Tag Archives: Springfield

Painting Pictures With Pavers

August 14, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in July/August 2015 Omaha Home.

Virginia Street ends abruptly at S. 45th Ave. in Sarpy County and morphs into Jim Hampton’s driveway—a long, curved gravel path that transports a visitor to hardscape heaven. Medium-sized boulders encircle several flowerbeds on the vast property and a conical-shaped pile of thin rocks called a cairn adds ornamentation, as does a replica of an ancient petroglyph drawn on a flat, gray rock and hung from a wire stand.

But the “wow” factor lies in front of Hampton’s home and illustrates why the father/son team of Jim and Justin Hampton commands worldwide attention. A vast, smooth patio made from interlocking paving stones with

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mosaic-like colorful designs throughout provides stunning beauty. The patio’s centerpiece features a kaleidoscope of swirls that mirror each other, while depictions of three fish lay at the base of a fountain.

The patio, built 20 years ago, marks the first collaboration of Jim and Justin as hardscape artists, and signaled a change of direction for Jim.

“I was a biology teacher for 16 years at Platteview High in Springfield,” says Jim, 63. But after he and Justin, who laid pavers for another company, finished the patio, “I told my wife, ‘I’m going to quit teaching and do this for a living with Justin.’” Luckily, Christine Hampton was fine with his decision and pitches in by doing the books.

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Today, Paver Designs LLC fields more requests than the two men can handle, and they don’t even travel outside the immediate area. Pictures of their paver patio designs grace several magazines.

This little Omaha company has won Hardscape North America, the biggest award in the industry, four years running, much to the chagrin of big city contractors who employ several crews of laborers.

“We’re pretty well known,” says Justin, 38, in his soft-spoken, unassuming way. “I had a guy from Dubai call me and said he wanted to copy some of our projects. I thought he was a telemarketer and hung up on him the first time.” The “guy,” who turned out to be the nephew of Dubai’s ruler, was very much on the level. “I told him he was welcome to pull our designs off our website. He offered to pay us, but I told him to send my kids some souvenirs from Dubai.”

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Money never overrides Jim and Justin’s love of drawing, excavating, cutting stones, and piecing them together in one-of-a-kind patio installations. They bid on each job and guesstimate the cost, rarely asking for the kind of money they could—or should—command, considering their labor.

“Those swirling “y” patterns on my patio? There are 12 of them and each one took eight hours to cut in,” says Jim. “People tell me we’re never going to get rich because we don’t have crews who can make us money. But that’s not how I define rich,” he says.

For Jim and Justin Hampton, “rich” means the freedom to create, come and go as they please, and spend time with their families—a design for life as structurally sound as their pavers.

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Bringing Nature Indoors

November 4, 2014 by
Photography by Tom Grady

A homeowner with vision and great taste. An expert contractor with experienced subcontractors. A home with “great bones.” Bring them all together and you get an interior designer’s dream!

The client imagined the almost 30-year-old home nestled in pine trees near Springfield, Neb., in a new light—one with updated amenities, including an amazing kitchen situated in an open floor plan to accommodate her frequent entertaining. We saw the potential of additional windows to blend the home’s interior with the surrounding, picturesque vistas.

The contractor, ADC Homes, removed the raised floor and walls of the hexagon-shaped dining room, as well as the entry closet in executing the spacious plan. An additional oversized window created a continuous window wall running the length of the back of the house, further complementing the open plan. The new, professional-style kitchen includes Subzero appliances as well as a Professional Wolf Range and microwave drawer. As an expert cook, the homeowner opted not to build in wall ovens, but decided instead to utilize the oven of the 48” range and a 30” single oven set in a secondary island.  Together we chose two granites and two cabinet finishes for the kitchen space.

New plumbing fixtures, granite, and tile were selected for the entire home. Showers were updated and enlarged while doorways were repositioned to create larger bath spaces. Carpeting was removed in the public areas of the home, and the existing wood floor was expanded and refinished in a darker, richer stain. Neutral wool carpeting was used in the bedroom wing of the home, while a leopard-print carpet was employed both on the steps leading to the lower level and in the lower-level family room.

New furniture now mingles with the client’s favorite existing furnishings to create separate spaces in serving the aims of an open plan that allows for an easy flow of movement among family and friends.

Guests now feel cozy and comfortable in settings that are intimate yet integrated into an overall scheme that makes this space great for parties.

Gridiron Hero Becomes Mentor and Coach

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Eric Francis Photography and Ted Kirk

What former Nebraska Cornhusker Steven Warren remembers most from his days playing football is not a particular game or plays, but rather the camaraderie among his teammates—along with key tenants such as persistence, integrity, and trustworthiness. These were experiences and traits that would serve Warren well later in life.

Recruited out of Springfield, Mo., he recalls Nebraska Head Coach Tom Osborne paying Warren and his family a visit in their living room the same week Big Red won the 1995 national championship. Warren accepted a UNL football scholarship and packed his bags for Lincoln.

Warren (96) delivers a bone-crushing hit back in his playing days for Big Red.

Warren (96) delivers a bone-crushing hit back in his playing days for Big Red.

“Nebraska football was No. 1; it was everywhere,” Warren recalls. “And being a part of it was like being a part of The Beatles.”

Freshman year was both a culture shock and an athletic shock for Warren: rigorous practices alongside the fame of being a Cornhusker. “There was so much temptation because of what you were part of. But you also had to learn time management,” he adds.

While playing for Nebraska, Warren found himself developing close friendships with other players and families in and around Lincoln. Oftentimes, parents would seek Warren out to speak with their children about setting goals, planning for the future, and living one’s dream.

Warren left Nebraska as a 3rd round pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 2000 NFL Draft. Thirteen weeks into his rookie year, Warren was sidelined with an injury and told he would miss the remainder of the season. He stayed in Green Bay, undergoing rigorous rehabilitation and training. He returned to the Packers for one more season before moving to the AFL, first playing for the San Jose Sabercats and, later, the Arizona Rattlers. At each of his AFL stints, Warren suffered separate injuries. “That’s when I realized my body was trying to tell me something,” he recalls.

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Warren returned to University of Nebraska-Lincoln and finished his sociology degree in 2004. After graduation, he had a decision to make. His wife, Heidi, is from Columbus, so staying in Nebraska certainly seemed like an option. And being a Nebraska alumni opened many doors for Warren. Former Huskers often pursued successful careers after leaving the field.

But a sales job or related opportunities just didn’t feel right.

“I always liked helping others, and I worked with mentors while at Nebraska,” Warren shares. At his Lincoln home near 30th and Y streets, some of Warren’s fondest memories were sitting on his porch and talking with children and teens who lived in the neighborhood.

That feeling never left him, which is why today he is president and founder of D.R.E.A.M. (Developing Relationships through Education, Athletics, Mentoring). It’s an Omaha-based nonprofit mentoring organization that reaches out to young men enrolled in middle school.

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“Seven years ago, everything for D.R.E.A.M. just fell into place: the pieces, the people. It was meant to be,” Warren says.

D.R.E.A.M. began in 2006 as an after-school program at Walnut Hill Elementary School at 43rd and Charles streets. Five volunteers met regularly with 20 at-risk students. Today, the program has expanded to several Omaha schools and added a chapter in Springfield, Mo., Warren’s hometown. In all, the program serves about 300 boys.

D.R.E.A.M. finds its success from 40 volunteers who spend three to five hours each week at an assigned school throughout the academic year. The theme is simple: becoming a man.

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“Our volunteers work with seventh- and eighth-grade students each school year teaching them the positive attributes of being a man: respect, responsibility, relationship building, establishing rapport,” Warren says. “All of these lessons I learned from football at Nebraska and our peer counseling.”

D.R.E.A.M. teaches young men that it’s okay (even encouraged) to be successful in school. College-age mentors serve as living, breathing examples of the success that comes with hard work, dedication, and diligence.

Teena Foster, an Omaha Public Schools site director at McMillan Magnet Center Middle School, has worked alongside Warren and his college-age volunteers since last fall. Foster says she continues to see growth in the seventh- and eighth-grade students who participate in D.R.E.A.M. each week. And she knows Warren is the driving force.

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“Steve is dedicated to mentoring these young students,” Foster explains. “He’s always smiling, is always pleasant. So are his volunteers. They build great relationships with our students. Mentors are extremely important in these young lives.”

Warren’s belief in mentorship yielded a second program that also occupies much of his time. From his experiences as a student athlete, Warren launched Warren Academy in 2010. It’s designed to provide students (from elementary and middle school to high school and college) with leadership skills and character-building through athletics.

Warren Academy, however, isn’t just for students. Coaches and other leaders also participate to improve and refine a variety of leadership skills, both on and off of the field. Warren Academy programs include training sessions, camps, coaching clinics, nutritional counseling, education assistance, and mentoring. The athletic training component features speed, strength, and agility training programs. Warren says that once the organization has its own facility, Warren Academy’s offerings will expand to include fitness for adults and children of all ages.

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“Our goal is to become the primary training resource for field sports,” Warren adds. “That includes baseball, football, track, soccer, and lacrosse.”

Seems Warren’s best playing position is that of teacher. And he’s loving every minute of it.

Judi Wendt

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Lady Gaga’s elaborately decorated fingernails get their own close-up barely 20 seconds into her 2011 “Yoü and I” music video. Her adorned hands are a focal point in wider shots throughout the six-plus-minute video featuring the artist as multiple characters, including a mermaid, cyborg, nymph and bride; in one cutaway, she even spits out a nail. All 10 Lady fingers were the handiwork of nail technician Judi Wendt of Rêvé Salon & Spa in Rockbrook Village, who says this video shoot was simultaneously the most challenging, exhausting, and exhilarating project in her 20-year career.

“They [called and] said, ‘You’re going to do a shoot with Lady Gaga’ and I about wrecked my car!” Wendt said.

Because the song was inspired by the singer’s relationship with Nebraskan Lüc Carl, the video was filmed near Springfield in July of 2011. Lady Gaga called in Marian Newman, described by Wendt as “the Rachel Zoe of the nail world” who then sought a local specialist to assist her, on one condition: she must have experience in a new nail technique called Minx. Wendt not only was one of the rare nail technicians in the area with Minx expertise at the time, she had actually been in the first training class ever offered by the Minx creators. Already a fan of Lady Gaga, Wendt didn’t hesitate to accept the project, even though it meant rescheduling 43 appointments.

“It was very hush-hush…I told my clients ‘It’s really cool, and you’re going to be very excited when I can tell you what it is,’” she recalls.

“They [called and] said, ‘You’re going to do a shoot with Lady Gaga’ and I about wrecked my car!”

The action on location was fast and furious with Wendt logging 42 hours in just three days, and the nail designs were developed right on set.

“I had nails in my pockets at all times, and I wore a tool belt that had been designed by Marian for things like this. You run in and out, and you’re on the floor, searching in the hay; it’s crazy,” Wendt says. “She brought cases and cases of rivets and nails and all these metal pieces, and thousands of polishes, tips and Gelites, and all this stuff.”

Although she admits to having a few “My God, that’s Lady Gaga!” moments, Wendt says working with the superstar was overwhelmingly positive.

“She was ultra-gracious and super-professional. Intense, but not in a bitchy way, just very drawn into what she was doing,” she says.

19 November 2012- Judi Wendt is photographed at her home for Omaha Magazine.

The Marian Newman connection led Wendt to a New York Fashion Week gig this fall, styling nails for six shows by various designers. Although she may return to future Fashion Weeks and has discussed European opportunities with Newman, Wendt says her husband and two sons, ages 10 and 14, and the family’s involvement with their activities will keep her anchored to Nebraska for now.

Surprisingly, Wendt’s career stemmed from a part-time job she stumbled into during her college years.

“This all developed along the way. I don’t think I ever realized that I had an artistic niche…I never wanted to do hair or nails. I have a business degree from UNO,” she says, adding that both her education and a bit of luck helped her become successful in the increasingly competitive nail industry. Wendt says she enjoys her loyal clientele, including several families now in the second and even third generations, and the creative outlet that doing nails, “an extension of fashion,” provides.

“One of the reasons I love this business,” she says, “is that it’s never the same.”