Tag Archives: Omaha Home

Downsizing Home Cameos

November 17, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Oscar-winning filmmaker Alexander Payne prepares a film, he not only auditions actors but locations, too.

The writer-director insists on actual locations whenever possible. When he films in his hometown of Omaha, he’s extra keen to get it right. Just as local homes brought authenticity to his films Citizen Ruth, Election, and About Schmidt, Omaha homes earned supporting roles for Payne’s new film Downsizing during a mid-April 2016 shoot here.

Omaha figures prominently in the sci-fi dramedy (starring Matt Damon) that played major festivals in Venice, Italy; Telluride, Colorado; and Toronto, Canada. Its first half establishes Damon’s character, Paul, as an Omaha Everyman. The script called for him to reside in an inner-city duplex and, thus, location scout Jamie Vesay and counterparts in Toronto, where much of the film was made, scoured prospective sites.

Two matching 1920s-era, two-story brick duplexes on Douglas Street (in Payne’s childhood Dundee neighborhood) stood in for Paul’s home.

The story has Paul and wife Audrey (played by Kristen Wiig) visit a suburban McMansion. Vesay scouted that, too.

Jamie Vesay

Two new large homes in Elkhorn’s Five Fountains neighborhood portrayed the for-sale property that Paul and Audrey visit.

Scenes were also shot outside La Casa Pizzaria, Creighton Prep (Payne’s alma mater), Jam’s in the Old Market and at Regency Court, and Omaha Steaks’ distribution center.

The story required a duplex with adjoining back decks to underscore the attachment Paul feels to his mother, who lives next door at one point. Payne loves physical comedy, and the director liked all the business of Paul entering-exiting various doors and navigating steps.

Events fast forward nine years to find Paul’s mother gone. He and Audrey now live in his mom’s old place, and he’s renting out his former unit. It’s a commentary on Paul’s limited horizons before his grand adventure.

Vesay says Payne also liked the Douglas properties for their small, steep front yards. A yard sale unfolds there that comically shows folks struggling with the tight quarters and severe pitch. Sealing the deal was the alley’s confluence of yards, fences, garages, light poles, wires, and its downtown view.

Carol Redwing lived at one of the two Douglas Street duplexes. The exterior of her residence was used for daytime and nighttime shots with Damon and Wiig. The unoccupied unit next door was leased by the production. The same arrangement was used at the other duplex on Douglas Street, where interiors were shot in a unit doubling for the on-screen duplex. More interiors were doubled in Toronto.

In suburban Five Points, Gretchen and Steven Twohig’s home became the McMansion exterior. The home of Ethan and Erin Evans became the interior. Vesay says the sea of cookie-cutter roofs visible from the development caught Payne’s eye.

The exterior of the Twohig home where filming occurred

Long before the production reached out to residents, their homes were scouted from the street. When first contacted, they were wary. Once assured that the Hollywood scout was not a prankster, Vesay, Payne, and department heads came for closer looks. The locals only knew their places were in the running before receiving final confirmation.

When word leaked about the Downsizing dwellings, reporters and curiosity-seekers appeared.

“It was kind of surreal,” says Redwing, who has since moved.

During the shoot, Vesay says producers broke protocol and allowed civilians on set. “People got remarkably close,” he says. Residents who lent their homes to the cause got up-close-and-personal experiences themselves. It was eye-opening.

“There’s a lot of moving pieces and people,” Redwing says. “It was really cool.”

Ethan Evans says he was struck “by how many behind-the-scenes people it takes—it’s quite the production. It was kind of a circus and crazy for a while.”

Hollywood came calling, but as Gretchen Twohig noted, “There’s nothing glamorous or fancy about any of it. It’s just people working really hard to get a project done. You realize all this hard work and all these tiny moments have to come together to make a movie.” She and her husband have school-age children but opted not to take them out of classes for the filming. The Evans’ young children watched. Redwing and her son saw everything.

Twohig echoed the other residents in saying everyone from Payne to the stars to the grips were “down-to-earth, calm, warm, professional, and gracious.”

The Evans’ garage became a staging spot. That’s where the couple hung out with Payne, Damon, and Wiig.

The high-ceilinged, spacious home’s entryway, dining room, and kitchen got the shoot’s full attention.

“Besides moving furniture around to make room for lights, screens, and cameras—and taking pictures down— they sort of kept everything the way we had the house decorated,” Evans says, “It only took a few takes.”

The Evans and Twohigs met one another as a result of Hollywood casting their homes. They’ve compared notes about their Downsizing experiences.

Twohig says after hours of setup at her place, as crew adjusted window blinds and for-sale signs, moved cars in and out of the driveway, and took the family basketball hoop down, put it back up, and took it down again, the actual shoot was over in a flash.

At Redwing’s old duplex, crew did landscaping and made building touch-ups but left her recycling bin, tools, and other homey elements intact. She’s confident her old abode made the final cut since it’s such an essential location as the hero’s home. However, the Evans and Twohigs know their places are more incidental and therefore expendable.

“We’d be disappointed, but we knew going in it could very easily be cut,” Twohig says. “But it would sure be fun if it was there.”

Redwing spoke for everyone regarding anticipation for Downsizing’s December release. “I’m very eager to see it.”

Meanwhile, one of the Douglas duplexes’ exterior has been painted. Last summer, its empty units were under renovation. A real estate listing read: “Come live where Matt Damon filmed the movie Downsizing!”

Having glimpsed behind the magic curtain, Ethan Evans says, “I sort of watch movies differently now.” Although he’s certain that he’ll forget the mechanics of cameras, mics, booms, and clappers when he finally sees Downsizing.

One of the duplexes on Douglas Street where filming occurred.

Leo Adam Biga is the author of Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film. Read more of his work at leoadambiga.com.

This article was printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

One Year, Big Life Changes

Photography by Dawn Kanne, Digital Memories 4U

After the honeymoon, married couples often ask themselves, “What were we thinking?” My clients Bryan and Revé Behrens can relate to the quandary from their newly remodeled home.

Roughly two years ago, Revé contacted me. She was the owner of a local cleaning business that was growing fast. After working hard all day, she wanted to be able to come home and relax in her downtown Omaha apartment. She decided to take a chance and hire a designer to pull things together for her.

Revé already owned many items that she knew she wanted to keep. We made some additional purchases, but it was important to her that any purchases would easily transition to a house one day.

After getting to know her more, I knew the direction we were headed with the design. The apartment would have a quiet, understated elegance—modern and sophisticated, yet comfortable; colorful, but not loud; full of textures and warmth.

We incorporated everything she wished for, and she loved her apartment.

But life happens: Boy meets girl. Girl and boy fall in love. Before long, wedding plans and a house hunt were underway.

Early in their search, Revé and her fiancé found a house to buy. It backed up to a lake, and I could see their vision for the house becoming a beautiful home.

Bryan and Revé also asked me to design their wedding. So, while we were in the process of remodeling, we were also collaborating on wedding plans.

They started remodeling right away to get as much done as they could before the wedding. They wanted to avoid living in the home during the bulk of the renovations, and it was easier to make the bigger changes while the house was empty.

Before

Our goal was to create a modern, updated home without raising the roof or making structural changes to keep costs down for the soon-to-be newlyweds.

Paint, furniture, accessories, some lighting, etc.—all were important. But there were a few other crucial changes that altered the entire feel and appeal of the home.

The fireplace got a much-needed new look. It is now visually interesting while camouflaging their large television with black stone and a custom mantle.

Removing the dividing walls between the kitchen/dining room and the family room created an open floor plan.

New kitchen cabinet doors and drawer fronts were made, and we painted all the cabinets.

We kept the granite countertops but changed the backsplash to something more fitting.

A custom pantry door was made with a sandblasted message of love engraved on the glass as a wedding gift from the groom to his new bride.

A section of upper cabinets were removed to accommodate a large window combination with shades in between the glass so they could appreciate that lake view from morning till night.

The master bath was gutted and built to accommodate Revé and Bryan’s tall statures, and the hinged door was replaced with a wider pocket door.

Reclaimed barn wood was used to make the custom his-and-hers vanity, mirrors, trim, and doors. His-and-hers recessed medicine cabinets are hidden behind the sliding mirrors.

The master bedroom closets became one large closet before custom barn doors were installed.

A custom curb-less tile shower was a perfect fit.

The newlyweds now have an updated home designed for them. It’s an eclectic mix that feels current, but lived in—one that doesn’t look like you just walked in and pulled a set off a showroom floor.

It’s a wonderful place for them to start their lives together, and to one day maybe even start a family.

This ambitious couple went from living independently, to engagement, planning a wedding, getting married, buying a home, and remodeling that home in less than one year. They are seasoned pros now. I’m not sure they would recommend taking on all of that at once, but the final outcome was worth it. 

After

Dawn Kanne Dawn, the owner of Dawn’s Designs, is a member of Allied ASID and the National Kitchen & Bath Association. She belongs to the Better Business Bureau and has more than 20 years experience in the interior design industry. Dawn works with both commercial and residential design.

Visit dawns-designs.com for more information.

This article was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Home.

Mary Jochim’s penthouse-level condominium in the A.K. Riley Building at 10th and Douglas streets boasts exceptional views of the Gene Leahy Mall and Old Market to the south and an unmatched eastern view of the riverfront, Heartland of America Park, and many notable historic buildings. The design scheme is amazing, too: Egyptian-influenced, with 25-foot-tall ceilings, and an art collection that includes works from regional artists Hal Holoun, Steve Joy, Wendy Bantam, and Susan Brasch displayed on the walls.

But during the Christmas holiday period, the home of Jochim (and her 4-pound teacup poodle, Mini-Me) transforms into a wonderland.

“I quite often joke that Jesus and I were born on the same day, different year. So Christmas is a special holiday, which it would be with or without my birthday,” Jochim says. “I never want to forget that Christmas is a sacred, religious holiday for Christians. It is a serious and joyous holiday.”

Jochim, a “very visual person” who “draws energy from my surroundings,” blends an energizing color palette into her holiday decorating. She festoons her living space with exquisite glass ornaments, wreaths and other greenery, ribbons, twinkling lights, and both small tabletop trees and their full-size counterparts.

The décor spans the 3,100 square feet of living space that includes three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a study, and a library, along with a large open-concept kitchen and dining area, living room, and formal dining room. It’s fortunate that Jochim has ample on-site storage space, because the decorating process takes up to three weeks even with the help of a volunteer or two.

“Christmas has evolved as my tastes have changed; I have added some each year as well as retired some decorations,” she says. “Because of my new home I’ve made quite a few more changes this year, many because of the beautiful view of the [Holiday Lights Festival at Gene Leahy Mall] Christmas lights from my two southern windows.”

The Riley building was erected in 1879 and a major renovation commenced a century later. The current owner is Pinnacle Bank.

“Certainly a lot of credit goes to Thomas Briccetti, former conductor of Omaha Symphony, and his wife, Billie Lee Mommer, who was an interior designer,
for redeveloping this building,” Jochim says. “It takes a lot of good people, preservation-minded organizations, and business to prevent the demise of historic buildings.”

Jochim adds that she’s turned to two ASID-certified designers over the years to craft the look of both her home and office spaces: “I have depended on Julia Russell of Julia Russell Designs to modify and expand on the late Ruth Ann Davis’ work in my new home and office. Julia has done an amazing job.”

She has resided in the Riley building for less than two years, but Jochim’s home seamlessly accommodates her holiday hospitality.

“The expansiveness of the space allows me to do more than I could in a traditional home. With this space, the tall ceilings, exposed brick, and old beams make for a great space without doing a thing, or any credit due me. So with decorations and the holiday lights up and down the Leahy Mall, it can be jaw-dropping,” she says.

Jochim, who owns the investment advisory firm Sterling Financial Advisors, certainly enjoys the festive atmosphere from her home-based office during the workweek, but the atmosphere enthralls friends and family.

“Entertaining brings me great joy,” Jochim says. “Yes, I like to hear that people are a bit ‘wowed,’ but my goal is to set a mood for my guests to feel special, to feel the joy of the season. And yes, provide some of the wonderment we all probably had as kids.”

This article was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Magazine.

Mantel Makeover

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There’s something inviting and whimsical about a fireplace— faux or real. I love the way it adds an artistic element to a wall. Even more, it’s a perfect fit for this holiday issue. Who doesn’t like to decorate a mantel this time of year?

It’s not the first time I have implemented this clever idea in a room of my house that did not have an actual working fireplace. I have previously added a mantel in place of a headboard in two prior bedrooms. After moving from these houses, each new owner wanted the mantels to stay.

So, I’m starting over with this mantel makeover project. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to find tutorials for putting together a mantel and the accompanying surround, which would provide elegant ambiance and interest to the room.

I found my used surround on Craigslist for $25. Someone was remodeling and simply wanted to get rid of it. If you’re not so lucky, you can buy a new one from a fireplace shop (sometimes they have close-out models). Or check salvage/antique shops and auctions. Maybe you could just build one yourself? I ran across several tutorials on building faux fireplace surrounds online.

Regardless of how you find your mantel, make it your own. It will provide a real focal point in the room.

Instructions

It’s easiest to work on this type of project upright, so I leaned it up against the wall in the garage with newspaper around and under it.

Step 1: Remove any and all nails if you purchased this used.

Step 2: Sand down any rough areas or parts that may come through after painting, or if it has high gloss.

Step 3: Prime the mantel with spray primer, and use a sponge hand applicator to get into hard-to-access areas. I did several coats of spray, then went back over with the sponge roller for a smooth finish.

Step 4: Use top-coat in the color of choice. Seal if desired.

How to Mount on Wall

This part of my project required me to recruit my husband. After doing a little research, I decided the easiest way to mount the mantel without using any screws or nails was to use what is called a “French cleat.” You’ll find lots of tutorials on this procedure on the internet. The concept is simple: two pieces of wood are cut with a 45-degree angle and then interlock. One piece is mounted to the wall and the other to the back of the mantel.

Step 1: Take one piece of lumber (3/4- to 1-inch thick), then use a table saw set at a 45-degree angle to split that piece of wood in half. These two pieces of wood now match together.

Step 2: Take the lower piece and mount to the wall with chiseled face pointing up and out.

Step 3: Mount the other piece to the mantel and then interlock the two pieces.

Step 4: Hang on the wall. Keep in mind, you will want to either remove or notch out your trim boards, where the fireplace legs are, so the mantel sits flat against the wall.

As far as anything on the inside (normally where your fireplace would be), you can get creative depending on how permanent you want to make it. I had an extra mirror left over from a bathroom redo. It fit perfectly on the inside and the reflection makes it more interesting. This hard surface, where the hearth would have been, provided a flat space for arranging candles and decorative items.

Now decorate away! Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to try different and unexpected things. And don’t forget that the grand reveal of my yearlong project will appear in the next issue.

Sandy’s yearlong DIY remodeling series began with an introduction to the room in the January/February issue. The first of five projects, a hanging coffee filter lamp, debuted in the March/April issue. Rustic wall vases followed in the May/June issue. Vintage classic chairs were in the July/August issue. A dresser redo appeared in September/October. Visit readonlinenow.com to review back issues.

This article was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Home.

How to Make Frozen Aronia Berry Wine

November 14, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you’re anything of a forager, after summer and fall, you have a freezer full of frozen berries. They can keep for a long time, and it’s easy to pick more than is necessary once you get into the bushes. Foraged berries are great. But when the next year rolls around, you need to make room. It’s time to use up those frozen berries.

Producing wine can use up quite a few. Frozen berries are easier to ferment because the freezing and thawing breaks down the cell walls of the fruit, making it easier to juice firmer berries. And just about everyone loves wine. It makes a great gift, and the wine will be done just in time for the holiday (if started far enough in advance in the fall). Clearing out your freezer will make room for fall berries, winter trout, and other game.

Personally, I had a freezer full of aronia berries from Kurt and Tina Geschwender, who live in Ponca Hills, and were gracious enough to let a friend and I pick their excess. The berries are firm and tart, a bit like cranberries, and are loaded with antioxidants. Because they are so sturdy, freezing helps to pulp them, lending to a better wine with less effort.

Finished aronia berry wine is crisp and dry with a beautiful dark maroon color. It retains the flavor of the berry.

The aronia berry wine is simple and uses the same equipment and basic knowledge discussed in my previous article “Foraging and Fermenting Wild American Grapes,” which can be found in the August 2016 issue of Omaha Magazine online. The same basic equipment used to make grape wine can be used for aronia berries.

It is essential to have a fermentation bucket, fermentation lock, and straining bag—all of which must be sanitized.

Plenty of berries, sugar, and other items are also necessary.

My recipe is modified from Winemaker’s Recipe Handbook’s cranberry recipe (the Blackberry recipe is also a solid option). The following makes one gallon of wine—or step up the quantities to make more:

  • 3 pounds aronia berries
  • 7 pints water (preferably not tap)
  • 2.5 pounds sugar
  • 0.5 teaspoon pectic enzyme
  • 0.5 teaspoon yeast energizer
  • 1 Campden tablet (crushed)
  • 1 package wine yeast (EC-1118 yeast best tolerates the antioxidant-rich aronia berries)

Adding half a pint of red grape concentrate is preferable to some, but I like to let the aronia berries shine.

First, place washed, frozen berries in a straining bag in your fermenter. Mash and squeeze the thawing pulp in the fermenter. This would be difficult with fresh, firm berries. Tie the bag and leave it in the fermenter. Stir in all other ingredients except for yeast. Cover the fermenter. Twenty-four hours later, add the yeast and cover. Stir daily. When fermentation slows to a near standstill (after about five days), remove the straining bag and pulp. After about three more weeks, siphon the wine into a sanitized glass secondary fermenter. A hydrometer is useful for assessing the progress of fermentation. In about two months, if it is clear, bottle it.

A deep, red bottle of aronia berry wine is sure to be a memorable Christmas gift to anyone lucky enough to receive one. More importantly, there’s room in the freezer for that fall turkey.

See omahamagazine.com/articles/foraging-and-fermenting-wild-american-grapes for more information on basic winemaking with wild grapes. Visit fermenterssupply.com for more information.

This article was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Home.

Sunset Hills: Once-Upon-A-Time Suburban Fringe

November 8, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

What do the Meat Puppets and Omaha have in common? Sunset Hills and local millionaire Carl Renstrom.

Renstrom, who died in November of 1981, left behind two grandchildren—Curtis and Christopher Kirkwood—who founded the Meat Puppets with drummer Derrick Bostrom. While the Meat Puppets have gone on to punk-rock fame, the Renstrom Farm behind Sunset Hills was sold and developed into One Pacific Place. Many residents still fondly remember the farm.

Joyce Green, a resident since 1979, can recall when they could see horses from the backyard. “We felt we were on the west edge of Omaha,” she says. “It was all agriculture.”

Green has even heard stories told by older residents of the Renstrom girls, either Vera or Lisa, selling farm vegetables from their chauffeur-driven car.

Bordered by 90th Street, Pacific Street, and Big Papio Creek, Sunset Hills is hilly with lush old trees, no through-streets, and little traffic.

Betty Salistean, now in her 90s, moved to Sunset Hills during the early 1950s. She relocated from the barracks at Fort Omaha when Pierce Street was still a gravel road. The city limits moved from 60th to 72nd Street in the early 20th century, and Salistean watched Omaha creep westward from her then-new home.

“It is hard to believe how fast the city has grown,” she says.

Sunset Hills’ neighborhood grew, too. An influx of young families caused District 66 to operate a temporary elementary from two houses on South 93rd Avenue. Finished in 1956, the Sunset Elementary School was built in the California-pod style— featuring sectioned rooms not connected by indoor hallways— favored for speed of construction.

“It was a kind of unique school; it actually doesn’t really belong in Nebraska,” says Steve Sorensen, who grew up in the neighborhood. “You were immediately outside when you step out the door [of the classrooms].”

In the early 1960s, hallways were added for security and practicality in Nebraska’s inclement weather, and the beloved Sunset Hills Elementary sign was constructed with beams from the original entryway.

A new renovation of the school was underway during this past summer. On Aug. 31, construction workers were busy erecting a canopy entrance for the new building. According to the school’s principal, Michelle Patterson, the local firm TACKarchitects interviewed students about memorable features. These conversations led to incorporating the sign, a canopy entrance modeled after the original entrance, glass block windows, and a beloved piece of concrete play equipment, dubbed “The Cheese,” into the new building.

It helped to have a lead architect on the project, TACKarchitects’ Christopher Houston, living in Sunset Hills.

The elementary school at the heart of Sunset Hills

“For how small the school is, we had lots of community support,” Patterson says, “which is kind of a theme around here.”

The design process included 15 meetings with an advisory committee of community members and informational meetings that filled the elementary school’s gym. This communication informed the school’s redesign—the low building height protected neighborhood views, and plentiful green space surrounded the educational edifice. Much of the surrounding greenery came from Sunset Valley Golf Course.

Some of the greenery, however, could be disappearing. Members voted on June 13 to sell the 46 acres of Sunset Valley Golf Course to NP Dodge. Speaking with Omaha Magazine in late August, company president Nate Dodge says they began a 90-day “due diligence” examination of soil to “test theory if development is possible in an area from an engineering and financial standpoint.”

NP Dodge may request a second 90-day period and anticipates developing 15 acres due to the Big Papio Creek’s flood zone. The company is considering some single-family lots and multifamily buildings, keeping green space and possibly some golf holes as amenities.

“We would love to develop this in a way that would reflect the neighborhood and district,” Dodge says. “We wanted to take in the concerns of people who would be neighbors of the development.”

NP Dodge held three public meetings attended by roughly 180 people, as well as meeting with individuals. According to the company’s president, they have made “meaningful changes because of the input and interaction of the neighborhood.”

“I live seven blocks from there. Not only have I played that golf course but biked that trail,” Dodge says. “I love that neighborhood and think it could be a great development.”

Dodge is not the only person who thinks Sunset Hills is “on the upswing.” According to Bob Zagoda, chief financial officer for District 66, the district expects growth in the area, and the new elementary building will increase to two sections. This continues a strong concentration of neighborhood students, 83 percent of the total population.

“There were gobs of kids,” Sorensen says of his childhood in Sunset Hills. “There were so many friendships you could have, and the whole neighborhood was your playground.” Residents describe the community as if it were a small Nebraskan town: “safe” and “nice.” Jack and Joyce Green, both from small towns, have hosted 37 block parties in an annual tradition stretching over 40 years.

“Omaha is made up of a lot of small-town people, and our neighborhood always had that feel,” Joyce Green says, adding that some of Sunset Hills’ newest young families are familiar faces. “That is really a compliment to the neighborhood, that kids want to come back and raise their kids here. They feel like they are coming home to raise their families.”

Sorensen is one of those kids, born in 1959, back since 2007. His family frequently visited Sunset Hills during the interim years. In fact, he considered moving into his mother’s house after her passing but instead opted to purchase a home a few blocks away.

The Sorensens now reside in a beautiful old house he has admired since childhood. As a kid, he enjoyed hot chocolate on Halloween with the previous resident. He also recalls accidentally hitting the former mailbox while showing off in his beige 1970s Pinto one winter vacation home from college.

“I’ve lived in Dundee, and there are some great things about living there. I’ve lived in Country Club, and there are some great thing about living there,” Sorensen says.“But I feel happiest living here.”

Visit sunsethills.westside66.org for more information about the elementary school at the heart of Sunset Hills.

This article was printed in the November/December issue of Omaha Home.

Steve Sorensen, a resident of Sunset Hills

One Year, Big Life Changes

November 3, 2017 by
Photography by Dawn Kanne, Digital Memories 4U

After the honeymoon, married couples often ask themselves, “What were we thinking?” My clients Bryan and Revé Behrens can relate to the quandary from their newly remodeled home.

Roughly two years ago, Revé contacted me. She was the owner of a local cleaning business that was growing fast. After working hard all day, she wanted to be able to come home and relax in her downtown Omaha apartment. She decided to take a chance and hire a designer to pull things together for her.

Revé already owned many items that she knew she wanted to keep. We made some additional purchases, but it was important to her that any purchases would easily transition to a house one day.

After getting to know her more, I knew the direction we were headed with the design. The apartment would have a quiet, understated elegance—modern and sophisticated, yet comfortable; colorful, but not loud; full of textures and warmth.

We incorporated everything she wished for, and she loved her apartment.

But life happens: Boy meets girl. Girl and boy fall in love. Before long, wedding plans and a house hunt were underway.

Early in their search, Revé and her fiancé found a house to buy. It backed up to a lake, and I could see their vision for the house becoming a beautiful home.

Before Photos

Bryan and Revé also asked me to design their wedding. So, while we were in the process of remodeling, we were also collaborating on wedding plans.

They started remodeling right away to get as much done as they could before the wedding. They wanted to avoid living in the home during the bulk of the renovations, and it was easier to make the bigger changes while the house was empty.

Our goal was to create a modern, updated home without raising the roof or making structural changes to keep costs down for the soon-to-be newlyweds.

Paint, furniture, accessories, some lighting, etc.—all were important. But there were a few other crucial changes that altered the entire feel and appeal of the home.

The fireplace got a much-needed new look. It is now visually interesting while camouflaging their large television with black stone and a custom mantle.

Removing the dividing walls between the kitchen/dining room and the family room created an open floor plan.

New kitchen cabinet doors and drawer fronts were made, and we painted all the cabinets.

We kept the granite countertops but changed the backsplash to something more fitting.

A custom pantry door was made with a sandblasted message of love engraved on the glass as a wedding gift from the groom to his new bride.

A section of upper cabinets were removed to accommodate a large window combination with shades in between the glass so they could appreciate that lake view from morning till night.

The master bath was gutted and built to accommodate Revé and Bryan’s tall statures, and the hinged door was replaced with a wider pocket door.

Reclaimed barn wood was used to make the custom his-and-hers vanity, mirrors, trim, and doors. His-and-hers recessed medicine cabinets are hidden behind the sliding mirrors.

The master bedroom closets became one large closet before custom barn doors were installed.

A custom curb-less tile shower was a perfect fit.

The newlyweds now have an updated home designed for them. It’s an eclectic mix that feels current, but lived in—one that doesn’t look like you just walked in and pulled a set off a showroom floor.

It’s a wonderful place for them to start their lives together, and to one day maybe even start a family.

This ambitious couple went from living independently, to engagement, planning a wedding, getting married, buying a home, and remodeling that home in less than one year. They are seasoned pros now. I’m not sure they would recommend taking on all of that at once, but the final outcome was worth it.

Visit dawns-designs.com for more information.

This article was printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

The Wigert Residence

October 27, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

On a winding drive, in the northwest Omaha neighborhood of Hidden Creek, sits a residential showcase of contemporary green architecture. The newest addition to the neighborhood is Christine and Ben Wigert’s sleek home.

Designed by award-winning architect Randy Brown, the structure angularly unfolds down a grassy lot with the cookie-cutter designs of suburban Omaha strategically nestled behind a grove of dense foliage.

For seven years prior to building this residence, the Wigerts had been living in a starter home. By 2015, they were ready for a change—“to start the next chapter of our adventures,” Christine says. Thus began their hunt for the perfect new home. Having green space with a view was a priority, and this quickly took them from looking downtown to Dundee to further and further west.

One day Ben saw a home that Brown, his friend, had designed in a new neighborhood called Hidden Creek (near 134th Avenue and Fort Street, close to Standing Bear Lake). They had seen images of this neighborhood before and heard it was out of their price range. However, Christine says they reached out to Brown on Facebook, and “he replied almost instantly and was excited to hear of our interest.” The design process began almost immediately. “After a few e-mail exchanges and sharing of prototypes he designed,” she says, “we were hooked on the idea of working with him.”

After the initial messages, Brown presented several designs with floor-to-ceiling windows for views onto the creek and a rooftop deck. Then one day, Christine says, “Randy surprised us with an entirely new blueprint for a very unique home. He said that after working with us for a few months, he had created a new vision for our home based on getting to know us.” Hidden Creek and their soon-to-be neighbors were also “perfect because the modern eco-living captured both of our favorite design styles and united us around our love for modern architecture.”

Dark wood floors wrap the space while compact nooks, angular supports, and wall cutouts are scattered through the spaces. There are few, if any, 90-degree angle walls— even some of the floors are ramped. The residence is one large open floor plan with the living room attached to both the kitchen and dining room.

The result is a 4,000-square-foot one-of-a-kind structure clad in vertical charcoal-gray siding. It is not only user-specific, but site-specific. Cantilevered spaces and open-ended decks complement the fusion of outdoor and indoor space. Strategic views are emphasized with a flood of indirect and natural light, and a 2,000-square-foot rooftop deck (with space for future gardening boxes) looks onto the wild grasses, forest, and creek adjacent to the building.

The interior design matches and extends many of the tropes found on the exterior. Every space in the two-bedroom home is unique, and nothing is left unconsidered. Dark wood floors wrap the space while compact nooks, angular supports, and wall cutouts are scattered through the spaces. There are few, if any, 90-degree angle walls—even some of the floors are ramped. The residence is one large open floor plan with the living room attached to both the kitchen and dining room. The open concept and high- lofted ceilings “allow us to share the space at all times,” Christine says.

Although the home is now complete and they have moved in, with Brown’s open-ended design, the Wigerts say that there is still “lots to dream about” on both the interior and exterior of their contemporary home.

 

 

 

Visit moderneco-homes.com to learn more about Hidden Creek.

This article was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Home.

Omaha Home Opener

August 23, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Simmering cider, sweaters, and boots—what a breath of fresh air this season brings after a hot and humid summer.

Should we take a cue from the shedding foliage to realize less is more? That’s the direction I’m leaning these days, as I try to downsize my home-remodeling projects. Hopefully, the clutter (and the associated stress) will be a thing of the past when the projects are complete.

Speaking of simplicity, what a treat awaits within these pages. Neil Astle—an award-winning architect who was based in Omaha—was a major innovator of midcentury modern style. Although the architect is no longer alive today, two of Astle’s Omaha homes continue to inspire homeowners.

Home legacies have a funny way of coming into the lives of new homeowners. I was pleasantly surprised reading the story of artist Eugene Kingman’s home and the murals he painted inside. The home’s new residents were instrumental in retrieving a different mural from The New York Times, which now hangs in the downtown branch of the Omaha Public Library.

Guess what iconic Nebraska scene appeared in the home’s private mural? Cornfields!

Cornfields were also the perfect backdrop for my fall DIY project: the fifth installment of my year-long dressing room remodel. The outdoors setting for the photos make me nostalgic, reminding me of my childhood home on the farm in Iowa.

Now, cuddle up by the bonfire or under your favorite cozy, fuzzy throw and enjoy our latest fall issue.

Omaha Home Opener

June 21, 2017 by

When summertime arrives, my husband and I have a tradition of inviting friends and family to our lakeside property to share food, sip cocktails, and watch fireworks.

Summer get-togethers would not be the same without a favorite beverage, and we thought our July/August issue would be the perfect time to incorporate a cold drink with my year-long makeover project (to help the DIY article fit with the issue’s food theme).

That’s how I decided to have a friendly competition to see who can make the best pink grapefruit martini!

My friend Mark Kitson, from Louie’s Wine Dive, was in for the challenge. He hosted the contest. The winning drink (mine) is featured in the photo of my project.

Also inside this issue is the Abels family’s dream grill. Years of planning culminated in their perfect outdoor space for entertaining. And take a peek into owner and chef extraordinaire Nicola Shartrand’s many kitchens. We show you her personal home kitchen, where some of Omaha best pasta recipes originated, along with the story behind her newest culinary adventure.

Other fun food-themed stories range from a lawyer raising livestock at his home in the Ponca Hills, to the old farmhouse that has supported generations of farmers (who drive into Omaha for farmers markets every weekend), and more.

From Omaha Home to your home, we hope you have a safe and happy summer!

~Sandy

Sandy Matson is the contributing editor for Omaha Home.

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