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Omaha Magazine

Modern Farmhouse Shines in Rockbrook

Mar 02, 2020 09:22AM ● By Katy Spratte Joyce

It’s clear that Maren and Nate Lakers like a DIY challenge.

They did a near complete renovation of their first District 66 home on 101st Street, including the kitchen, basement, master bedroom, and bathroom. So, when the time came to move into a bigger space, the Lakers weren’t deterred by another large-scale facelift project. And they knew they wanted to stay in the Westside area for the great schools and easy interstate access, which helped to narrow the home search. 

Even the news that Maren was pregnant with the couple’s first child, which they learned just five days after they put an offer on their Rockbrook beauty, couldn’t deter the motivated Lakers family. Maren said, “I feel that you should live in the space for awhile before deciding to do such a huge renovation.” But with a baby on the way, “We didn’t have much of a choice!” Best to do the reno before baby’s arrival and life got even more hectic, they decided.

Maren is a self-taught interior designer and has tackled the bulk of the design work herself. Husband Nate is a commodities trader but has a background in construction. Together, they’ve used their skill sets to beautify the main floor of their new Rockbrook abode. What used to be dark, closed off, and wood-paneled is now an airy, light-filled great room that flows into an upscale functional kitchen. Gourmet touches like a pot filler faucet (a non-negotiable item for Nate) and beverage fridge make it an elegant, yet efficient environment for both cooking and entertaining. A marble backsplash, quartz countertops, and a gas range help complete the look. Sleek KitchenAid appliances are another key addition, while a Sub-Zero fridge rounds out the space. The renovated kitchen replaced a less than optimal one, with a tiny island and inconveniently placed stove. The couple closed off the extra opening to the basement, which created additional space for the built-in fridge and wall oven/microwave combo. 

According to Maren, their renovation process generally looks like this: “We typically decide budget first, then start looking at inspiration photos. Once we’ve decided on a layout/design, we demo!”

In addition to demo (Maren participated, taking a sledgehammer to the wall between the kitchen and living room), the couple took on much of the detail work. “We did all the painting, shiplap [in the entry], trim work, plumbing, backsplash, lighting, and then we laid the floors,” she said. They contracted A Plus Wood Flooring to sand and stain, finishing the job.

This home needed an additional artisan touch to make it stand out, for which Maren brought in Brian Michaelis with Beyond The Grain. “I couldn’t have done this project without Brian,” Maren said. “He custom-built all of our [shaker kitchen] cabinets and was amazing in helping me make decisions on design layout. He was wonderful to work with and his workmanship is second to none.” Michaelis was equally impressed that the DIY-loving couple did so much of the renovation work themselves. In all, the remodel took about three months.

The project wasn’t without its challenges. The couple had already ordered more oak to extend their wood floors when Michaelis first visited the house. He walked into the kitchen and said, “These are really cool ash floors!” and Maren said, “Wait, what? They’re not oak?” So the couple had to cancel the oak order and replace it with ash to match. That meant double the price, but it was worth it for double the charm. The ash in the home is a key design feature, since the grain really stands out and adds great warmth to the main floor. Maren added, “I am so glad we found that out because our floors are a huge focal point of the entire space.” 

For final touches, the furniture and decor items in the home are from a mix of retailers, including Nebraska Furniture Mart, Anthropologie, and Pottery Barn. Additionally, Maren loves to peruse local estate sales for one-of-a-kind finds. 

The Lakers also embraced some of the original design quirks found on the main floor, adding a fun visual element. Funky fruit wallpaper still adorns the now mudroom/laundry room that connects the roomy three-car garage to the kitchen, and hand-painted fish wallpaper in the back main floor bathroom adds a touch of whimsy to the otherwise modern space. Additionally, an original vintage chandelier adorns the dining room.

Another spot that was lovingly designed in the home was the nursery. What was formerly a dark room with heinous green wallpaper has been transformed into a light, bright, inviting space. The Lakers went into this project with one specific want: board and batten trim. Then, flipping through an HGTV magazine’s “paint issue,” they zeroed in on Pink Prism by Behr. “It was just the subtle pink color I was looking for,” Maren said. A long-ago rug find was the ideal complement to the space. “I had previously found that rug at Wayfair when we lived in our last home, but I hadn’t even taken it out of the package. When we moved to this house, I knew it would be perfect for her nursery.” 

The future looks bright for the happy couple, now parents to gorgeous 1-year-old Margo. Maren added, “After all of these projects, I decided to start my own design company, MEL Designs.” She looks forward to future projects in their home now that the show-stopping great room is done. Up next on the renovation to-do list? Continuing those gorgeous ash floors into the main floor dining room, removing some old school built-ins upstairs in the master suite, and a refresh for the sunken living room near the double front doors. That’s a lot of changes and work ahead. But for now, there’s baby Margo to enjoy. 


This article was printed in the March/April 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.