit more right-brained. A collection of sentimental items belonging to Debbie’s recently deceased mother added to the chaos. Finally, poor room design with high shelves and an open area under the counter wasted valuable space.”20131121_bs_3325

DESIGN

“Once I determined the family’s organizing style and needs,” Salzmann continues, “I pulled together a team to transform the room. We used flexible pullouts and open shelving along with other design elements to motivate family members to maintain the space. Debbie is a strong woman of faith with a vibrant personality, so I wanted this room to also feed her spirit.”

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TRANSFORMATION

“A soothing paint color grounds the space while design elements provide splashes of color,” Salzmann explains. “Meaningful objects, such as colorful canisters from Debbie’s mother, provide function and serve to personalize the room.

“I was able to take advantage of unused space by installing pullout shelves under the counter. The contents of two plastic drawer units with a jumble of mittens, hats, and gift-wrapping supplies are neatly organized in a deep pullout with dividers. Dishes formerly stored openly on top of the refrigerator slip neatly into drawers. Shelves for laundry baskets keep the counter clear for folding.

“A clear, plastic bin corrals items Debbie is collecting for her oldest daughter’s upcoming wedding, while the creative label builds excitement for the special day. Cleaning supplies, formerly stored on too-high shelves, are now easily within reach in a pullout shelf under the sink. Infrequently used items, stored in bins on high shelves, have dry erase labels to identify contents.”

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AFTERMATH

So how do the Raymonds feel about their “new” laundry room? “We love it!” says Debbie. “But more importantly, it’s not so overwhelming for us to now think about tackling another space in our home.”

Salzmann will be blogging about her experience throughout January. For more project details and inspiration, visit cyndysalzmann.com.

Salzmann’s Team • Interior design and painting by Renee Quandt, Clean Slate Interiors; Custom pullout shelving by Nick Starkey, ShelfGenie of Omaha

Casual Contemporary Home & Lifestyle

August 30, 2013 by
Photography by Lisa Louise Photography

A young family called the design firm, Ellen Pandorf Interior Design, to help design and furnish their new home in a western development. They wanted something elegant and ideal for entertaining friends and family, yet accomodating for their casual lifestyle with their two young children. They were leaning toward a casual, contemporary style. Ellen Pandorf Design helped them soften the look to work with the home’s stone and stucco architectural style and create a more transitional look.

In the entry, an elegant marble mosaic tile medallion with a sweeping iron stairway leads to an open walkway between the children’s bedrooms and the guest bedroom.

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The living room has two seating areas that work well for larger gatherings. One area faces the beautiful, two-story tumbled stone fireplace, and the other features plush silk sofas and chairs overlooking the pool.

The family room/kitchen is an open, comfortable area with a blue rug that brings out the blue of the granite countertop in the kitchen. The family likes to cook for family and friends, so the kitchen was designed with a round layout that allows everyone to work together. The wood floor is a hand-scraped cherry that complements the lighter wood tones of the cabinets.

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The formal dining room is elegant with two chandeliers and two tables that accommodate either a large gathering or a smaller party. The walls have a warm, metallic sheen that coordinate well with the beaded wall covering in the cured ceiling. The room also features a large artwork from local artist Larry Roots. Beside the dining room is a large pantry that serves as a go-between from the kitchen to the dining room. The kitchen also features easy to maintain yet refined-looking floor tiles.

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The master bedroom has soft blue and java brown tones that complement the master bath stone tiles. The walls have a special paint finish with mica wall covering that gives a glow to
the room.

A few more pieces from local artists, and the home’s contemporary yet casual look will be complete.

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Transformations is a regular feature of Omaha Home that spotlights a recent project by a local ASID interior designer. The copy and photos are provided by the designer. Homeowners’ names may be withheld for privacy.

The Best of All Worlds

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Let’s dispense with the references to a certain ’70s sitcom right off the bat. Yes, Jennifer and Bryan Yannone are the parents of a blended family of six kids. Yes, Bryan is project director for Lockwood Development and Bloomfield Custom Homes, a position with some surface similarities to the architecture job of his TV dad counterpart. And, yes, the Yannones are a telegenic couple with a warm, relaxed vibe.

But their new home, the first in Sterling Ridge at 132nd and Pacific in Omaha, represents more than just the union of two families. It is the convergence of several decidedly 21st-century ideas about diversity, work-life balance, smart-home technology, and the logistics of new urban planning in an already very established part of the city.Bryan-4_web

Sterling Ridge is a mixed-use development of commercial, residential, retail, and religious space. When completed, the 153-acre site will feature more than 700,000 square feet of office space, 30 high-end custom homes, 10 villas, retail, restaurants, an assisted living facility, a hotel, and the Tri-Faith Initiative: a collaboration of Temple Israel, The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, and The American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture.

The very location of the site signifies this spirit of inclusiveness. It was once home to the venerable Highland Country Club, established in 1924 as a club where Jewish members would be welcome. (Highland changed hands in the 1990s and the newly-named Ironwood shuttered and was sold to Lockwood Development at a bank auction in 2010.)Bryan-12_web

In a city that is constantly expanding to points west, north, and south, the central location also acts as an integration point for several parts of town.

This was especially important to the Yannones, who had children in two separate school districts. “There was nowhere in Midtown Omaha where you could build a new, custom home without having to knock down an existing home,” says Jennifer, a gifted and talented facilitator for Omaha Public Schools.

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As members of the community and because of their family association with the development company, the Yannones are particularly sensitive to the historical and civic importance of the property. “People were disappointed when Ironwood closed,” Jennifer acknowledges. “Lockwood wanted to make this development worth the sacrifice. For every tree they took down, they planted five more. They spared no expense to provide a community feel.”

Inside the seven-bedroom, 5,700-square-foot Yannone home, that communal sense is most keenly felt in the open kitchen, dining, and seating area that serves as the focal point of the family’s activities. “We spend most of our time between these three rooms,” says Jennifer of the multi-functional space which features clean lines and cool, neutral colors. “I wanted it to look contemporary, but still homey and livable.”

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The family worked with Lisa Shrager of LMK Concepts and Megan Bret of Exquisite Finishes on the home’s interiors. “The trick was making the home durable and low-maintenance without compromising style,” says Shrager. She achieved the family’s desired blend of a sleek look and a warm vibe by balancing hard, manmade surfaces like the kitchen backsplash comprised of multiple metals including stainless steel and bronze, with natural materials like stained rich oak wood on the cabinetry and granite countertops.

This harmony reverbates around the room: a mantle of 12×24-inch tile acts as a horizontal counterpoint to the strong vertical presence of the fireplace itself. This is geometrically echoed in light, linear tiling that serves as bridge between the three sections of the main family space and on the flooring and walls throughout the home.


The children picked their own colors, themes, and bedding for their rooms: a Husker motif for the youngest, Brayden Yannone (9); sports for the two middle boys, Baylen Yannone (11) and Drew Gibbons (12); music and guitar for the eldest boy, Luke Gibbons (14); and inspiring quotes for Jennifer’s daughter, Michaela Gibbons (17). Her older daughter, Jessica Gibbons (21), lives away at college but has claimed a room on the lower level for school breaks.

The Mediterranean-inspired exterior of the home, which also serves as a model for Bloomfield Custom Homes, was Bryan’s idea. Its sand-colored stucco and stone ediface, crowned by hipped roofs, envelops an open, road-facing courtyard and would not be out of place among the revival mansions of Pasadena. “I wanted a home that was a vacation.”

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Before they could kick back and enjoy, the family had to educate themselves about the various “smart” features of their home, most of which, including cameras, garage doors, lights, and music, can be operated from an iPad. “When you walk out the door, there’s an off button. You can shut off the whole house!” Jennifer says with glee. “Before we moved in, we had to take the kids around, ‘This is how you shut off the lights…’”

And while the Yannone-Gibbons clan is clearly having fun with the more dazzling features of their new stomping grounds (such as the time Michaela called Jennifer from downstairs to tell her it was too warm and Jennifer “fixed it” without leaving the comfort of her sofa), their parents are careful to keep them grounded.


“They all think we live in a mansion,” Jennifer laughs. “But we remind them that we’re blessed to have this. When school’s out, we do a lot of volunteering, like at the Open Door Mission.”

“With the house came new responsibilities,” says Bryan. “It’s a group effort to keep a house this size, but the children have become very efficient about it.”

It’s a synthesis formula that the businesses, other families, and spiritual communities of Sterling Ridge would do well to copy. As Jennifer puts it, “We all pitch in and take care of what we have.”

For more information on this unique mixed-use development, visit sterlingridge.com.

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.