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Omaha Magazine

Bauhaus on the Prairie

Jul 25, 2014 10:42AM ● By David Williams
Flat roof? Check. Clean Lines? Check. Cornfields? Insert here the sound of a needle being violently ripped across a vinyl record.

Contemporary architecture is perhaps most commonly thought of as an urban phenomenon, but Donna and Jon Smith have executed their Bauhaus-inspired home on five acres of rural Sarpy County land.

“A lot of our friends say it looks like a commercial building or a strip mall,” says Donna. “We’re okay with that. To each his own!”

The 4,200 square foot home was built in 2010 and was designed by Jon, the owner of the branding firm Corporate Three Design. Jon had absolutely zero background in architecture when he first put pen to paper in conceptualizing his creation. The couple share the space with their children, David (19), and Suzy (18).

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The imaginative materials used throughout the project were more than just money-savers on the bottom line, they are integral to the success of the contemporary scheme.

Common cinder block is rendered less so when stripes of contrasting brick form a design along the zig-zag angles of the exterior set below exposed steel beams of the roofline that have now taken on an organic, earthy patina. Rolling barn-like doors of walnut evoke a little bit of country while also punctuating the space with fields of contrasting color. Add to that gently dappled concrete floors below an assortment of warm area rugs, and the foundation is laid for a country home loaded with surprises.

No storage room? No problem. Remember, form follows function in the Bauhaus aesthetic. Jon designed a section of the stairs leading down to a utility room so that, when lifted on a hinge system, a storage space is revealed. Oh, and where exactly is that refrigerator? Tucked away just around the corner from the kitchen so as to minimize busyness in the crisp, clean space accented by marble baseboards and window trim.

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“Everybody always talks about the ‘kitchen triangle pattern’ when it comes to kitchens,” Donna says, “but taking two extra steps to get to the fridge is a small price to pay for the uncluttered look we sought.”

The home has no load-bearing walls, and the roof is instead supported by a series of massive pillars. This design element allowed maximum freedom in terms of an open floor plan. Jon further capitalized on this by mixing and matching the heights of the walls. The central space is defined by floor-to-ceiling surfaces. Within the bedrooms, closets are left open on top to distribute light and to create interesting sight lines.

Two wells on the property fuel a geothermic heating system and radiant floor heat keeps the place toasty even on the most bitter of winter evenings. The pool is heated by the same technology. “The look we were going for,” Jon says, “is part Bauhaus,  part Palm Springs desert-style." The flat roof contributes to the desired look and its lines mirror the plains surrounding the property.

“And we wanted really low maintenance,” adds Donna. “These materials will long outlast us and our kids.

Speaking of maintenance, who does snow removal on the graceful arc of the home’s long driveway? “Oh, that’s just a matter of driving the truck back and forth until we can get out. And Jon does all the mowing himself.”

“I have mowing down to five hours now,” he adds. “If I didn’t have to make little crop circles around all of the trees it would be even easier.”

The interior is certainly dramatic, but Jon also had an eye to outdoor living in his design. The property that features hundreds of saplings also boasts a swimming pool and a full soccer field. That’s where Suzy, a recent Papillion La Vista South High graduate who will play in the fall at Missouri State University, honed her skills. That’s when she wasn’t camping on the roof with friends under a canopy of stars.

This home is something that Jon always wanted to do,” says Donna, “even if we are out here where few people ever see it.”

That is, except when the couple who love entertaining have as many as 50 people over for a little soiree.

“It’s a different kind of living,” Jon admits. “It may not be for everybody, but for us it just…it just works.”

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