Tag Archives: roof

Sophisticated Simplicity

September 3, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The newest devotee of the work done to the stately property at 38th and California streets also happens to be among its oldest—in more ways than one.

“Walking into that home again all these years later,” says Joe Barmettler, “was just pure magic.” The retired attorney was recently feted on the occasion of his 80th birthday in the home built in 1917 for his grandfather, bakery magnate Otto Barmettler. “They did a beautiful job with the house,” Barmettler adds. “I was flabbergasted at every turn.”

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“They” refers to Avery Loschen and Will Perkins, the current owners who have spent the last few years meticulously restoring the once-faded Gold Coast beauty.

Girded by towering pines on its perch atop a hillock, the home has a breathtaking view of the Downtown Omaha skyline.

And how did the Barmettler clan wrangle an invitation from all-but-perfect strangers?

Perkins (left) with Loschen and their Old English Sheepdog, Bridget.

Perkins (left) with Loschen and their Old English Sheepdog, Bridget.

“It all just kind of came together,” says Loschen with a chuckle. “We love to entertain. Our goal here with this house can be described as ‘social, social, social.’ We want to use the house for entertaining and hosting fundraisers.” Loschen, a real-estate investor, had previously spent nearly two decades at the helm of an Oregon-based nonprofit.

Since the home is still what the owners call “a work in progress,” the pair has a long list of projects slated for the property. Loschen and Perkins currently use a third-floor ballroom as storage while it awaits new life, and the three-bedroom caretaker’s house will become the studio for Perkins’ interior design practice.

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Designed by famed architect F.A. Henninger, the 10,000-square-foot Second Renaissance Revival home features Doric columns framing pavilions of multi-paned, floor-to-ceiling windows. Also among Henninger’s lasting contributions to the Omaha landscape, several of which are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, are the Havens-Page House on the northeast corner of 39th and Dodge streets, the Jewell Building (once the site of the legendary Dreamland Ballroom and now the home of Love’s Jazz and Arts Center), and the ever-popular Elmwood Park Pavilion.

Peeling away layers of history revealed more than a few surprises. Among the pair’s archeological finds were richly patinaed cookie tins bearing the logo of the Iten-Barmettler Biscuit Company. Also unearthed was a long-forgotten, boarded-up bathroom. In addition, Loschen and Perkins discovered hand-painted Arts and Crafts wallpaper borders that will be recreated in their original positions throughout the home.

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And ranking highest on the serendipity scale? That would be the story of the rather circuitous route traveled by the home’s roofing material.

“The company we hired to do the roof,” Loschen says, “stumbled upon the original Spanish tile in a salvage yard, and we were able to buy it all back. Better yet, the manufacturer is still in business and had the original molds, so we were able to fill in here and there where needed.”

Like a pair of Canada geese, Perkins and Loschen tend to migrate through their home with the changing of the seasons. The sun-drenched South Solarium is a favorite for morning coffee during spring and summer. The warm hues of the mahogany-clad library, complete with one of the home’s several fireplaces, offers a cozy respite from winter’s chill.

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The space is decorated in an eclectic mix of antique furnishings and art, including a work by David Stirling (1887-1971). The Corydon, Iowa-born landscape painter worked in Estes Park and throughout the Rocky Mountains for 50 years in the early part of the 20th century.

“It’s a deliberate blend of styles to emulate a historic look without being stiff or stuffy,” Perkins explains, defining his home’s feel. “It’s all about comfort, both for us and our guests.”

The “comfort” theme continues in the kitchen, which itself delivers a lesson in history.

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“A kitchen in a house like this,” Perkins explains, “would have never been seen by guests. All of the floors in the service areas are in maple and the public part of the house is in oak. We wanted to keep that theme of simplicity in all aspects of the kitchen, so we kept the maple.”

“Only after we found it four layers down,” Loschen quips.

A space once invisible to all but servants now bustles with conversation whenever guests arrive in the home. Quite a change from its middle-aged, frumpier years when the home served as a dormitory for the adjacent Duchesne Academy.

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Whether in the most intimate of gatherings or, as in the case of a holiday party that found over 200 people circulating with ease through the cavernous home, Loschen and Perkins have created a “social, social, social” space for entertaining. Loschen sums up the couple’s philosophy with yet another riff on the theme of hospitable yet sophisticated simplicity.

“Why have a home like this,” he muses, “unless you want to share it?”

Home Improvement or Not

June 20, 2013 by

If you have a handy person around, it’s good to point out that “I can fix that” only suggests that it’s possible. If and when it actually gets done is apparently on its own moon cycle.

It took me a few days years to convince my husband that re-siding the house wasn’t going to bode well for a weekend project. Eventually, a compromise ensued: Paint the trim ourselves and hire a professional to do the siding. I mean, it’s just painting the trim, right? How hard can that be? (Note to self: Never ever ask that question again.)

We even got the kids involved, working together and frolicking in our cost-saving family togetherness. We did a team huddle, I poured the paint, and that’s when I threw my back out. Wincing but still determined, I couldn’t lift anything. I could bend over, but getting back up wasn’t really an option. So I taped off the top half of the windows.

The kids were eerily eager to play with paint. My husband, Chris, told them to not get paint on the driveway. They must not have heard that part because there were blobs of paint strategically where only the kids had been. Sick of being nagged, the kids took refuge with video games.

Once half of all the windows on the lower level were taped, we headed up to the roof for the next round of windows. At some point in this process, Chris twisted his knee. Now, we had a back-injured grump and a fresh knee-twirked grump hoisted up on the angled roof with no comfort in sight. I kept looking over each shoulder trying to find the best way to sit down without rolling off the roof. That’s when Chris and I struck up a conversation that no doubt saved our marriage:

Chris: “Maybe we should hire someone to do this?”

Me: “How much does it cost to pay someone to do this?”

Chris: “Whatever it costs, we’ll find it in the budget.”

Me: “I love you so much right now.”

Chris: “Let’s get down and go take a nap.”

And that’s how you turn a simple weekend painting project into a 20-minute Clampett’s themed re-décor on its own moon cycle.

Sidenote: I’m on the mend with physical therapy for my back. Chris’ knee seems to have been a by-product of being, ahem, older, and the rain. We’re that old now. And our house looks better for it.

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Michael Jones McKean’s Rainbow

August 20, 2012 by
Photography by minorwhitestudios

Try to catch a rainbow.

Michael Jones McKean pursued this alluring and evanescent image for 10 years before “unveiling” The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. An arc of iridescent light shimmered above the Bemis and admiring patrons, over the purr of tires on brick, above surprised Old Market visitors, above the sounds of music and laughter and evening birds. “The spirit of the rainbow is egalitarian,” McKean told me. “It can’t be owned; it can’t even be fixed. It’s very mischievous.”

Rainbows are made of sunlight and water drops. As light enters a water drop, its cargo of collective color refracts into a prism of brilliant individual hues. These are reflected and re-refracted, emerging as seven bands of color, from outermost red through orange and yellow, cool green, blue and indigo, to sweet violet. But there’s the first sign of mischief—rainbows shine in a continuum of color, not bands. One color mists into the next, and more or fewer colors may be seen depending on one’s vantage point, vision, and atmospheric conditions.

Bemis curator Hesse McGraw (left) with McKean.

Bemis curator Hesse McGraw (left) with McKean.

Rainbows are a universally recognized image. They appear in art, mythology and literature, religion, and science throughout time and around the world; they’re eye-catching marketing tools; they’re seen as magic by the child in each of us.

For McKean, the intrigue was in trying to understand such a complicated object. In a poetic sense, how does a rainbow, a timeless and iconic image, define our concept of beauty, of the sublime? That process of discovery began by studying rainbows produced by car washes, paint sprayers, and irrigation equipment. Step by incremental step, from these prosaic beginnings, McKean continued his autodidactic ambition. He devised experiments and tested equipment, read, listened, and persevered. He never doubted that he could catch, if not keep, this ephemeral quarry.

Hesse McGraw, Chief Curator at the Bemis, knew McKean’s work and of his rainbow trials. In 2008, newly hired by the Bemis, he contacted the artist to commission a project. When McKean described his ideas, McGraw wondered, “Is it possible to do this?” The following day, McKean faxed “the blue sketch” and three words: “Anything is possible.”

The water apparatus atop the Bemis in action.

The water apparatus atop the Bemis in action.

From this nebulous beginning, it was quickly clear that creating a rainbow would be enormously complex. A team was assembled that included, in addition to Bemis staff members, electricians, plumbers, structural engineers, experts in myriad aspects of water—harvesting, containment, dispersion, purification, etc., an atmospheric scientist, film documentarist, and computer wizards.

Recirculating rainwater is stored in six 10,500-gallon tanks; one of them near the Bemis entrance. Seen inside, a pump delivers water to nozzles on the roof at the rate of 2,000 gallons per minute. This visibility of the project’s working components celebrates the efforts and collaboration of its many diverse contributors. The Rainbow’s gallery component also includes a display of objects that represent what McKean calls “a small poem on the nature of space and time”: a bristlecone pine (Bristlecones may be the earth’s oldest living organism; this one is watered by the same rainwater that makes up the rainbow.), a meteorite from Argentina’s famed Campo del Cielo, a Micronesian conch shell, and a 19th century handmade quilt.

The project’s subtitle, Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms, expresses McKean’s sense of the rainbow as a bridge. Its arc connects the viewer to a meteorite hurled to earth 5,000 years ago; connects workers and thinkers from disparate fields; connects the forms, the buildings, people, plants, and activities of an urban landscape under its variegated canopy. It connects idea to reality…if rainbows are really real. Try to catch one.