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Omaha Magazine

The Home That Treasure Hunting Built: A Creative Eye, Thrifty Sense Help Create a Benson Jewel Box

Jun 23, 2020 01:04PM ● By Jenna Gabrial Gallagher

“Nothing in this house costs more than, like, $5,” said Kristen Hoffman, who shares a 1,000-square-foot home in Benson with her husband, Josh, and two young daughters. That includes most furnishings in her petite, but very stylish, main living space.

She’s exaggerating, of course—but, in truth, not by much. Most of the Hoffman family’s favorite finds have been scavenged from relatives, garage sales, thrift shops, and sidewalk discards. Take the 1970s-style rattan peacock chair in her dining room. Similar pieces are available for more than $1,000 on chic furniture websites like Chairish. Hoffman scored hers for free on Craigslist. The complementary wicker étagère is from her mom’s basement—it belonged to her sister when they were children. The vintage barber shop shaving station turned up in front of someone’s house down the street, and she hauled it home to use as a planter. As for the statement midcentury credenza that anchors the room? “Oh, that’s one of my best finds ever,” Hoffman said proudly. “It was $20 at the Goodwill on 72nd and Ames.”   

If she makes it sound easy, her husband assures everyone that it’s not. “People think Kristen just walks into a thrift store and finds 15 things,” Josh Hoffman said. “The reality is that she sometimes has to go 15 times to find one thing. There are items she’s spent months looking for—she’s just really diligent.”

“I’m kind of spiritual about it,” said Hoffman, a former Omaha Magazine art director who now has her own business as a freelance designer and portrait artist. “I will pray about something and, literally, the very next day it will turn up in a thrift store.”

The couple recalled the time they were at a warehouse sale at Hutch, a vintage home furnishings store in midtown Omaha, and Hoffman was describing the rug she wanted. “Actually, it’s just like the one we’re standing on,” she told Josh, who found the $50 price tag that looked like it had been attached as an afterthought, and they took the rug home.

Hoffman hesitated to assign a particular name to her broad-ranging personal style. It’s more about individual pieces that she loves. But she does have a few design rules: “I really like to use a color palette—a lot of deeper greens and terra cotta, lots of whites and charcoal gray and black. I try to keep the colors as muted as possible and keep texture to a minimum,” she said. “Since we have a small house, the more minimal we can keep things, the better. And I’m adamantly against painting furniture!”

The couple was able to buy the home, which sits just off the main strip in Benson, for under their budget in 2014 and have been excited to watch its value nearly double. “It was just a blah, boring house, but we love the neighborhood and I could see what it could be,” Hoffman said. 

She tries to choose pieces from the early 20th century to stick with the period of the home, which was built in 1909, and she avoids being too precious or trendy about anything. “I’ve killed one too many fiddle leaf figs,” she laughed, referring to the popular prima donna plant of the Instagram age. “My ficus is so wiry and crazy, it adds a lot of life to that corner of the room.”

While Hoffman enjoys decorating, more than anything it’s about the thrill of the hunt, she said. “Some people like to go get their nails done, or whatever. I like to spend my downtime thrifting.” 

This article was printed in the July/August 2020 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.