Tag Archives: At Home With

Everything in its Place

June 21, 2015 by
Photography by Colin Conces

Article originally published in May/June 2015 edition of Omaha Home.

When you first pull up to Zach and Courtney Carle’s home off 192nd and Dodge in Elkhorn, you might think, “Wow, they have a really nice house.”

You’d be right.

But when Courtney greets you at the front door, you won’t enter one of those cavernous McMansions that embodies the worst aspects of American housing over the past couple decades.

Instead, you’re welcomed into a home that balances light and dark, friendly and ambitious, modern and traditional. Think natural stone chimney, hardwood floors, and a purple chalkboard wall for the oldest daughter. The place is gorgeous, yet understated and slightly quirky, like George Clooney.

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“Organized chaos” is another way to put it. The Carles will repeat that phrase several times over the course of our walkthrough.

Zach, a pharmaceutical sales specialist, and Courtney, a nurse, are the parents of four active children; Izabella (4), Camden (7), Jaxson (11), and Olivia (14). Dolls, action figures, sports gear, LEGOs, stuffed animals, art, homework, and digital devices abound. As the family grew, the Carles realized their old house simply couldn’t keep up. They needed a place to organize the chaos.

So, a few years ago, they started working with Greg Frazell of G. Lee Homes. This proved to be a wise choice. As a father of five, Frazell understood the organizational challenges a large family faces.

One of the most vital issues? Food. Both Zach and Courtney spend a lot of time travelling around Omaha for their professions and have little time to visit the grocery store, so Frazell sketched up what he thought would be an ample pantry.

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“I told him to go back to the drawing board,” Courtney chuckles. The original design was half the size the family had envisioned.

Frazell took it to heart. Honeycombed with shelves, the pantry as built could pass for a small food bank. Industrial-sized cereal boxes loom high overhead—telltale signs of a Costco membership.

The rest of the house follows suit, maximizing every nook and cranny of interstitial space to keep clutter at bay. Clothes, shoes, toys, and the attendant supplies of modern life seem vacuum-packed into cubby holes. It all looks simple enough (ingenious things often do) but the overall effect is one of logistical brilliance.

With the family’s potential morass of physical matter under control, the house is free to breathe. Indeed, if a house can be said to flow, this house flows. A cozy entryway beckons you past the home office, where a sliding barn door offers solitude, and into a living room capped by a 20-foot-high ceiling. Echoing the myriad storage elements throughout the house, the living room is checkered with windows that offer a perfect view of summer storms.

From there, the house spills into an open-concept kitchen where a granite-topped island sink splits the flow into two branches. One course leads to the three-car garage and the other to the pantry and dining room, which is recessed from the kitchen and vaulted like a nave. Hung from the apex, a stunning chandelier flashes bits of sunshine at the visitor. This placement is strategic: hung in the entryway, the chandelier’s beveled tears might look gaudy—like an earring worn by a Godzilla-sized Elizabeth Taylor. But above the dining room table, the fixture brightens the space without ostentation.

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The spacious living room/kitchen/dining area serves as the nucleus of the house. It’s custom-built to encourage interaction between the Carles, their kids, and the innumerable neighborhood children who breeze through on any given day. The neighborhood is a tight-knit community, so it’s crucial for Courtney to be able to pursue her passion for cooking while still getting to hang out with everyone.

In fact, besides Elkhorn Public Schools’ reputation for a rigorous education, the frenzy of youthful activity is what initially drew the Carles to the neighborhood two years ago.

“We loved that there were 5,000 kids running around the streets when we pulled in,” Courtney says.

With sometimes up to nine extra kids in the house, bathrooms were a key design consideration. Brothers Camden and Jaxson share one, as do sisters Izabella and Olivia. Nobody has to fight for a sink. Downstairs, Mom and Dad have what could pass for a spa, with its huge echo-chamber shower, presidential bathtub, and hexagonal flooring, a throwback look you’d expect to find in a home in Dundee, not out here on the edge of cornfields.

“We didn’t want it to age or succumb to what’s trendy now,” Zach explains, tapping the tile with the heel of his shoe. “We like the white subway tiles.”

This urge toward practicality and timelessness sums up the philosophy on which the house is built.

As does the sign in the pantry entryway: “Today’s Menu: Eat it or starve.”

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Urban Oasis

January 9, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Imagine a back-door setting that rivals the headiest expanses of Fontantelle Forest nestled just seconds off busy Center Street. Such a dreamy place does exist and it’s home for two men of the arts—Lester Katz, interior designer with LK Designs and Jack Becker, executive director and chief executive officer of the Joslyn Art Museum.

“It’s like a tree house. There aren’t many views like this,” Becker says. “It’s a great little refuge in the city.”

The duo purchased the home in May 2013. “We got into serious remodeling mode immediately the day after we closed,” says Katz. The five-bedroom Mid-Century Modern home was built and designed in 1968 by Omaha architect Gary Goldstein.

You can’t miss the mounted head of a wildebeest lording over the inviting living room. It’s befitting that his domain is the  “tree house.”  Wildebeests, who are natives of Africa, prefer life among the open woodlands.

The walls are treated with grass cloth in a cozy caramel hue. “It’s warm and it has texture,” says Katz. “In a way, it gives it a dressy look, but also a very relaxed look. I think it fits the room perfectly.”

Katz says he had a vision when he first walked in the house. “I wanted this bright, open feel when you walked in.” He chose a unique porcelain tile for the flooring. “It’s made to look exactly like Calcutta marble. It creates this expanse that you don’t get with a hardwood.”

The newly made bookshelves hold a treasure trove of titles on the subjects of art, architecture, and design. They make for perfect reading to cozy up in front of the linear flame fireplace with their faithful Terrier-mix pooch, Tilly, nestled on a lap.

“We’re mixing things up,” Becker says. “We have some vintage things that we found here and there. This is 1930’s French Deco, there’s an 1820‘s South Carolina sofa. The little tables are original Saarinen,” Becker says.

On a wall opposite the den which houses a fantastic Egyptian Revival chair from the 1960’s hangs Andy Warhol’s original “Cow Wallpaper.” The first in a series of wallpaper Warhol designed from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. “It was cut out and framed,” Katz says. Art dealer Ivan Karp famously said the cows were “super-pastoral” as noted in the book Popism: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett.

Katz and Becker keep active by walking the wooded trails in their Oakdale neighborhood. They do a fair amount of travelling, which is their main source of discovery for all of their fabulous furniture finds. They recently visited the dreamscapes of Ravello and Positano in Southern Italy with a stop in zany, hectic Naples.

The duo admits to a shared aesthetic, which makes choosing designs virtually pain-free. “If it’s a problem, it’s because we like so many different things,” says Katz. He mentions the neutral, patterned fabric for the chairs in the dining room. “We went through
so many choices.”

They created some open space by tearing down the passageway between the kitchen and the dining room. Afterward, the dining room needed something special to offset it from the kitchen. A copper border inlaid in the porcelain floor was the perfect solution. “People are pretty surprised by it,” Katz says.

“You want it to age and kind of turn brown, which it is doing,” Becker says. The duo regularly host dinner parties and their guests help with this tarnishing task. “Where people walk on it is where it is aging the most,” he says.

The basement is home base for LK Designs. The large space was the perfect place for an impressive fabric library that contains a dizzying array of textures, hues, and patterns. “It takes a long time to collect all of these,” says Katz, who earned his Interior Design degree ten years ago from Watkins College of Art and Design, located in Nashville.

It is there just outside his workspace that clients can sit on adorably petite 1930s diner chairs from Paris flea markets to discuss their own design dreams with Katz.

Back upstairs in the living room on the coffee table is a tiny metal sign, the type that one would set on their desk. It says “Reproductions” in a cool font, possibly from the 1930’s. It is a fitting little logo for their creatively engineered lifestyle of altering objects and spaces to suit their tastes and collective desires.

“Someone gave it to me,” Becker says. “They bought it at an antique store. I’ve always had it. I just dropped it here.
I don’t know why.”

“I think it fits,” says Katz.