Living Small to Live LargeMar 03, 2016 02:34PM ● By Claire Martin
This, at least, is the working mantra of Kevin and Amanda Kohler, who occupy a 620 square-foot condo off of 16th and Farnam streets.
The Kohlers happily insist they have all the room they need.
“With a smaller space, you invest in the quality rather than the quantity of things,” Amanda says. “Everything in here, I like.”
When questioned why they downsized from a living place originally twice as large, the Kohlers explain their two main incentives—running a business and traveling comfortably. They own and operate the technology company KOVUS.
The couple traveled to 16 countries during the last five years, journeying throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, and South America. The logic is simple—
by spending less on a mortgage, the Kohlers save their income for a budget to travel at will.
Although the two admit they first thought downsizing would be temporary and challenging, they wound up hooked on traveling, which easily balanced out the predicaments of living on a small scale.
“I would rather live here and travel the world than live in a big city and be hamstrung,” Kevin says.
Despite travels to such exotic locales as India, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, Omaha remains the Kohlers’ consistent home base, especially since they enjoy owning a business here.
“There are so many people I can connect with here that have been beyond helpful in building our business,” Amanda says. “Every single person I reach out to or ask for advice is willing to help—it’s a very collaborative environment.”
Living in the heart of downtown, according to Kevin and Amanda, can be both inexpensive and accessible. The two share a car, but walk to dozens of restaurants or stores. Their building even offers an in-house coffee shop called Culprit.
The small space they inhabit is more than just a footnote to this convenience, however.
“[Living small] forces you into a more minimalistic lifestyle,” Amanda says. “Now that we have a 2-by-2 closet to store stuff, it forces you to be disciplined about the things you need. You have to be creative about how you purpose things.”
The cabinet in their living room doubles as a covert litterbox for Archie, their 20-pound cat, while the couple joke that an old clothes stool now dually serves as the communal scratching-post. The small closets divide into basins to stow shoes, clothes, camera equipment, and other items. The couple purchase good food, good wine, and experiences as opposed to mere “stuff.” Amanda enjoys buying books, but has forsaken paper in favor of eReader files.
The condo, despite the confined space, still manages to feel roomy and open. Using lots of natural light from big windows and keeping an abundance of home-grown plants creates an earthy ambiance against an urban backdrop. Small tokens from their travels, including “several wine bottles,” they joke, decorate surfaces. The condo’s main space includes a cedar chest that belonged to Amanda’s grandmother as well as a custom-made coffee table that easily seats four. The Kohlers give interior decorating credit to Jessica McKay at Birdhouse Interiors, although the pictures that adorn the walls are due to Amanda’s love of photographing their travels. In India, Amanda’s personal favorite travel-spot, she even took photographs from a hot-air balloon.
“I feel like you get better at traveling as you go, and we were able to really immerse ourselves in the culture,” Amanda says. “The people there couldn’t be more hospitable and generous.”
So what’s next on the Kohlers’ agenda? For starters, the couple plan to travel to Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda for three weeks during the holidays. Since a close friend who often traveled with them recently passed away, Kevin and Amanda explain they want to experience all they can while they’re young.
This means their home, for now, remains a small downtown condo.