Tag Archives: Street of Dreams

The Basement That Dreams Are Made Of

October 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

After 19 years in the home where she and her husband raised three children, “It was time to do some updating,” Stacy Stenger says. 

The house that had once been featured on Street of Dreams was still beautiful, but they wanted new features like a lower-level bar and enhanced entertainment area, and they hoped to address some inefficiencies in layout.

They soon discovered that the renovations they wanted most were structurally impossible or unreasonably expensive. “The cost would have been excessive,” Stenger says. “That drove us to start looking at existing homes. We looked for over a year and couldn’t find exactly what we wanted.” 

Ultimately, instead of settling for not-quite-right, she says, “We decided it was best to build.”

Friends recommended Elizabeth Monical of Elizabeth Monical Interior Design, who collaborated with the Stengers and builder Dave Boltinghouse to design the perfect home for the family in a new Bellevue neighborhood.

The new design incorporated every feature on the Stengers’ wish list and more: a ranch-style floor plan with an open layout, a cigar room, canine-friendly luxury vinyl flooring (the family has four rescue dogs), great flow, and a transitional look with interesting textures, natural finishes, and a warm-yet-modern vibe.

“It’s user-friendly and functional, and everything is where I wanted it to be,” Stenger says. 

And best of all, the Stengers now have the deluxe lower level they dreamed of. 

“We really like to have friends and family over,” Stenger says. “There is a lot more space and more areas to congregate; the house is so much better set up for entertaining.”

The space first and foremost boasts an element the family has wanted for years: a full wet bar. Roomy enough to seat four with a view to a large wall-mounted television, the area also functions as a kitchenette with prep space and storage.   

In their former home, the Stengers felt hindered by load-bearing posts. Advances in residential engineering make it possible for their new home to have the open entertainment space they envisioned, with 10-foot ceilings and room to seamlessly accommodate both shuffleboard and pool tables. There’s also a fireplace sitting area with multiple TV screens, and a large table seats up to six—equally perfect for card games or meals. A popcorn machine is another fun touch to the basement.

Extending from a golf simulator room (“My husband’s favorite room in the house,” Stenger says) are golf-themed décor details. There is a custom-made, oversized mixed-media art piece dedicated to Augusta National Golf Club (created by local artist Jennifer Radil), a floor-to-ceiling golf course wall mural, and appealing artifacts throughout the space. 

Monical, who decorated and furnished the entire home, “made it all come together,” Stenger says. “She really did some personal touches that surprised me.” The homeowner’s favorite? A “Wally’s” sign honoring her late father. 

“She would always say, ‘Wait until you see the final vision,’” Stenger says. “And it was awesome when it was finished.”

“The thing that makes this house so successful is the amount of trust they had in our service as a design firm,” Monical says. “We really got to know their family, friends, and daily needs. We selected finishes that they approved and proposed ways to make certain areas extra-special…It was so amazing to be a part of their life story.” 

Stenger says she and her husband intend to stay in this home through their golden years, so their experience with building and designing the new home was truly a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

“Hire someone you trust and who you can bounce ideas off of,” she says. “When you work with a professional, they think about all those functional things. It’s so worth it in the end because you end up with the design you want, the functionality you want, and the look you want.”

Visit monicaldesign.com for more information about Elizabeth Monical Interior Design.

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

Featuring More

March 25, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Eric and Jen Willit swore they would build a new home. After surviving an extensive remodel of their last home that wrapped in 2013, they didn’t want to repeat the experience. So the plan for their next home was to avoid having to live again within the mess and noise of construction. “We could just be done.”

The couple chose a lot with the idea for construction to commence sometime in 2015. But they couldn’t get one spec home on a corner lot in the Tuscan Ridge neighborhood at 198th and Pacific streets off their minds.


“This was one of the first houses we looked at. We were pretty set on building, but we kept coming back to this house,” Jen says.

The plusses were numerous: six bedrooms and five baths with 3,000 square feet above grade and 4,000 total square feet, dark wood floors on the main level, stainless steel kitchen appliances in place, and a finished basement. It was plenty of room for the couple, their two boys, and any visitors. The high ceilings, arched doorways, and abundant windows that bathed the interior with natural light were also appealing. The in-demand neighborhood had been the site of the 2011 Street of Dreams and was located in the Elkhorn school district.

The Willits pressed forward with their intent to build, but couldn’t stop mulling over the idea of that lovely, move-in ready Tuscan Ridge house. It included some of the features the couple knew they would have to cut from their new-home wish list to meet budget, and many extras they hadn’t even thought of. They liked the colors, they liked the floor plan, they liked just about everything. And they realized the few things they didn’t love could be easily modified

Recognizing they could get everything they wanted—and more—by purchasing a finished house, the Willits ultimately decided not to purchase the lot, or build, and made that unforgettable home their own last August. The neighbors were warm and welcoming (“Like a small town”) and the Willits family immediately felt right at home.


“It was just meant to be,” Jen says.

After hiring Knight Construction’s Dana Knight to modify the kitchen island for improved functionality, replace the wrought iron stair railing with a warmer wooden railing, and install additional wainscoting, Willits now proclaims the home perfect for her family.


“It’s cozy. Comfortable,” she says, emphasizing that it’s a “family” home. “It’s where kids can be kids. You have to enjoy your own home.”

The house is even more perfect than the family expected, she says. Sons Evan, 12, and Ethan, 9, are far too young to drive, but the home’s enormous, 1,200-square-foot garage has been an unforeseen bonus for them: The boys not only have ample room to park their bikes and store their sports gear, there’s even enough floor space to bounce around a basketball in the wintertime. “I never thought we were looking at a garage when we bought this house,” Jen says.

She was also pleasantly surprised by another bonus feature; a sitting room off the master complete with fireplace that has become her “reading nook.”

“It was something I did not think I needed, but now I can’t live without it,” she says.

The professional couple (she’s a nurse anesthetist, he works as a risk reserve analyst at Hewlett-Packard) also like that a first-floor bedroom was easily convertible to a home office in which Eric can work from home on occasion but still feel connected. An upstairs bedroom serves as a “kids’ office” where the boys can do homework, play, or hang out with Harrison, the family’s new Labradoodle puppy.


After extensively landscaping their last home, Jen is eager for warmer weather and the opportunity to put some new ideas into place. In the meantime, she’s enjoying working on the interior. The home’s neutral palette with clean lines and white trim is ideal to showcase her “modern transitional with vintage mix” style that includes a fun, eclectic assortment of artworks and décor as likely to come from Junkstock (that outdoor flea market) as from a gallery.

“Some of the pictures on the wall are just things I love, that piece you find that just isn’t like anyone else’s,” she says. Some of the furniture is one-of-a-kind, too. Several pieces have been customized by her own hand, like the brand-new dining table she painted to create a vintage look, or a few refinished pieces that were already in the family.

“I tried to repurpose as much sentimental furniture as I could, like my grandmother’s bookcase I use as a shelf in my dining room,” she says. “And I have my sons’ changing table from when they were babies. I re-did that and we use it in the family room. I (also) re-did another table…I think maybe we had it growing up? I don’t really know where it came from, to be honest.”

Fortunately, the spacious home offers plenty of room for future finds and refinished treasures. “If I go out and find something, sometimes I don’t have a real place for it,” she explains. “I just want to incorporate it into my house.”


Hazy Shades of Winter

January 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The greys and whites of winter do not bother Dr. Christian Bessmer and his wife, Gina. In fact, they designed their home around the color (or is that color-less?) scheme.

Their story is colorful. They picked out a property at Beaver Lake, purchased land, and made plans to build their first home together. But life threw them a curve ball that left things less black-and-white.


In December 2013, Christian, 36, and Gina, 37, found out they were expecting their first child. After 12 years as a couple, they left their carefree lifestyle and settled down in parenthood.

They quickly realized that their original plan of building a home at Beaver Lake might not be the right fit. Their priorities were now changing and they found themselves thinking about school districts and being closer to family and friends.

The couple opted to build at Ashbury Farms development in Bellevue, a smaller development that allows them the more rural setting they desired.


“There won’t be more than 45 homes built here so it can keep that small community feel,” explains Christian.

A visit to Street of Dreams inspired Gina’s idea of designing on a neutral plain. She also wanted an open floor plan for the kitchen, dining, and living room; granite countertops; and Jack-n-Jill bathrooms. Christian wanted a large garage for all his tinkering projects and “a shower that was just like a car wash.” 

Jack Gifford, design specialist at Advantage Development, made sure their desires were met. Each room embodies a monochromatic mindset and approach.

An invariable feeling starts when approaching the home. The contemporary design includes lots of right angles surrounded with paint the color of a nimbus cloud and light-colored stone on the face of the house.

The kitchen features curved white stone island countertops with smokey marbling that allow guests to see each other while sitting in the kitchen set against a backdrop of raven cabinets and minimalist lighting. Stainless steel appliances add luxury and also the barest hint of shimmer.

The main bathroom includes Christian’s human car wash, with multiple shower heads and a remote control water system.


The results were better than they imagined. There’s definite cool factor to it—a house with many unique aspects, including a hidden pocket door in the kitchen that opens to a pantry on the right and hallway on the left, which in turn sends people toward a second entrance to the mudroom and garage.

Warmth is found in the bedroom, where hints of gold glimmer alongside a metal poster bed. In the master bathroom a Jacuzzi tub with a mounted television and heated backrest give a feel of being a guest at a luxurious hotel.


The garage, at almost 1,500 square feet, obtains warmth from a hot/cold water supply. Christian’s play space includes elevated ceilings and enough room to store five vehicles. “It’s definitely my dream garage,” says Christian, laughing.

The outdoor space acts as an extension to the house with a living room, complete with sectional sofa, and soon-to-be kitchen right off the dining area. The in-ground pool spans the length of the backyard, its Mediterranean turquoise shocking viewers after seeing so many Russian blues. The serenity of this space continues with an alternating pattern of grass and river rocks.

The Bessmers are thrilled with how the house has turned out but look forward to eventually turning the unfinished basement into a game room—complete with bar and pool table. But not now. Knowing they are expecting their second child in April, now is about making memories as a family in a home they can call their own.


Neutral, Natural, Notable

February 19, 2014 by and
Photography by Lisa Louise Photography

This west Omaha home in Five Fountains was featured in the Metro Omaha Builders Association 2007 Street of Dreams.  When the clients decided to move forward in bringing their dreams to reality with the finish of their basement, they selected KRT Construction as contractor along with Designer’s Touch interior designers Marian Holden, ASID, and Erin Svoboda, ASID. The client’s goal was to transform the unfinished basement into an exquisite space for entertaining, fitness, and 
children’s activities.


A neutral color palette defines the space with rich shades of gray accompanied by cream trim. Dark alder doors punctuate a collection of natural elements, including rustic woods, leather, and stone. Shades of blue accent the palette while rich texture and large-scale patterns make up the furnishings in this space.


The professional eat-in kitchen features custom cabinetry with Arabesque White granite, metallic glass tile backsplash, brushed nickel cabinet hardware, and stainless appliances contrasting the French bronze lighting fixtures adorned with jewel-like crystals.


Natural elements of stone and alder wood were integrated into the design to create a focal point in the entertaining space that is rustic yet sophisticated. Luxurious leather seating surrounds the fireplace for both TV viewing and entertaining. A custom metallic crocodile ottoman embellishes the space, along with custom shutters and window treatments.


A fitness center boasts floor-to-ceiling glass, a mirrored wall, and resilient rubber flooring, all complementing the modern amenities of the space.


Hang out or study in the children’s area that hosts a glass marker board, custom cabinetry with corkboard, and polished chrome fixtures that play off a refined, purple 
wall color.


A guest suite with adjoining bathroom overlooks the beautifully landscaped outdoor patio. The suite features luxurious bedding, custom window treatments, mirrored furnishings, glass accent tile, a charcoal-hued vanity, and crystal fixtures to add that 
finishing touch.

Q&A: Dan Cullinane

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Midwest Iron Doors’ designer Dan Cullinane designs unique metal artworks for building exteriors and interiors. His creations grace the doorways of some of Omaha’s finest residences. We asked Cullinane about the design process, where he gets his inspiration, and how the company is poised for growth.

Q: Tell us a bit about your personal background. How did you come to work for Midwest Iron Doors?

A: I grew up in Papillion and went to school there as well. I’ve always had an interest in art, and I enjoyed drawing a lot as a child. My family’s business was in construction, so I grew up enjoying building and creating things. I still do. For years, I worked for the owner, Ryan [Steele], on and off between my deployments in the Army and while I worked for OPPD. Then, Ryan offered me a full-time job, and I left my position to help him grow Midwest Iron Doors. Ryan is definitely my mentor. He is successful at everything he does and is very dedicated to all aspects of his companies. He’s not afraid to take risks.Hofer-Sanctuary-1_Web

Q: Tell us a bit about your product and the company. What makes Midwest Iron Doors unique?

A: We are the only iron door company in the U.S. that offers a true thermally-broken door. These doors provide thermal insulation while maintaining maximum structural strength. This is our own patent-pending design. The thermal break design is the brainchild of me, Ryan Steele, and Lane Hinton. We started the design with a simple drawing on a dry erase board two years ago and after working long hours to create prototypes and deal with redesigns, we came to where we are today. Our doors range from around $3,000 to whatever the customer wants. We’re in the middle of transitioning to a supplier and setting up dealers across the U.S. We currently have five dealers in Iowa, three dealers in Nebraska, and one dealer in Kansas.

Q: What is the process for creating one of your original works?

A: Our doors start out as an openingdrawn into a blueprint. We take that opening and the vision of the homeowner and create something that is not only a door but an expression of who they are. The most creative part is taking what a customer has in their mind and turning it into a design on paper. The most challenging is definitely the construction aspect of the doors and ensuring that the customer gets the highest quality.Scott-Carson-Door_Web

Q: Besides ideas from customers, what inspires your designs? Tell us about one of your
favorite projects.

A: There are many things that inspire our door designs. We take into account shapes from nature, the architecture in surrounding buildings, and pieces of art that may have a special meaning to someone. One of my favorite projects was last year’s Street of Dreams home for Absolute Customs. The home’s interior designer, Sallie Elliott, went with a vintage Omaha decorating theme. We were asked to contribute, and I drew inspiration from the Joslyn Castle when creating a front door for the home.

Q: Who makes up Midwest Iron Doors’ clientele? How do you market your products?

A: Our customers are generally mid- to high-end homeowners who want to add a detail to their home that sets them apart. Our doors are used for home entries, wine cellars, and even commercial and apartment buildings. We recently supplied doors for a historic dorm remodel at Kansas University. We market our product by putting ads in numerous direct mail publications. We also do four home shows a year, and we supply doors to builders who are in the Street of Dreams. We had four doors in last year’s Street of Dreams and already have two doors in progress for this year’s Street of Dreams and are hoping to add to that number.Deats-2-Copy_Web

Q: Tell us a bit about you personally.

A: My wife, Jessica, and I have been married for over five years now. I have one boy, 18 months, and a newborn son born in April. I enjoy spending time with my family, whether that means walking the trails by our home or catching a bite to eat somewhere in town.

Pam Mertz’s Copper-Penny Ceiling

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Pam Mertz expresses her creative side through home decorating. She enjoys watching DIY Network and HGTV, perusing home interiors magazines looking for projects, and decorating her Papillion home of 10 years. And she’s also not afraid of a design challenge.

“I definitely like tackling a project,” she says. “I’m not intimidated by them. I think I have a gift for decorating…I can walk into a room and picture how a space will look if I do this or that with some end tables or paint on the walls. But I admit I’m more of a big-picture person…not as good with the accesssories.”

When a tour through some Street of Dreams homes led Mertz to a fascination with faux finishes on the walls, she put her mind to learning how to do several painting techniques.

“A girlfriend taught me some skills…rag rolling, feathering…and I had a knack for making it look professional. I did it in my home, then I started doing it for friends.”

During some time off work (she works full-time as a UPS driver), she took a week-long class learning about plasters, glazes, and other materials and techniques for wall and ceiling treatments from local decorator Kelly King. The class was not cheap. “It was $1,500, but I figured if I could learn to do it myself, it would save money in hiring a professional,” Mertz says.

Detailing of the copper-penny ceiling.

Detailing of the copper-penny ceiling.

The first project she tackled was her dining room ceiling. It was not an easy undertaking. The process took nearly 30 hours over two weekends and involved plastering cheesecloth to the ceiling in various shapes, then pulling it off, sanding it until smooth, adding a glaze, painting it a copper-penny color, then trolling on a topcoat to fill in the cracks.

“I learned the plaster technique on a paint sample board standing up on-end,” she says, “so doing this on the ceiling, over my head, was much harder. When I was done I looked like I had cake batter all over me, and I thought I’d have permanent neck damage.”

Still, Mertz says the ordeal was well worth the effort. “It turned out beautiful. A lot of that has to do with the products I used (which she special-ordered online), but [they] make a huge difference.” She recommends the Blue Pearl metallic and pearlescent paint line.

Since then, Mertz has gone on to apply textured finishes and faux paint to walls and ceilings in many other rooms—“I used a metallic copper in my kitchen, a paint technique in the master bedroom, a suede finish in another…[The finishes] give the rooms a depth and warmth I love.”

While Mertz gets a lot of requests from friends to do their homes, she admits she doesn’t have much time. “I may take up more projects when I retire, which I hope to do in less than three years.”

She admits faux finishing is not a home project for just any do-it-yourselfer.

“If you are not a patient person or detailed person, it’s not for you,” she warns. “You have to be willing to do it just so or it won’t turn out the proper way.

“And you can do too much. There are ways to do techniques more subtly.”