This article appears in the Sept./Oct. 2015 edition of Omaha Home.
Some of our friends called it a fortress,” says Kim Dickhut of the early ‘50s home she and husband Randy bought in 2007 as empty nesters. “Others,” Randy adds, “said it looked like a prison…cold…intimidating.”
Messing with a classic is fraught with danger, but the cement panels that now clad various surfaces of the Dickhut’s home not only counterbalance the sterility of the once severe structure, but also serve to amp up the home’s Mid-Century Modern credentials.
The germ of the project was seeded when the Dickhuts’ attended a tour of green homes. There they stumbled onto the work of general contractor Doug Kiser of dKiser design.construct. Kiser brought in the architects and the roster was set for the creative team. Besides doing most of the constructionl work, Kiser collaborated on the overall design and was particularly instrumental in the selection of materials and colors.
Most work today on Mid-Century structures involves the process of subtraction, that of removing layers of once-trendy “improvements” done over time in ill-advised tinkering. The Dickhuts took the opposite approach—one of addition.
“The concept was that of a virus,” explains Brian Kelly, a professor of architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He and his architect wife, Andrea (formerly of Randy Brown Architects and now a stay-at-home mom), collaborated with the Dickhuts on the project. “The panels become like a virus. They wrap around the house and intermittently reappear” to sprout again on a chimney stack before being repeated at the rear of the home in punctuating a master bedroom expansion accompanied by a balcony. The street-side panels are, of course, the most noticeable, Andrea says, “But the bedroom and balcony in the back are really the epicenter of the theme.”
Just like the aggressively spreading species of vining plant that threatened to consume the planet in the 1951 British sci-fi flick, The Day of the Triffids, the panels evoke an organic—if decidedly minimal—vibe. Further softening the facade included a focus on the formerly stark entryway (a door…just a plain, unadorned door). The approach was made more inviting with the erection of a latticed trellis, a motif that is duplicated out back in a patio pergola.
And just exactly what hue is that signature orange that echoes throughout the home?
“We just call that ‘Kim’s favorite color,’” Randy says with a chuckle. “It’s our rebellion against beige,” Kim adds.
If the exterior and bedroom were exercises in addition, the mathematics of the interior were lessons in subtraction. Rustic barn wood was lopped from the now crisp, cozy space the couple call the Map Room. Moldings were eradicated like invasive weeds. Visual clutter was pruned at every turn in setting the stage for the couple’s collection of Mid-
“The whole idea was that we wanted the look of simple loft living…but with a yard,” Kim says. She
points to her mother, who studied both architecture and interior design, as having inspired in her a Bauhaus-influenced aesthetic where form follows function.
“I knew who Frank Lloyd Wright was before I knew who Dr. Seuss was,” she says. “And I grew up assuming that everybody lived in a home with original art.”
The living room is decorated in abstract works by local artists Helen Gloeb and Karen Schneph. Gloeb’s piece hangs above a sofa that has been in Kim’s family since 1968. Nearby sits a pair of original Bertoia diamond chairs (first introduced in 1952) that the Dickhuts outfitted in new leather seat pads. The kitchen features an original Paul McCobb dinette set.
Another favorite is a George Nelson starburst clock introduced in 1949 that Kim says they’ve had “forever.” The radial spikes of the clock are rendered in a rainbow of colors, but the arms indicating the nine and two positions tell a story of their own.
“If we had to point to the one thing that drove the color scheme,” Randy says as Kim nods in agreement, “it’s the orange arms of that clock.”
The Dickhut home is carefully curated, but there is nothing finicky, inaccessible, or museum-like in the finished result. Comfort, they say, was the main objective. And the scale, line, and form that are the hallmarks of Mid-Century Modern are a perfect fit for this couple.
“We are not big people,” Kim says, “so the scale of these pieces suit us well. There is nothing big or clunky about Mid-Century Modern.”
“And it’s very livable,” adds Randy of the 1,900 square-foot space where clean, straightforward lines and right angles are king. “It’s a great place for quite time. It’s a great place for where we are at this stage of our lives.”