Tag Archives: Omaha Home

Paul Erik Nelson’s Home Office

January 12, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In the historic Loveland Park neighborhood, quietly nestled away along a tree-lined street, there is a home and homeowner with an uncanny fervor for contemporary style and historic authenticity.

Perched atop a grassy lawn, architect Paul Erik Nelson’s 4,400-square-foot residence stands regal with worthy bones updated with deliberate modifications. Nelson, who is the sole partner of PEN Architects—a firm known for both restorations and new builds—took this home as an architectural project and space for his growing family.

Built in 1937, the home was designed by Reinholdt Frederick Hennig in an art moderne style (sometimes called “streamline modern”), which is essentially a refined version of art deco. In line with this architectural style, the home features curvilinear elements inside, such as the stairs, as well as rounded corners around the windows.

Through researching the home, its historic neighborhood, and the original architect in preparation for renovations, Nelson learned that his home has several other companions built with the Farronwall technique before World War II in Nebraska. He explains that the Farronwall technique involves brick masonry that provides a formwork for pouring concrete floors. A hollow space between the massive walls helps to ventilate the house. 

Farronwall construction methods were low-cost, and the structures are known for their unique bombproof sturdiness. “We do feel very safe in this house,” Nelson says, “and older neighbors have told us they took shelter in it during the 1973 tornado.”

In the history of the residence, the Nelsons are the fourth owners—and the home’s exterior offers clues to its evolution. Instead of trying to hide previous renovations, he identified them in horizontal charcoal-gray shingles that accent Hennig’s original beige square bricks. Nelson envisioned “not fighting with the original character” while keeping it light with his own renovations.

To passersby on the street, his front yard’s modern treehouse offers one of his own attention-grabbing additions to the plot of land.

“The treehouse is floating and quite transparent, which is a playful contrast to the heavier more massive feeling of the house sitting on the ground,” Nelson says. “When I built it, the idea was to reuse materials from the original house and yard to enhance its physical connection. The horizontally laid wood slats do relate to some of the linear masonry detailing on the house. We liked the look of the treehouse so much we repeated some of the same architectural elements on an upper-level addition added recently.”  

After purchasing the home, Nelson began removing years of ad hoc additives to reveal Henning’s original detailing and intent. “I could tell there was something special hidden,” he says.

Peeling back the layers of the home’s history and functionality, he reorganized the space with warm wood floors, a new centralized kitchen, eclectic accents, and even turned a former garage into a family room. Some original details—including a rounded staircase off the entry foyer and calico fireplace—remain as a nod to the past. Nelson also opened up the second-floor master bathroom, adding large windows and tub that look out onto a lush back and side yard. This updated space includes protruding windows that double as display areas for personal items. It is through these calculated updates and personal touches that the Nelson family is transforming their 80-year-old home to work for their contemporary needs.

His sense of searching for the bones of a place and proposing tactical updates are also what Nelson pursues in his architecture practice. His office, conveniently located above the garage, is a light-drenched space with rolls of construction documents and balsa wood models neatly organized throughout. Two large iMac screens sit on an elongated desk scattered with notes, family mementos, and design periodicals.

Nelson started PEN in 2011 as a one-man-shop specializing in both commercial and residential architecture. To date, he has completed more than 40 architectural and historic preservation projects. For some of his work prior to establishing PEN, Nelson won an American Institute of Architects award for his work on the Joy Residence, Salhany Residence, and Whitcomb Conservatory on the campus of Doane College.

His approach to design allows each project to develop without a preconceived notion or style. What emerges, like his residence, is a studied product derived from an authentic process where appropriate additives coalesce alongside historic preservation—synchronicity at its best.

Visit penarchitect.com for more information about Paul Erik Nelson’s architectural work.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home.

My Thrifty Oasis

January 8, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

With a new year, we all like to start with a clean slate. It’s a chance to do things differently, with more attention to purpose. That was my intention when I started this yearlong renovation of an unused room in my home.

My goal was to create a personal oasis that was not only functional but also serene. I wanted a simple, clean, and elegant look that would stand the test of time.

As I assessed the space, I struggled to decide on the color palette. I finally chose a white-on-white scheme with gold undertones. Actually painting the room, however, would have to wait until the end of the year because my focus would be on each and every DIY piece going in the space.

These individual installments were the basis of my yearlong DIY series in Omaha Home. Starting each project, I had to consider the sequence and time of year for each installment. Photo shoots were outside, which allowed me to add a personal touch to the visuals of the story without spoiling readers’ anticipation for this grand reveal.

Let’s recap the five projects that led to this point. For any readers wondering about the black dress I wore in each photo, you can read the backstory in my opening letter to this issue. Catch a glimpse of the dress in the photos of the finished room, too.

Coffee Filter Light 

Lighting is crucial for setting the mood of any room. But who knew coffee filter light fixtures could turn into something this glamorous?

My first project in this series showcased my first-ever attempt at creating a coffee filter lamp. After 15 hours of folding and hot-gluing coffee filters, this turned out to be much more time-intensive than I had anticipated. The end result, however, offers a great bang for your buck.

Wall-mounted Vases

Having a beautiful arched window in my room was pure luck, so I didn’t want to hide it with heavy window coverings. I wanted to accentuate the window’s design elements. I love what shutters do on outside-facing windows, so I tried to duplicate that look on the inside. Using some dock wood leftover from a prior DIY project, and some paint, the reclaimed wood made the perfect backdrop for my wall-mounted vases.

Repaired Vintage Chairs

Some might see junk at thrift stores. I see winning lottery tickets just waiting for me. It’s all about perception, right? A pair of classic vintage chairs—discovered while thrifting—found a new home in my remodeled room. The happy duo are fabulously seated in front of the window. They also happen to be my favorite DIY project to date.

Repurposed Vanity

A buffet turned vanity? Yep, you can repurpose any piece of furniture, and this shining star got a head-to-toe makeover in soft metallic gold paint. The paint I splurged on (funny how far you can stretch one little jar of paint if you get creative).

Mantel Makeover

The mantel offers a decorative focal point to the room. All it needed was a good sanding (and a coat of the same white paint used throughout the room remodel) to tie everything together.

Once the DIY projects were complete, I recruited my professional friends from Marco Shutters to help me maximize the small closet space. They even designed additional shelving for shoes, jewelry, purses, and accessories. Although I wanted to add softness around the windows, I needed something for privacy while adding elegance. Shutters were the perfect finishing touch.

While all of this was underway, I got to work painting the walls, trim, baseboard, and ceiling. My steps were inverted compared to how I would normally approach a room makeover, as I typically paint a room first, adding the furniture and design components later. Nevertheless, it all came together perfectly. As the grand reveal drew closer, I felt so good about each design decision made along the way.

My favorite part of the remodeling process was placing all of the DIY projects in their designated spots and decorating the completed room. The end result was the boutique-like experience I was seeking, a seamless balance of design and function. As it turns out, you do not have to sacrifice elegance for being thrifty.

Visit readonlinenow.com to review the six previous installments in this DIY room remodeling series in Omaha Home

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home

Omaha Home Entryway

December 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Happy New Year!

I finally made it to the finish line on my yearlong makeover, which began in our January 2017 edition. It’s a special treat to feature the results in this first independent issue of Omaha Home.

Previously, Omaha Home appeared as a section inside the full subscriber-edition of Omaha Magazine, with an overrun edition of Omaha Home printed as a standalone magazine available at select distribution points around town. Now, the magazines are being printed altogether separately.

Subscribers to Omaha Magazine will still receive Omaha Home, and the magazine’s digital presence is still available through omahamagazine.com. The only thing that has changed is that the two magazines will be polybagged together rather than perfect-bound as a single publication.

For those who have been following my room makeover series, you might have noticed the black dress that appeared in each photo shoot. The backstory is simple. I found this vintage dress eight years ago for a mere $10 while thrifting. It sat on my clothes rack all these years. I couldn’t bear to part with it, but I also couldn’t find the right occasion to wear it. All of my DIY photo shoots were outdoors leading up to this issue, and I thought the dress would make a nice unifying element to the series. Look for the dress again in the photos from my room’s grand reveal this issue.

I would like to thank all the wonderful people who allowed us to take photos on their property for this yearlong project. Finally, I could not end without a big thank-you to my “behind the scene guy,” my husband, Richard. He listened to all my ideas, helped me saw wood, load/unload the truck, prop up mirrors for photos, and dressed up and danced with me at an old farm for one photo shoot. (Your constant encouragement and support did not go unnoticed.)

We wish you a year of glorious change and success in 2018. Thanks for reading!


This letter was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home

Sandy Matson is the contributing editor for Omaha Home.

Makin’ Bacon

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Perfecting a fat slab of bacon at home is a skill worth practicing. Your friends and family will thank you.

Bacon is made by dry-curing or brining pork belly and then smoking the slab(s). Most store-bought bacons use nitrites and nitrates as a preservative, come from commercial farms, and are often frozen and thawed. If you have access to pigs—or know a farmer—you can make bacon locally sourced from organic pork, and you can make fresh bacon without the synthetic preservatives.

Nitrites and nitrates save the bacon’s color, prevent the fat from going rancid, and inhibit bacteria growth. But there are competing opinions about the health impact of consuming nitrites/nitrates, and the World Health Organization has linked the compounds to cancer in humans.

As an alternative, salt can be used in larger quantities to brine and essentially cure your at-home bacon. It won’t keep as long as nitrite/nitrate-rich bacon, but you’ll find the slab disappearing quickly once you get a taste of it.


I use the same brine for many things that end up on the smoker. The ratios are easy to remember and simple to adjust as needed. In the end, it produces consistent results. It is actually a modification from a Betty Crocker turkey brine recipe I found many years ago. A similar whole brined turkey recipe is still offered by Betty Crocker. I have been toying with the same basic ratios of that recipe and they work for many meats.

The duration of the soak and the presence of additions such as brown sugar and sliced jalapeños make this brine a bit different than that of your Thanksgiving turkey.

—3 pounds pork belly
—1 pound sliced jalapeños
(or more)
—1 gallon water
—1 cup kosher salt, or more to taste
—1 pound brown sugar (or if you’re me, you’ll use the whole bag—be warned, this bacon will then burn in the frying pan if not carefully tended to. But it’s worth it.)
—1 tablespoon peppercorns
—1 tablespoon coarse ground pepper (optional)


Trim the skin from your pork belly, if you prefer.

In a large bowl, crush the jalapeño slices thoroughly. This aids in extraction.

In a large boiling pot, boil one gallon of water. Remove from heat.

Stir in salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, and jalapeños. Simmer until cool.

Submerge the pork belly in the brine. Refrigerate for 7-14 days.

Remove the pork belly from the brine after 7-14 days and rinse. Pat dry.

Rub the pork with ground pepper if you like.

Smoke indirectly at around 200 F for 3-4 hours.

Your bacon is done. Slice it. Fry it.

Go ahead and try a strip, and then tell me if you don’t eat the whole slab soon after.

The same general recipe works for other smoked meats with minor modification to the instructions. For example, try this same recipe with trout, but don’t leave them in the brine for more than 24 hours. Try it on chicken breasts (depending on the cut, smoke for 2-4 hours) or pork ribs (which could smoke for 6 hours or more). Be adventurous.

Feeding your friends and family delicious homemade bacon is a great way to make them appreciate you.

Visit Betty Crocker at bettycrocker.com/recipes/brined-whole-turkey for the brined whole turkey recipe that inspired this smoked jalapeño bacon recipe.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home.

Home And Away

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

One fun side effect of travel is that warm, wistful feeling you get when you’ve been away long enough to remember just how much you love home. For Wendy and Todd McMinn, home is a corresponding reminder of just how much they love their travels.

The walls, shelves, and surfaces at the McMinn house feature a mosaic of global artifacts, telling the story of a lifetime of adventures. A German cuckoo clock, Chinese mask, Turkish lamps, Dutch wooden shoes, dolls from Guatemala and Colombia, glass piggy bank from Austria, and artwork from all over the world are just a few examples of the cache of vibrant items that decorate their Omaha home.

“We’ve been really blessed with the opportunity and ability to travel. When we first got together, I told Todd, ‘You have to have your passport,’” says Wendy, a nurse with a lifelong love of experiencing far-flung places. “Our home and spaces around the home reflect the places we’ve traveled and the different cultures and people we’ve met along the way.”

When Wendy’s military father was stationed at Ramstein Air Base, the family spent several years of her childhood in Spesbach, Germany. Her parents were intentional in ensuring that she and her brother got a full cultural experience.

“I never knew any different, and my parents always made it fun. My mom is from Louisiana, so she said, ‘Guten tag, y’all,’” recalls Wendy of the way she witnessed the blending of cultures from a young age.

She has many vivid memories from those formative years, like volksmarsching (a recreational walk meant to help engage American military families with the community), learning to swim at the schwimmbad, and trading chocolate chip cookies for sweet bread at the bäckerei downstairs.

The family also traveled throughout Europe during this era, and though they returned to settle in Nebraska in 1983, Wendy’s love of travel endured.

“My mom took me to Holland when I was 10; we saw the windmills and dams and had a really neat experience,” Wendy says. “We went to Heidelberg and all these different places…I felt such a value in those experiences and wanted my kids to learn that value and see different parts of the world like I did.”

Todd, a physician who grew up with more of a domestic family road-trip exposure to travel, agrees that their children—Harrison, 22; Emily, 20; and Grace, 18—have benefitted from seeing the world.

“Wendy encourages international travel, whether that’s mission trips she’s done with the girls, study abroad opportunities, or other travels,” Todd says. “Traveling with the kids has been a great learning experience for them.”

Some of the McMinn family’s favorite journeys have taken them to France, Germany, Holland, and the United Kingdom. On a crowded list of future travel wishes, Wendy says Spain, Australia, Russia, South Africa, and Iceland top her list.

The McMinns like to strike a balance of planning without rigid overplanning when they travel; they use public transportation when possible, and they always travel light. They especially love to visit art museums and historical sites, and they have a family tradition of grabbing a snack or coffee in museum cafes. When the kids were younger, Wendy and Todd would ask them each to pick an attraction in their destination city to research, then when the family was on-site, they would share information they’d gathered about those places with the rest of the family.

“For example, one of my kids picked the Trevi Fountain when we visited Rome, so when we got there it was her job to tell us all about it,” Wendy says. “It gave them some ownership and got them excited about the upcoming trip.”

The McMinns have certainly succeeded in passing their love of travel on to their three children, which Wendy says comes not just with its obvious pleasures, but also with an expanded worldview.

“I realized very young that there are lots of people out there, and many of them are so different than me, but that’s so cool. There’s a lot of difference out there, but it’s not to be feared,” Wendy says. “Travel is just such a deep-down part of who I am. Seeing other people and cultures when I was younger, I got a sense of the bigger picture and just how big the world is.”

Just like a typical McMinn itinerary, their travel-related home décor isn’t overplanned.

“It wasn’t preplanned; it just is,” Wendy says. “All of this stuff is just a part of us and our memories.”

“There’s no structure or plan to it,” agrees Todd. “But every item has a story that goes with it and sentimental meaning to our family.”

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home

Local Designers’ Favorite Rooms

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Interior designers create rooms that are both beautiful and functional to reflect their clients’ tastes and needs. But what happens when there is no client involved? Three local designers describe their favorite rooms in their own homes, offering insights into their design philosophies.

Living Room
by Diane Luxford
D-Lux Interiors

Why is this room your favorite in your home?
In my living room and dining room, I love the soft gray-blue and gray-purple colors and accents of citrus lime green. I selected the furnishings for a contemporary feeling. The dining table and chairs are from a Danish furniture manufacturer—a favorite, as my heritage is Danish. I added a classic 1950s fabric, designed by Charles and Ray Eames, to the chairs.

What makes the room unique?
I have great flexibility in the room. I can remove the cocktail table, extend the dining table and add another table to seat 18 people for Christmas lunch or holiday dinners.

How does the room accommodate your lifestyle?
Two glass-front curios and an armoire give me plenty of storage, which allows me to indulge in my love of various styles of china and stemware.

Master Bedroom
by Patti Rosholm

Why is this room your favorite in your home?
My bedroom stands out over all the other rooms in my house because it’s quiet. It’s not a big, rolling master bedroom like many, but it’s serene. I think women gravitate toward smaller spaces in their homes because smaller spaces feel cozy. My little dog Joanie loves the bedroom, too; she is always with me.

What makes the room unique?
The master bedroom is unique because it’s simple in design and space. The walls are a mink gray in color, complemented with white accents. The floating shelf above the white linen headboard gives the room some extra dimension and a place to display some special pieces of artwork and personal keepsakes. The contrast between the espresso-stained furniture and white accents, accompanied by dark walls and an abundance of natural light, makes it all come together. There is also a sitting area that I love. It brings in a feeling of warmth and coziness.

How does the room accommodate your lifestyle?
We have no TV in our bedroom. The bedroom is for quiet reflection and a sense of winding down from a busy day. It’s where I go to pray and rest from a very demanding world.

Master Bath
by Pam Stanek
The Interior Design Firm

Why is this room your favorite in your home?
The master bath is one of my favorite spaces. It’s the first and last room I see every day.

What makes the room unique?
When updating the bathroom, I chose to remove traditional elements such as round columns and white raised panel cabinets. By removing the columns, I opened up this space to allow more light and highlight cleaner lines. Tile, cabinets, and countertops were selected to coordinate with the original custom-colored wallpaper. Luxe gold plumbing and hardware create a more sophisticated feel.

How does the room accommodate your lifestyle?
Changing the whirlpool tub to a therapeutic bath, improving the efficiency of the lighting throughout, and the aesthetics of the details make this space perfect for our everyday needs and expectations.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home

Omaha’s First Neighborhood (Forest Hill)

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Big pine and oak trees, patches of green space, historic mansions, and single-family homes (many of which were built in the late 1800s, not long after Omaha first became a city)—that’s what you’ll find in the area affectionately known as Omaha’s First Neighborhood, located just south of the Old Market between 10th and 13th streets.

You’ll see grand, welcoming porches where neighbors stop to greet each other on picturesque walks; multi-story gables flaunting tall, stained-glass windows; and architectural styles ranging from Victorian to Romanesque.

You can stroll by Bishopthorpe (1240 S. 10th St.), a large Victorian mansion that Bishop George Worthington built as his residence while he served as Episcopal Bishop of Nebraska. Just down the street is the majestic St. Francis Cabrini Church (1248 S. 10th St.), a shining example of Spanish Renaissance Revival style designed by the renowned architect Thomas Kimball. A few blocks down is the Cornish Mansion (1404 S. 10th St.), known as one of the best examples of French Second Empire architecture in Omaha.

“The neighborhood has a lot of character and charm, which is what draws people here,” says Nancy Mammel, who has owned property in the area for several years.

The problem is, over the past several years, the neighborhood has also been drawing more and more new development, some of which residents believe is threatening the area’s origins and integrity.

“Many people who are living in the homes are concerned about the future of these homes and this neighborhood,” says Marie Sedlacek, who moved to the neighborhood in 1985.

02 December 2017- Marie Sedlacek is photographed in front of her home for Omaha Magazine.

In 2015, John E. Johnston & Son Funeral Home on 10th and William streets, formerly the Kountze Mansion, was demolished to make way for William Rows, a cluster of 27 row houses. Grace University’s announcement to halt operations at the end of the 2017-2018 school year has attracted a developer’s proposal for more high-density apartments on some of the property. Omaha Public Schools purchased land at 10th and Pine streets to build a new 600-capacity elementary school, which residents are concerned will take away green space and bring more commuter traffic.

Progress itself isn’t bad. But residents believe progress that changes the historic look and feel of the area—the quaint community vibe and distinguishing architecture that holds an important place in Omaha’s past—isn’t good, either.

“We just want people building and developing in a smart way,” Mammel says.

While it’s colloquially called Omaha’s First Neighborhood, the area’s official name is Forest Hill. The parameters go north to south from Pacific to Bancroft streets, and east to west from Sixth to 13th streets, according to Arnie Breslow, president of the neighborhood association, who owns the Cornish Mansion and other properties.

The residents who live in the area, either as homeowners or renters, are diverse in both age and ethnicity. Sedlacek says her neighbors range in age from 30 to 70 years old, including single people, families with kids, and people who are older or retired. And these neighbors represent many different ethnicities, including Latino, Italian, Czech, and Bohemian.

The neighborhood began to form in the late 1800s. Some of the city’s first businessmen built the first homes in the area because they wanted to live close to their downtown businesses, but not right downtown, to get away from muddy streets, odors, and a general abundance of soot and pollution.

Breslow says about 28 large-to-mid-sized mansions were originally built on the “hill,” and he estimates maybe five remain. As the development of railroads increased commercial development and a need for more workers, immigrants began moving south of downtown, building more modest homes around the parameter of the mansions.

The three things residents love most about the area—what they believe is important to maintaining the neighborhood’s authenticity—are these homes (big and small), the bigger plots of green space, and the walkability around the neighborhood as well as to several popular destinations (a trait that is also attractive to developers).

Depending on which direction you are headed, the Forest Hill neighborhood is roughly a mile’s distance from two of Nebraska’s most popular tourist attractions—the Old Market and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. The Durham Museum and Lauritzen Gardens are also easily accessible. Residents who work downtown can easily walk to work. And everyone who lives in the area can enjoy walks to some of the area’s popular independent businesses, some of which have been around for generations, such as Cascio’s Steakhouse, Sons of Italy, Johnson Hardware Co., and Olsen Bake Shop.

In an effort to be proactive about the neighborhood’s future, Breslow, along with a group of several neighbors, worked with an architect to draft a plan to revitalize South 10th Street with more gardens and green space, new streetlights, and sculptures. The plan for “District 108” was approved by City Council about 10 years ago and even won Omaha by Design’s Neighborhood Leaf Award in 2009. Unfortunately, funds have not yet been made available to move significantly forward.

“Part of our plan is to do some things to try to slow the traffic down,” Breslow says. “People don’t like to walk down a street where a car is driving 50 miles per hour.”

Several aspects of the neighborhood’s future remain uncertain, and some are out of the homeowners’ control. However, Sedlacek, Breslow, and Mammel love this neighborhood. They love its history, its vibe, and how it has evolved since it was founded more than 100 years ago. And they will continue to do what they can to preserve it.

“We just really want our neighborhood to be sparkly,” Sedlacek says. “We have the kind of details people don’t realize we have until they are gone.”

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home.

Home Sweet Home…Finally!

Photography by Paul Piskorski

As a military family, they had traveled all around the world for many years. When they eventually landed in southwestern Omaha, they were ready to settle down and make the city their final destination.

Tackling the redesign of their home came with a few rules of engagement: They had an eclectic collection of beautiful antiques from Europe that had to be incorporated into their home. They wanted the entire main floor to be renovated with a fresh new feel. They wanted the home pulled out of the 1990s with a fresh, current color palette and a lighter brighter feel.

All this had to be achieved on a tight budget.

We started in the kitchen by replacing the microwave over the oven with a beautiful custom wood hood.
We also replaced the awkward nonfunctional desk with a custom drop zone to accommodate mail, phone chargers, and display space. We added a soft putty color on all the cabinetry to contrast the rich, dark stain on the hood and island. Clean lines of subway tile and a colorful slab of quartz on the island came together with striking new light fixtures to finish off the kitchen.

All the walls, ceilings, and trim were repainted. The walls were painted a soft grayish-taupe to allow the rooms to flow nicely and not compete with the well-traveled pieces throughout the space. There was no sign of the dated golden oak left in the décor. All the casing and doors were painted creamy white. All wood floors were sanded and stained in a medium rich brown tone. The dark stained wood on the kitchen island and hood were carried into the family room bookcases. The pink brick on the fireplace was faux painted to add deep charcoals and creams to the tired fireplace brick. Luxurious new carpet, decorative screen shades, and new furniture in neutral colors finished off the inviting family room. That same dark stain was carried into the entryway to create a dramatic contrast with the creamy white balusters.

The carpet in the dining room was replaced with beautiful hardwood floors. The walls were painted a deep blue accent color that is sprinkled throughout the other rooms as well. All lighting on the main floor was replaced with dramatic statement-piece light fixtures.

The stunning entry light fixture is one of the homeowner’s favorites.

The living room went from a drab, dark room to a comfortable place to hang out with soft green walls and crisp cream trim. The entire home now flows and functions for this family.

They finally have a peaceful, comfortable place to escape from a hectic world. Mission accomplished. I felt privileged to help them with their renovation, giving this military family a well-deserved dream home.

Visit designerstouchomaha.com to see more of the designer’s work. 

Transformations is a regular feature of Omaha Home that spotlights a recent project by a local ASID interior designer. 

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home.




The Buffalo Bill House

December 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It was built in 1895, four years before the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition made its temporary home on Omaha’s north side. It’s rumored that one of the expo’s directors lived there; the location offered convenient access to the massive 184-acre tract just down the street.

Today, the Victorian mansion at 2438 Manderson St. stands as an example of what’s possible when restoration tops demolition as an option. The home’s revitalization story begins with Dave Jeffers, owner of Shamrock Waterproofing in Omaha.

Back in 2013, he was in the neighborhood doing roofing work for a Habitat for Humanity home when he first noticed the property. “It was vacant, the yard was full of weeds, and there was a condemned sign on the door,” he says.

It got the history buff and preservation enthusiast thinking. Dave’s brother, Nick, was looking for a place to live in Omaha, and the home’s restoration would give Jeffers a chance to honor one of his favorite historical figures—William Frederick Cody, better known to many as Buffalo Bill. The American scout, bison hunter, and showman brought his Wild West Show to Omaha for the 1898 expo.

“I’ve always been interested in preserving homes, and this project fulfilled a lot of needs,” says Jeffers, who lives in the Bemis Park neighborhood.

The house is located in North Omaha’s Neighborhood Action and Fact Association, an active group that lobbied to make the home a tour stop during the 2017 Neighborhoods, USA Conference held in Omaha last May.

Intrigued by what he saw, Jeffers headed to the Douglas County Assessor’s Office to do research. Following some negotiation, he bought the property for roughly $4,500 with a mandate to address the existing code violations. Years of neglect were evident throughout the once-grand Victorian beauty (built to impress with its tall, slender footprint, bay window, decorative woodwork, and wrap-around porch).

“By the time I took possession, the furnace had been stolen, but a previous owner had blown insulation in the walls, so the house was well insulated,” Jeffers says.

On his fix-it list: an entire kitchen “do-over,” warped floors from leaking hot water radiators, damaged windows on all three floors, and the most daunting task of all—a roof in severe distress. “The whole reason this house went into disrepair is because of the roof—it’s large, steep, dangerous, and expensive to fix,” Jeffers says. “If you fall off it, you’re finished.”

Back inside, all of the period light fixtures were missing, and decades of paint had to be stripped from the original woodwork—a gorgeous tiger oak with an incredible patina.

On the first floor, the fireplace room was the perfect fit for one of Jeffers’ most cherished finds, a Victorian fireplace mantel he bought at an antique store 40 years ago. It rises majestically from floor to ceiling and would easily fetch five figures on today’s antique market. “I knew it was special when I bought it, and I’m glad it finally has a home after all these years of being in storage,” Jeffers says.

A grand, L-shaped staircase off the front entrance leads to four bedrooms and two baths. A giant bison head mounted above the first landing seems to monitor foot traffic.

Upstairs, one bedroom serves as an office, and the others are named for Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull, and Annie Oakley. The female sharpshooter’s room, not yet finished, runs the width of the house. Generous in size and decorated in a rich red-and-gold paint pattern that mimics period wallpaper, it features a bedroom, a charming sitting room area, and two circular windows overlooking Manderson Street.

When it came time to begin furnishing and finishing the home, Jeffers turned to his love of antiques and is trying to stay as period as possible. “It’s hard to find early American oak furniture, but I’ve learned the art of the bargain—it’s just a matter of being patient,” he says. “I only shop during sales. That’s where I save money.”

And although most of the major restoration tasks have been finished, there’s always something to do with a home this size. A first-floor bathroom is in various stages of completion, the large wrap-around porch has yet to be tackled, and plans call for replacing the existing fence along the sidewalk with period-like wrought iron railing.

“So often we see homes that have no business being on the demolition and condemnation list; places that have easily fixed code violations end up at the end of the wrecking ball instead of being promoted for sale,” says Kristine Gerber, Restoration Exchange executive director. “There are people like Dave who have the skills and desire to turn these homes around and keep the character of the neighborhood intact. Let’s continue to support efforts by places like the Omaha Land Bank to get these homes back on the tax rolls instead of becoming empty lots that do nothing for our older neighborhoods.”

Visit the Omaha Municipal Land Bank at omahalandbank.org for more information about condemned and distressed properties waiting for a new lease on life. A version of this article was originally published by Restoration Exchange Omaha at restorationexchange.org.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home

One Year, Big Life Changes

December 11, 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.