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Omaha Magazine

A Modern Home for the Modern Bachelor Brett Helling’s ‘Turn-of-the-Century’ Home Gets an Update

Dec 27, 2020 03:32PM ● By Carrielle Sedersten
Brett Helling's bedroom, bed w/ wooden headboard

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

We're two decades into the 21st century, and so much has changed...technology, pop culture, and home decor trends, to name a few. A home interior untouched for 10 or 15 years serves as a time capsule of sorts.

Brett Helling’s spacious four-bedroom, 3 1/2-bath house was not yet a decade old when he purchased it in 2014. Yet, a couple years in, he found the home had that dated, time-capsule feel. He hired Courtney Otte, founder and principal interior designer at The Modern Hive Design Studio, to help bring it into the new era.

The home’s evolution from the earthtone 2000s to the modern 2020s happened piece by piece, starting with new furniture in the dining, living, and sitting rooms.

Otte brought in onyx, shades of chocolate and grays, along with white linens and warm wood tones with the goal of creating a pad for a bachelor but not a typical bachelor pad.

“Courtney and I worked together to come up with a design and an aesthetic that...you could add feminine touches to it, if and when I get married someday,” Helling said.  

In the basement, only the sofa and Helling’s beloved Lovesac bean bag lived to see another day. Everything in the basement office went. Sleek, dark brown luxury vinyl tile flooring replaced the carpet, and a 3-D wall panel feature went up. Pops of red in the graphic artwork and chair made for a bright, creative, and inspiring home workspace for Helling, founder of information technology firm Rethink402.

With a refreshed main level and new office, more changes were inevitable.

“As we did that, I realized that it was kind of cool to have a nicely designed house,” Helling said. “So then we just kind of started doing more and more.”

The primary bedroom got a fresh coat of paint and the same LVT flooring as the office. Despite Helling’s hesitation, Otte placed wallpaper that looks like a three-dimensional rendering of riveted metal found on vintage airplanes behind his bed.

“This is one of the cases where I just trusted Courtney,” Helling said. “She put it up, and it’s one of my favorite places in the house.”

The biggest undertaking was removing a small portion of the wall to make room for pocket doors that slide open to the primary bathroom.

Remodeling the primary bath wasn’t as simple, as it required gutting the space from top to bottom. The glass-door shower was a welcome change from the previous tub-shower combo that Helling, even at 6’5”, had to hurdle to get into. Now Helling enjoys a sleek custom-designed shower that pairs black, large-format tile in a herringbone pattern on the back wall with rectangular, charcoal porcelain on the sides. A mosaic limestone floor completes the modern aesthetic.  

“Tile is my game,” Otte professed. “I usually [design] about six to seven tiles per
[primary] bathroom…the installers always think I’m insane.”

With another project done, it only seemed right to finish the rest of the house, Helling said. Simplicity be damned, as all the different tile shapes, sizes, and materials beautifully play off each other. The darker ones ground the design, while the lighter finishes balance and elevate it. So, too, does the accent lighting, found in the wood-finished shower shampoo niche and on the undersides of the floating vanity. Its onyx waterfall countertop and milky chocolate-stained double drawers scatter the light and give the room a golden glow.

“It had really good bones. It just needed a lot of cosmetic updates,” Otte said. They upgraded to modern doors, installed new light gray baseboards, painted the beige walls a crisp alabaster, and changed out the travertine floors to the LVT.

The cable staircase, anchored by dark brown-stained birch stairs with oatmeal-tone carpet running down the middle, is now the centerpiece of the main level. The thin cables stretched like guitar strings allow more transparency than the previous white, wooden banisters, providing unobstructed views of the second floor.

Working with the existing main floor layout, the original oak cabinets were fitted with new doors and stained a warm dark brown, harmoniously tying in with the floors and staircase. 

The existing mosaic tile kitchen backsplash was swapped for black marble subway tile, and earthtone granite traded for white quartz. The round kitchen island face was evened out into a sharp rectangle and covered with planks of rift-sawn, white oak wood, adding clean lines for a modern feel. A white quartz waterfall countertop with nickel-hued veining plays up the piercing-hard angles even more.  

The light gray, washed wood on the island face is repeated on the stove hood, contrasting with the dark cabinets. Mixing the various finishes, all with different textures and patterns, creates layers of dimension and warmth.

Adding up all the projects, the entire home remodel took close to four years. “It could have been more efficient, but I just did it in chunks,” Helling said.

As a tech entrepreneur who works remotely, Helling has the luxury of not needing to be stationary. He traveled throughout the remodel, even taking a five-week trip across Southeast Asia and down under to Australia during the kitchen renovation.

Helling added: “I’m very OCD about my house when I leave. I turn the water off...I don’t want a pipe to break or anything like that....as I don’t have cell service and [might be] in a different time zone on the other side of the world. I trusted Courtney...I was able to do that and relax knowing that the project would get taken care of.”

That type of trust goes both ways in their six-year working relationship.

“Brett is probably one of my favorite types of clients to work with,” Otte said. “When people just trust your vision...Sometimes it’s a little messy, but in the end, it’s usually a good result.”

Visit themodern-hive.com to see more of Otte’s interior designs.  

This article first appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Home Magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.