Ranch Reno Goes Retro: The Dyer's Midcentury Home in MidtownApr 30, 2021 01:04PM ● By Lisa Lukecart
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
It took three years of patience and persistence…The house had to be just right. When Cheryl Dyer finally found it, she knew it was the one. The raised ranch-style house in midtown matched the conceptual midcentury design she and her husband desired. The bones of the living room and kitchen could carry out the theme. But as the married couple walked through the house, it became apparent changes needed to be made. The dark wood paneling and shuttered rooms diverged from their vision for a bright, open-spaced ambiance.
“We had to be pretty coy about what we were going to do,” Kyle Dyer said. “We were going to gut it.”
The Dyers contacted AToM, an architectural design duo, to sketch up plans even before making an offer on the house. Their dream began to become reality when renovations got underway in August 2016. The Dyer family basically lived in the basement while construction pounded away upstairs. The living room, kitchen, and hallway became transformed in about seven months. The result is a warm, welcoming makeover. Walking past the original earth-toned flagstone entryway, it feels like stepping onto the set of a 1960s television show. Modern touches mingle easily with the blast-from-the-past décor.
A general contractor and subcontractors took down doors and walls. Load-bearing steel columns wrapped in mahogany now elevate the ceiling in the kitchen and dining and living rooms. The central attraction is the high-gloss white laminated breakfast bar enclosed in wooden wall slats. The modern bar is supported by rods notched into the slats, so it’s suspended from the ceiling. Only one wide leg maintains a rigid connection with the floor. The effect is a linear reception area where the Dyers eat dinner, play games, and discuss their day. Globe lights flick on at night, creating a cozy vibe.
“It’s the epicenter, or heart to the home,” explained Brian Kelly, the primary designer for AToM.
Brian, along with his wife, Andrea Kelly, launched the business in 2009. AToM’s acronym (Architecture, Teaching, objects, Media) is a mix of their talents. Andrea handles client relations—even going so far as to help clients house hunt or shop for flooring. When these two licensed architects are not collaborating on projects, Brian works as a full-time tenured professor of architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His wife was a former adjunct professor in the same department.
“We found we have different skills and abilities, but work well together,” Andrea said.
The design duo helped create an eye-catching scheme for the Dyer house. Brian has been drawing oculus designs for years and incorporated one into the skylight in the kitchen. Natural light fans outward through the small openings, bouncing off surfaces at various angles.
“It works so well I rarely notice it until [visitors] say, ‘Oh, that’s so cool,’” Cheryl said.
The sun’s rays stream onto the cherry wood of the kitchen island. AToM added a compost bin, built into the butcher-block top with a removal canister, but Cheryl uses it as extra storage space instead.
Contractor Doug Kiser, of dKISER design.construct, built the shelving, the top of the island, and other special touches. Custom shelves for cookbooks keep the kitchen free of clutter while looking sleek and modern. Inside the island is a custom wine rack mixing white and mahogany woods.
The contrasting shades scheme continues with open and corner shelves for dishes, lit underneath with LED strips that serve as task lighting. Snowy white IKEA cabinets allow for hidden storage below for pots, pans, and kitchen utensils. The pantry is disguised, looking like part of the wall instead of a mundane cupboard. Rather than a tile backsplash, a piece of clear glass painted white on the back adheres to the drywall behind the stove.
The dining room is a near twin of the kitchen, with custom mahogany shelves filled with Russel Wright midcentury white ceramic pottery. Custom inset cabinets painted in leapfrog green, funky yellow, and abalone shell white were added to give tucked-away items a hipster vibe. A hopper door swings down from the middle shelf to reveal alcohol for those special occasions when imbibing seems in order. Against another wall, a print by Omaha artist Mary Zicafoose hangs above a vintage dresser, used primarily as a buffet.
The chocolate-colored wood floor stretches into the living room. The subtly darker shade pulls out the lighter hues of the slats and walls. Barrow, their little dog, plants his paws possessively on the midcentury green sofa. Dusty pink chairs face a dressed coffee table offering Oreo cookies and a hot beverage for guests.
From there, the hallway restorations tie it all together. A revised stair enclosure includes a custom cap piece on the banister. Some of Cheryl’s artwork hangs along the wall. Kyle shows off his creative skills in the basement. He sketched a 3D design online, built frames, and cut plywood to create climbing rock walls.
The family’s two teenagers, when not in their bedrooms or at the breakfast bar, spend time in the family room. The Dyers preferred to keep this space intact since the classical design naturally lent itself to the modern. Linus, 17, plays on his computer in front of the inviting gas fireplace. The floor plan allows for easier communication, which he appreciates...sometimes. Ada, 15, mentions the darker tones of the room are cozy.
“She would rather live in a Victorian manor,” Cheryl joked.
See more of AToM’s design work at atomdesignstudio.com. When the AToM design team recently drove past the Dyer house at night, they saw the family through a window, playing a game at the breakfast bar and enjoying some laughs. A measure of satisfaction for having contributed to that heartwarming scene coursed through them. After years of searching, the Dyers were finally home.
This article originally appeared in the May issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.