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Omaha Magazine

Serendipity in Skyline Ranches: The Buzzells’ 1970s Home Gets a Fixer Upper-inspired Makeover

Jun 23, 2020 01:11PM ● By Carrielle Sedersten
the Bozzell family and pool

It was serendipity when Joni and Jon Buzzell found their Skyline Ranches home in 2014. They lived two miles away at the time, and Joni drove by the house almost daily while taking their daughter, Sydney, to school. One October morning, Joni saw a ‘for sale by owner’ sign in the yard. A short time later, she convinced husband Jon to go take a tour. A bit uncertain, they continued to shop around. Three months later, the home was still on the market—unheard of in Skyline—and the Buzzells decided to make an offer. 

They had shopped for a house in Skyline Ranches for months back in 2009 without any luck. This time, a home had sort of fallen in their lap and sat waiting for them, it seemed.

“It was kind of one of those God things,” said Joni, who’s been married to Jon for 17 years. “This is where we’re supposed to be.”

 For the Buzzells, the home’s winning feature was its location. Where others saw an outdated mud-brown and orange brick home with green carpet, low ceilings, and a choppy layout, Jon and Joni saw a house sitting on arguably one of the best lots in the neighborhood.

“To be able to get three acres this close to everything, that when we’re here we feel like we’re out in the country, and I’m 15 minutes from work…I would say we got a really good deal,” said Jon, an orthopaedic surgeon with OrthoNebraska. The location also works well for Joni’s commute to Gretna Public Schools, where she’s employed as a substitute school nurse.

The home’s popcorn ceilings were the first things to go, even before moving in in May 2015. Then, all the carpet came up, and everything inside and outside got a fresh coat of paint. The family lived in the unfinished space for three years, opting to wait on further interior renovations. 

“I think it’s helpful to live in [a house] first so you can figure out what your flow is,” Jon said.   

Instead, they tackled their backyard, out of necessity, really. The pool was unusable, the retaining wall was crumbling, and rotted-wood decking around the pool would pop up when you walked on it. “I had two little girls. I didn’t even want to let them back here. It was so dangerous,” Joni said.

The backyard also needed new water lines from the house, so they installed a new septic system, too, which allowed them to redesign the entire backyard layout. The new pool, pool equipment, and electrical box were all relocated further away from the house. Rock from the old retaining wall was repurposed to make a fire pit.

With the yard complete, major renovations inside the home finally began in spring 2018. They settled on a renovation plan that was ambitious by most standards: open the main level by tearing down walls separating the living area into five rooms; relocate the kitchen; relocate the master suite to a new 880-square-foot addition on the first floor; add a half bath and laundry room; and dig out the basement underneath the new addition.

Joni said her home’s interior was inspired by the HGTV show Fixer Upper. She used brick, wood, and shiplap to create a modern farmhouse. Having a soft, neutral color palette was a must, she said, after painting a previous bedroom blue and learning the hard way that color just isn’t for her. “I get tired of things so fast. We no more got that up, and I hated it. So, for five years, I had to live with that. I’m like, never again,” Joni said.

 Angie Hall, a project coordinator at G. Lee Homes, helped bring Joni’s vision to life, using hand-scraped solid maple hardwood flooring throughout the main level, a warm white on all the walls and brick fireplace, and adding new gray brick finishes and white shiplap accents. The biggest undertaking was finding a way to conceal the HVAC and steel beams supporting the second floor so as not to detract from the rustic interior design. The team at G. Lee Homes accomplished this by creating U-shaped, hand-planed maple covers that fit over the beams and look like solid wood.

The nine-month interior renovation wasn’t without a few hiccups, Hall said. The catastrophic flooding last spring created a waterfall through the home’s west basement window and left them with three inches of mud to clean up. Months later, when the crew pulled off the basement wall paneling, they found black mold from floor to ceiling. Fortunately, the flooding happened before much of the basement renovation was underway, and just after new kitchen cabinets being stored there had been moved upstairs.

 The Buzzells also had to live together on the home’s second floor while the main floor was under construction, and even spent six weeks in December and January living in their barn while contractors re-routed and replaced electrical wiring throughout the home. But, Joni said, they made the best of it.

These days, the Buzzells are loving their finished farmhouse and say the live-in renovation was worth all the sacrifice and wait. Though during the warmer months, you’ll typically find the family outside in the yard or picnicking on the deck. Daughters Sydney and Sophie spend their summers swimming with their friends, while Jon grills burgers and veggies or smokes a rack of ribs that he later tops with his homemade Carolina Reaper pepper glaze (made with his home-grown peppers). 

“You can tell he’s the cook of our family,” Joni said. “I can cook and I will cook, but his is just so much better. I’d rather be pulling weeds than cooking.”

Speaking of the summer weather, Joni added: “We can come out here again, which we’re so excited about, because you crave that deck time. We use this every chance we can.” 

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