Keeping it Real
Apr 15, 2016 11:13AM
By Judy Horan
Pounding sounds greet me as I walk into the Tudor Revival-style home of Kristine and Jared Gerber. The upstairs powder room was being noisily remodeled.
Perhaps you know the homeowner’s name. Kristine Gerber is the founding executive director of Restoration Exchange. The nonprofit offers walking tours, information, and meetings about Omaha’s older buildings and neighborhoods.
“We have been Omaha’s preservation voice. We educate, advocate, and motivate,” she says.
Which is part of the reason why the remodeling job in her own home is minimal. The house has changed little since it was built in 1931 in the Country Club Historic District of Omaha. This remodel will maintain its 1930s charm with the installation of historically accurate tile, and any remodeling during the home’s 75 years has maintained its original character.
“It’s important to us that our home have character and the original décor,” says Kristine.
Standing in the immaculately preserved house with oodles of charm is like being in a pristine dollhouse. And that’s OK with Kristine. “I like small, cozy places. We’ve loved old houses forever.”
Until last year, Kristine and Jared lived in a raised ranch home built in the 1950s near 93rd and Leavenworth streets. With District 66 schools and one-half acre of lawn, it was a perfect place to raise their two sons.
Then their sons left home. Creighton is now an archaeologist in Sioux Falls, and Drew is a sophomore at Carleton College.
“We began looking for a home east of 60th Street,” says Kristine. “A home not remodeled, not gutted, with original fixtures and tiles. We looked for a year and a half from Ponca Hills to Plattsmouth.”
They came across their Country Club-area home one day while volunteering at the historic Mercer mansion.
“Jared was gone for an hour. When he came back, he said, ‘You need to get to that house and make an offer’,” Kristine says.
Within hours, their offer was accepted. They moved in on Labor Day 2015.
Like the Gerbers’ home, most houses in the historic district are Tudor Revival style with steeply gabled roofs and half-timbered framing. The style was popular in the early 20th century. Brickwork is tapered, while arched windows display leaded glass and complement the doorways.
Old architecture suits them. Kristine has written and/or edited 32 books focused on the history of Omaha and Council Bluffs. Jared is an architect who has worked with owners to add to or remodel older homes.
The couple begin my tour of their historical home at the entryway with glass knobs on the front door and the original light fixture and tile.
The traditional beauty of quarter sawn oak floors covers the main level. “They are one and one-half inch wide instead of today’s standard two and one-quarter inch,” says Jared. “You can tell they are the originals by the width.”
Kristine says she loves the coved ceilings that have no square corners and make the room appear taller. The home’s original fireplace in the living area, once a main source of heat, has been converted to gas.
The kitchen has been modernized while retaining a 1930s feel. A bead-board ceiling and subway tile showcase the look of the era. A family room with a second fireplace sits in the basement.
Windows in the dining room overlook nearby Metcalfe Park.
Tucked off the living room is Jared’s small office, once a formal den. The room’s heavy wood doors with glass panes are original and elegant.
Kristine leads us to what she calls her “favorite room.” A striking master bath with the original tiles and a basket-weave style floor is striking in black, white, and gold. A pedestal sink has been replaced with a look-alike to preserve the era.
Also on the first floor is the master bedroom. Two more bedrooms are on the second floor.
A staircase curves provocatively off the living area around a corner to the upper level. “There’s kind of an elegance to that,” muses Kristine.
The Gerbers give credit to former owners for maintaining the spirit of the home and avoiding renovations that would have taken away its historical ambiance. Their long search for the perfect house took them to homes poorly remodeled by their owners, says Kristine. They search no more. OmahaHome
Visit historiccountryclub.com to learn more