It’s not often that architect Steven Ginn is asked to tear down half a house, then renovate the remaining half. But the prospect of a crazy complicated project didn’t deter the veteran architect. In fact, he welcomed the challenges of creating a cohesive home for his clients, Rod and Lisa Johnson, in their lovely Fairacres residence. Lisa was the primary collaborator, working with Ginn and master craftsman and contractor Don Stein to create a traditional yet functional home that would embrace their natural surroundings and social lifestyle, keeping sustainability in mind.
From a design perspective, the team was tasked with hatching a house that flowed seamlessly from the existing framework to the new addition. The end result is the stunning 8,000-square- foot home at 6729 Davenport St. Set on over an acre, this English Arts and Crafts beauty fits right in with the historic neighborhood. That was intentional, as Lisa didn’t want something that would be viewed as an eyesore, lessen the curb appeal, or annoy her neighbors in the well-known and well-loved enclave.
Arts and Crafts is more of a movement than a specific style of house. But, generally, it’s understood that the design approach sprung from a rejection of the Industrial Revolution and the dehumanization of art and architecture. Arts and Crafts homes emerged as places to express one’s humanity, commune with others, embrace nature, and honor workmanship. A focus on the hearth and heart of the home is an example of an Arts and Crafts expression. In the Johnson home, the master bedroom fireplace and large outdoor fireplace are examples of this in practice. Additionally, Arts and Crafts homes typically offer multiple places to gather. The Johnson home fully embraces this design element, which makes socializing a breeze.
“I love how the house is big and open with great flow, so that it is so easy to entertain friends and family and so easy to live in day to day,” Lisa says. “I love that it has been a hub for my kids and their friends, partly because of the features that we built in that make it a fun, easy, welcoming place for kids or adults to hang out…things like a media room, exercise room, large built-in couch, game room and (lockable) wine cellar on our lower level, as well as a pool, hot tub, fireplace, outdoor kitchen, and basketball court outside.”
The home’s multiple porches and balconies are another design feature that’s common in Arts and Crafts homes, as they serve as yet more gathering spaces and help link the indoors and outdoors. For Ginn, the link to the outdoors was integral in the design process. The whole house was designed around two pin oaks, one in the front yard and one in the back. The office, in particular, offers focused views of nature as the doors were designed to line up with the oak in front. According to the architect, “The connection to nature lends itself to a stronger sense of place.” As such, a courtyard was created to allow the tree’s roots to thrive for decades.
Bringing the outdoors in was part of the Johnsons’ vision as well. “The biggest inspiration was probably our beautiful yard…using the outdoor space better and creating beautiful views.” Lisa is overjoyed with the end result. “I love the big beautiful windows and the way that light floods in through them, even on gloomy days, and I love how each window is a frame for the scenic view of the pretty yard and trees beyond it.”
An appreciation for nature also lent itself to sustainability. The home is heated and cooled by a geothermal pump, which reduces power consumption, and was built with extra hybrid insulation to keep energy costs low. Ginn says he wants the house “to stand the test of time” and inspire the owners to lovingly maintain the home well into the future. An architect always aims to build homes that will be relevant and useful in 30 more years, he says.
With classic features, good bones, and smart design, this Fairacres beauty is destined to be around for generations to come.
This article was printed in the November/December 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.