Tag Archives: Randy Brown Architects

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

November 5, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The first thing you notice when entering the Metcalfe Park-area home of Andrea and Brian Kelly is that which is missing.

The most common architectural element found in the brick, Tudor-inspired homes that dominate the neighborhood, one bisected by the snaky meanderings of Country Club Avenue, is an arch that separates the living and dining rooms.

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It’s a bold stroke to swing a sledgehammer at such a signature detail, but taking down the arch was central to a vision of transforming this traditional home into a showpiece of contemporary design.

Oh, and it probably didn’t hurt that the couple behind that vision are both architects known for innovative thinking in the spaces they create.

“It’s natural for people to get into a new home, look at it as a blank page, and think about what to add to it,” says Brian, a professor of architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“Our philosophy was just the opposite,” explains Andrea, formerly of Randy Brown Architects and now stay-at-home mom for the couple’s 6-year-old son, Jackson. “It started with what we knew we’d be subtracting from it.”

Next to go was much of the ceiling in the living room, a decision that eliminated almost 100 square feet of second-floor living area in a home that holds barely 10 times that amount to begin with. For this couple, the word “area” is merely a formulaic measurement. Space, on the other hand, is a theoretical construct felt at a gut level.

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“Our aim was to increase the spatial dimension of this place,” Brian says. “The overall effect is that the house feels bigger. And we gained tons of natural light down here that used to be wasted up there,” he says in pointing to an upstairs window that now illuminates much of the home’s first floor.

A six-month study trip to Europe helped validate the couple’s notion of scale.

“People ‘live small’ in Europe,” Brian says.

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“Our home is still very American,” Andrea adds, “and it’s downright grand in scope compared to how most people live in Europe. This is a lesson in efficiency, livability, and defining the balance between personal spaces and communal spaces. It really suits our family well.”

The home juxtaposes natural materials against those that are decidedly industrial and hard-edged.

Organic hues in untreated lumber and hardwood floors blend with perforated aluminum, plexiglass, and naked steel. Factory stamping marks on wood and wax pencil numbering on metal are left untouched in evoking a raw sensibility. The original fireplace survived, but the mantle above was replaced by a bent-steel picture rail. Alligator clips attached to wires suspended by magnets allow a funky, quick-change approach to displaying family photos.

The absence of window treatments? The desire for simplicity, openness, and clean lines, Andrea says, trumped worries about privacy. Geography also lends a hand in eliminating sight lines for prying eyes. The home sits on a hill overlooking Metcalfe Park, and the back is shrouded by dense greenery.

Splashes of color erupt in marigold, grey, and in artwork—much of it created by Brian, Andrea, and Jackson. The dining area features orange Eames chairs that gathered grease for four decades in the auto body shop of Andrea’s father.

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Brian did most of the work himself.

“He’s more of a designer and I’m more of a planner,” Andrea says. “I’m into the technical aspects of construction and wanted to do a budget…detailed drawings…the works.”

“Wasn’t gonna happen,” Brian says with a chuckle. “I didn’t want to think too much about it when it came to process. For me it became an experiment, an in-the-moment experience.” When you set out to do the unexpected, the professor explains, stumbling onto a few surprises along the way can serve as a gateway to learning.

Save for the use of perforated aluminum cladding on an exterior handrail, neighborhood dog-walkers are afforded no hint as to what lies beneath when they pass the home that looks like so many others in the tree-lined neighborhood.

“And that’s the whole idea,” Andrea says. “That’s why we call this place the wolf in
sheep’s clothing.”

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Nine and Two

September 2, 2015 by
Photography by Colin Conces

This article appears in the Sept./Oct. 2015 edition of Omaha Home.

Some of our friends called it a fortress,” says Kim Dickhut of the early ‘50s home she and husband Randy bought in 2007 as empty nesters. “Others,” Randy adds, “said it looked like a prison…cold…intimidating.”

Messing with a classic is fraught with danger, but the cement panels that now clad various surfaces of the Dickhut’s home not only counterbalance the sterility of the once severe structure, but also serve to amp up the home’s Mid-CeMidCenturyModern4ntury Modern credentials.

The germ of the project was seeded when the Dickhuts’ attended a tour of green homes. There they stumbled onto the work of general contractor Doug Kiser of dKiser design.construct. Kiser brought in the architects and the roster was set for the creative team. Besides doing most of the constructionl work, Kiser collaborated on the overall design and was particularly instrumental in the selection of materials and colors.

Most work today on Mid-Century structures involves the process of subtraction, that of removing layers of once-trendy “improvements” done over time in ill-advised tinkering. The Dickhuts took the opposite approach—one of addition.

 

“The concept was that of a virus,” explains Brian Kelly, a professor of architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He and his architect wife, Andrea (formerly of Randy Brown Architects and now a stay-at-home mom), collaborated with the Dickhuts on the project. “The panels become like a virus. They wrap around the house and intermittently reappear” to sprout again on a chimney stack before being repeated at the rear of the home in punctuating a master bedroom expansion accompanied by a balcony. The street-side panels are, of course, the most noticeable, Andrea says, “But the bedroom and balcony in the back are really the epicenter of the theme.”

MidCenturyModern5Just like the aggressively spreading species of vining plant that threatened to consume the planet in the 1951 British sci-fi flick, The Day of the Triffids, the panels evoke an organic—if decidedly minimal—vibe. Further softening the facade included a focus on the formerly stark entryway (a door…just a plain, unadorned door). The approach was made more inviting with the erection of a latticed trellis, a motif that is duplicated out back in a patio pergola.

And just exactly what hue is that signature orange that echoes throughout the home?

“We just call that ‘Kim’s favorite color,’” Randy says with a chuckle. “It’s our rebellion against beige,” Kim adds.

If the exterior and bedroom were exercises in addition, the mathematics of the interior were lessons in subtraction. Rustic barn wood was lopped from the now crisp, cozy space the couple call the Map Room. Moldings were eradicated like invasive weeds. Visual clutter was pruned at every turn in setting the stage for the couple’s collection of Mid-
Century furnishings.

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“The whole idea was that we wanted the look of simple loft living…but with a yard,” Kim says. She
points to her mother, who studied both architecture and interior design, as having inspired in her a Bauhaus-influenced aesthetic where form follows function.

“I knew who Frank Lloyd Wright was before I knew who Dr. Seuss was,” she says. “And I grew up assuming that everybody lived in a home with original art.”

The living room is decorated in abstract works by local artists Helen Gloeb and Karen Schneph. Gloeb’s piece hangs above a sofa that has been in Kim’s family since 1968. Nearby sits a pair of original Bertoia diamond chairs (first introduced in 1952) that the Dickhuts outfitted in new leather seat pads. The kitchen features an original Paul McCobb dinette set.

Another favorite is a George Nelson starburst clock introduced in 1949 that Kim says they’ve had “forever.” The radial spikes of the clock are rendered in a rainbow of colors, but the arms indicating the nine and two positions tell a story of their own.

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“If we had to point to the one thing that drove the color scheme,” Randy says as Kim nods in agreement, “it’s the orange arms of that clock.”

The Dickhut home is carefully curated, but there is nothing finicky, inaccessible, or museum-like in the finished result. Comfort, they say, was the main objective. And the scale, line, and form that are the hallmarks of Mid-Century Modern are a perfect fit for this couple.

“We are not big people,” Kim says, “so the scale of these pieces suit us well. There is nothing big or clunky about Mid-Century Modern.”

“And it’s very livable,” adds Randy of the 1,900 square-foot space where clean, straightforward lines and right angles are king. “It’s a great place for quite time. It’s a great place for where we are at this stage of our lives.”

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