Tag Archives: Omaha Magazine

Faces of Omaha 2018

April 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Faces of Omaha is an annual sponsored publication that introduces a variety of “faces,” local industry leaders and experts, to the community. This exclusive publication was carefully cultivated​,​ so only one person and company per business category is invited to participate.

In the publishing industry, this sort of publication is known as “native advertising.” Native advertising is a unique form of sponsored content produced by editorial staff in conjunction with advertisers. The end result is an enjoyable book that has value to both the readers and advertisers.

Everyone featured in the book is truly the “face” of their field. Our sales team spent considerable time cultivating this list.

The following pages introduce more than 100 people and companies, the leaders in their respective areas of expertise, who stand ready to serve their community.  

Todd Lemke, publisher Omaha Publications

This sponsored content was printed in a special annual. To view, click here: Faces of Omaha 2018

Fashion In Business Settings

April 13, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The worst thing I saw someone wear in a professional setting was a mini skirt with a backless blouse and tattoos showing when accepting an award,” says Gretchen Twohig, a lawyer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska.

Many executives would agree. Tales of skintight leggings, flip-flops, and ripped jeans appearing in a professional office abound. Some reports blame millennials while others consider the cause to be the rise of tech startup culture, but the rules are clearly not as black and white as they were in the Mad Men era.

JP Morgan formally embraced the informal trend in 2016 when they created new guidelines that took their offices from being full of suits and ties to ones that allow “Casual pants, capri pants, business-appropriate casual shirts, and polo shirts,” among other trends.

The variety even happens within industries. Nicole Seckman Jilek, a trial attorney at Abrahams Kaslow & Cassman law firm, wears a suit and pantyhose every day. If she wants to add a personal touch to her workwear, she uses accessories, especially black high-heeled pumps.

“If I’m going to be appearing in front of a judge or a jury, I’m probably going to choose a more conservative suit in a more conservative color: black, navy blue, some sort of neutral color,” she says. “But I do have a few of what I call ‘power suits’ that are emerald green and a couple of red suits. So depending on the circumstances, sometimes those red suits can project a more confident image than an all-black suit.” 

Jilek works in a setting that requires her to speak with a variety of clients.

“If I’m going to cross-examine or depose a difficult male witness, I may not want to wear certain colors because I want to come across stronger and bolder and more confident.”

Her personal preference to wear pantyhose every day doesn’t mean she finds it unprofessional if other women don’t. Jilek considers being too casually or youthfully dressed as crossing the line in a business formal setting.

Color choice can push the boundaries of acceptable business formal attire, too.

“There are certain circumstances that are the utmost professional setting, such as a jury trial, so I stay away from wearing a lot of color [in those instances],” Jilek says.

Twohig, on the other hand, works at a business casual workplace. She often wears accessories like jewelry, or brightly colored or patterned shoes.

She deems short skirts, anything with holes, or faded jeans as inappropriate for the workplace. Even dark jeans are pushing it.

Jeans, incidentally, are on the rise again, in terms of their prevalence and their waistlines. The 2018 spring fashion trends show everything from higher-waisted jeans paired with fuchsia blazers to jeans-style pants in sequined materials.

Michael Curry, a customer service training specialist and coworker of Twohig at Blue Cross Blue Shield, is known for having a playful sense of style.

Curry’s favorite way to express his personal style is with a boldly colored watch, belt, or shoes for that pop of color. He enjoys having more fashion options in a business casual environment like dressing down his outfit with a pair of white sneakers if he wants. But Curry also loves the polished look a tie can give when he needs to be at his best.

“My go-to work outfit when I need to feel confident is a cardigan over a button-up and tie with a tie clip, fitted slacks, leather band watch, eyeglass frames, and my signature fragrance,” he says. “I feel unstoppable.”

As workwear becomes more open to interpretation, the idea of acceptable fashion in business differs for each individual, and is only going to get more complicated, as millennials, who value personal expression over formality, rise to upper management and the conversations about gender identity and equal pay continue.

“Even at my office, there’s different dress codes,” Jilek says. “I wear different things depending on what I have on my calendar that day. I have a bunch of colleagues that also don’t meet with clients. They generally only see the people that we work with. So sometimes that can also justify a different look for them, but even under those situations, I always dress like I’m going to end up having a surprise important appointment or have to run down to the courthouse.”

And there’s another factor people sometimes don’t consider when hiring younger employees —those coming right out of college may not have much of a wardrobe budget.

“Early in my career, I didn’t have a lot of clothes to wear to work or the money to buy a lot of new things all at once,” says Twohig. “Now that I’ve been working for a long time, I have built a wardrobe.”

Even though Curry thinks jewelry should be minimal at work, he views a small eyebrow piercing or lip ring as still looking professional. Jilek sees fashion trends as a major influencer of what is considered acceptable business fashion.

“Ten years ago, you probably wouldn’t have seen any double-breasted jackets or suits in a store, but, in fact, I just saw a very successful, well-dressed evening news anchor wearing a double-breasted suit last week, and she looked great,” Jilek says.

Jilek, however, keeps her attention on the fact that she works in a professional setting.

“I’ve always kind of followed the mantra: dress for the job you want not the job you have,” Jilek says. “So if you want to be perceived as strong, confident, and capable—you need to dress like it.”

Nicole Seckman Jilek

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Radical Inclusion

April 10, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For the uninitiated, zines are small, handmade magazines typically made from standard printer paper folded, cut, and stapled together. Variations of the form exist, and subjects are limited only by interest: journalism, politics, art, activism, poetry, fan fiction, DIY, superheroes. Anything cool, hip, instructive, subversive, or enlightening is fit to print.

No matter how you slice the printer paper, Omaha Zine Fest is cool and getting cooler by the year. How cool? Cool enough for Vice Magazine to include OZF as the Nebraska entry in their series “50 States of Art.” Founded in 2016 by Andrea Kszystyniak, Daphne Calhoun, and Kaitlin McDermott, OZF has grown. The March 2017 fest at The Union for Contemporary Art drew hundreds of artists and fans from the Omaha metro and across the Midwest to buy, sell, trade, share, and learn.

Kszystyniak is a Rhode Island native who studied journalism at the University of Missouri and moved to Omaha in 2013. Her personal philosophy is radical inclusion. Her interest in zines started because she was, like many artists, a discipline case.

“I was grounded a lot as a kid, so I was often trapped at home and forced to amuse myself,” Kszystyniak says. “I spent a lot of time engaging with people online and really growing my understanding of art and DIY culture that way.”

A voracious consumer of music and music journalism, Kszystyniak was influenced by the feminist punk Riot Grrrl scene of the ’90s.

“Zines were a huge part of that culture, so I really grew to love them as a medium that way,” Kszystyniak says. “I used to play around on this now-defunct mail art forum called nervousness.org when I was a younger teen. The website encouraged you to collaboratively make and share work with people across the globe. A huge part of that forum was exchanging art, zines, collages…whatever.”

Daphne Calhoun came to Omaha from Grand Island to study social work and public health. For her, zines are great because anyone can get involved.

“You don’t have to have a resume,” Calhoun says. “You can make anything you want to do: DIY, poetry, science fiction, fantasy. The sky is the limit.”

Calhoun worked previously at Valiant Studios, an art and music studio for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“One of my favorite zine memories is compiling an art zine with them. Accessibility is the only thing that matters to me, and zines are such an accessible medium,” says Calhoun who once got her grandmother to make a short zine about interdimensional space aliens. “You don’t need to be an expert or have any expensive equipment. All you need is paper and some scissors and anyone can make a zine.”

In the spirit of radical inclusion and accessibility, Omaha Zine Fest has a safer spaces policy to provide for an open-minded, nonthreatening, and respectful environment where participants learn from one another. It is the essence of the festival, according to Kszystyniak.

“The everyday person needs an outlet to speak out against injustice or even just to teach others things,” Kszystyniak says. “Our No. 1 goal is to make sure everyone comes in and is comfortable and feels safe spending time in a creative community with everyone else there. Our priority is always accessibility, safety, and radical inclusion. It’s really the reason we started the fest in the first place: to make sure everyone has a place at the table.”

Visit omahazinefest.org for more information. The 2018 Omaha Zinefest is April 14 (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) at The Union for Contemporary Arts.

From top: Andrea Kszystyniak and Daphne Calhoun

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Taking Time To Design

April 9, 2018 by
Photography by Jeremy Allen Wieczorek

90 seconds.

In a little over a minute, a buyer falls in love with a house. That’s all it takes.

It happened to Aubrey Hess. She knew it immediately when she entered the front doors of the two-and-a-half-story American foursquare house. She called her husband Corey in a panic.

“This is it,” Aubrey said. “Get over here.”

Aubrey realized it needed some work. She should know. Aubrey, a realtor for the past 12 years with Better Homes and Gardens, has stepped into countless homes. Only a few have grabbed her attention.

But something in those seconds on 110 S. 52nd St. moved her. She looked beyond the peel-and-stick laminated tile, the orange-tinted wooden floors, and lackluster yellow walls. Aubrey saw potential. Corey, an architect with DLR Group, realized it despite knowing the electric wiring and roof needed work. No “little pink houses” on this block. Instead, the uniqueness of the midtown neighborhood appealed to the creative couple. The added space would be ideal for their two growing girls, Emerson and Montgomery.

The first month became a flurry of activity. Walls deserved a fresh coat of paint, light fixtures became interesting pieces of art, and wooden floors were unveiled. Birch on the main level, oak on the second, and pine on the third. Pine possibly due to the history of the almost 100-year-old house. Live-in servants typically utilized the third floor, so owners didn’t dish out the most expensive wood.

The bones of the house have remained, giving it a bygone vibe. The dining room has a small circle service bell built into the flooring from days past. Rooms have the original old-fashioned swinging and hidden pocket doors. The light switches don’t flip, but are still the same push buttons from the 1900s. Corey even cooked the heavily painted doorknobs in a crockpot with soap and vinegar to keep the novelty intact.

“We wanted to be respectful to the topology,” Corey says. “What’s the point of buying the house otherwise?”

The house has character, and little touches like these add flavor to the couple’s eclectic, “kick of fun” ideas. A gold chicken-legged end table stands next to a black cowhide in the “smoking room.” Meanwhile, a twisty white papier-mâché night table complements a slat metal headboard in the guest room.   

After the family moved in, Aubrey wasn’t sure how to finish off the last bit of the house. Luckily, interior designer Roger Hazard sat next to her at a charity event and the two talked wallpaper.

Every single project provides a challenge. In this case, it seemed to be a matter of cohesion. Hazard has visited with homeowners in every single state and made his mark making homes interesting. His bold style landed him three hit television shows on A&E—Sell This House, Move this House, and Sell This House: Extreme—as well as two Emmy nominations.

Hazard, along with husband Chris Stout, decided they wanted a change from the fast-paced lifestyle of traveling road shows. The two established Roger + Chris, “the home of the unboring home.” Hazard saw cool development opportunities and hype in Nebraska.

“Omaha is going to be a hot spot in the next 10 years,” Hazard predicts.

The two settled in to design different styles from contemporary to conservative to traditional. Hazard first created a presence in each room for the Hess family. The upstairs hall was painted with a large splash of emerald green while the color continues with a smaller presence in the velvet drapes in the smoking room.

In addition, Hazard and Stout make and name their own furniture. “Bunny” is a black-and-white striped loveseat with a hyacinth-colored interior, which will be placed to the right of the front door.

“Stripes are my favorite color,” Aubrey jokes.

The house is a mix of materials, fabrics, and textures. Plus, it harbors a touch of masculine and feminine. For example, pink velvet chairs in the dining room mingle with a gray tweed couch.

It is relaxed, yet stimulating. The family loves to entertain, so each room is a talking point. Rorschach flashcards are framed and hung on one graphite gray wall. Guests can interpret the psychological blots.

“I would rather buy something fun to mess up than something boring,” Aubrey adds.

This rustic refinement is perfect for a family that loves to eat, play, and have fun. It gives her daughters room to play. The custom-made walnut tree dining room table is strewn with a puzzle the girls started to piece together. Corey, along with a friend, designed the black-bottom base. The family also spends hours in the smoking room—not smoking—reading because the sun warms the area with light. A concrete coffee table in the living room can be moved aside when dance parties break out.

The Hess girls do spend time in their bedrooms, preferring alone time during the day, though the two are inseparable at night. Rather than the typical pink walls, both rooms are adorned instead with empowering quotes from strong women such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Emerson, 8, likes the big house but isn’t a fan of the kitchen (which the family still plans to redo). Other small parts also need fixing up, such as the bathrooms. 

And the basement is currently a work in progress. Corey exposed some bright brick and the trim has been replaced. Hazard plans to add hot pops of pink, blue, and orange to give it high energy. It won’t even feel like a basement, more modern and loft-like.

“We will hopefully be done by 2019,” Aubrey says with a laugh.

These two busy parents fit in bursts of inspiration when possible. Photos and framed artwork from their kids once took two long nights to finish. The grass out front has been replaced with synthetic turf so less time is spent on the lawn and more on relaxation. It’s one of the reasons why the two have spent time and effort designing it—so it will be a place of comfort and joy for the entire family.

Visit rogerandchris.com for more information about the A&E celebrity couple involved with the Hess family home’s redesign.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

Remember The Maine!

April 7, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Remember the Maine?

Press baron and Citizen Kane archetype William Randolph Hearst told us to do just that in 1898, but most have forgotten these days because we have so many other things to remember, like our Amazon Prime password and debit card pin number, let alone where we parked the car in the shopping mall parking lot.

In our defense, we do still remember Pearl Harbor and some of us even “remember the kind of September,” though revivals of The Fantasticks do seem to be thankfully decreasing in frequency.

Anyway, here’s a refresher. The USS Maine, an obsolete, poorly designed battleship, plagued by cost overruns during its construction—there is nothing new about military budget waste—sailed into Havana harbor to “show the flag.” That is, America wanted to show a little newfound muscle towards Spain, the last colonial power besides us left in the Western Hemisphere.

Well, our “muscle” sat there in the harbor for a couple of weeks until, tragically, it blew up along with 200 of its sailors. Immediately the American newspapers put forth the story that the Spaniards had treacherously used a mine to destroy the ship. Hence the headlines: “Remember the Maine!”

A nifty little war ensued. In short order, Commodore George Dewey sailed into Manila and sank the Spanish Pacific fleet, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, in support of the African-American 10th Cavalry, charged up San Juan Hill in Cuba. (Teddy got all the press, of course.) Cuba was independent pending the later outcome of Michael Corleone’s casino scheme with Hyman Roth, and the Philippines, freed of its old Spanish overlords, were then happy to be governed by new American overlords. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Sorry, I can never resist tossing in a quote from Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. It’s my thing. Stick with me, I know where I’m going.

So—“Remember the Maine”—remember? Well, the thing is, it wasn’t blown up by a mine at all. Most experts now agree that the cause of the fateful explosion was a fire in a coal bunker. Yes, our old friend coal. It was big in 1898. Sure glad we’ve moved on from the stuff here in the “modern” world. The slowly growing fire in one of the battleship’s coal bunkers eventually ignited the ship’s powder stores. Boom! War! History!

And where do you keep the powder, and ammunition for a big ship’s guns? According to Merriam-Webster, you keep that stuff in a “magazine.” In this case, a magazine that changed the course of a nation.

Which brings me to my point—I know, finally, right?—a magazine.

Happy milestone to Omaha Magazine. This issue marks the completion of 35 volumes in print. Has this magazine changed the world? Maybe it has, a little here, a little there. Change does occur when facts and inspiration can join forces. Thirty-five volumes highlighting the people, places, issues, and interests of our community; giving writers, journalists, artists, and leaders a forum where they can share and inform; giving our city and region a chance to look clearly at our triumphs and tribulations.

So, here’s to more explosions of art and ideas. Here’s to Omaha Magazine.

Otis Twelve hosts the radio program Early Morning Classics with Otis Twelve on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. Visit kvno.org for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Bill Gonzalez

April 6, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Chat with Bill Gonzalez for a short while and one thing becomes clear: It really is hard to keep a good man down.

Nearly 20 years ago, Gonzalez was down. In August 1999, while working at an Omaha warehouse, Gonzalez tripped while crossing over a machine. Its drive belt caught his leg, shattering it from his knee down and damaging his back. Despite a handful of operations on his leg and back, Gonzalez was disabled.

“I couldn’t do physical work anymore,” he says, “and I didn’t have the skills to do anything else.”

He was homebound but realized that wasn’t the way he wanted to spend the rest of his life.

“That’s a quick way to die,” he says. “I had to get out of the house and do something other than sitting home eating painkillers and going nuts.”

A newspaper article noting that the Durham Museum was seeking volunteers for its archives department changed all that. Gonzalez thought back to his days at now-defunct Omaha St. Joseph High School when, during his senior year, someone presented photos of Omaha from the Bostwick-Frohardt Collection, then in the possession of KMTV (Channel 3).

“I was just blown away seeing these old pictures of what Omaha used to look like. I always remembered that.”

From the Bostwick-Frohardt Collection, this 1911 image was taken on top of the Union Pacific Railroad Building at 14th & Dodge streets looking east.

Now the collection was on permanent loan to the Durham. Gonzalez, who lives just 2 minutes from the museum, wanted in. He joined the Durham as a volunteer March 15, 2005, working one day a week.

“As soon as I started working here I knew I’d found a home,” Gonzalez says. “I just kept coming back.”

Soon he was working four days a week. After a couple years, the museum hired him on a permanent basis as photo archive associate with its curatorial and education services. Today he oversees collections totaling more than 1 million photographs of Omaha from the 1860s to 1990s—from its rise as a frontier town with shanties on the banks of the muddy Missouri River to a sophisticated metropolis with a bustling downtown straddling those same banks. Many of the photos are digitized and available through the museum’s website. Gonzalez has written many of their descriptions. 

  When a visitor comes to the museum seeking a specific photo, Gonzalez is the man they turn to. He already possesses great personal recall of the city. Though his parents were immigrants from Mexico, 67-year-old Gonzalez was born and raised in South Omaha.

“A lot of stuff, I know what I’m looking at. The younger interns don’t have an idea,” he says of decades-old Omaha scenes and long-gone iconic structures from his youth. “Someone said I’m the organic memory of archives. I guess that’s true.”

Using that memory and his knowledge of Durham’s vast photo archive helps him connect people to pictures, past to present.

“The best part, the part that really gets me high, is when I find a picture that a person has some kind of emotional attachment to,” Gonzalez says. “A lot of the pictures we have are really family pictures of people. They mean something to somebody.”

They’ve got a good man to find them.

Visit durhammuseum.org for more information.

Favorite Old Omaha Photos

What are Bill Gonzalez’s favorite photos in Durham archive? He has many. Among his favorites, he includes: an aerial of Omaha taken in 1947 and looking west from the museum, formerly Union Station. “A spectacular shot,” he says. Another, from the Bostwick-Frohardt Collection, was taken on top of the former Union Pacific headquarters near 14th and Dodge streets and looks southeast. “A lot of what you’re looking at is no longer here,” he says.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Local Speak-Easies Harken to Olden Days

April 5, 2018 by
Photography by Doug Meigs and Provided

As hard as it is to believe now, a small group of extremists once managed to take over the United States government. Their goal was simple: make everyone stop drinking liquor. Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933, and during that time, no American who really wanted a drink went without one. For example, Benson resident Katherine Warner was arrested in 1922 while storing large amounts of homemade gin and whiskey for local consumption, as well as counterfeit labels. In many cases, people just paid a little more—and made a lot of criminals wealthy. One of the more memorable ways to have a night out was to go to a technically illegal nightclub known as a speak-easy. Omaha had a few “speaks,” most notably the third floor of King Fong’s, but the romanticized ideal was barely necessary. Ask any Omaha bellboy or cabbie where to get booze, and they would set you right in short order. Today, speak-easies make for a nice theme. But the legal context is vastly different. (Joslyn Castle even has a sold-out speak-easy series running from January through April on the third Thursday of every month.) Here are a few bars and clubs fitting a loose contemporary definition of “speak-easies.”

Wicked Rabbit
1508 Harney St.
402-933-8331
Facebook: @thewickedrabbit

Frequently referred to as one of Omaha’s hidden gems, Wicked Rabbit is the archetypical, modern speak-easy and was dubbed “Omaha’s intimate speak-easy” by the Omaha Visitors Center. They serve creative, delicious Prohibition-era cocktails with a speak-easy feel and a semi-secret entrance. Just go through the Looking Glass Cigars & Spirits, tell the clerk the secret passphrase, and you’re in. Check out their Facebook page for details because they have no website.

Osteria Segreto
3910 Farnam St., Suite B
osteriasegreto.com

Osteria Segreto means “secret tavern” and that’s a great description for a bar “hidden” beneath Blackstone Social where one can ask for directions to the basement entrance. Be sure to also ask what the secret knock is. The Osteria Segreto website is notably lacking information. Good luck making a reservation as no telephone number is listed. It’s romantically lit, as discreetly located as any Blackstone District business can be, and it positively oozes quality.

The Mineshaft
1715 Leavenworth St.
402-449-8703
Facebook: @omahaminingcompany

If you don’t know the Mineshaft, you are not alone. The Mineshaft is located in the basement of The Omaha Mining Co. behind a locked door. It is the bar’s sanctum sanctorum and not for everyday use. The Mineshaft is a special events/party room today, but in the past, when alcohol was not the only thing served on the down-low, places like this allowed gay men a room of their own and a quick escape out the back when raided. The Mineshaft has an air of mystique. It resembles nothing so much as a ’60s-era rumpus room decorated with homoerotic art perfect for gear night, club meetings, socials, or just hanging with the fellas.

Kaitei
6109 Maple St.
402-558-2482
Facebook: @kaiteibenson

There is charm in discovering something off the beaten path. Located in the basement of Ika Ramen in Benson is an izakaya called Kaitei. An izakaya is a small, casual, signage-averse, Japanese-style pub. It is entirely possible to eat at Ika and never realize there is a bar in the basement behind a nondescript door in the dining room. Kaitei is always in flux and embraces the risqué, according to owner Alex Diimig. Diimig says he is not fond of the term “speak-easy,” but he does like the semi-secrecy and sense of adventure Kaitei evokes. It’s not off limits, just not advertised. It is far enough off the road most taken to add a sense of mystery to your evening. Weird people welcome.

Down Under Lounge
3530 Leavenworth St.
402-933-3927
thedownunderomaha.com

Down Under Lounge recently moved from its location near 38th and Leavenworth streets. Its basement speak-easy is equipped with a grand piano and a door to nowhere. It also brings a bit of history in the form of half the bar from the old location. Yes, it was cut in half from the old Down Under Lounge, and now resides in its new underground home. This speak-softly lounge is currently open for special occasions, shows, and their DU fondue parties.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Farm Simple Meets High Design at Bellswoods

April 1, 2018 by
Photography by Farshid Assassi

The home of David and Diane Bell is the fruit of conscientious design, a reverent attention to landscape, and an affection for trees that has lingered in the family’s bloodline for generations. While its steel framing and prominent angles conjure the best of modernist architecture, the Bell family home in Franklin, Tennessee, draws substance from roots stretching as far back as the Nebraska frontier.

Nearly 150 years ago, in the open prairielands along the Platte River, Jesse Bell built a forest. Having bought a single square mile of land from the Union Pacific Corp., Jesse, a lover of trees, planted hundreds of them by hand. In the years following Nebraska’s recognition as a state, he established more than 250 varieties of hardwoods and shrubs in the soil of what was otherwise a vast and treeless plain.

When the Burlington rail company sought to lay line in the vicinity of Jesse’s burgeoning woodland, he saw an opportunity. In exchange for right-of-way on his land, he secured a Burlington depot for the area, and got immediately to work hiring a civil engineer and pursuing the task of growing a town.

Naturally, Bellswoods was to be the name. For reasons unknown, the Burlington men didn’t care for all the S’s in that eponym. To this day, we know the treed little town, 10 railroad miles south of Columbus, simply as Bellwood.

More than a century after Jesse first put the family name on the map, David and Diane have expanded the family brand into the foothills of Appalachia on their own secluded oasis of trees. Twenty miles from Nashville, down a rambling two-lane highway bordered by dry-stacked stone walls and plantation vistas, an unassuming turn into the woods leads to the family’s 20-acre estate. Perched 200 feet above the road below and fully ensconced in its forested hillside, the Bellswoods name has finally found its rightful home.     

To encounter Bellswoods in photos alone is to know a particular kind of envy—one fixated less by the rich material beauty of the home, and more with the resonating calm and timeless quietude its design embodies. “We called it rustic modern,” explains Omaha architect Steven Ginn who, over the course of five years, designed the Bell family home. The house’s palette—warm Douglas fir, exposed steel, durable stone—creates an effect that, as Ginn describes, “accentuates and exemplifies the idea of shelter.”

From the earliest stages of design, the Bells envisioned the sort of shelter that would feel fully at home in its environment. “We wanted it to feel very open and draw on the materials of the area…A house that feels like you’re outside,” David explains. With nearly half of its walls made of glass, Bellswoods achieves this effect rather gracefully. Other considerations—a bedside window designed to perfectly frame an existing sassafras tree, a living room positioned precisely to capture the warmth of the winter sun—situate the home within its environment as naturally as any other living inhabitant of the forest.

In designing the home, Ginn drew inspiration not only from the unique environmental qualities of the land, but also the architectural character of the area. Sustained by his own Nebraska roots, Ginn sought to bring an “agrarian thoughtfulness” to the design. Inspired by the 19th-century farm buildings still dotting Tennessee’s rural landscape, Ginn worked to design a home that reflected the understated beauty of these utilitarian structures. “Farm simple,” he calls it. “Everything you need and nothing you don’t.” 

David agrees, noting that functionality was a critical consideration when designing the home. Although Bellswoods can certainly feel cloistered from the rest of the world, the Bells are no hermits. Because the home was always meant to be a welcoming space for visitors in all seasons, Ginn worked to develop a “carefully choreographed space,” allowing for natural, fluid movement. Anchored by a central structural cross, the home is divided into quarters, beginning with the most public rooms (foyer, kitchen, living area) at its entrance, and moving eventually to the more private office and bedroom areas.    

Ginn notes that his understanding of movement’s relationship to structure was informed by his years spent designing Catholic churches with Omaha’s BCDM Architects. “Movement is an important part of the Catholic liturgy. That procession. How you move through the space, the views, what you’re looking toward. The building itself works to direct your reverence and attention.”

A similar sort of reverence is found in David’s personal collection of over 20 years’ worth of reclaimed wood, much of which contributed to the furniture and finishing details of Bellswoods. Like his great-grandfather before him, David describes himself as a “lover of wood.” A skilled woodworker by hobby, he passed two decades living in Germantown, Tennessee, collecting the wood of nearly every felled tree he could find. After accumulating some 15,000 board feet of red oak, walnut, cherry, and several truckloads of his great-grandfather’s Nebraska-grown hardwoods, David couldn’t deny he was having more fun collecting wood than making much of anything with it.

These years of careful collection finally bore fruit when construction on Bellswoods began in 2010. While some wood was used in the family’s dining room table (paired with ebony sourced from Nashville’s Gibson guitar factory just down the road), most of David’s collection contributed to the more than 14,000 board feet of wood used throughout the home’s construction.

While Bellswoods is undoubtedly a grand achievement of style and form, Ginn is quick to note that the true success of any home design can only be measured in the way it enlivens the everyday experience of those living inside. There are certain, less conspicuous details at Bellswoods—the hidden grotto tucked behind the waterfall that cascades into the pool; the accordion windows separating the dining room from the porch, which open and erase the border between inside and out—that don’t show quite as well in photos. Subtleties like these spark a dialogue, not just among family and friends, but between the built world and beyond. As Ginn explains: “The natural light, the movement through the day, the light, the dark, the sun, the wind—they all help to embellish the daily life of the inhabitants, help to further create a fulfilled, enjoyed life.”

Visit stevenginn.com/tennessee-hilltop-residence for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

Alicia Sancho Scherich

March 29, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Behind every good artist, there exists a muse. And for Alicia Sancho Scherich, her muse happens to be a former pen pal—Mother Teresa. Yes, that Mother Teresa, Nobel Peace Prize winner and humanitarian extraordinaire. 

The two connected only once, but the memory still brings tears to Sancho Scherich’s eyes as she recalls it nearly three decades later. After completing a large canvas painting of the icon, she wanted to make reproductions and wrote to ask Mother Teresa if she’d like all sales donated to her charity. Being the saint that she is, Mother Teresa wrote back, suggesting Sancho Scherich keep her goodwill within her local community instead. But Sancho Scherich had an even better, bigger, and bolder idea.

Using this first 4-by-6 foot canvas painting as the epicenter of something much more grandiose, Sancho Scherich began painting, researching, and painting some more. Twelve years later, 17 more linen canvases made stunning with strokes of oil paint, and her magnum opus was complete—a mural titled “World Peace” that went on display in Creighton’s Lied Art Gallery last year. 

“I wanted to create something that captured the nature of man, with each canvas depicting either a different positive or negative aspect,” Sancho Scherich says. “I consider this my greatest and most thought-provoking achievement.”

And that’s really saying something for an 84-year-old artist who’s been working for the better part of the last century. Throughout her illustrious career, Sancho Scherich’s style has transitioned from traditional realism to abstract expressionism, but all of her work stands out for its near perfection. Even with hundreds of paintings, murals, and prints under her belt, each piece manages to combine obsessive research with uncanny imagination to embody all the things that make humanity, well, human.

“Although my work may look different, I always try to get straight to the heart of the matter, whether it’s a portrait or a symbolic piece,” Sancho Scherich says. “And when something comes to my head, I just love working and working on it until it’s perfect.”

With her lineage, though, creative perfectionism runs through Sancho Scherich’s very DNA. Her grandfather was a violinist in the court orchestra of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and her grandmother was an accomplished artist, as was her father. So much so that he received wide acclaim and was awarded bronze, silver, and gold medals from the Spanish National Exposition of Fine Arts (the equivalence of such an honor in the United States would be being named Artist Laureate by the
federal government).

While Sancho Scherich has called the sprawling suburbs of Bellevue, Nebraska, home since 1960, she still looks to lessons from her father in the sunny vistas of Madrid as the catalyst for her later accomplishments. In fact, with her father’s guidance, her artistic career began with handcrafting royal dolls as a teenager and working towards a degree in fashion design and toy making. By age 26, this Spanish señorita was United States-bound after falling for and marrying an American airman who was being transferred from a post in Spain to Offutt Air Force Base.

“There are many cultural differences in Spanish and American art,” Sancho Scherich says. “Here, the first thing many consider is how much money they can get out of a painting. In Europe, price is secondary, so the work is more authentic and passionate.” 

These Spanish values stay with Sancho Scherich today. Most of her paintings are given as gifts or adorn the walls of her home (adjacent to Fontenelle Forest). But even the most passionate of painters needs to make some pennies. From St. Joseph Hospital to College of St. Mary to the Woodmen of the World Society, she has been commissioned to paint portraits for present and past leadership in notable organizations. Additionally, she creates work for local philanthropies that are given to help raise funds at charity auctions. 

Like Spanish wine, things seem to only get sweeter with age for Sancho Scherich. In late 2017, she nabbed two nominations from the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards for her showing of “World Peace” at Creighton earlier in the year. And if she has any say, that’s just the beginning of this piece’s journey. She hopes to market it to be shown in galleries across the Midwest, the nation, and eventually the world, all with the end goal of it finally being installed in the United Nations General Assembly.

“Her passion for this project is simply unmatched,” says Steve Scherich, her son. “Even me, after years of looking at these canvases, I’ll find things I hadn’t ever seen before. This really needs to be shared with others.”

At barely 5 feet tall, this petite painter packs a big heart and doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Even after suffering a stroke two years ago and losing her husband, she says nothing will stop her from hunting down that next big idea.

“Art is something inside you that you need to express always,” Sancho Scherich says. “I can’t stop doing this and go to the Riviera anytime soon. I just need to find something to inspire me to create again.”

Saint Cecilia Cathedral’s Sunderland Gallery is hosting an exhibition of Alicia Sancho Scherich’s father’s work, A Lifetime of Painting by Mariano Sancho, through April 1. Visit cathedralartsproject.org for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Sometimes Life’s a Beach

March 25, 2018 by and
Photography by Jeffrey Bebee

Imagine you are in a Florida beach house. This is what our client wanted to feel every day when they walked into their kitchen.

Although the home was built with a very closed-concept floor plan, we took this challenge head-on.

Our main challenge was to open up the space. We did so by tearing down the wall between both the formal dining room and moderate-sized kitchen. This allowed the natural light to pour in, which was essential in the overall feel of the space.

Meanwhile, we carefully planned adequate storage in the cabinetry so that we could run windows along the entire length of the kitchen without upper cabinets. Since the home is located on sprawling land just north of Omaha, the added windows allowed the western view to roll on through the beautiful new bank of glass.

For the finishes, we kept things light and bright, adding very specific points of interest. We incorporated lots of crisp white woodwork and warmed things up with a walnut-stained wood floor. Clean white quartz perimeter counters added another touch of serenity and simple flow, while rich iron hardware succeeded in creating a nice contrast with the white.

We topped the design off with a tranquil blue tongue-and-groove wood ceiling and an island constructed from the family’s inherited old planks of wood. The color palette was also crucial to the overall aesthetic of the room: whites, oceanic blues, intense purples, and nature-inspired greens.

Together, these elements worked to create a calm, beautiful space with just the right amount of punch.

The biggest hurdle we faced was working around the existing locations of doors, adjoining rooms, and the staircase.

We wanted to create an open area for entertaining while maintaining as much of the integrity of the original space plan as possible. This resulted in careful design of each elevation in order to provide a functional work triangle and flow of the space.

A space needs to be as functional as it is beautiful, and we feel this one is definitely a gem to surround yourself in. We were honored to design, guide, and help complete the transformation of this space, allowing us to witness our client enjoying their long sought-after dream kitchen.


Rachael Cavanaugh

Julie Hockney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julie Hockney and Rachael Cavanaugh co-designed this project. They are two of the six designers at jh Interior Design Studio. Now in business for 10 years, they recently expanded, for the fourth time, into a new studio featuring a unique shopping boutique and design office. The firm designs both residential and commercial spaces and has designed spaces ranging from 1,200 square feet to 40,000 square feet. The designers’ goal is to create a curated space suited for success—no matter the size. They focus on bridging the gap between function and aesthetic, with a strong emphasis on how their clients will use their space. Their design team aims to make each client’s space an extension of their own personality, all the while having a great experience during the design process.


Visit juliehockney.com to learn more about the designers responsible for this kitchen transformation.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of OmahaHome.