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Omaha Magazine

A Cottage In The Woods

Apr 27, 2017 02:32PM ● By Will Patterson

When the Marshall family approached architect Jared Gerber about designing their home, he met them at the future construction site just outside the city limits of Louisville, Nebraska.

“When I met with them, we immediately connected,” Gerber says. “They were looking for something very homey and comfortable.”

The property is 11 acres with varying terrain features. Open spaces coupled with the surrounding wooded areas gave an ideal opportunity for a secluded paradise.

Gerber doesn’t typically design homes for acreages. He normally works in a city setting, and city lots confine an architect to design within a limited area. The expanse of the Marshalls’ land granted a variety of options for positioning the home and integrating the structure into the landscape.

“We really wanted to have a modern interpretation of a classic farmhouse,” says homeowner K.B. Marshall. “But we also wanted a house that complemented the land it was going to be built on.”

The product of the Marshalls’ vision and Gerber’s expertise was a house set far enough back on the property to be isolated by trees with a design that conjured the idea of a modern-day cottage.

“We recognized the house is maybe a little bit out of character for the local area,” Marshall says. “We didn’t want to have something that was an eyesore or really stood out.”

Built on the edge of town, the house is hidden on a forested plot. A gravel road winds back behind the dense foliage. Drive down the path through the trees, and the spectacular residence emerges.

“It’s kind of a journey. You get little glimpses, little pieces of it as you're driving through there,” Gerber says. “It’s a nice approach to the house. It’s what I’ve always kind of liked about it.”

The front of the house is framed by its rural setting. Visitors’ eyes are immediately drawn to the red door, which stands out against the exterior’s softer white and blue colors.

Gerber wanted to keep the functionality of the home while maintaining its coziness. Striking this balance motivated Gerber’s architectural design, which led to some changes in the Marshalls’ original requests.

One feature the Marshalls wanted was a four-car garage attached to the house. But Gerber believed this would infringe on the coziness they were seeking. He feared that such a large garage would produce a strange, lopsided appearance. He didn’t want the gargantuan garage to dominate the presence of the house, which he wanted to be the focal point.

“What I ended up doing was breaking it [apart],” Gerber says. “So we had a two-car garage attached to the house, and then another two-car garage that was a detached garage.”

These two garages mirror each other as they stand face to face. In the space between, Gerber designed a paved area that connected to the driveway. The new style preserved the welcoming domestic appearance, while retaining the desired garage space.

The home’s interior continues to uphold a cozy and functional balance first introduced with the exterior design. Gerber strived to create a living space that would serve the needs of the Marshalls and their two sons.

“What I like to call this is 'cottagey'—which technically is not really a style,” Gerber says. “Cottagey is more of a feeling or a concept of what a house conveys.”

The living room showcases a cathedral ceiling and large fireplace. The feeling emulated by the home’s primary living space is one of versatility. Ideally, one can feel comfortable spending time alone in the spacious area or hosting a group of guests.

The staircase tower connecting each level of the house was a favorite design feature for both Gerber and Marshall. The tower holds a wide, open-style staircase that winds from the basement to the main level to the second story. Windows on all sides of the tower showcase the surrounding natural splendor.

The kitchen-dining area was designed to be a hub of family activity, where they could gather for meals and kids could work on homework during the academic year. A mix of light fixtures and a series of enormous windows illuminates the space. Throughout the house, lighting was a major emphasis of Gerber’s design.

The house also has a secret. A hidden room behind a “Scooby-Doo” door, as Marshall described it, quickly became a favorite feature for his children. The entrance to the room is concealed by a bookshelf, making it unnoticeable to visitors when it is closed.

It is no secret that the house does not fit any single textbook architectural style. But that’s also part of its charm. “Everyone likes to plug all the different styles into a particular category, and I think a lot of times houses don’t fit truly into each category,” Gerber says.

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This article appears in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

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