Tag Archives: stone

Clean, Classic Design with a Contemporary Twist

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The style of this newly constructed home reflects the clean, classic taste of the homeowners with a contemporary twist. The homeowners’ main issue was a strong preference for neutral colors. Whenever they previously tried to inject color into their décor, they quickly grew tired of it.

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I chose to embrace their love of neutrals and add interest with contrast and texture. For example, I chose a soft gray on the walls, but a dark, rich, wide-plank floor to add warmth. The fireplace remains neutral in color but adds interest with its stacked and staggered rough stone pattern. The light stone next to the dark floating wood shelves adds crispness to the space.

Color was strategically placed in the intricate great room’s ceiling to accentuate the architecture. The same deep blue-gray color was added to the dropped ceiling above the pendant lights in the kitchen.  The kitchen is spacious enough to house a 10-foot island. To add a splash of contemporary design to a classic white kitchen, the cooktop tile was laid vertically in a herringbone pattern.

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The same concept was used on the exterior: crisp white and gray stacked stone, bright white trim, and a smoky gray vertical siding.

All the design elements came together using timeless, classic neutrals, and a few splashes of soft cool colors. The homeowners couldn’t be happier with their new home! OmahaHome

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River Stone Fireplace

January 7, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Kurt and Beth Bratches moved to Omaha from Connecticut just over a year ago, one of their must-haves was a home with a fireplace. “I grew up with a fireplace,” says Kurt, owner of All Things Home, a remodeling service.

A former day trader, Kurt and his family would often escape the buzz of Wall Street in the serene calm of the Adirondack Mountains, where cozy lodge rooms were commanded by roaring stone fireplaces. The Bratches channeled their vacation nostalgia as the focal point of the living room in their warm and inviting Country Club home.

Built in 1932, the home needed a few updates. “The fireplace was tragic,” Kurt says. “I tore everything out.” Beth, an interior designer with The Designers, came up with the design.

“I always think it’s important to let the house speak to you a little bit,” she says. “The paneling is not something we would have chosen. I think it was done in the ’60s, but when you look at design, that’s kind of coming back. Let’s just replicate that design there so it goes with the house,” she says.

“The key is to update it without taking away the character and integrity of the house,” Kurt says. He first used a hand chisel to take out the existing hearth. “That was the un-fun part of it. It’s messy.” He then built the box and the surround. For the mantle he used a piece of reclaimed cedar from a friend’s barn in Connecticut.

He used mason screws to secure the box to the masonry. “The idea is to put your fasteners on a spot that can be hidden.” Kurt then used a sheet of birch over the top. “I laid it up like a frame and then I put the pieces in between it and framed it all out,” he says.  He finished it with crown molding and gave it a coat of satin paint. “Satin gives it a nice patina.”

A tip from a pro? Kurt first taped the dimensions of the fireplace on the floor to experiment with the stone’s placement, like putting together a puzzle. “That’s how I figured out where everything was going to go,” he says.

The entire project cost $400 and took about a week to do. “You buy quality lumber. It just comes out better,” he says.

The cedar for the mantle wasn’t the only material that took a circuitous route to Omaha. The Bratches collected the project’s river stones from such sites as the Long Island Sound, Rhode Island’s Block Island, and Omaha’s Standing Bear Lake. One of the stones stands out among all others. The one engraved with the word “home” was a gift from their daughter.

The Bratches’ self-styled river stone fireplace now serves as a visual collection of some of their favorite memories…a love story written in stone.

Casual Contemporary Home & Lifestyle

August 30, 2013 by
Photography by Lisa Louise Photography

A young family called the design firm, Ellen Pandorf Interior Design, to help design and furnish their new home in a western development. They wanted something elegant and ideal for entertaining friends and family, yet accomodating for their casual lifestyle with their two young children. They were leaning toward a casual, contemporary style. Ellen Pandorf Design helped them soften the look to work with the home’s stone and stucco architectural style and create a more transitional look.

In the entry, an elegant marble mosaic tile medallion with a sweeping iron stairway leads to an open walkway between the children’s bedrooms and the guest bedroom.

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The living room has two seating areas that work well for larger gatherings. One area faces the beautiful, two-story tumbled stone fireplace, and the other features plush silk sofas and chairs overlooking the pool.

The family room/kitchen is an open, comfortable area with a blue rug that brings out the blue of the granite countertop in the kitchen. The family likes to cook for family and friends, so the kitchen was designed with a round layout that allows everyone to work together. The wood floor is a hand-scraped cherry that complements the lighter wood tones of the cabinets.

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The formal dining room is elegant with two chandeliers and two tables that accommodate either a large gathering or a smaller party. The walls have a warm, metallic sheen that coordinate well with the beaded wall covering in the cured ceiling. The room also features a large artwork from local artist Larry Roots. Beside the dining room is a large pantry that serves as a go-between from the kitchen to the dining room. The kitchen also features easy to maintain yet refined-looking floor tiles.

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The master bedroom has soft blue and java brown tones that complement the master bath stone tiles. The walls have a special paint finish with mica wall covering that gives a glow to
the room.

A few more pieces from local artists, and the home’s contemporary yet casual look will be complete.

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Transformations is a regular feature of Omaha Home that spotlights a recent project by a local ASID interior designer. The copy and photos are provided by the designer. Homeowners’ names may be withheld for privacy.

Installing an Outdoor Fireplace

August 29, 2013 by

One of the fastest growing backyard trends is an outdoor fireplace. When deciding to install your own, one of your first choices is to select the fuel type. Will it be a wood-burning unit, or are you looking for the convenience of gas? If you decide on wood fuel, make sure to pick a fireplace location with proper clearances for good draft and check your local building codes to make sure you are in compliance.  If you select a gas-burning fireplace, managing the smoke and draft are not issues. Keep in mind you will need a gas source, whether it’s propane or natural, and there may be some plumbing and possibly some trenching required to get the gas line to the fireplace unit.

Once you’ve decided your fuel type and fireplace location, you’ll need to determine what it will be made of. The two basic types of construction are custom masonry and prefabricated. The benefits of masonry construction are that it will most likely last a long time and will produce more heat, if that is a priority. The prefab units are built as a metal shell with a metal chimney and often have a firebrick liner, replicating the look of a masonry fireplace. Because there is less mass, they may not produce as much heat. On the plus side, a prefab fireplace allows for a faster, easier installation.

Most outdoor fireplaces are finished with a stone or brick veneer. There are many varieties in terms of size, shape, and color to choose from, so coordinating your fireplace look with your home’s style or color is easy. Whatever outdoor fireplace you choose, you are sure to have some memorable times sitting around the fire with friends and family!

To see a selection of options for your outdoor fireplace, visit the Lumbermen’s showroom at 13709 Industrial Rd. in Omaha. For more information, visit lumbermens.biz.

Custom Gems

October 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Imagine twin waterfalls, tall and narrow, magically frozen in freefall. The tumbling cascades are the clear, deep purple of winter shadows. When brilliant sunshine splashes across the rough surface, it assumes the glitter of sparkling gems. Both images, a double waterfall of frozen water or of gemstones, are equally wondrous. In this story, the metaphor is the reality—the waterfalls of our fantasy are cataracts of amethyst crystals.

Nearly eight feet tall, the mirrored pair are the split halves of a geode that has been supersized. Since we’re already in the mood for magic, we can time-travel back 130 million years to the end of the Mesozoic Era. The earth is in upheaval. The colossal continent of Pangaea breaks apart; volcanoes explode; the ocean floor crashes. Dinosaurs are disappearing, flowers (okay, angiosperms) are appearing. Every subset has its own turmoil. Lava flows hiss and erupt in bubbles of every size, some round and others shot high. As these bubbles cool, they harden into hollow shells. Mineral-rich slip glazes their interiors…and crystallizes, forming jeweled chambers unsignaled by their mud exteriors.

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Zip! Back to Omaha at the end of 2012. Our location is Custom Gems, a shop at the back of Frederick Square Shopping Center, off 84th Street just few blocks south of West Center Road. Its exterior may be commonplace, but inside you’ll find treasures to spark anyone’s imagination: delicate, one-of-a-kind necklaces, a tray of sapphires in every possible shade of blue (and some that aren’t blue!), carvings, and fossils. Kids of all ages scoop gleaming tumbled stones—8 for a dollar!—from an always-full bin. Practitioners of holistic therapies choose gems for their healing properties; DIY’ers finger strings of  beads; and rock hounds pick up tools, magazines, and even the rough stones that eluded them in the wild. You might visit Custom Gems just to see the beautiful amethyst waterfall.

While I’ve imagined tumbling water, others experience a sense of sacred space, like the gem-encrusted walls of some medieval churches. “They’re often called ‘amethyst cathedrals,’” explains Tim Kautsch, owner of Custom Gems. The height, twinning, and deep color of this pair enhance their allure and their value.

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Nearby is another natural crystal formation, a wedge of clear quartz with a cluster of the icy crystals at its centerpoint. (The word “crystal” comes from the early Greek word for frost. Snow is another crystalline structure.) Color is determined by mineral makeup, and each mineral has its own crystal shape. The clear rods clustered at the center are long hexagons ending in pyramidal points, looking just like ice.

Quartz is the most commonly used mineral in jewelry, but all minerals are, in their rough state, just rocks. Compare that tray of sparkling sapphires to their rugged counterpart, corundum. Fine jewelry calls for precious stones that are carefully cut and polished. Tim is a gemologist certified by the Gemological Institute of America. The degree gives him an edge in gem identification and grading. He began to work here while still in high school and became owner in 2009. Soon, his brother, Kevin, joined him. “It’s a good fit,” he says. “Kevin is great at work requiring precision, such as designing and repairing fine jewelry.”

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Custom Gems offers jewelry in a range of choices—you can buy an irresistible finished piece; select a setting, then choose just the right stone; or refit a piece of your own with new stones. Some customers have jewelry with sentimental value recast into a more personalized or modern style. The brothers value the importance of getting to know their patrons, many of them repeat customers. They especially enjoy creating a unique design that best expresses the customer’s intention and the stone’s special features. Kevin showed me one of his designs, an amethyst in a sterling silver pendant that echoed and emphasized the stone’s unusual shape.

Fossils are another form of rock. In the case of ammonites, the sea creatures’ buried remains were transformed by the pressure of sand and mud. Their typical spiral shell identifies them easily, but patterns on the shell show great variety. On display is an ammonite which has been split into two perfect halves. Its creamy beige, brown, and white coloring is subtly dabbed with touches of pale melon, mauve, and green, the delicacy of its coiled chambers preserved in stone.

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Occasionally, ammonite’s external shell wall is thick enough to be removed. Coupled with the shell’s pearl-like iridescence, it offers a prized jewel, ammolite, to the designer. “It’s my favorite stone,” says Kevin. He displays several, each a different color. Vibrant red/green or blue/violet hues dominate, but all colors are possible. Red and green flicker across one piece, the surface crazed with a pattern called “dragon skin.”

Besides jewelry and gems, the shop has accoutrements for home and office—tiny carved animals (the perfect pet, in my opinion), spheres, elegant serving plates of fossilized limestone, and Chinese jade work. For impact, Shona sculptures from Zimbabwe combine primitive and modernist style.

And for fun, there’s the rock bin. On a fall day, 9-year-old Natasha chose stones with the painstaking care of a collector. “This place is awesome!” she says. Christy Hamilton came in to replace a stone she’d lost from a pendant and couldn’t help smiling. “I’ve come here forever,” she says. “Tim does beautiful work. And whenever I had my grandchildren, I’d bring them here and let them choose a rock.”

Custom Gems is a wonderful source for shoppers, hobbyists, and daydreamers.

Custom Gems Inc.
8487 Frederick St.
402-397-9606
customgemsomaha.com