Tag Archives: Realtor

Cozily Chic

August 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

From the corner of her sunroom in the historic Mercer Hotel on 11th and Howard streets, Bonnie Leonhardt can see another of the six places she’s lived in downtown since 1985. “Houses scare me,” she says by way of explaining her affinity for condo living. “I like having all the people around me. You don’t even have to know them; just having them around is nice.”

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The sunroom is part of a patio she had covered about five years ago. “Now it’s where we spend all our time,” she says, referring to husband Gail and her menagerie consisting of Henri the poodle, and cats Sophie and Xena. “It’s wonderful for fireworks, and my grandkids love it when it rains.”

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The Mercer Hotel condo is one of three downtown places Bonnie and Gail have renovated over the years. They moved in 10 years ago after someone asked if they’d sell their half-block-long condo in the old Howard Street Tavern. “We loved that place; I had no intention of ever selling,” Gail says. “But my wife blurted out this huge figure, and he said okay. I about fell out of my chair.”

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Never fear, the Leonhardts have effortlessly instilled their joie de vivre into their current home. Every square inch of the renovated condo is charmingly utilized. Orchids, amaryllis, and paperwhites color the sunroom, cozy conversation areas pepper the common room, and the white walls and open layout keep the overall feel airy. No decorator is called in, “it’s just me,” Bonnie says, though she confesses that if she brings one more thing into the place, “I’ll be a star on Hoarders.” Chairs in particular are her weakness, as proven by the Louis Ghost chairs around a small dining table by the open kitchen. Gail approves of her selections. In general. “She has good taste in everything but wine,” he says.

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The couple took out the too-tight lighthouse staircase up to the second floor in favor of one with a looser spiral and wider steps. An office, bathroom, and bedroom are sectioned off with their own doors, adding a new level of privacy the previously wide-open loft lacked.

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The main changes to the downstairs are hardwood floors in place of carpeting and losing the galley layout of the kitchen. “I didn’t want to be in the kitchen by myself anymore,” Bonnie says. Now guests can chat with the chef over a simple island—a slab of marble atop a small Bombay chest. The marble is Carrara, she thinks. “I have chemo brain, and it’s just not coming to me.” Bonnie was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma in April of 2012, prompting her to retire as a realtor from Pitney Bowes.

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She and Gail, CEO of North Central Rehabilitation, do still entertain a lot, though the gatherings these days are mostly small groups of very close friends. “People come in and say the place looks so European,” Bonnie notes. “French, they say, but I don’t know. Let’s call it Early Junque.”

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The description works only because an air of casual welcome pervades the look of downtown chic. It’s the type of place where you might arrive in Louboutin stilettos only to kick them off in a few minutes because you know it’s all right.

Home is Where the Art Is

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“We’re living in the area my mother always wanted to live in,” notes architect Steven Conley of the Indian Hills home he shares with his wife, Darcy Beck, an Omaha Realtor, interior designer, and home stager.

In a sense, the spirits of both Steven’s mother and Darcy’s parents do inhabit the house. Within moments of welcoming visitors, Darcy introduces them to her late mother, Anna Beck (exotic beauty, self-taught artist, Hindu dancer, and universally adored Air Force wife) via paintings of East Indian dancers the latter created as a teenager; and her late father, esteemed Major General A.J. Beck, via signed Dali lithographs and original rosewood and orange leather Eames chairs that he loved, as well as a humorous coffee-table topper of boxing gloves signed by Leon Spinks.

Two large framed and signed lithographs by Salvador Dali are featured in the living room.

Two large framed and signed lithographs by Salvador Dali are featured in the living room.

Steven chimes in with an introduction to Irma, a bigger-than-life sculpture in the entryway that his mother, also named Irma, purchased for him when she downsized her home.

The couple has complemented the art of their parents with their own collection, including a prominently displayed painting by their next-door neighbor, the artist Jill Rizzo, two large ballerina torsos by another local artist gracing their dining room wall, a turquoise-encrusted bull’s head, redolent of Georgia O’Keefe, mounted in their stairway, and a witty ceramic “paper bag” luminaria that Steven gave to Darcy. “Who gives his wife a brown paper bag?” he cracks with a twinkle in his eye.

Dining room chairs made of woven seatbelt material are surprisingly comfortable and serve as conversation pieces.

Dining room chairs made of woven seatbelt material serve as conversation pieces.

The home, built in 1964, is just what you’d expect from a couple who makes their living bringing life to beautiful spaces. Originally owned by Jay Swanson, whose father, Gilbert, was one of Indian Hills’ premier developers, the cubist-style structure was renovated by the local architect legend, Don Polsky, who added the front porch, as well as the sunroom where the couple and their pets (two standard poodles and a cat, all from the Nebraska Humane Society) like to hang out.

After purchasing the home in 2006, Steven oversaw a second renovation by tearing down interior walls to create a completely open, public space. In the more private sleeping quarters of the house, solid-core doors boast a single, thin gleaming ribbon of aluminum, an adornment notioned
by Steven.

White decorative plates that Darcy bought on clearance are used in a bedroom as wall art.

White decorative plates that Darcy bought on clearance are used in a bedroom as wall art.

To this, Darcy adds her stylist’s eye with an expertly curated mix of high and low. Despite her profession, there’s nothing stagey here. Instead, the home is a deeply personal expression of warmth, elegance, and fun. And something else: the unexpected.

“We’re equal-opportunity shoppers,” she explains, plucking a statuette from a shelf to reveal a Marshall’s $16.99 price tag on the bottom. And that turquoise bull’s head? Right above it is a bleached white one that Darcy picked up at Z Gallerie.