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Omaha Magazine

A Touch of Nantucket in Nebraska

Feb 26, 2021 11:58AM ● By Hannah Amrollahi

Omaha is no longer the 20-minute city it once was, thanks to western sprawl. But for Kate and Ben Knowles, it can be, given the right location. 

 A decade ago, the couple invested in a 1950s-era home in the Loveland neighborhood near 90th and Dodge streets.

“We liked the lot, the mature trees, and the location in the center of Omaha,” Ben said. That convenient locale was an asset.

A bit later, they had a son. Then a second boy. Eventually, they had a third son on the way. 

“We were expanding as a family,” Kate said. Their space needs were growing, too. They began asking, is it time to move?

Ben and Kate grew up in Omaha and have family in town. Ben works at the family firm Knowles Law. Their oldest child was starting school nearby. 

“We liked where we are in Omaha,” Ben said. “For us, this is going to be a forever home.” 

 Once the couple decided to stay, the question at hand became redesign or build new? Considering their visions of high ceilings and natural light, and dealing with the reality of an uneven lot and narrow entrance with stairs from the garage, the Knowles decided to build a custom home.

“If you’re taking the house down to nothing, it is time to decide if it’s worth knocking down,” Ben said. 

In 2017, the Knowles met with Advance Design and Construction owner Steve Taft. Then Kate made another call. 

“She called at the perfect time,” said Erica Bryant, interior designer with Erica Bryant Design. “It was so great to have the architect, the builder, and myself all work together,”  on the initial design.

Interior design goes beyond furniture to the flow of the space. Kate welcomed Bryant’s input on walkway width, floor plan, and lighting. Bryant also helped with exterior elements, including the front porch and door.

“I think she had so many wonderful things to add right from the beginning,” Kate said.

 A curved path moves from the tucked-back garage and drive to the front door. Gray-painted shingles and white trim over stone give a modern shell to the colonial-style home. Abundant white-paneled windows and a two-story layout with the boys’ bedrooms on the top floor call back to classic design.

With Kate’s inspiration from the “casual, timeless, traditional look of Nantucket homes,” the Knowles have a style that lives up to their self-described adjectives of “bright, airy, and approachable.”   

  Outside, pale-blue shingles and white trim highlight the front entryway and door. Inside, the foyer opens to the living room, and large back windows overlook the yard with the dining room and kitchen in view. The floor plan is open, yet offers distinct spaces for different purposes. 

“We focused on each area,” Kate said, “to make each beautiful but functional.” 

 Wool carpet lines the hallways, while white-oak flooring is featured prominently throughout the home, offering durability so toothpaste, mud, and all sorts of boy trappings clean up stain-free. 

“We’d rather invest up front,” Kate said, than have to replace less practical materials down the road.   

  Viewing the home as a lifelong investment proved helpful when making design decisions. Some of those might not raise the resale value, but definitely improve quality of life, Kate said.

The size of the lot provided the Knowles with opportunities considered rare in central Omaha. With three boys, Kate appreciates the regraded, and now kid-friendly, large yard with mature trees, as well as her office overlooking it that allows her to hear and see the boys playing outside. 

“You’re not going to get money out of [the yard improvements] right away, for sure,” Ben said, “but you’ll enjoy it.” 

 Even traditionally “dreary” rooms are designed with intention and touches that make them luxurious. The laundry room has marble checkerboard flooring, white cabinets, and a textured tile backsplash behind a separate deep sink. 

 In the kitchen, durable Caesarstone acts as a low-maintenance countertop and backsplash with a marble appearance. The powder room also features marble flooring with a plaid pattern that accents a wallpaper with a blue flower motif. 

Building the home meant the Knowles were able to consider how they used the space—even small details, like where they reach for a spatula while cooking—and design around that. 

The long island and drip ledge under the sink in the kitchen quietly complement industrial-style light fixtures, wicker seating, and delicate metal chandeliers.

“I was more big picture,” Ben said of the design venture. “[Kate’s] really able to delve into the details.”

“I had a lot of fun working with Ben,”
Kate said. “We had similar taste
and style.”

 Kate also considered her family’s future needs, giving each of her boys a large bedroom they could grow into, as well as a playroom and bathroom they could share. The large, open playroom is now filled with Montessori-style toys, all within reach on low counters that can be easily adjusted higher as the boys age.

Rebuilding their home has reinvigorated Kate’s social media presence and home decor and lifestyle blog,  Kate Knowles Home.

“She has a great style,” Bryant said of Kate. “She is really thoughtful on all her decisions. I love that timeless and classic approach to living.”  

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