Tag Archives: OmahaHome

OmahaHome Entryway

January 4, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“New Year—a new chapter,
new verse, or just the same old story?
Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours!”
—Alex Morritt

It’s time to take the Christmas lights down and put the house back in order. Time to freshen things up and plan for jobs to tackle. It’s 2019—and timing is everything.

Another year is upon us and as I sit here writing this letter, I’m flabbergasted to be saying “Happy New Year!” so soon.

Once again, it’s all about making life simpler and less stressful. After doing some DIY research, I found clever ways to do so.

This issue covers the old and the new. The Powells’ fireplace featured in Spaces not only complements their custom home at 90th and Farnam streets, but adds new luxury for these cold months.

Patrick McGee’s article in Landscape” will challenge your thoughts on winter tree-trimming and help you take better care of your trees when pruning.

“At Home” may be just what the doctor ordered for those wintery blues. Scatter Joy Acres shows you how volunteering does many good things for mind and body.

It may be hard to leave the comfort of your own home, but get out and into the community to enjoy the season.

From OmahaHome to your home, have a happy and fabulous new year!


 This article was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Transformations

December 28, 2018 by
Photography by Tom Kessler Photography

Meet the designer: Lisa McCoid is one of the Midwest’s few design professionals with both an architecture license and interior design certification. As co-owner of D3 Interiors, her goal is total customer satisfaction. “The client has to love it,” she says. McCoid loves getting to know clients and their project goals. She strives to improve the lives of her clients through design.

A year ago, this living space was a cold, dark, unfinished basement used for storage and workout equipment. Today it is transformed into an impressive entertaining area.

The airy and hospitable ambiance begins as one walks down the stairs. Where the staircase once felt like a tunnel, a non-load bearing wall was removed, a second landing was built, and the staircase was completed with an illuminated baseboard and a metal banister with thin horizontal bars that leave lots of open space.

The bar area is considered the hub of the lower level. The homeowners chose black matte cabinets and custom chrome tiles for a dramatic effect. The raised bar-table-style island was incorporated to provide a gathering place to converse, watch sports, or enjoy a drink. The island is supported by a custom steel base and topped with a thickened-edge quartz countertop. Decorative pendant lighting above the island lends to the dramatic feel of the space. The ceiling includes a curved, lowered soffit detail to disguise the existing steel beams and house structure. Lighting was added into the soffit design to highlight the locally made, hand-painted Vahallan paper applied to the raised portion of the ceiling. These finishing touches bring the space together.

On one side of the bar area, a linear, two-sided fireplace adds to the contemporary design and provides warmth. The mini, stacked stones add dimension, texture, and style to the room. This fireplace serves as a divider between the areas and holds TVs on both sides. Integrated shelving on the fireplace wall serves as a way to display items. It could also be a pass-through between the bar and game room if the display items were removed.

In the game room, a banquette was designed under the large window as a place to watch a ping-pong game or a quiet spot to turn a few pages of a book. The seat has hidden storage and is encased by shelving. The barn door adds to the fun atmosphere of the game room. This sliding door can be closed to eliminate the noise of a ping-pong game or conversation in the game room for the benefit of those in the theater room.

In fact, every aspect of the theater room has been taken into consideration to achieve a comfortable and fun environment for movie nights. The wall panel incorporates LED lighting and horizontal wood banding, painted to match the bar cabinets. Additional starry-night sky lighting and accent wall sconces allow the homeowner to create varying scenes for different types of entertainment.

The initial inspiration for the powder bathroom was a custom countertop consisting of an exaggerated, L-shaped quartz element with a profile of over 10 inches. A lowered soffit above the countertop mimics the L-shape to create a dramatic effect. It also serves as a barrier between the toilet and vanity areas. The glass chevron backsplash and a horizontal floating mirror accentuate the clean lines of this space, as do the vertical sconce lights.

This exclusively designed, fully-functional space has been arranged to be a gathering place for the family that matches the personality of the homeowners and provides them with a variety of ways to entertain guests.


Visit d3interiors.net for more information.

This article was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Fireplace & Chill

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As the sun slowly sets beyond the horizon, the circadian rhythms of Dean and Robyn Powell signal their descent into the basement of their home. Lambent flames from the fireplace deliver a comforting invite to linger in its warmth on chilly nights.

A street view of the Powells’ home could certainly fool the naked eye into believing it has existed for a century or longer. External stone walls and dark wooden beams give the illusion of a classical house rooted within Omaha’s history, yet it was erected less than a decade ago.

During summer 2015, the Powells excitedly began renovating their new home near 90th and Farnam streets. Without uprooting the original creation by the initial owners and builders, the Powells set out to personalize their living space. Together, they remodeled the interior structure in a way that harmonizes their lifestyle and aesthetical preferences while respecting the existing architecture.

The main floor comes to life during the daytime hours. Natural light peeping through the massive windows accentuates the classically designed wood floors, vaulted ceilings, and white furnishings.

The remodeled house called for a new seasonal routine after completion of the magnificent basement fireplace. When darkness falls upon the Powell home, the main floor retires its duties to the basement, and the fireplace becomes the focal point of household activities.

Similar to the home itself, the fireplace is a result of multiple forces cooperating to create a fresh design. After sketching the project for the new basement addition, the Powells contacted Claxton Fireplace Center and Flair Custom Cabinets in February 2018 to implement their vision.

The Powells were accustomed to media rooms; indeed, a media room was their original plan for the basement. While they ultimately decided against this idea, the urge to incorporate an immense television for entertainment remained. The classical integrity of the architecture played a pivotal role in their planning, and they wanted to match stone from the home’s exterior. Finally, they desired the basement to offer a comforting, evening oasis with warm, earthy tones. The challenge became how to incorporate a big-screen television without sacrificing their other needs.

“Let’s put a fireplace in. That way we get the best of both worlds,” Robyn recalls saying.

For Dan Claxton, president of Claxton Fireplace Center, the puzzle was how to prevent damage to the television caused by the fireplace. Claxton and his team designed a venting system to guide the heat behind the television cabinet instead of directly through the vertical face of the fireplace. After months of laborious collaboration, the heart and soul of the Powells’ basement was finished.

An 86-inch television fills the wall, framed with towering Birchwood cabinets. But onlookers’ eyes are drawn below to the 6-foot-wide natural stone veneer fireplace. It is an incredible display of symbiosis between old and new technology.

Prior to the fireplace, the Powells seldom used their basement. Once the project was complete, that all changed.

“The fireplace creates an ambiance that gives the feeling of a multi-purpose space where we can relax by the fire and read a book, watch a movie, write, or even entertain family and friends,” Robyn says.

It is this indulgent glow of flames coming from the basement that contributes to the living quality of the Powells’ home. When the sun ceases to bless the main floor with life, the softly lit basement offers comfort and a place to unwind.

The Powells see endless opportunities hidden within the glimmering fireplace. It represents an area to celebrate the holidays surrounded by the warmth of family. Soft flames dancing beneath the television allow them to watch a movie or enjoy their favorite sporting events in a relaxed environment. The fireplace acts as a centerpiece to work around in their continued creative effort to blend classic and modern styles into a harmonious living environment. Most importantly, it is a vital part to the rhythmic balance of the home that will be a reflection of the Powells for years to come.


Visit claxtonfireplace.com for more information.

This article was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Happy January Home Hacks

Start the year fresh with these quick, helpful cleaning hacks.

Hacks in general exploded in popularity when websites such as BuzzFeed and Pinterest started pitching them at us. This made finding housekeeping hacks incredibly easy, even for us not-so-savvy web users.

The following hacks can reduce the number of cleaning products in your home by using products you already have.

Lemons:

These citrus fruits are one of the most useful and beneficial items to keep around. The acid in lemons is antibacterial and antiseptic, as well as a natural bleach.

Uses:

De-stink your garbage disposal with lemon rinds. Run a few through and follow with cold water to dispel odors.

Clean your microwave with one lemon. You will need a microwave-safe bowl. Fill with four cups of water. Cut your lemon in half. Microwave on high for three minutes and let it set for another five minutes. Remove bowl and turntable. Wipe surface with clean towel.

Remove stubborn water stains from chrome kitchen and bathroom fixtures (it even works on copper). Cut a lemon in half and scrub the surface with the halves. This will also remove any rust stains left from bobby pins or razor blades.

Vinegar:

Though not registered as a disinfectant with the EPA, this powerful liquid will kill both salmonella and E. coli, two bacteria you definitely want to avoid.

Uses:

Unclog your drain. Pour half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of vinegar down the drain. Let it sit for 10 minutes and rinse with hot water.

Remove mineral spots from a showerhead. Fill a plastic bag halfway with vinegar and tie around the showerhead. Let the bag sit overnight and rinse in the morning.

Shutter and blinds need cleaning? Get out a soft sock and slip it onto your hand. Make an even mixture of water and vinegar. Spray this onto the sock and get into every nook and cranny that collects dust. We all have a mismatched sock or two we can use for this.

Baking soda:

This does more than fight refrigerator odors. It’s non-toxic and, unlike vinegar, does not have a strong smell. Because of its abrasiveness, it can fight tough stains as well.

Uses:

Remove tough burned-on food from pots and pans. Sprinkle on burned areas and add just enough hot water to cover. Let it sit overnight, and scrub it off in the morning.

Polish silver flatware. Make a paste with 3-parts baking soda and 1-part water. Rub onto silver with clean cloth and rinse.

Deodorize rugs and upholstered furniture. Sprinkle on the rug and furniture, let sit for 15 minutes, and vacuum.

Below are a few quirky tips that I had not heard of and will try soon.

Aspirin:

Got fresh flowers without a green thumb? Keep them around longer by placing crushed aspirin into the water. The salicylic acid in the aspirin will help keep the water clean and free of the flower-damaging bacteria.

Soap:

Want a clever way to keep your fingernails clean when doing a dirty job? Pack soap under them by rubbing them across a bar a few times. When the dirty work is done, simply scrub it out with a nail brush.

Rubber gloves:

While we love our furry, four-legged family members, we could all do without the fur they leave behind. Pick up some rubber gloves at the dollar store and sweep the worst areas with the glove. Hair will ball and pick up easy.

Plywood and bricks:

Lastly, living in Nebraska, protecting your air conditioner is important. Cover it with plywood weighted down with bricks to protect the compressor in the winter. This also encourages rodents to move on. And if you want to protect the metal and keep it looking good, coat it with car wax before the snow flies.

At the end of the day, a hack should offer a clever and unique way to repurpose an object or solve a problem. It should also be realistic—for those of us lacking an engineering degree or carpentry apprenticeship—to implement. And most importantly, it should help your home look great without requiring a lot of extra work. So go forth and spruce!


This article was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

baking soda vinegar and lemon on the white background

Lincoln Fairview Historic District

November 1, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

From the bluffs, an expansive view overlooks the Missouri River Valley and a landscape full of promise.

It’s the same vantage (minus Omaha’s modern skyline) that Abraham Lincoln encountered in August 1859 as he dreamed of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. Later, in 1863, as president of the United States, he selected the area as the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1911, the Daughters of the American Revolution erected the Lincoln Monument, a focal point in Council Bluff’s Historic Lincoln Fairview neighborhood

“This neighborhood has a lot of charm and a lot of character,” says Lincoln Fairview Neighborhood Association treasurer Ken Freudenberg, a longtime resident who works in risk management. “We have three major historical monuments in our neighborhood, so we want to be good caretakers.” 

The Lincoln Fairview Neighborhood Association has around 30 members, meets on a monthly basis, and has won awards for their efforts and dedication to preserve their area’s historical charm. “We try to get people to do more things and maintain their lawns and their homes so that it is a nice area for people to ride through and tour,” he says. “We get a lot of people that come through here looking at the homes.” 

Past association president Susan Seamands says the group purchased banners and placed benches and a trash receptacle at the Lincoln Monument. “It’s a historic neighborhood on the national historic registry with a very active neighborhood association, which sponsors many activities throughout the year,” she says. 

Susan Seamonds, former president of the Lincoln Fairview Neighborhood Association

Besides progressive dinners and annual picnics, the group has hosted events such as the Lincoln-Fairview Neighborhood Porchfest (hosting local band Pony Creek). “The band was on the deck and the people were on the driveway. It was a fun time. It was a beautiful night,” Freudenberg says. 

With the neighborhood surrounding Fairview Cemetery, the neighborhood association has also partnered with the city and a Civil War historical group for repairs and plantings at the Kinsman Monument located within the cemetery. The Civil War memorial was built to honor Col. William Kinsman, commanding officer of the 23rd Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment. 

“Even though it’s a cemetery, Fairview is considered a walking area. A lot of people go there to walk their dogs,” Freudenberg says. “It’s an incredible view of downtown Omaha. It’s beautiful. You’re way up high and that is nice.” 

A trip down Oakland Avenue features the Burke-Woodward House, a brick mansion located at 510 Oakland Ave. It was the former home to attorney Finley Burke and later John G. Woodward, founder of the Woodward Candy Co. 

A few streets in the neighborhood still bear the turn of the century brick-paved streets. A sleepy weekend day finds many homeowners out tending to their yards. Visitors are treated to pleasing Victorian polychrome paint schemes on the houses, which vary in architectural styles: Richardsonian Romanesque, Victorian, Queen Anne, Greek Revival, Foursquare and Craftsman. “It’s a collection of older homes and neat landscape,” Freudenberg says. 

Sheryl Garst and family enjoy their porch in the historic neighborhood.

Some may find it surprising that the same artist who created the famous statue of Abraham Lincoln in our nation’s capital, Daniel Chester French, also has a piece of art in the neighborhood—the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial. Chester was commissioned by the daughters of Grenville and Ruth Anne Dodge to create the famous cast bronze sculpture, otherwise known as the “Black Angel” statue. 

Their mother, who was dying of cancer, had a reoccurring dream about an angel with a bowl of water who encouraged her to drink. After the third occurrence of the dream, Mrs. Dodge took a drink and died not long after. 

 “She is just incredible. She is just a fabulous work of art,” Freudenberg says. Her laurel-wreathed winged beauty stands on a pink marble pedestal among hushed gardens, her fingers outstretched while a fountain bearing the “water of life” quietly bubbles from her bowl. The Lincoln Fairview Neighborhood Association also coordinated efforts to place a security camera overlooking the sculpture, a longtime source of urban legends, and regularly does cleanups of the area.

Freudenberg remembers that a group once sued the city of Council Bluffs trying to get the statue moved back East. They claimed it “wasn’t appreciated out here in the Midwest and that it was too small of a town and that it needed to be someplace back East in a place of prominence so that more people could enjoy it.” 

“Of course, the city of Council Bluffs won,” he says. As do the residents of Lincoln Fairview keep on winning in their efforts to preserve the charm of their historic home and the monuments within.


Visit 712initiative.org for more information about the historic neighborhoods of Council Bluffs.

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of OmahaHome Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

The Burke-Woodward House at 510 Oakland Ave.

How Old is Too Old for Home-Canned Food?

October 26, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Mady Besch

Preserving homegrown produce is a favorite pastime for Midwestern gardeners. 

In late summer and fall, mountains of cucumbers turn into pickles and baskets of tomatoes become salsa and spaghetti sauce with the help of canners on stovetops. 

A bountiful harvest then fills the pantry in the form of canned jars. Health-conscious consumers get to know what goes into their processed foods while enjoying the harvest throughout the calendar year.

But beware the curse of plenty, as overabundant jars can accumulate into perpetuity. The question then becomes, “At what point should homemade cans be discarded?”

Foods canned at home are safe to eat for several years—says Nancy Urbanec, a nutrition and health expert with the Nebraska Extension in Douglas and Sarpy counties—so long as the food was properly canned in the appropriate type of jars (glass mason jars and metal bands can be reused) with new lids (fresh seals), and stored in a cool, dry location.

“I’m not going to advocate for eating something five to seven years old,” she says. “Food safety-wise, it’s perfectly safe. Food quality-wise, it will change.” Peculiarities in foods stored in cans for many years may include lack of texture, cloudiness, and sometimes disintegration. 

Urbanec advises using canned foods within a year of processing, while the quality is best. She plans her garden with the intention of producing enough canned goods to last until the next year’s harvest. 

She also advises discarding canned items with rusted or bulged lids. Unsealed jars of canned food in the pantry should be discarded to avoid risk of botulism. 

Urbanec suggests removing the metal rings from the lids of cans that have been opened to make it easier to identify unsealed jars. Sticky exteriors of jars may also be a clue that they are not properly sealed. Jars containing fizz or odd bubbles may be suspect, too.

Unfortunately, botulin bacteria cannot be detected easily. But Urbanec says water-bath canning with adequate acidity or proper pressure canning will keep foods safe to eat. 

The methods of water-bath and pressure canning are slightly different in process but identical in result—they kill any possible botulin bacteria.  Both methods produce safely preserved food. 

What about when the prime year has slipped past already? Urbanec recommends not keeping canned items past one year. But when it happens—and it will happen, especially for folks new to growing and pickling cucumbers—Urbanec suggests using surplus pickles mixed with mayonnaise as a sandwich spread. Pickles can also be mixed with sour cream as a condiment for pita and lamb. Pickle brine with oil makes a delightful salad dressing, and deep-fried pickle spears will disappear off any serving tray. 

Urbanec enjoys sharing her canned produce with friends and family. Before offering them as gifts, however, she always checks to ensure that her lids are safely sealed. So if you have more cans of tomatoes and cucumbers this year than you know what to do with, tie a pretty bow around those mason jars and give them away as gifts. 

If you still have cans of pickles remaining after trying Urbanec’s suggestions—or maybe you just don’t want to share—know that it’s perfectly safe to consume them past one year.


Visit extension.unl.edu for more information about the Nebraska Extension in Douglas and Sarpy counties. 

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

2018 ASID impactFULL Awards

October 24, 2018 by

Every year, the Nebraska/Iowa Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers recognizes the best of regional design at its ASID impactFULL Awards. 

Judged by an outside panel of designers, the 2018 impactFULL Awards recognized a record 51 projects (including gold, silver, and bronze winners) during a Sept. 27 awards ceremony at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here are the 14 gold-winning residential projects. Stacie Muhle’s design of a local wine cellar received special recognition as the year’s Design Impact Winner.


Design Impact Award Winner 

Designer: Stacie Muhle, Allied ASID 
Company: Artistico
Photographer: Thomas Grady

The circular design of the room, with LED-lit wood panels, provides a sophisticated environment for displaying an extensive wine collection. Bespoke finishes infuse Old World charm into the modern wine cellar, forming the perfect union of domestic utility and alluring elegance.


Designer: Shawn Falcone, Allied ASID 
Company: Falcone Hybner Design Inc.
Photographer: Amoura Productions

This home took shape as an ideal place for entertaining large groups of family and friends from the early stages of planning. The entry offers an expansive view of the covered deck with an outdoor fireplace. The master suite wing was designed on one side of the home as a private retreat with a sports car garage (accessible by the owners only). The great room’s fireplace detail was designed for dramatic impact as well as the tile specification for the kitchen backsplash pattern. The owners’ entry on the kitchen wing offers a morning kitchen with oven, sink, and refrigerator, along with a pantry, pocket office, large mudroom, and sunglass station concealed by a custom metal sliding door. The family also wanted an open-concept area for the kitchen, dining room, and great room. In the kitchen, one island houses the stainless steel farmhouse sink, dishwasher, and double trash rollout; another island is large enough to house six counter stools and a beverage refrigerator. The open stairwell, with glass rail system, spans three stories with large windows, abstract geometric art, and a gold jack chandelier.


Designer: Stacie Muhle, Allied ASID 
Company: Artistico
Photographer: Thomas Grady

Upon entering the room, one’s attention drops to the floor where porcelain tile (mimicking New Zealand ancient kauri) is laid in a reverse turn pattern, giving a vibrant and exotic feel. The blending of materials creates a visually stimulating experience while the color palette calms the senses, creating a brilliant juxtaposition in a small space.


Designer: Beth Settles, Allied ASID
Company: Interiors Joan and Associates 
Photographer: Tom Kessler

The clients wished to transform this space—which was originally an office—into a wine room. They desired their new wine room to feature a dramatic design emulating a high-end lounge or resort. 


Designer: Shawn Falcone, Allied ASID
Company: Falcone Hybner Design Inc.
Photographer: Amoura Productions

As avid travelers, these owners wanted to build a place to call home that was designed to feel like a respite from the hectic pace of their daily work schedules and travels. In planning the space’s design, form and function were considered to maximize the available area. Both owners are fashion-forward and wanted a home that reflected their cool, contemporary, urban sensibility; therefore, style was a key factor in designing this home.


Designer: Michele Hybner, Allied ASID 
Company: Falcone Hybner Design Inc.
Photographer: Amoura Productions

This vacation home was designed with entertaining in mind. The modern 1 ½ story plan includes four en suite bedrooms, a powder room, and a combined locker room/drop zone/laundry space conveniently located near the lake entry/exit door. Just outside the door is an outdoor shower to rinse off sandy bare feet. The couple wanted their guests to feel at liberty to grab a cup of espresso without having to come downstairs to the main kitchen, so a breakfast bar was included in the second level (servicing all three of the upstairs bedrooms). Two of the four bedrooms have walk-in closets. The second level master has a full en suite bath with a relaxing free-standing tub, walk-in shower, toilet closet, and a built-in dresser for ample storage space.


Designers: Gwen Ahrens, ASID, NCIDQ, and Brittany Majestic, Allied ASID
Company: Interior Design Firm 
Photographer: Kayla Wilmarth with Michels Digital Solutions

The homeowners desired a cheerful and efficient lake home. Their ranch-style floor plan now accommodates a large family that spans many ages.


Designer: Stacie Muhle, Allied ASID 
Company: Artistico
Photographer: Thomas Grady

The wood shelves layered on the grand fireplace makes this functional architectural design element the focal point of the room.


Designer: Stacie Muhle, Allied ASID 

Company: Artistico

Photographer: Thomas Grady

A well-lit, fresh, and airy atmosphere welcomes entrants to the room. LED lighting (on top of the basket-weave accent tile) draws attention upward, accentuating the faux-metallic painted ceiling. The overall mood of the space is warm and exciting.


Designer: Stacie Muhle, Allied ASID 
Company: Artistico
Photographer: Thomas Grady

The open floor plan with two-story ceiling gives the main level an inviting and airy feel. In the kitchen, a very large Cambria top island overlooks the living room where custom cornices and drapes, a sleek fireplace, and handmade wall coverings on the back of the TV niche are focal points.


Designer: Julie Odermatt, ASID 
Company: D3 Interiors 
Photographer: Amoura Productions 

Nature was the inspiration for using naturalistic elements: granite countertops, a faux-wood accent wall, and tiles that resemble the variation and characteristics of natural stone. The rich walnut cabinets add warmth in the space while contrasting the soft sand tones of floors and walls, creating a calming oasis.


Designer: Stacie Muhle, Allied ASID 
Company: Artistico
Photographer: Thomas Grady

The warm and calming color palette used in this basement project offers an immediate sense of Zen, inspiring guests and homeowners to stay in and share cocktails with friends and family. The one-of-a-kind Galapagos granite countertop on the oversized island adds an exotic flare, accentuated by lush greenery and architectural floral touches that visually link the bar to the adjacent living space.


Designers: Diane Luxford, ASID, and Dagmar Benson, student member ASID 
Company: D Lux Interiors 
Photographer: Tom Kessler

The owners desired a modern, contemporary home. The designers were able to fulfill that requirement with custom design elements: the fireplace, stair railing, great room ceiling detail, custom cabinets, master headboard wall, custom theater fabric panels, and comfortable modern furniture. Both homeowners work from home, so functional offices on the main floor were needed. The design of the beachfront lake residence flows to the exterior with a series of large doors, exiting to an outdoor fireplace and fire pit with custom seating that drops below the vision line.


Designer: Marian Holden, ASID

Company: Designer Touch Inc. 

Photographer: Amoura Productions

The homeowners awoke the morning after Christmas to devastating water damage throughout the entire main floor of their home. The dishwasher malfunctioned as they slept; escaping water destroyed their main living space. A mitigation crew arrived within hours and announced the entire kitchen had to be demolished. All flooring and anything set on the floor had to be removed (including all moldings, some drywall, and even the fireplace). Since everything had to go, the homeowners decided they might as well update the early-2000s home. This was an opportunity to move away from dark earth tones to create a light and bright space.


Visit ne-ia.asid.org for more information.

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of OmahaHome Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Old World Meets Suburban Omaha

Photography by Thomas Grady

Having worked closely with Matt and Laurie Willburn to design their beautiful West Omaha home a few years ago, I was delighted to be invited back to conceptualize their wine cellar. 

Combining function with style was an important aspect of my interior design philosophy during construction of the Willburn home. My design of the wine cellar employed the same approach to create an inviting space for storing and displaying the family’s extensive wine collection. 

First, we had to find enough space for a wine cellar within the oddly shaped storage room to accommodate the vast collection (with plenty of room for friends and family to mingle). 

The existing soffit couldn’t be moved or modified in any way, so the space needed to be reconfigured in such a way that the available structure allowed bottle storage without diminishing the overall design aesthetic.

Additional design requirements included lighting and display considerations (without sacrificing storage space for the large collection). We wanted the display to be functional but also be the focal point of the room. We wanted to create something with a dynamic visual element.

Our solution was to create a design resembling a wine barrel. The fundamental simplicity and modern functionality simultaneously showcased their wine in a unique way. The circular design of the room—with LED-lit wood panels—further provides a sophisticated environment for appreciating the extensive bottle collection. The display also hides the existing soffit, so it was the perfect solution to the challenge of the existing space.

The scale of the room balances the weight of the massive wine collection, which is also displayed on circular wood panels covering the side walls and backlit by radiant LED light. The lighting configuration gives the illusion that bottles are floating in the air, a stark contrast to the brick veneer in between the circular wood panels. 

The circular space presented additional design challenges when it came to choosing materials that could be manipulated on a curved surface. The solution was to apply a thin brick veneer and wood panels made of imported hardwood veneer layers, allowing the panels to bend and fit the curved wall. ​

We added finishes to infuse Old World charm into the modern wine cellar, forming the perfect union of domestic utility and alluring elegance. The resulting space inspires drinking wine with good food in good company. 

A repurposed door from a grandparent’s family home in Colorado adorns the entry from the basement, adding deep sentimental value to the balance of personal expression and purposeful glamour. 

Like a glass of fine wine, the Willburns’ wine cellar leaves a lasting impression. The room is truly a space to be enjoyed.


MEET THE DESIGNER

Stacie Muhle 
Allied ASID, Artistico

​Muhle received her Bachelor of Interior Architecture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She applies her stylistic vision and attention to detail to commercial, corporate, and residential projects. Innovative design skills allow Muhle to transform clients’ design wishes into unique and practical spaces in reality.


Visit artisticodesign.net for more information.

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of OmahaHome Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Custom-Made Paradise in the Woods

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Tracy Zaiss never gets tired answering the inevitable question from first-time visitors to the family’s hilltop home.

“They always ask me, ‘Are you sure we’re still in Omaha?’ And I always say, ‘Oh yes, this is Omaha. It’s Omaha Public Schools [for neighborhood kids], and we’re really just minutes from downtown.’”

The understandable skepticism begins along John J. Pershing Drive heading north, as the two-lane road follows the Missouri River. Turning left onto a road that leads to Hummel Park, surprised travelers immediately experience the wonders of nature, especially in late summer when the flora and fauna reach their peak of beauty and diversity. 

They find themselves under a canopy of trees so lush that rays of sunlight barely reach the pavement. Emerging from that dark tunnel, visitors then navigate deeply rutted, unpaved roads—with no street signs—that keep twisting and curving up a steep grade. 

Their journey ends at a smooth concrete driveway and a two-story natural stone house sitting high above the Missouri River Valley.

Built in 2011, the Zaiss (pronounced Zayss) home combines a classic, timeless design with contemporary materials.

Contractor Mick Smith of Mick Smith Construction used rough-cut, split-face stone with copper tones on the exterior. Long rectangular copper tiles, now a shade of green due to aging, accent the roof. The look complements the home’s rustic setting.

“We knocked down the original house on the property and built the new one around the same spot,” says Smith, now retired and working part time. He also installed a geothermal heating and cooling system underground “because there’s no natural gas up there.” 

Everything about the house and the setting still stands out in his mind. 

 “I’m telling you, that area is unbelievable, right in the middle of the park,” Smith says. “It would cost a fortune to build that same house today.”

Although Design Basics of Omaha drew the blueprints, Zaiss (who started her own marketing and research firm, Zaiss and Co., in 1989) and her husband, Rick (a social worker by profession and avid bird-watching hobbyist), came up with many ideas. 

For instance, Zaiss salvaged the thick red bricks from the original driveway to create a path that leads to the home’s long, arched entryway. “I wanted the front doors recessed to minimize the amount of mud people track in but it has never really worked,” she says with a laugh.  

As if to preview what vistas lie beyond the entryway, each of the two heavy wooden front doors has a window with the image of a rising sun etched into the glass. When opened, they reveal a magnificent expanse.

Sunlight streaming in through a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows along the back wall draws the eye into the wide-open living room. Even the freshly tuned grand piano in a corner of the room seems small under the vaulted ceiling. 

The wood-burning fireplace on the west wall features the same stone motif as the exterior of the house. A large oil painting takes up most of the space above the fireplace mantle. Titled “Wheat Fields,” it depicts birds flying above wind-swept acres of golden wheat. 

But the artwork doesn’t outshine the view behind the Zaiss house. Make no mistake: the land is the star of this show. 

Ten acres of deep, untouched woods extend as far as the eye can see, sloping downward to the river. The land teems with the green of cottonwood and black locust trees, the same variety that form the leafy cathedral at the entrance to Hummel Park. Apple trees laden with red fruit grow close to the house. Wildflowers and wild turkeys abound, as do fawns wobbling gingerly along the sizable backyard. When nighttime brings a blanket of deep darkness, Zaiss says she listens to the stillness. The only sounds come from nature and the only light comes from stars that shine exceptionally bright far from the city’s glare. 

Zaiss and her husband met while students at Hastings College and married in the ’70s, shortly after graduation. They felt particularly lucky in 2006—while living in their longtime home near 108th and Harrison streets—when a house with a stunning view came on the market in an area of North Omaha that rarely sees a “For Sale” sign. They took their time planning their dream home, while using the original structure as a weekend getaway and entertainment hub.

“This house is a result of five years looking at architecture and home magazines, getting design ideas,” Zaiss says.

Her thorough design exploration resulted in a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath, 4,714-square-foot home that maximizes enjoyment of its natural surroundings.

Borrowing heavily from architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Midwest-inspired Prairie style, the house features an open floor plan with free-flowing spaces and lots of windows as focal points. The windows don’t have coverings, except in the guest bedroom and bath. 

Lighting brings another architectural impact in the living room. The wall lights shine either up or down toward the floor to avoid any glare on the windows. 

Sliding glass doors in the back of the kitchen provide easy access to a concrete patio that spans the width of the house. 

Glass doors also open to a separate screen-enclosed eating area off the east side of the kitchen, “which we can use about nine months out of the year,” Zaiss says. “It’s always fun to have guests and eat out here.”

The kitchen sink, installed inside the granite-top center island, faces the patio door, providing scenery to the lucky person tasked with cleaning up. 

A large pantry next to the formal dining room contains a second, fully functional caterer’s kitchen with open shelves that display colorful dishes and serving pieces. 

The garage holds another of Zaiss’ innovations. A third garage door in the back of the structure allows the riding lawn mower to zip in and out with ease. 

“So much of what we wanted to achieve up here was comfort,” Zaiss says quietly. 

Mission accomplished.


This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of OmahaHome Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Life By Design

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In all built things, the real story lies in the space between intention and fruition. The place where design meets application is a point of contact. Across space and time, builder and user enter into a collaboration. 

In the architecture of homes, this moment of connection occurs constantly. In every room, at every minute, the idea of life runs headlong into the actual living of life. If an architect has done their job right, this is, ideally, an amicable collision.

A.J. Vacanti’s home in Omaha’s Regency neighborhood masterfully reflects this communion of design intention and thoughtful, everyday use. Conceived and built by renowned Omaha architect Donald Polsky in the early 1990s, Vacanti’s home embodies a tasteful, modern simplicity. Though the space is, by any measure, a masterpiece of the mid-century modern style, it’s not ostentatious. In fact, when seen only from the street, the house is downright plain—little more than a white windowless rectangle. 

Of course, the real story is found inside. At the heart of any home’s design is an architect’s notion of how best to choreograph the activity of life. “Polsky understood that no one lives in the front of their house,” Vacanti points out. “The impulse is always to move deeper into the sanctuary of the space, thereby allowing oneself to go deeper into one’s consciousness. This aspect is why all the windows here face the backyard instead of the street.”

In fact, many windows in the house are arranged so subtly—in long narrow rows along the ceiling, for example—that it can be surprising to realize the entire space is illuminated only by natural light. 

“The use of artificial light is rare when the natural sunlight filters in,” Vacanti says. 

The home bares many hallmarks of the modernist architectural movement: clean lines, flat roofs, open spaces that blend and breathe into one another. Other elements, though, are more unexpected: moveable walls, dramatic framing, a basement sitting room with the highest ceiling in the house.

However, the most striking detail of Vacanti’s home is the way in which his own creative energy has made a space for itself within Don Polsky’s signature design aesthetic. The elegantly understated architecture makes the space an ideal setting for displaying Vacanti’s ever-growing collection of primarily original art.

While there are a few purchased pieces prominently placed here and there in the home, the majority of the collection, including dozens of paintings, are Vacanti’s own creation. 

Though not an artist by trade, Vacanti’s talent certainly holds its own against the masterwork of Polsky’s design. Drawing direct inspiration from a wide number of artists he admires, Vacanti’s own artistic vision is broadly diverse, yielding a collection that very much seems like it has come from the hands of several different creators.    

“When you walk through the home you’re walking through separate stages of the collection,” Vacanti explains. “Each stage reflects a point in my life. In each painting, I’m working with the material of different moments of experience. There’s a progression. Polsky designed the home to have an art gallery kind of reverence for space. I took Polsky’s linear approach and created a nonlinear reality within the space. I’ve just tried to honor that by expanding on Polsky’s vision through my interpretation of his work.”

 These days, most consumers with the financial means to invest in a custom-built home approach the design process like they would any other service relationship, often dictating their own vision and desires to an architect or builder.  

“Today, homeowners have become so used to telling an architect: This is how we want to live our life,” Vacanti says. “It wasn’t always like that. It used to be that architect stayed true to their own vision. The building itself would say to the owners: This is how you’re going to live.” 

This appreciation for the pure vision of a master architect left to his own devices compelled Vacanti to become something of a collector of Donald Polsky’s Omaha homes. 

“This is my third Polsky,” he adds with pride. Though he’s never owned more than one Polsky-designed home at a time, in the early 2000s Vacanti did find himself moving just one house over, from one Polsky to another, when his neighbors’ house went on the market. 

“I’ve always been interested in modern homes, ever since I was a kid,” he says. “I just like clean lines. Coming from a commercial real estate background in my family, I’ve always been attracted to industrial designs, which you don’t see a lot of in Omaha.”

It’s this sensitivity to the integrity of the designer’s vision that gives every room in the Vacanti home the feeling of thoughtful intention. Every space, it seems, has its purpose.    

“Even though it is open and flows, it’s still compartmentalized,” he says. “You don’t feel like you’re in a gigantic space, wondering what’s happening on the other end of the home.”

Put simply, it’s not over designed. The ongoing conversation between architect and owner—the idea of life and life itself—is richly complementary.  

For Vacanti, his home collecting seems to have come to an end, at least for now. 

“The energy that has been created in this space is magnetic; it draws you in,” he says. “For me to want to leave now would be unrealistic.”


This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of OmahaHome Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.