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Omaha Magazine

A Bennington Lake Residence, Reborn: Tuscan Decor, Layout Get a Modern Farmhouse Makeover

Oct 27, 2020 08:23AM ● By Carrielle Sedersten
dining room table, buffet table

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Uhlir family's Bennington Lake home [9 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

When Jen and Tom Uhlir built their Bennington Lake home in 2007, it looked a world apart from the way it does now. After completing a year-long remodel in August 2019, their 8,000-square-foot home went from a Tuscan-style house with dark, heavy furniture, ornate wood finishes, and an earthy color palette to a bright, inviting modern farmhouse with a twist of industrial flair.

Starting in August 2018, the Uhlirs moved next door into their 1,500-square-foot guest house while the main house was nearly taken down to the studs—from the drywall to the trim to the floors. KB Custom Builds of Omaha served as contractor on the project.  

“We just started over. I think it gave [the home] new life,” Jen Uhlir said.

Of the nine bedrooms in the original floor plan, three were converted—one into an exercise room and two into offices, since both Jen and Tom work from home. The entryway pillars were switched out for more streamlined posts, and a staircase was added to access the second-floor loft.

Even though some of the original flooring was hardwood, they replaced it with lighter hickory hardwood and took out most of the carpet.

“My advice is always just tear it out and make the whole thing [one] wood floor,” said Stephanie Songster, interior designer at Fluff Interior Design, who worked on the Uhlir’s redesign along with Fluff’s president, Lorrie Williams. “It makes it look bigger…There’s [fewer] transitions and it gives you more flexibility with floor plans.”

The Uhlirs debated whether to carpet or go with hardwood on the main staircase. Ultimately, they opted for light wood tread and white riser stairs with modern metal railings.

In the great room, they removed one window and replaced the rest, including the stained wood trim. “We went white, and then in the jams, we decided to go black because I figured if we did all white, it was going to wash everything out to the lake,” said Uhlir, referring to her home’s water views. The design choice to exclude drapes and blinds allowed the wall of windows with two-tone window trim to become a main feature of the great room. 

When transitioning the decor style from Tuscan to modern farmhouse, it was important to the Uhlirs that they didn’t lose the warmth and coziness the Italian style is known for.

“We are not formal people, at all. That’s why I didn’t want anything stuffy. I wanted people to feel like you can just come in and kick off your shoes,” Uhlir said.

With a neutral color palette of grays and creams with black and dark-brown accents and touches of greenery, it can be challenging to create interest and warmth. Songster was able to bring a soothing, cozy feel to the home by layering textured materials throughout the rooms. “The important thing when you’re doing neutrals is that you do tons of texture,” she said. “Because if you can’t bring in interest in color, you bring it in through other ways.”

This house features bamboo Roman shades paired with two-tone blue curtains along the entire north wall overlooking the lake in the primary bedroom. Off the bedroom is the primary bath with herringbone ceramic tile and a stand-alone tub next to a stone wall with a built-in fireplace—perfect for cold winter days.

One of the major projects during the remodel was relocating Tom’s closet and opening the attic to create Jen’s primary closet. The only way to access her new closet is via an elevator through the primary bath, making it into her own little oasis. 

Besides reallocating spaces and changing the decor theme of the home, one of the biggest visual differences came from removing ceiling fans in the primary bedroom, dining room, and great room. The fans were replaced with industrial chandeliers fitted with Edison bulbs, giving them a vintage, yet refined style.

Additionally, a modern sputnik chandelier hangs above the circular, solid wood table in the breakfast nook off the kitchen, where the Uhlirs spend a lot of their time.

“This was one of my favorite adds because we sit and have coffee [here]. Our daughter does her homework here,” Uhlir said.

Adding a settee as a dining seat option (in addition to the four lattice-back chairs that surround the table) gives the nook a more laid-back vibe. The Uhlirs rarely eat in their bright and airy dining room unless they’re hosting guests.

Uhlir said, “We have a ton of family over. We entertain a lot. And then Tom, my husband, has a huge family…We host the family reunions. Forty to 50 people come and sleep for a weekend.”

Although family gatherings haven’t been the same this year due to the pandemic, and they may look a little bit different this holiday season, Uhlir is still excited to start decorating for Christmas. One of the few requests she had for designer Songster was a big bookcase in the library so she could display her Christmas village.

“My mom’s favorite holiday was Christmas,” Uhlir said. “I put up like 14 trees during Christmastime. I just deck out the whole house.”

In years past, all of her aunts, her grandma, her sister, her daughter, and her mom would spend the weekend before Christmas baking 20 to 30 different cookies and candies, then preparing goodie boxes to give away. So Christmas is a special time to remember her mom and the traditions they shared together.

“Family means everything,” Uhlir said. “I lost my mom about 4 1/2 months into our remodel. Her opinion and feedback on design were so important. It makes me feel like she is part of our home.”  

To view more home interiors that Songster and fellow Fluff designers have designed, visit fluffinteriordesign.com.

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