February 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It all began with a Hail Mary pass to get Graham Nabity enrolled at Elkhorn High School in time for football season.

In 2010, David and Kim Nabity hastily moved from their 5,000-square-foot Pacific Hollow home to a 2,700-square-foot, 1965 Elkhorn home just in time for Graham to suit up that fall. With three of the seven Nabity children still under the roof at the time, David says they “sardined” themselves into the new, smaller home.

“The whole point was moving in with enough time for [Graham] to start at Elkhorn, so we always knew at some point we’d do something different with the house, but it took us six years to finally get to the place where we had the design we wanted and were ready to do it,” says David, an Omaha native who grew up in the Benson area.

At the tail end of 2017, after 15 months away for a massive remodeling project, David and Kim finally moved back into their gorgeous, fully redone (now 3,800-square-foot) Elkhorn home that makes heavy use of gorgeous reclaimed barnwood. Why so long? Well, that whole “fully redone” part ended up being much more involved than initially expected.

The first order of business was clearing the ample lot from its excess of uninviting flora.

“The woods were so thick when we moved in you couldn’t even walk through them—it was just dead trees, thickets, poison oak vines, thorn bushes…It took me two years to clean the grounds so we had a meadow,” David says. “By about year four, I’d cleared out all the trees so we could see the beautiful river valley view we have now.” 

From August 2016 through December 2017, the Nabitys moved in with their son, Justin, planning to simply skin the outside and inside of the home, “leave the sticks and the roof, and add on the garage and extension.” But simple was not in the cards for the Nabitys.

The framers reviewed the plans and the house, indicated the plan was not possible, and recommended tearing down the south side of the house. The Nabitys agreed to that, only to discover that the house also lacked headers over the doors and windows, and the frame was not bolted to the foundation. Ultimately, they took the house all the way down to the foundation and built back up from there—thus the unintended 15-month diversion to dwelling in Justin’s unfinished basement.

In January 2017, the Nabitys parted ways with the original general contractor and David took over the project, with no prior construction or homebuilding experience.

“Since I’d never built a house before or been a general contractor, I was flying blind,” he says. “I had to really trust and rely on my subcontractors because I was in uncharted territory.”

But what David lacked in experience, he made up for in vision and vigor.

“Our vision for the house was rustic meets elegance; for the home to feel warm and friendly,” David says. “It’s kind of a Cape Cod look meets mountain home. Over the years, Kim and I visited places like Beaver Creek, Colorado, and Whistler in Canada, and we love the mountain home look of housing in those areas. Since we’re on a hill overlooking the river valley, we wanted to bring that mountain home feel to the house and felt like the barnwood would do the job. We couldn’t be more thrilled with [the result]. It’s exactly what I envisioned it would become.”       

In the meantime, Graham had indeed played football for Elkhorn, and then UNL, before graduating college and partnering in Nebraska Barnwood with David’s friend Tom Day, who had a massive supply of reclaimed barnwood.

“They build barnwood tables, desks, other pieces of furniture, and I bought all my barnwood from their company,” David says. “I picked up the wood, brought it home, power-washed and sanded every board, and stained, painted, or put a clear poly on every board that’s in the house. [Kim] and I worked side by side on that.”

The result is lovely, with a variety of barnwood featured throughout the home, from David’s Western/cowboy-themed office with a horse-worn, notched barn beam and striking multicolored boards in a repeating 8-inch, 4-inch, 6-inch pattern, to the airy, open floor plan living/dining/kitchen area, to the French mountain resort-esque family room with natural stone fireplace, to the stunning master suite, and beyond.

Every inch of the home is appointed with thoughtful care for details like doorknobs, hinges, and other hardware to add subtle elegance, as well as strategic use of knotty alder for certain doors and trim areas to mimic the rustic barnwood charisma. Corresponding colors and themes are found throughout the house.

“Every room’s a little different, and I use the barnwood differently in every room, but I tried to tie all the metals and wood together,” David says. “A lot of thought went into each space as far as how we [executed] to get the look we wanted.”

Ultimately, David says the end result was worth the wait, and though much of the remodel could’ve been achieved with any wood, he and Kim love the way their use of reclaimed barnwood lends character and warms up the home.

“God provides a seed, you plant it in the ground, and it grows into a tree. Then that tree provides fruit or shade until it comes time for the tree to die or be harvested. Then you cut the tree down and can shape the wood into so many different things. But once you stain it and put it at its rightful place, it just lives forever,” he says. “It’s a really phenomenal natural thing, when you think about it. If you take that concept to an old barn, the wood is old, tired, worn, used…yet it still maintains that character, and when you bring it back to life by power-washing, sanding, and staining it, something really special happens. It goes way beyond just being a piece of shiplap; there’s much more to it. It’s an amazing thing.”

Visit nebraskabarnwood.com for more information about Nebraska Barnwood and the reclaimed wood used in the Nabitys’ Elkhorn home.

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