Tag Archives: modern

Pacific Life

April 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The site of Omaha’s old Knights of Aksarben complex—acres of once-busy thoroughbred horse racing and concert space turned albatross—has blossomed anew as the live-work-play destination spot known as Aksarben Village.

The booming mixed-use development is home to popular eateries, a movie theater, health club, and two colleges. This is part of why Pacific Life Insurance Company moved its regional business operations office from downtown to a new five-story building there in late 2015. The company’s Omaha office has grown from 250 to 450 workers since the blue-gray motif structure’s 2014 groundbreaking.

The gleaming, glass-fronted Holland Basham Architects design offers many creature comforts and inhabits prime real estate at 6750 Mercy Road.

The new digs provide a branded presence after a low-key profile at downtown’s Landmark Center.

Angela Greisen, Pacific Life assistant vice president for human resources, says, “We couldn’t have our name on the previous building in any big, visible way. We’d been in Omaha 12-plus years and people still didn’t know we were here.” That’s changed, she says, as events “bring thousands of people to the village and our new building with our big branding and signage is right there in the middle of everything.”

“That’s been huge for us. It’s also given us higher applicant flow because people now know we’re here and here to stay and we’re growing.”

Where many employees had to use off-site parking downtown, they now have an 850-stall covered garage. A heated, enclosed skybridge connects the building to the garage.

Greisen was part of a project team drawn from each Pacific Life business unit that polled employees about their likes and dislikes.

“The three most important things employees said they wanted were parking, amenities, and a nearby location with easy access,” she says.

Aksarben was the clear site choice. Pacific Life partnered with Magnum Development on the $33 million new build. The company occupies the second through fifth floors. Eateries and shops fill the ground floor.

“Staff response has been great,” Greisen says. “They love the parking, the amenities, the bright, airy feel of the building with the wide-open layout, natural lighting, and clean, modern finishes. Though we added only about 10,000 square feet, it’s organized much more efficiently.”

Each floor plan incorporates cutting-edge work spaces to enhance communication, team-building, workflow, and group projects via huddle spaces, conference rooms, and commons areas. She says, “Staff can seamlessly interface in real time with colleagues at other locations through videoconferencing, teleconferencing, and webinar technology.”

There’s a Wall Street trading-room floor look to the third floor internal wholesaling area. Flat-screen panels stream motivational performance messages and live market conditions to the sales desk floor.

In multiple areas, adjustable, stand-up work stations are available. Employees can indulge their freshly brewed beverage cravings at several Keurig stations.

The in-house Park View Cafe is a grab-your-own, pay-with-your-phone Company Kitchen model. The spacious room converts into a meeting-reception space with audio-video connectivity. A covered balcony offers a panoramic overlook of Stinson Park.

Though not green certified, the structure integrates many conservation features, including energy efficient windows, LED lighting, HVAC that is programmed to shut off when areas are unoccupied, low water usage restroom fixtures, and motion-sensor lighting.

Greisen says employees appreciate Aksarben Village’s warm welcome and plethora of things to do. Proximity is a big plus, too, as Pacific Life is an employer partner of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, whose south campus is in the village. As an employer partner, company representatives promote their job opportunites and participate in career fairs; staffers also speak to classes and conduct mock interviews when asked. Greisen hopes this partnership will grow.

“We expect an increase because we have a partnership with UNO, and now we are literally on the edge of their campus,” she says. “It’s very convenient. Increased visibility.  It gives us even more opportunities to partner with the university.”

This visibility, along with the popular amenities, could mean an increase in sought-after employees at Pacific Life in the near future.  And that can help secure Pacific Life’s future.

Visit  aksarbenvillage.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Sleek Home Spa

March 30, 2017 by
Photography by Tom Grady

Liz spends five days a week working with fellow designers, consulting on schemes, meeting with clients, and creating unique finish combinations. Proficiency in AutoCAD, Revit, Photoshop, and Illustrator enable her to generate creative solutions no matter the project size.

CAPTION (cabinets): A custom vanity (above) warms the bathroom with wood cabinets and pendant lighting. To create a modern spa shower (right), pebble floor and wall details contrast with the smooth walls and ceiling.

CAPTION (bathroom):
Photos show how the bathroom looked before the transformation.

Like all great home renovations, the project began with an idea. An Omaha couple contacted me at The Interior Design Firm; they wanted to mimic the relaxing modern aesthetic of a high-end spa in their home.

After attaining a list of design requirements for their master bathroom, I began conceptualizing how to realize my clients’ initial idea. The look that the couple desired would require a spacious layout, sleek finishes, and lustrous natural and artificial lighting. That’s when my work really began.

The project started in earnest as I analyzed the current space to figure out how much larger the bathroom needed to be to accommodate every element requested by the clients. The greatest challenge was that the original square footage of the space was not large enough to bring this desired bathroom into reality.

In the end, some features of the space stayed in the same location (such as the stool and vanity). To create the spacious layout the client wanted, the tub needed to move back a few feet to allow for proper circulation in the bathroom. The existing shower was wedged in a corner, and was one of the main reasons for the renovation.

With the help of a contractor, Sudbeck Homes, the exterior wall behind the existing tub was extended 10 feet to make way for the new walk-in shower. The new shower is an extraordinary 8.5 feet by 8.5 feet, outfitted with two fixed shower heads, one hand-held, body sprayers, and a rain-head.

The couple was cognizant of their long-term needs in the home, so a bench was added next to the handheld shower head. Keeping with the modern minimalist style, two recessed niches were created so the personal hygiene items could be tucked away (to avoid creating clutter).

Moving the wall made a world of difference for the space. The tub location moved back several feet and anchored the room. The organic free-standing tub is a focal point as you enter from the doorway. It is the perfect setting to find peace and relaxation. The additional square footage in the space makes the room feel quite grandiose.

After deciding where each element needed to go in the space, I diverted my focus to the finishes. To create this tranquil retreat, we started looking at color palettes that would be cohesive with the existing finishes in the home.

With French doors going into the bathroom, the finishes needed to vibe with the colors in the rest of their master bedroom. The home has light oak woodwork and warm tones. To achieve this harmony, I wanted to get rid of the existing curves and add modern, clean lines.

Gray was the color direction that the clients and I agreed on, but making it blend with the rest of the home meant that the gray tones had to be warm. Gray porcelain tile in the proper color family was applied to the floor, shower walls, shower ceiling, base, and the feature wall behind the tub.

The feature wall adds interest with the installed rectilinear porcelain tile. In keeping with the monochromatic color scheme, stone pebble tile was selected for the shower floor and the detail stripe in the shower.

When selecting the hard surfaces, the clients’ goal was minimal upkeep for the future. A Cambria quartz countertop was the perfect choice for their spa bath. This quartz was not only used for the counter, but also for the bench and niche shelves in the shower.

Making this space feel modern meant sticking to a few selections and color tones. To contrast the gray features, a solid wood vanity was added for warmth. All of the plumbing fixtures in the bathroom are smooth and contemporary, creating a waterfall effect when the water is turned on.

The lighting in the space greatly improved: cans were added in strategic locations, and pendants were placed above the sinks to supplement the can lighting. The simplicity of the pendants allows the chandelier to be the prime focus. The chandelier is a shining feature that captivates anyone walking into the bathroom.

Natural lighting was important in the bathroom, so windows were added in the shower on two walls. To keep with the minimal aesthetic, a frosted pattern glass was chosen for the windows so that window treatments were not necessary.

With the help of the contractor, this sophisticated bathroom was made possible. We turned this Omaha couple’s small idea into their ideal at-home spa.

Visit idfomaha.com/liz-lempka for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 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!

 

Laura Kirschenbaum

January 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Laura Kirshenbaum is a straight-A student, but it is not good grades that her mother talks about first when describing her daughter’s scholarly accomplishments.

“It’s comments that teachers make. It’s wonderful hearing about how she treats others and how she is respectful to teachers. They say that she’s an active listener in class, that she’s kind and courteous. That’s what I’m proud about,” Jennifer Tompkins Kirshenbaum says. “You may have it in your DNA that these things are easier than for other people, or you learn at a faster pace. That may be a gift with you, but what do you do with it? Some people may have an ego with it, but Laura doesn’t. She’s grateful for what she has and is highly motivated.”

Kirshenbaum, an eighth-grader at Alice Buffett Magnet Middle School in the Omaha Public School District, admits to being a fast learner but says her excellent grades in her honors classes don’t come effortlessly. “I work hard for that,” she says.

And she definitely prefers some subjects over others. “My top subject would definitely be math,” she says. “But I love science, too: chemistry, physics, and astronomy.”

Kirshenbaum has no shortcuts to academic success to share, she says. Being a good student means being diligent: finishing the assignments, completing the reading, following directions. It also helps to have good organizational skills that ensure she’s always prepared. “I turn homework in on time and I try to stay on top of things,” she explains. “I’m proud of that.”

She even enjoys learning outside of the classroom, watching informational YouTube channels in her spare time, and competing in multiple academic events like Quiz Bowl, Science Bowl, Math Counts, Academic Pentathlon, and Book Blasters. She has an artistic side, too, that brings some balance to student life—Kirshenbaum is active in dance (ballet, modern, and jazz) and plays the violin, even performing in the orchestra pit for Omaha Public Schools’ summer musical Peter Pan in 2016.

“I also do a lot of acting,” she adds. “I’ve been in a lot of the school plays, and I’ve done some community theater as well.”

She’s even managed to make time for volleyball and local volunteering at a food bank and a homeless shelter. Two summers ago, she was a classroom helper at Jackson Elementary School. Because she’s an honors student, she is also eligible to tutor fellow students. “I like being able to help others,” she says.

Kirshenbaum says her future plans absolutely include college, which her mother and father (Matt Kirshenbaum) like to hear. It may be a little early to start choosing a particular institution, but judging by the scholarly aptitude she’s demonstrated so far, it’s clear that she’s going to be able to take her pick of schools—and programs of study—upon graduation four years from now.

“I see myself becoming a chemist,” she says. “Or a college professor in math or science.”

This article was printed in the Winter 2017 edition of Family Guide.

Putting the Fun in Functional

March 3, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

First-time visitors to the home of Cory and Teri Wehrbein often let out an audible “wow” or “whoa” when looking up, around, and through the property. Located on an acre of land off Bay Road in rural north Plattsmouth, an area still confusing to MapQuest and GPS, the home elicits spontaneous utterances of amazement for its creative, distinctive qualities.

The white exterior of the U-shaped home catches the eye immediately, contrasting with earth-toned neighboring homes spaced generously along the street. A row of oblong windows rises above the roofline, giving the illusion of a two-story home, when, in fact, it’s a one-story design. The windows, architecturally known as clerestory (pronounced clear story), catch the sun’s morning rays from the east and fill the white and gray interior with plenty of light and warmth during the cold Nebraska winters.

Columns of untreated cedar hold up the front porch’s metal overhang, while several cedar planks lie horizontally across the front window. More than an act of whimsy, the modern, external window treatment pays homage to Cory’s roots.

“I grew up on a dairy farm between Plattsmouth and Louisville,” says Cory, who, along with his brother, owns a landscaping and design company. “Teri’s and my goal outside was to have a modern-looking farmhouse and the clerestory mimics a barn.” Looking around, Cory adds, “There’s a story to everything we designed.”

 

The Wehrbeins’ story goes back to fifth grade, when they met. They married 15 years ago and have two children Mila, 9 and Micah, 7. Their ideas mesh perfectly and the house they designed, with the help of architect Jeremy Carlson of Omaha, reflects their personality: warm, welcoming, and lots of fun.

Walking through the front door, the eye catches a family restaurant-style dining booth of light hickory wood across the large room, just off the kitchen. “One of our children’s cousins says, ‘This is like eating at Applebee’s’,” laughs Teri. The space is just as social as a neighborhood bar and grill. The kitchen, dining room, and living room encompass one area.

True to the Wehrbeins’ vision, the open-floor design with clean lines and vaulted ceilings, coupled with a modern, yet simple, décor, makes interacting with guests a breeze. Windows on three walls add extra airiness and openness to a surprisingly boundary-free interior. Heck, even the dishes, cups, and glasses sit in full view on open shelves above the sink, an idea Teri grasped long before it became a more commonly accepted convenience.

The dining booth’s cool factor is surpassed only by the fireplace, which fills the entire north wall. Built from hundreds of interlocking pieces of hickory wood treated with four different colors of stain, the fireplace resembles a giant Tetris video game. There’s a story here, too.

“We knew we didn’t want stone, so Doug Kiser [of d KISER design.construct] came up with the wood idea,” explains Teri. “He had all the pieces cut, had them all numbered, and just pieced it all together.” The fireplace won a top national award among entries from 1,600 woodworkers, and the home was featured in the 2011 American Institute of Architects’ Home Tour.

A stairway next to the fireplace, the only steps in or around this “zero entry” home, leads to an unfinished basement, which the couple plans to renovate soon.

Oh, the possibilities…

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Boiling Point

August 14, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in July/August 2015 The Encounter.

I love how isolated I am in downtown Omaha in a parking lot.”

Jill Benz says this from the second floor of her Little Italy home, trees dappling the light through every window. Standing there with her, I can’t disagree that, for a few seconds, I also forgot I am, essentially, at the back end of the Amtrak parking lot.

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(“After three days, you don’t hear the trains,” Benz says.)

Sure, there are trains; and on the west side of the building there’s a 200-foot smokestack that tells the first chapter of the building’s story as a steam power plant for Burlington Station and other buildings in the area. But today, that Burlington-branded stack is the backbone of a waterfall that cascades from five different areas, and the sound of falling water, plus the insulation from the trees around the property, do produce an effect more bucolic than industrial.

That’s not to say Benz’s Burlington isn’t urban, or distinctly Omahan.

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The exposed brick walls of the main living area show photos of old Omaha—weathered images of buildings that no longer exist—along with an old Summer Arts Festival poster.  A thick book detailing 1894 Omaha and South Omaha history perches on a table. On the first level in an open kitchen and entertaining space are old backdrops from the 6 p.m. news—”Channel 7, I think,” Benz says. Back upstairs, a show-stopping white leather banquette hugs the whole length of the living area—its bones are from the old Grandmother’s restaurant at 90th and Dodge streets. And there’s Benz herself, an active member of the Little Italy neighborhood association and a kind of local historian, telling the stories of each part of the history of her home—and her hometown—as we walk.

So, sure, Benz’s home might not feel like it’s in downtown Omaha (in a parking lot)—but it does feel like Omaha.

Jill Benz 4“I found the listing on Trulia,” Benz says. She left Omaha in the 2000s for Connecticut, where her daughter lives. Benz remarried there and established an interior design business. Then, a few years ago, her husband passed away.

Back in Omaha, her mother fell ill. Benz returned.

JillBenz3She looked at a place on the water that was bigger than she needed before she found the Burlington building. It had been on the market for a while—a friend of hers considered buying it himself. She called him, told him she was interested, and he got her in to see it.

“Then I dreamed about it, which has always been a sign for me,” Benz says. “The next day, we started the deal, and by the middle of the afternoon, I got it.”

She didn’t tell her other family members—specifically her older brother—until a month and a half after the deal closed.

“My older brother has a different kind of brain than I do,” Benz says. “There were no furnace ducts or air-conditioning or kitchen. He asked me about all the things the building didn’t have.”

It has all of those things now—most notably the kitchen, on the entry level, designed in an open format with an island workspace. A lit peace sign hangs over the wall-oriented work area, and the whole thing stands adjacent to a garage door that opens to one side of the patio. Entertainment space both indoors and out boasts plenty of tables and stackable seating; outside, gas and wood fire pits stand back from brick walkways.

The second floor living space is decorated in bright blue and white, with graphic Greek- and Moroccan-inspired prints mixed with mid-century chairs and metal and glass tables. The Grandmother’s banquette plays against streamlined grey velvet sofas and tulip armchairs.

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“I picked things I liked,” Benz said. “I went classic modern. I thought it would work.”

A white metal spiral staircase leads from the second floor to the third and fourth floors, where Benz’s bold print choices continue. The fourth-floor space has a cozy seating area with more modern leather chairs.

The building’s roof offers a view of downtown Omaha. A raised, framed structure houses a few outdoor sofas; curtains can be let loose to give the space privacy.

Benz said the floors inside the building’s steel walls are heated now, though she’s tried to be as energy-efficient as possible. The building’s only enclosed area houses a geothermal heating and air-conditiong unit—a kind of new-era nod, perhaps, to the building’s past life.

“It’s such an unusual building,” Benz says. “It’s taken a while to get it right. I do love it. It takes a different kind of a person to live in this kind of a place. It’s such an adventure.”

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Historic Brandeis Mansion

December 24, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mark Maser starts with sound advice for any home decorator: “Buy what you like and find a way to make it work in your space.”

And when the holidays come around, he says, “everything stays.” It’s an approach that makes sense for a lot of homeowners, but especially so for a family that owns a turn-of-the-century Omaha mansion that’s also got a lot working in its space—a Jacobethan Revival exterior with brick walls, a red tile roof, and stucco and half-timber work; an interior main staircase with Colonial Revival-style columns flanking the main staircase inside; a sitting room ceiling with exposed beams recalling the Arts and Crafts period; a neo-classical music room; a Georgian Revival dining room. The design—the early-1900s work of architect Albert Kahn—blended several interior design revival styles to make it feel like an English manor house updated through the years, Maser said.

Department-store mogul Arthur Brandeis commissioned the house, situated at 500 S. 38th St., in 1904; Maser’s parents purchased the house in 2008 after it had served as commercial and private residential spaces for years and, by the end of the early aughts, had been through nearly a decade of restoration. Maser and his partner, who’d lived around the corner in another Gold Coast home, moved in.

“We were attracted to the house because of its traditional nature,” Maser says. “I’ve always liked old stuff. We thought if we could park our collections inside an older home, it’d be a perfect fit.”

The question, then? How to make the house feel comfortable, Maser says, how to make it feel like a place people could sit around without feeling constricted in a small antique chair—how to make it feel like the things inside had always been there.

Maser mixed modern upholstered items amid antiques. In a nod to Britain’s Victorian and Edwardian periods—when, Maser says, families were proud to display collectibles purchased in far-off lands by relatives with foreign business concerns—he placed chinoiserie and other items from across the globe throughout rooms.

“The rule I have is ‘be true to the space,’” Maser explains. “[The house] has a sense of collection.”

And that is the sense that, at the holidays, stays.

“We don’t want to lose the flavor of the stuff,” he says. “That way it looks like Christmas is more organic.”

Maser says he works with the help of a decorator (this year, Voila! Flowers’  Ann Etienne is helping with the mansion’s holiday transformation) to find what he and his partner like and make it work
with the house.

“We buy Christmas things that are not 100 years old but are inspired by them,” he says. “We put something together that feels right for a period house.”

It’s a blend of Christopher Radko ornaments, clip-on glass birds, peacocks in blue and green and teal and white, some rooms that are more red than green. With the home’s limited floor space, a shorter 4- or 5-foot tree goes in a large Chinese fishbowl on a table in one room, atop a piano in another.

“It gives the sense of the tree being important and tall,” Maser said, “but without eating up floor space or having to move out furniture.”

And when guests are coming to call—at the mansion, it could be family members or nonprofit groups and organizations (Maser is president of the Opera Omaha Guild, which hosts events in the mansion) or, more recently, private parties by reservation—Maser says the primary concern is to make sure they have a good time.

He doesn’t set a particular theme to events and leaves a lot of creative decision-making to the people he says have the specialized skills for it—florists and photographers and caterers (he consistently works with Attitude on Food).

His does prepare one holiday dish, however, frequently requested by his guests: egg mousse.

He makes the mousse and arranges it in the shape of a tree on a platter. He tops it with parsley flakes and tomato ornaments and olive tapenade garland.

“Every time I have a party, people ask for egg mousse,” he boasts. “I’ve served it millions of times. People think it’s just dandy.”

It’s what people like. It works in the space.

It’s comfy. Merry.

“When Christmas goes up and the music goes on and the lights are twinkling,” Maser says, “it’s a happy feeling.”

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Waterford

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Beautiful landscaping, nature at your doorstep, a state-of-the-art clubhouse and fitness center overlooking the serene pool…Sounds more like a dreamy vacation destination than a permanent residence.

Waterford is a cozy neighborhood tucked away at the corner of 156th and Ida streets in northwest Omaha. “It is a quiet neighborhood with a lot of families and is a place where you really get to know your neighbors,” says Jennifer Magilton with CBSHome Real Estate. “It has that small-town sense of community.”20130602_bs_8867_Web

Resident Kim Brown attests to Waterford’s tight-knit community. “The neighborhood is friendly, quiet, and the neighbors are very supportive, caring, and gracious. We are all very close and know what each other needs. If you’re going to be gone for a week, no problem…Your neighbor will get your mail or mow your yard. And when a neighbor is going through a tough time, we all pull together and do whatever needs to be done,” says Brown.

The residents of Waterford enjoy throwing holiday parties for the kids. “Traditionally, we have a Halloween party, an Easter Egg Hunt, and Santa comes on a firetruck,” says Brown. “We have people bring cookies for the Christmas event and candy for the Halloween event. A committee gets together to plan and solicit any donations or other items that need to be purchased.”20130602_bs_8818_Web

Brown and her family have lived in Waterford for six years and do not plan on moving anytime soon. “In the area where I live [northeast], we are pretty established…there are only a few lots left. So, if you want to buy, hurry!”

The subdivision offers three housing options, all with access to the private clubhouse, 24-hour fitness center, two swimming pools, lake, and walking trails: single-family homes, estate lots, and villas/townhomes with lawn and trash services included.20130602_bs_8786_Web

“The neighborhood has a variety of architectural [home] designs, from ultra-chic modern to Colorado cabin, as well as traditional homes in a wide range of prices…lots of different styles of homes throughout because of all of the different builders,” says Magilton. Homes sell for $250,000 to $700,000.

The winding roads of Waterford are a calming retreat from the city noise and traffic. The streets are lined with neat rose bushes, shrubs, and local prairie grasses. The neighborhood has a private clubhouse equipped with a pool and 24-hour fitness center. A second pool sits on the southeast side of the subdivision.20130602_bs_8785_Web

Outdoors enthusiasts enjoy the secluded 30-acre lake stocked with fish and the biking/jogging trail. “I absolutely love the access we have to nature in terms of green space and walking trails,” says resident Maria Minderman. “You can access Standing Bear [Recreational Area] and many other trails through the trail system.”

The clubhouse is an excellent resource for residents. It’s a charming space that includes a kitchen and a large, open space plus a sitting area with couches, a television, and fireplace. Several of the Waterford community activities are hosted there.20130602_bs_8831_Web

“If you have a small party, I would guess the clubhouse would comfortably hold anywhere from 25-50 people. It would be a great place for a rehearsal dinner, graduation, or birthday party,” Brown adds. “It is a very nice treat for residents if they do not want to go into Omaha…There is something right here that they can use. Plus, you don’t have to clean your house!”

The neighborhood is unique in that it’s located in both the Omaha Public and Bennington Public School districts. Minderman’s children—who just finished kindergarten, second, and fourth grades—go to Saddlebrook Elementary in OPS, just 1.5 miles from her house. “I absolutely love Saddlebrook. The school is brand-new and has a library and a community center. I don’t think you could find a better school in Omaha,” says Minderman.20130602_bs_8823_Web

Brown’s two children attend Bennington Public Schools. “We have a lot of different school systems represented in Waterford,” says Brown. “I know families that attend St. James [Catholic], Lifegate Christian School, and Concordia [Lutheran] School of Omaha.”

Brown and her family built their two-story, traditional home and were very pleased with their building options. “We didn’t want a cookie-cutter house,” says Brown, adding she admires the other unique homes in the area. “A house was just built down the road from us that is absolutely beautiful. It has more of a Colorado feel to it. There are a couple of really unique homes that resemble a Frank Lloyd Wright style.”20130602_bs_8814_Web

Waterford offers the proximity to modern conveniences without sacrificing the natural elements. “We have geese that make their home at the lake most of the year. It is very serene to walk around the lake and see the geese, ducks, and bunnies. I saw a bald eagle the other day,” says Brown.

At the same time, the subdivision is just a couple miles from the shopping and dining at centers at 144th and 156th and Maple streets. Target, Wal-Mart, and HyVee are just a quick drive away.

And if you’re a golfer, Stone Creek Golf Course (156th & Ida) is just a stroll across the street.

The Best of All Worlds

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.

Railcar Modern American Kitchen

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jared Clarke can just as likely tell you how to make a great-tasting vinaigrette as he can the science behind why the mixture is called an emulsion and why oil floats on top of vinegar.

An experienced restaurant chef, Clarke has degrees in both culinary arts and culinology. The latter field focuses on the science of food, and culinologists are equally familiar with beakers and test tubes as they are with pots and pans. While many culinologists work in food-product development, research, quality control, and other roles in laboratories and government agencies, Clarke chose restaurants because of his passion for food and love of cooking.20130517_bs_6706_web

The 34-year-old Fairbury, Neb., native is chef-owner of Railcar Modern American Kitchen, which opened in December near 144th and Blondo streets. Its name and railcar era-inspired decor is a nod to the railroads that were key to Omaha’s growth and development.

Clarke envisioned a restaurant inspired by the dining cars prevalent during the golden age of rail travel. The result is a cozy yet elegant space with wood accents, warm paint colors, vintage chandeliers, and a variety of train memorabilia. Industrial elements such as open ceilings with exposed ductwork lend a modern touch to the dining room.20130517_bs_6709_web

The restaurant sources several products from local food producers, including Little Red Barn Beef, Jisa Farmstead Cheese, Truebridge Foods, and Le Quartier Baking Company. Railcar’s eclectic menu features fresh takes on classics.

“What I try to do is modern comfort food,” Clarke says. “Everything’s from scratch.”

Though hearty meat-and-potato entrees like the Woodford Reserve Tenderloin Medallions and Stout Braised Short Ribs are popular, there are several dishes for fans of lighter fare. When creating the menu, Clarke wanted to include options for a wide variety of guests, from vegetarians to gluten-free customers. A vegetarian-friendly cauliflower hash features cauliflower instead of potatoes, which means it’s also suitable for people watching their carbs.20130517_bs_6699_web

Customer satisfaction has been a part of Clarke’s mission since his first restaurant job at Chili’s in 1998. Just six weeks into the job, he was asked to help train new employees how to cook. In 2005, he moved to Chicago and worked as an executive chef for five years.

“It was pretty awesome,” he says. “I love Chicago. I’m a huge Cubs fan, and the dining scene is really amazing.”20130517_bs_6685_web

Expecting their second child, he and his wife returned to Nebraska to be closer to family. Clarke was a partner in the locally owned Blue Agave, where he developed the menu and headed up the kitchen. A few months after Blue Agave closed in summer 2012, he launched Railcar. With Omaha home to Union Pacific headquarters, he thought his concept would be a perfect fit.

What hasn’t been ideal, however, is a road-widening project at the intersection near his restaurant. Traffic on portions of Blondo Street has been detoured while crews move utilities and do other work.20130517_bs_6672_web

“It’s hard to say if it’s hurting us,” Clarke said, “but it has slowed down our growth.”

Despite inconveniences caused by construction work, which is expected to continue into fall, Clarke plans to keep chugging away and welcoming diners all aboard at Railcar.

Railcar Modern American Kitchen
1814 N. 144th St.
402-493-4743
railcaromaha.com