Tag Archives: French country

Living Green

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Les and Ce Ann Zanotti built a house in Glen Oaks Estates (south of 99th Street and West Center Road) in 1972, the couple—from Iowa and Missouri, respectively—had only lived in Nebraska for a few years, and they were not really sure how long they would stay in the community. They both say, emphatically, that they never envisioned themselves still living in the same house four and a half decades later.

Zanottis2“I don’t think we thought that far ahead,” Ce Ann says.

“I was just starting a new business, so I didn’t know if I was going to be in business two years from then or not,” Les explains.

The new business venture, Management Recruiters, thrived all the way to Les’ retirement. So as the Zanottis prospered through the years and put down deeper roots in Omaha, they modified and added on to the original house and landscaping.

“We really kind of underbuilt, to be honest,” Les says. “Our house is just an ordinary house; it’s not something that’s a showpiece. But our backyard is spectacular.”

The lot was a draw from the very beginning, Ce Ann agrees, recalling that the greenery was so abundant even before construction started that, during a site visit, she lost sight of a handbag she momentarily placed on the ground. And the Zanottis were thrilled to get the lot “for a steal” from its previous holder, a prominent local business owner in the midst of a divorce and eager to liquidate.


Les may describe his house as “ordinary,” but the 3,400-square-foot, two-story, French Country-style residence boasts lovely features, such as a mansard roof and leaded glass front windows. Neighborhood covenants required that the house be set back 75 feet from the street, leaving plenty of room for now-mature trees and plants in the front. The sloping, 1.3-acre wooded property proved perfect for tiered landscaping in the backyard, the site for a breathtaking flower garden that’s matured beautifully over the last 10 years and become the envy of neighbors and visitors.


“It’s been at its best for the last three or four years, but it took a long time,” Ce Ann says.

The large lot was also conducive to the house itself, evolving through a series of remodels that included a 1984 add-on, which doubled the size of the family room and created another eating area, and a 1990 project that converted a bathroom and bedroom into a larger bathroom and closet. A swimming pool came and went (their now-adult daughter loved it, but pools don’t mix well with squirrels and walnut trees or blackbirds and mulberry trees, Les says) and the original, one-car garage was expanded to a three-car garage at some point.

The pinnacle, however, was the unique 2002 addition.

“That was our last and final addition. That probably is the best room in the house,” Les says.

Ce Ann adds: “It’s octagonal-shaped, there are windows on every side of the octagon (except the entrance), and a spiral staircase going down to the wine cellar. It’s kind of unusual.”

The Zanottis admit that they looked into building again in other neighborhoods—in the past. Every time they looked, they never found anything quite like what they already own.

“What kept us here was the lot,” Les says, and his wife agrees. “We like our trees, we like our lot, and we like our central location.” OmahaHome

Zanottis5 Zanottis4


Life at the Lake is Better

June 25, 2015 by
Photography by Colin Conces

Finding your way home from a friend’s house normally isn’t much of a challenge for kids old enough to navigate a neighborhood without adult accompaniment. That doesn’t change the fact that things were, at least for a brief time about a year ago, a little iffy for the Walvoord children; Ava (6), Jackson (8), and Olivia (10).

After the family’s move last July, parents Timmery and Brandon joked that their kids were in danger of paying an unexpected visit on the neighbors by inadvertently stumbling through the wrong front door some evening. It just goes with the territory when a family relocates by moving literally right next door.

No lumbering moving trucks for this clan. It was an old fashioned bucket brigade of friends and neighbors who schlepped the family’s belongings a few paces to the South to get them situated in their new place, one that offers a dramatic view of the waters of Mallard Landing, a lakeside development near Valley.


“We were looking at other lake-living places around the area,” explains Timmery, “but the kids really made the decision for us because they didn’t want to switch schools.”

While the move may have been an easy one, what led up to it was anything but. A true labor of love for the Walvoords, the home was designed and constructed by Brandon with the help of Timmery’s father, a builder.

“You learn a lot of things when you build your own home,” says Brandon in declining to single out any given project task as having been a particularly vexing obstacle. “Of course there was the…” he adds as his voice trails off before yielding to a chuckle. “No, let’s just leave it at you learn a lot of things.”


The lake itself is at the heart of the design for this 5,700 square foot home, one inspired by a French-Country-meets-modern motif rendered in neutral shades and outfitted in casual/contemporary furnishings. From the sandy stretch of private beach up to the house it is a zig-zagging, one-two-three-level ascent past handsome landscaping interrupted midway by a gurgling water feature. An expansive, wrap-around patio area, the site of countless “dining out” evenings, is partially nestled below a first-floor deck topped by another above. The elevated orientation of the lot and home in relation to the water tricks the eye into perceiving the lake-facing facade to be even more imposing, more towering than its three levels would otherwise suggest.

“The upper deck is amazing for watching fireworks, and they seem to go on forever,” Timmery says in gesturing to the sweeping vista far in the distance that forms the ridge line looming over the Elkhorn River Valley.

Back inside, Olivia appears to have gone missing. She is discovered in what might be Brandon’s crowning achievement in the home’s design—a room hidden behind
a bookcase.


“I want to be a teacher someday,” Olivia explains as she conducts lessons for Ava in their double-super-secret, straight-outa-Hogwarts space. “This is my favorite room in the house.”

Not to be outdone, Ava begins a tour of her room (the site of the occasional giggle-infested slumber party) with what is an entirely self-evident declaration.“Pink,” she says of the space that is a veritable explosion of lavender, mauve, fuchsia, and everything in between, “is my favorite color. Isn’t is just beautiful?”

As dusk approaches in dappling the lake with a kaleidoscope of shimmering reflections, the boing-boing-boing of basketballs echo throughout the neighborhood in competing with the boing-boing-boing of Ava and Olivia bouncing on a trampoline down on the beach, both sounds now competing with Jackson as he drains 3-pointers into an electronic, arcade-style hoops set-up. “Thirty,” he proudly replies when asked what his record is for consecutively made shots. “C’mon,” he beckons as we head downstairs to his first-floor bedroom. “Let me show you
my drum set.”


Hey, isn’t lake living supposed to be the picture of placid serenity? How about a little peace and quiet?

“Things can get a little noisy around here with the kids,” Brandon says with a smile. Or was that a grimace?

“Just wait until we get the boat out” if you want more noise, adds Timmery in nodding to the dock that is the launching point for a you-name-it array of splashy aquatic fun.

An oversized work of art made by Timmery hangs in the kitchen. She constructed it of discarded palate pieces and painted it in a wash to achieve a weathered, rustic vibe before then printing big, bold letters that spell out what could easily be the Walvoord family motto.

“Life at the Lake,” Timmery reads from the words on her creation, “is Better!”