Tag Archives: beautiful

Southwest Escape

April 7, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

We’re creatures of habit. We live and breathe routine, and for the most part, we are comfortable in our ways. We’re busy. We think ahead. We worry. We wonder. We drive to work and run errands. Once in a while, however, we stop for a moment and realize that we need a break.

What happens when we decide to escape from routine? If only for two weeks? The possibilities are infinite. Omaha Magazine’s creative director, Bill Sitzmann, and his family of four know this firsthand. Sitzmann, his wife, and their two kids (ages 5 and 9) packed up their Subaru Outback in early June 2016 and hit the road with no specific destination in mind, rather a region: the Great American Southwest.

“We knew when we needed to leave and we knew when we needed to be back,” Sitzmann says. “My dad lives in Tucson, so we knew we wanted to go there and see him. But other than that, we just picked the general areas we wanted to hit.”

The Sitzmann family rolled out of Omaha, looking forward to the two-week camping adventure ahead. Sitzmann says that the trip was exciting from a parental standpoint because, while he was accustomed to teaching his kids things that he already knew, they were headed into uncharted territory for the whole family.

“For all four of us to experience it for the first time, all at the same time, was pretty cool,” Sitzmann says, recalling their two weeks of close quarters on the road.

Driving from Omaha, their stops ranged from Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado to the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

They discovered beautiful, lightly populated trails and campsites by venturing off the beaten path. The family decided to stop by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado, chosen by Sitzmann on a whim, based solely on pictures that he’d seen of the place.

Surrounded by trees with no spectacular view in sight, the drive into the park had them questioning their sanity. But the side trip turned out to be one of the more rewarding outdoor destinations for the family when they walked along a trail at sunset and stumbled upon a massive canyon nearly 100 yards away from their campsite. As they looked around, they realized that they had the hidden gem all to themselves. Sitzmann made a point to wake up at sunrise the next morning for coffee with a view.

They hit a total of 10 national parks over the course of their 3,200-mile journey across the rugged Southwest of the United States. The region is home to countless national parks, along with myriad monuments and historic sites, offering unlimited variations to the ultimate family road trip.

In the Southwest, several National Parks are located in close enough proximity that more than one could be visited in a single day. The natural formations of the land might be close in location, but tend to differ greatly when it comes to their visual appeal.

In Utah, the impressive forest of tall, narrow eroded rock at Bryce Canyon National Park is less than 90 minutes from Zion National Park—where massive cliffs, gaping canyons, sparkling streams, and waterfalls can be seen. Those two parks alone could make a day of adventure (or a week of discovery) for visitors.

 “I think it’s important to have that long-term period with your family,” Sitzmann says. “Most of us, we talk about providing for our family—and that’s what we think our main job is. You teach [your kids] that you can provide and work hard, but there are other things in life that we miss and that we kind of lose touch with over the years.”

The family was able to disconnect from social media, spend the evenings under the stars, and chase the sunrise each morning.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Not every moment was saturated with unexpected beauty. One night, they couldn’t find an open campground, so they camped directly under a fluorescent light in an RV park. But that was a learning experience, in its own way.

Sitzmann’s son turned 9 on the road and received a pocketknife from his father as a right of passage into the world of responsibility.

Road trips to the Southwest have occupied a pivotal point in the lives of many. For my own family, the Southwest was the basis for two unforgettable road trips. The first journey, my parents took in their 20s before having kids. The second, they undertook with seven children in tow (four years ago).

Unlike the Sitzmanns, the Smith crew rolled out of Omaha in 15-passenger rental van. Our approach to the itinerary was more regimented and less laissez faire. We hit the road with all lodging booked. While the Sitzmanns cooked on campfires all along the way, we munched on endless amounts of processed snacks packed into the van.

My dad drove, my mom blogged, and the seven of us kids—ages 5 to 19—bonded in the backseats singing songs, playing games, and marveling at the changing colors and landscapes that we had never seen before.

Over the course of the 3,259 miles that we drove, we spent 10 days in five different states. We grew closer as we conquered new territories. We mastered packing and unpacking the car in a matter of minutes; white-water rafted in Colorado; played cards by the campfire at night in Utah; and came up with silly inside jokes that we remember today.

While there are countless ways to make a road trip through the Southwest, the adventure is unlike any other. Experiencing the purity and the simplicity of the landscape, joined by the people you love, is an indescribable experience. It is an opportunity that doesn’t come around often.

My parents had wanted to go on family road trip to the Southwest ever since their own trip some 20 years prior. It was a right of passage for our family as a unit, because my eldest sister had just graduated high school and the youngest was about to start kindergarten.

As we begin graduating from college, these sorts of road trips will become increasingly difficult to coordinate. So, to seize the moment, we are now in the midst of planning another massive family road trip.

The Smith Family’s Southwest Itinerary (10 days):

From Omaha, we drove through Colorado and landed in Utah where we visited: Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park. We then continued to head south where we hit Arizona and visited the Grand Canyon National Park and Lake Powell. We headed back up north where we made an impulsive stop at the Four Corners, then carried onto Mesa Verde National Park and the city of Durango in Colorado. Then, we returned to Omaha.

The Sitzmann Family’s Southwest Itinerary (14 days): 

From Omaha, they headed to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. From there, they went to New Mexico where they visited Carson National Forest and White Sands National Monument. They continued onward to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park and Antelope Canyon in Arizona, and then went back up to Utah to hit Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. The family made their way back through Colorado, where they visited the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park before they returned to Omaha.

Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

10,000 Ideas in 10,000 Square Feet

March 3, 2016 by
Photography by Thomas Grady

From confined, concise rooms to open, flowing spaces…this 10,000 square foot home has been completely transformed. The foundation and exterior frame remain, but the entire interior has been reconstructed. New floor plans were created within these constraints based upon the homeowner’s needs, desires, and existing furnishings. Along with builder Choice Homes, architect Ron Hackett, and the homeowner, we worked together to reconstruct this home into a modern take on a natural and rustic-inspired design with hints of old world tradition. Not one detail was overlooked.

Hand-scraped wood floors and beams invite guests into the entry and move throughout the entire home. The curved staircase with custom ironwork, glass accents, and tile- detailed risers flow through the three levels.

The great room ceiling was raised to the second floor and larger windows were installed to open the home. A two-sided stone fireplace with a floating limestone hearth opens the great room to the hearth room and raises the eye to the exposed distressed beams. An additional roof was integrated to incorporate a covered back patio where a built-in bar, grill, and fireplace formed an outdoor living area.

A color palate composed of rich copper, red, turquoise, and mink streams throughout the home. Bronze plumbing and lighting selections were made to compliment these tones and add touches of timeless charm.

The stone encasing the dining room and kitchen range wall, along with custom wall finishes, add warmth to the space. A distinctive bar-height and angle within the kitchen island inspired unique granite and stone selections. Pedants with hammered amber glass and metal detail in combination with an antique mirror backsplash are featured in the dinette to add a tinge of an old world feel.

Just beyond the great room a striking powder bath uses Backdraft granite that continues from the counter to the ceiling. The drama continues with the unique starburst wall details and pebble floor.

The master bathroom and bedroom are still contained in traditional elements but with a hint of flair. The lavish master bath features custom cabinetry, wall finishes, and tile designs. Marble tile with glass detail flows up the entire whirlpool wall. Polished nickel, quartz, and artistic glass features add bling, taking the space to the next level of richness.
A custom-designed curved theater room barn door welcomes friends to a spacious and entertaining lower level. Rustic stone walls set the tone in the bar and family room. The wine cellar boasts a custom iron door and soft, glowing, back-lit onyx counters. The rustic undertones continue into the powder bath with a glass tile floor, mirrored cabinetry, and hand-created wall texture.

This remodeled open floor plan with more than adequate circulation space and custom finishes allows the homeowner to live conveniently and entertain with ease.

The 2015 NE-IA ASID Project Awards presented this home a Silver Award.

Visit idfomaha.com to learn more.

Hidden Treasures

April 9, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Originally published in March/April OmahaHome

The quarter-million-dollar, 8,800-watt Steinway & Sons speaker system is very visible in the “Man Cave” section of the Echo Systems store because, well, guys still think 7-foot-tall speakers are cool to look at. Even the bank of 11 Steinway 800-watt amplifiers (with enough power for an outdoor heavy-metal concert) is visible off to the side of the bar, which has two televisions in case, as Echo’s marketing coordinator Doug Dushan says, “you don’t want to crane your neck” to look over the $43,000 pool table to see the Man Cave’s big screen TV, which is maybe 20 feet from the even-bigger-screened TV over by the custom-built shuffle board.

But the one-percenter excesses of the Cave aren’t really what the new Echo Systems store is about, says Dushan, a longtime home tech expert who also serves as the company’s senior sales consultant. Most of this complete luxury-home layout is filled with technology you don’t see. Think of the new Echo Systems space just north of 120th and L streets (previously occupied by the company’s lighting design store) as a permanent Street of Dreams home mashed up with a 21st-century House of Tomorrow. “You’re walking through a million-dollar home and that’s obvious. You have the beautiful light fixtures, you have the high-end art and sculpture,” Dushan says. “But we’re really focused on giving people the best technology in their home with minimal visual impact. We’re about technology, but in a house, the technology needs to be concealed technology.”

Beyond the Man Cave, subtlety begins to rule. The spacious kitchen is tasteful luxury, but not really awe-inspiring (Full disclosure, though: the writer is a dude). But then Dushan starts pressing buttons on the barely-visible wall switch. One button pours bright LED light onto the counter areas for food preparation. Another button lowers the overhead lighting and raises floor and recess lighting for a dinner ambiance. Another push of a button and the lighting shifts to nighttime mode—just enough light on the floor to get you safely to a midnight snack.

Mixed inconspicuously with the recessed lights above are two banks of speakers. Hidden behind another wall is a subwoofer big enough for car audio competitions. You can preset the myriad lights and speakers to any level and configuration you choose.

In the dining room—so that there’s absolutely no sign of speakers—the sound equipment is installed behind the walls. Above the table, the ceiling is specially designed to transmit even higher-frequency sounds without visible tweeters.

Push one button and the mirror above the fireplace turns into a 65-inch TV. If that’s too small a screen, you can push another button to lower a 110-inch motorized movie screen. Again, the projector itself is barely visible on the back wall of the room. In the bedroom, even an acrylic-on-canvas painting rolls up to expose a television.

And then there’s the real movie room, a tri-leveled, 17-seat theater that, with walls of surround-sound speakers on both sides and a screen nearly the size of secondary theaters in a multiplex, makes for an experience “we believe is better than the experience you would get in a commercial theater,” Dushan says.

Dushan queued up a scene from Need for Speed (Again, the writer is a dude). Remember the scene in which the Koenigsegg Agera R flips across the bridge at 200 mph? In this theater, it sounds like the supercar is hurtling right past your head.

More tasteful films are probably pretty good in here, too.

Finally, you exit the faux-home through a room built to look like a patio. Here there’s a large opaque window that, sure, is actually a rear-projection screen for watching movies outside.

The features, both hidden and obvious, are too numerous to mention. And honestly, a bit of envy-fatigue can start to set in after a while.

Dushan says he’s aware that most of us won’t be able to take the store home. (He says he’s hoping he can build just a couple of the amenities into his own place). But, he argues, even if a customer thinks most of the amenities are crazy or out-of-reach, “they might see that one thing that really excites them.”

“This place is a showcase of what’s possible in a home,” he says. “It’s a Street of Dreams home that isn’t going anywhere.”

The Zen of Downsizing

February 24, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Originally published in March/April 2015 Omaha Home magazine.

Anne Ginn’s epiphany came when she was ankle-deep in a pile of leaves.

“It came to me while I was raking,” says Ginn. “I was filling the last bag of leaves of the season and decided that it would also be the last bag of leaves of my life.”

So Anne, whose husband, Bob, had passed away in 2012, sold her Loveland-area home and packed her belongings. Well, some of them anyway. “One of the things that wasn’t negotiable were my art books,” she says. “We had hundreds of books…voracious readers…but I kept only my art books.”

It’s no surprise that Ginn, who now lives at Riverfront Place, could not part with the source of such creative inspiration. Ginn was a co-owner of the now-closed String of Purls knitting shop. She is, of course, an accomplished knitter, but she is also an artist in her own right and is perhaps best known for her wildly imaginative pattern designs for sweaters, scarves, and accessories.

Another grouping that would make the move with Ginn was her marble collection. The much-travelled Ginn, who also scours the globe in search of the most spectacular of scuba spots, amassed the collection one country at a time.


“They are just little works of art in glass,” Ginn says. “Besides being things of great beauty, they are storytellers. Each one reminds me of where I’ve been. They are almost like little sacred objects, all with a meaning and story of their own.”

Joining the construction of Gallup’s headquarters and the National Parks Regional Headquarters, Riverfront Place was the residential keystone of the city’s first major NoDo riverfront development. The Phase 1 tower, where Anne rents her space from the unit’s owners, was completed in 2007 along with an adjoining block of 57 townhomes. Phase 2, completed in 2011, added a second tower and an additional 50 townhomes.

Ginn’s end-cap condo offers floor-to-ceiling exposure to the East, South, and West. The three-fold orientation, she says, offers almost perfect symmetry. Ginn begins her day in the glow of a cobalt-blue sunrise on one side of her condo and, after the shortest of commutes, ends the day basking in the flame-red sunsets on the opposite side.

Riverfront Place boasts some of the most dramatic sightlines of any downtown living space. Looming below is the towering Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, whose base is grounded by a plaza featuring a popular, get-your-feet-wet water feature.

By June, the plaza will also have a removable stage and will increasingly become the home of evening concerts in the shadow of “The Bob,” Omaha’s signature structure.

Her 9th floor perch happens to place her at eye-level with flocks of soaring Canada geese. It’s also the perfect vantage point for taking in the breathtaking fireworks that light up the night sky during the holidays, the NCAA College World Series, and other special events. On the day of the interview, perfectly round orbs of ice swirled as they elbowed their way downstream in the river below. It was an ethereal, otherworldly sight, one not unlike a work of abstract art that had come to life. The mesmerizing ice dance mirrored images of the undulating, slow motion ballet performed by the jellyfish at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

“I worried that this [Riverfront Place] would be too remote,” says Ginn of the site that isn’t exactly downtown and isn’t exactly at the core NoDo. “But it turned out to be just the opposite. I’m not in the middle of anything, but I’m sort of in the middle of everything. Just look,” she says with a sweep of a hand in gesturing to the river, bridge, TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, CenturyLink Center Omaha, and the city’s skyline.

Ginn’s move to condo living was something of an experiment for her. Now she says she’s considering buying a condo at Riverfront once her lease expires.

“This has become the perfect place me,” she says. “Add to that all the amenities [indoor parking, concierge service, health clubs, access to miles of hiking trails on both sides of the river, and more] and I am just really enjoying life here.”

Ginn is an avid disciple of Bikram yoga who teaches at Creighton University during the summer. She is also a spiritual director, one who has taken a decidedly Zen-like approach to downsizing.

“Things—physical things, belongings, stuff—require care and maintenance,” she explains. “There is a weight to them, both physical and mental, that occupies and distracts the mind. The kind of weightiness I now seek is in other, more meaningful aspects of my life.”


Livable Luxury

February 11, 2015 by
Photography by Tom Kessler and Mark Kresl

A penthouse space in Riverfront Place, a sparkling anchor in the redevelopment of NoDo, was just the lifestyle change needed for this client.

We sought an atmosphere that would be perfect for entertaining in a location perched atop the Missouri river and with a magnificent view of the stunning vista.

Moving from the typical West Omaha suburbia home meant that storage could be an issue, so we designed every space possible with an eye to the maximum use of space, from closet systems to a Murphy bed.

Furniture selections and placement were meticulously planned to accomodate large gatherings, and all of the fabrics and leathers were selected to maximize durability and tactile stimulation. The home also features the integration of lighting, shades, HVAC, sound, and television—even a self-playing piano—all controlled with a touch of an iPad.

And the kicker, especially in this muffs-and-mittens time of the year? Heated floors.

A dramatic expanse of windows boast electronic shades that give the homeowner the option of mixing things up with a selection of patterned, sheer, and room-darkening options. The client wanted all electrical fixtures to be LED for energy efficiency, color, and aesthetics in highlighting the home’s neutral color palette.

Quartz countertops and alpaca area rugs were used for their striking look and feel, texture, and for sustainability purposes. Every last detail was customized to add to the singular vibe of the space. The client also loves metallic and texture, which we achieved through creatively integrating the use of both porcelain and mosaic, wood, hand-beaded wall coverings, fabric, faux painting, art, wallpaper, furniture, custom doors, cornice boards, and more.

Extensive custom woodwork was also used to achieve several curvilinear installations to add extra emphasis and eye-catching appeal.

The result is a singularly handsome space looming high above the Missouri River.


Historic Brandeis Mansion

December 24, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mark Maser starts with sound advice for any home decorator: “Buy what you like and find a way to make it work in your space.”

And when the holidays come around, he says, “everything stays.” It’s an approach that makes sense for a lot of homeowners, but especially so for a family that owns a turn-of-the-century Omaha mansion that’s also got a lot working in its space—a Jacobethan Revival exterior with brick walls, a red tile roof, and stucco and half-timber work; an interior main staircase with Colonial Revival-style columns flanking the main staircase inside; a sitting room ceiling with exposed beams recalling the Arts and Crafts period; a neo-classical music room; a Georgian Revival dining room. The design—the early-1900s work of architect Albert Kahn—blended several interior design revival styles to make it feel like an English manor house updated through the years, Maser said.

Department-store mogul Arthur Brandeis commissioned the house, situated at 500 S. 38th St., in 1904; Maser’s parents purchased the house in 2008 after it had served as commercial and private residential spaces for years and, by the end of the early aughts, had been through nearly a decade of restoration. Maser and his partner, who’d lived around the corner in another Gold Coast home, moved in.

“We were attracted to the house because of its traditional nature,” Maser says. “I’ve always liked old stuff. We thought if we could park our collections inside an older home, it’d be a perfect fit.”

The question, then? How to make the house feel comfortable, Maser says, how to make it feel like a place people could sit around without feeling constricted in a small antique chair—how to make it feel like the things inside had always been there.

Maser mixed modern upholstered items amid antiques. In a nod to Britain’s Victorian and Edwardian periods—when, Maser says, families were proud to display collectibles purchased in far-off lands by relatives with foreign business concerns—he placed chinoiserie and other items from across the globe throughout rooms.

“The rule I have is ‘be true to the space,’” Maser explains. “[The house] has a sense of collection.”

And that is the sense that, at the holidays, stays.

“We don’t want to lose the flavor of the stuff,” he says. “That way it looks like Christmas is more organic.”

Maser says he works with the help of a decorator (this year, Voila! Flowers’  Ann Etienne is helping with the mansion’s holiday transformation) to find what he and his partner like and make it work
with the house.

“We buy Christmas things that are not 100 years old but are inspired by them,” he says. “We put something together that feels right for a period house.”

It’s a blend of Christopher Radko ornaments, clip-on glass birds, peacocks in blue and green and teal and white, some rooms that are more red than green. With the home’s limited floor space, a shorter 4- or 5-foot tree goes in a large Chinese fishbowl on a table in one room, atop a piano in another.

“It gives the sense of the tree being important and tall,” Maser said, “but without eating up floor space or having to move out furniture.”

And when guests are coming to call—at the mansion, it could be family members or nonprofit groups and organizations (Maser is president of the Opera Omaha Guild, which hosts events in the mansion) or, more recently, private parties by reservation—Maser says the primary concern is to make sure they have a good time.

He doesn’t set a particular theme to events and leaves a lot of creative decision-making to the people he says have the specialized skills for it—florists and photographers and caterers (he consistently works with Attitude on Food).

His does prepare one holiday dish, however, frequently requested by his guests: egg mousse.

He makes the mousse and arranges it in the shape of a tree on a platter. He tops it with parsley flakes and tomato ornaments and olive tapenade garland.

“Every time I have a party, people ask for egg mousse,” he boasts. “I’ve served it millions of times. People think it’s just dandy.”

It’s what people like. It works in the space.

It’s comfy. Merry.

“When Christmas goes up and the music goes on and the lights are twinkling,” Maser says, “it’s a happy feeling.”



December 5, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Walking into the lobby of the new downtown Omaha headquarters of Gavilon, a commodities trading firm, is like walking into the future—a $44 million testament to the awesome capabilities of electronics, fiber optics, and the human mind. To the eye, the lobby, in hues of gray, appears elegant in its simplicity. Walls that reach up to a very high ceiling are bare except for the word “GAVILON” in large silver letters above the security desk. Four low-sitting, squared-off beige leather chairs trimmed in chrome in a Mid-Century Modern vibe could have come from the set of Mad Men.

To the ear, however, the building at 1331 Capitol Ave. is pure state-of-the-art. A litany of beeps breaks the lobby’s stillness as employees scan their ID badges against doors and elevators. Without a badge, no employee would get past the parking garages, which form the first two floors of the five-story building. Security is multi-layered and includes 65 cameras—a necessity that becomes obvious when looking down from the fourth floor railing onto the heart of the operation: the massive trading floor.

A 35,000-square-foot hub of activity, the trading floor is the “wow” factor of Gavilon. It occupies more than half of the third floor of the building and faces Dodge St. to the south, while the IT section takes up the rest of the room along Capitol. Hundreds of traders on headsets stand at their desks or sit at computers, buying and selling grain and fertilizer for transport on a global scale. The trading floor of Gavilon emits a continuous low hum of voices, thanks in part to the 22-foot-high ceilings and carpeting that help dampen the sound.

“We wanted a very open and a very collaborative workspace,” says Robert W. Jones, Gavilon’s chief administrative officer and the company’s point man on the project. “There are no columns on the trading floor, creating an environment that allows for real-time communication and information sharing.”

The trading floor sits on an 18-inch raised platform that “controls the cooling and ventilation management, the cable and power management with 85 miles of copper and five miles of fiber optics under the floor,” Johnson explains, clearly proud of the achievement.

When Gavilon’s 400 Omaha employees (expected to rise to 750 eventually) moved into the new global headquarters last December from their former location on the ConAgra campus, they discovered plenty of amenities. The dining area offers full-service breakfast and lunch, with an outdoor patio overlooking TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Coffee bars abound, as do conference rooms, huddle rooms for impromptu meetings, and phone rooms for privacy. The virtual environment allows employees to sign in to any computer in any room. They can also access information at home.

When asked if he might have done anything differently, Jones admits that, “I would have made the fitness center a bit bigger.” With the fifth floor finished but unfurnished in anticipation of growth, that idea might just go from virtual to reality some day.


At Home With The Shoults

December 4, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Nestled in a far west expanse of Omaha is a rather unique property that often causes passersby to do a double-take. The former one-room schoolhouse built in 1938, Sunny Slope School, is owned by Kelly Wirges Shoults and her husband, Randy.

“We have a love for this building,” says Wirges Shoults. “It just feels good
inside these walls.”

The original concrete school sign was salvaged and is prominently displayed. It serves as a reminder of simpler times when the teacher, legend has it, would arrive on horseback. Happy times, when students would take part in festive activities like dancing around the maypole, building a snowman, or planting trees together on Arbor Day.

It is that foundation of warm memories of learning that serve as the bloodline for the base of operations for Wirges Shoults’ business, ProMax Training and Consulting. As CEO of ProMax, Wirges Shoults travels nationwide providing inspirational training to media companies.  Key words found in her curriculum include “passion,” “plan,” “process,” and “perseverance.”

It is evident that those same guiding principles were followed during the process of creating their property. She is inspired by her parents. “My father is one of the most positive people on the planet. My mother is always focused on accomplishing tasks, large and small, by giving 200 percent effort
to each,” she says.

Sun shines through a gauzy, leopard-print curtain in the bathroom. Leopard is a design staple of the office. “There’s just something sassy and elegant about it, if you do it right,” says Wirges Shoults.

“We do things ourselves,” she says. Many remodeling tasks like painting gate doors and staining cupboards are jobs that others in their situation might typically hire out. “Sometimes we’re just more pleased with the outcome,” Shoults says.

“There’s pride in it when you’re done,” Wirges Shoults, the woman who embedded 380 plants on her property, says.

In keeping with the building’s scholarly tradition, the office walls are lined with books. “I’m an avid reader of all types of books,” she says.  An impressive catalog of design magazines are meticulously arranged on shelves near the kitchenette. The room is lit by no less than five decadent chandeliers.

The basement of the office serves as a guest bedroom. A creative daybed designed by Wirges Shoults features two single-bed mattresses on a frame along with a number of hand-sewn pillows. “I wanted to do a built-in so it could sleep more,” she quips.

The couple built a complimentary house of brick and stucco next to the old schoolhouse and moved in about a year ago. The two buildings are joined by a majestic courtyard guarded by stone lion statues.

Every element of the aptly named Chateau de la Mirabelle was carefully hand-picked. “What I love is that every room has interesting touches of design flair,” Wirges Shoults says. From the highly embossed Lincrusta wallpaper, a type once seen on the walls of the Titanic, to the gold crown molding lining the heavenly tall ceilings, the end result is pure, high-end glamour.

The couple’s attention to detail is evident at every turn. “One of the things we did when we were designing it is that we wanted it to be wherever you looked, there would be a ‘wow,’” says Wirges Shoults, who holds a degree in graphic design from Platt College. “We really enjoyed putting our own personal touches on it.”

The process was a labor of love, with both sharing their ideas and time. The duo met online later in life after years of missed connections. They attended the same high school, Millard South. They lived in the same apartment complex, but never met. When Wirges Shoults lived in California, she later discovered that her daily drive to work passed by his mother’s house. Even upon recalling a memorable blizzard in Des Moines, the duo discovered they were both holed up in the same hotel, yet still didn’t meet.

Kelly and Randy have downsized from their previous home, mainly because they didn’t need the space. Also, the size of the home was determined by the space of the existing lot. “We moved from a house that had over 4,000 square feet and all we did was clean rooms that we never went into,” Shoults says. “We use every inch of this space.”

“We like each other,” Wirges Shoults says, “so we don’t have to escape each other like some couples do.”


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.

Green Thumb – Pink Dreams

November 3, 2014 by
Photography by Sara Lemke

October will be loaded with events that recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Project Pink’d supporter Karen Kruse will certainly make at least a showing at a select event or three, but she’ll manage her time to leave room for the most important of tasks—tending to her pink-pinker-pinkest garden.

“I call it my Survivor’s Garden,” Kruse says of the front-yard space that is the jewel of Blondo Street between Country Club Avenue and 52nd Street.

Kruse finished planting her garden in 2010, exactly one year to the day after her first chemotherapy treatment. There’s only one rule in this garden—it has to be pink. Besides featuring a monochromatic array of plantings in the hue forever associated with the iconic ribbon that will be everywhere to be seen this October and beyond, Kruse carries the theme into patio furniture, planters, and surrounding tchotchkes.

But there’s more.

“I’ll buy anything pink in products where a portion of the proceeds go to the battle against breast cancer,” says the woman who sports a shoulder tattoo with the words “Fight like a girl” accompanied by the familiar pink ribbon. Which answers the question behind her pink gardening gloves, shears, pail…heck, even her garbage cans.

Kruse, who is featured in the just-released, pin-up-girl-style calendar that is a fundraiser for Project Pink’d, says that her garden is so much more than a mere hobby.

“This garden is an important part of my recovery,” Kruse explains. “This is about an attitude that is more than just surviving. When I’m working in the garden I am thriving. I want to be more than a survivor. I want to thrive.”

Just like her pretty-in-pink riot of color planted along Blondo Street.

Visit projectpinkd.org for more information.