At Home: Farmhouse Chic + Family Fun at Olive AcresApr 21, 2020 12:22PM ● By Hannah Amrollahi
Photography by John Gawley
Olive Acres was still a dream nine years ago for Cortney Sells, president of The Firm Business Brokerage.
Then, on a trip to Las Vegas, a chance meeting with a fellow traveler kicked off a chain of events that led to her dream country estate becoming a reality.
“I ate bad olives and missed my flight,” Sells said, explaining the origin of the moniker.
Delayed, she met Adam Jaime visiting from Boston. She liked olives, he didn’t, they clicked. Then he moved to Omaha and they added two children, Vienna and Knoxx, to their first home.
“I knew Cort really wanted to own a farm,” Jaime said. “I love Nebraska. It’s a totally different way of life.”
Real estate agent Franny Shaver-Batchelder learned the children of a former Union Pacific president were selling their property in Yutan, Nebraska.
“We’d see so many different places, but nothing met the criteria,” Shaver-Batchelder said. While the farm “stood still,” having never been updated, its frame, acreage, original maple woodwork, and location had the makings of Sells’ dream home.
“She started to have this vision,” Shaver-Batchelder said.
Acting as interior designers and general contractors, Sells and Jaime spent a year
“We just started gutting,” Sells said.
The redesign converted a garage into a mudroom space with custom shiplap, knocked out 17 walls for an open floor plan, and added a wine cellar in the basement. The separate living spaces are now delineated by counters, flooring, wall coverings, and fixtures rather than walls, and unique patterns pull colors, textures, and themes across the home. With 14 different wall coverings among other eclectic pairings, Cortney heard, “You cannot have this many” from others often, but she could picture it coming together. “It has so much character,” Sells said. Now, “They love it more.”
The library’s maple beams, stone fireplace with a genuine Union Pacific wooden railway tie mantel, and bookcase that sits opposite were restored. Sells added horse burlap-textured wallpaper, maps between the ceiling beams, and “speckled antler” carpet to create a depth and coziness surprising in a large room with ample natural light. A pitch card table provides space for the family’s favorite game.
“My children read every night, so it was important to have a library,” Sells said.
Daughter Vienna designed her bedroom in purple and teal, and likes to rearrange the furniture and decorations on occasion. She suggested the nook under the basement stairs and campaigned for an added TV. When not tending to Coco, the chestnut brown lamb she bottle-raised, Vienna said she enjoys the acreage. “I just do crazy sports,” she said, “like four-wheeling and wake boarding.”
The renovated outdoor pool rivals local waterparks and is filled by area fire trucks. A lazy river loops around a swim-up bar. It’s flanked to the left by the splash pad and an 18-person, in-ground jacuzzi; on the right, sun tanners enjoy a view of the lake used for water sports. A sound system and fire pit round out the space and extend the season.
Inside, the basement floors are moisture-resistant. A generous changing room provides lockers and privacy for dressing, along with a faux-grass floor. Above, the deck and maple screened porch offer a beautiful Midwestern vista.
“It is our favorite spot,” Sells said. “We can see the pond and the animals.”
Olive Acres is home to horses, pigs, sheep, and cattle. Sells said she wanted to give her children a taste of her childhood, especially showing animals at Aksarben.
“I thought, I am going to have my family grow up showing cattle and doing chores,”
The master bedroom looks out onto the feed troughs, so Sells and Jaime wake up to views of cows each morning. Barn doors reveal the master shower with one-way tinted windows for a full view of the fields. A Japanese soaking tub (also enjoyed by Coco) sits across from the vanity. Sells recommended picking and choosing fixtures, going “Costco instead of custom” and mixing price ranges on less instrumental fixtures.
“Once you set the tone, it all blends in,” she said.
The family used local contractors for all the work, even taking their suggestions on design elements, such as the arched doorway to the wine cellar.
“We trust them like family,” Sells said. “We didn’t have to have some fancy contractors. We had three local guys and they worked hard and became our friends.”
Sells said life on the farm suits her and helps her balance career and family.
For work, she is constantly “on the phone doing deals, buying and selling. I love that the cell phones don’t work out here. It lets me be 100% with my family. I’m 100% present,” Sells said. “Work will be there, but all the blood, sweat, and tears? [Family] is what it is all for.”
Jaime said he enjoys tackling farm projects, from driving the Bobcat to repairing the extensive fencing to contain the livestock, to perfecting his burn pile technique. But his
favorite part of life at Olive Acres? Well, on this his views align with Sells’.
“It’s secluded,” Jaime said. “It’s complete family time.”
The foursome is looking forward to their first full summer in the home. Vienna prepared with a special Valentine’s Day gift for Sells—matching mother-daughter swimsuits for Memorial Day 2020.
“This will be our very first kick-off,” Sells said. “She’s so excited.”
This article was printed in the May 2020 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.