Lime green lawn chairs and a Japanese maple brighten the entryway of the Legenza’s Bennington home, creating an inviting space typical of their style.
“Our last house was so dark and it drove me crazy,” Tara Legenza says. “It was built in ’79 so the rooms were very defined, and I hated that.”
Behind their front door is a curated entryway that melds into the open floor plan with one great kitchen, dining, and living room space where the Legenza family—including husband Jon, two children, three dogs, and a full tank of saltwater fish—spend their time. The space features two massive, exposed-bulb chandeliers.
“I knew I wanted one, big, open space,” Tara Legenza says. “I wanted tons of light.”
After three years searching for an existing carpet-free house with an open floor plan, natural light, and a modern exterior, the Legenzas decided to build their current home.
“We were like, ‘We’re just going to do it our way,’” Legenza says.
Their three-bedroom, three-bath home was two years in the making. When their first home sold faster than expected, Legenza and the kids moved in with her parents in San Antonio for a year while the custom home was finished.
“Then we moved in Christmas Day,” she says. “It was like a great present.”
Tara and Jon collaborated on the floor plan by “meshing” together several home floor plans from their builder, Todd Gaver of Gaver Custom Homes. Legenza added a few custom features for their family, including lower cabinets in the kitchen offering easy dish access for their young kids and a pantry with ample counter and shelf space.
“I always think about efficiency,” Legenza says. “Where will people stand, how will they use the space. Everyone’s family life is different, so you definitely need to plan for your life.”
“Life-proof” luxury vinyl planking, or “LVP” as Legenza calls it, and colored concrete in the lower level were chosen to make maintenance and cleanup a breeze.
“We built this house with pets, kids, craziness in mind,” Legenza says. “We like to entertain quite a bit too, and we’re not people that make you take your shoes off at the door.”
She grew up in a military family and relocated to Omaha in 1999. Legenza received an associate’s degree in photography from Metropolitan Community College and a Bachelor of Arts and Studio Arts from the University of Nebraska.
In 2014, following a successful career in corporate marketing, Legenza founded ReDefined Interiors by Tara, a home staging and decorating business, that eventually led her to join Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Ambassador Real Estate as an agent.
The career shift lets her take “calls on the go,” gets her out from behind her desk, and offers a work-life balance suited to her creative personality. Legenza’s sense of style goes into her staging as well as her home. Favorite pieces displayed in her entryway include antique cameras, film cutting equipment, hardcover books from her grandparents, and canvas displays of her photography.
“I have an eclectic taste, and I incorporate things that have meaning for me,” Legenza says.
“Everything kind of has a story behind it, and that is what I find interesting.”
She selects pieces on a gut feeling, sometimes saving them until an artist has a vision, as with a piece of walnut, carved into her favorite coffee table by Peyton Maas of Forged Woodworks in Springfield, Nebraska. The grand ladder gracing the entryway was salvaged from a demolished barn in the Omaha area. Others, such as a mid-century modern lounge chair bought at a garage sale for $5, were investments she sees as worth revamping.
“I grew up going to estate sales with my grandparents [and] my mom, and just finding these cool things,” Legenza says. “I just found that having meaning was better than having something new and pretty.”
Three years of house hunting, two years of building, and future projects for the home have informed Legenza’s practice as a real estate agent.
“Going through the building [process] and the selling process of our first house [has] definitely given me a different perspective on how to tell people what to expect,” Legenza says.
Behind the walls and underneath the LVP are less glamorous but important aspects to consider in custom builds, according to Legenza.
“A lot of people don’t spend money on the better insulation and plumbing fixtures, and over time it is just going to cost you more money,” Legenza says. “It is definitely worth investing in that.”
Location is vital in home-buying as well. After shopping around, Jon and Tara chose their lot for its size and the strong school system in the Bennington area.
“This kind of felt like [the] country at the time. It has since exploded, but it is definitely a small-town feel, and that’s what we liked,” says Legenza. “It feels like the iconic USA neighborhood.”
This article was printed in the October 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.