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Omaha Magazine

Lisa Worrall's Wonderland

Jun 25, 2021 04:12PM ● By Jenna Gabrial Gallagher
brightly colored greeting cards line white wall

Photo by Bill Sitzmann    

Lisa Worrall likes to show visitors before and after photos of her Westside-area split-level home. The before shot, taken around the time she and her then-teenaged son moved in after her divorce in 1999, is a study in earth tones, filled with imposing antique furniture she inherited from her grandmother. The after shot is a kaleidoscope of color, bold graphics, and some of Worrall’s favorite motifs, including stars, birdhouses, little chairs, and hands.

“After a few years in the house, I realized all that brown and beige just wasn’t me,” Worrall said. “I started putting things in estate sales and letting them go in order to have room for what came next.”

As she began to clear the space, Worrall knew she wanted to create four pieces of art for her living room walls, but the cost of four canvases proved prohibitively expensive. While she was walking around the art supplies aisle, she spotted some colorful paper and inspiration struck: she could achieve her vision by creating mosaics of cut paper.  

Photo by Bill Sitzmann    

The success of that project ultimately inspired a whole new career as an artist. Worrall’s Iddy Biddy Boo Design greeting cards and other artwork can be found at gift shops and specialty stores around Omaha, and her work has been shown at North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate. Recently, she was commissioned to create a large, joyful shadow box for the entrance of the new recreational therapy area at Omaha’s Munroe Meyer Institute. But even before that, those original art pieces empowered Worrall to create a home out of her own creativity and ingenuity.

“I never had the money to hire out. Everything had to happen within my power to do it myself,” Worrall said, noting that the extra time it took to do everything on her own may have saved her time and money in the long run. “I could really think about what I wanted. Once I figured it out, I never went off the rails.”

Worrall and her mother spent an entire summer painting all the woodwork in the 1967-built home to achieve a clean and bright white backdrop for her colorful decorating ideas. A book illustration project she took on funded the new flooring, and she hand-crafted pillows out of placemats and tea towels. Other textiles in the home, including the dining room curtains, were designed by Worrall herself; she created the pattern using cut paper art, then uploaded it to the fabric printing website spoonflower.com.  

“Walking into Lisa’s home is like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole,” said Julie Taylor, the director of sales and marketing for Iddy Biddy Boo Design. “She takes something that other people might write off as a lost cause and uses what she has to make it quite spectacular.”

This is certainly the case with Worrall’s garden. Formerly a standard, character-less suburban allotment, it is now yet another exuberant tableau where the artist explores her love of color, contrast, and texture. Sitting out there on a summer afternoon feels like living in a MacKenzie-Childs tea party. With tape and paint, Worrall transformed the concrete-slab patio into a black-and-white terrazzo, surrounded by a riot of perennials (many of which were originally free takeaways from the former community garden at Prairie Lane School where she taught before retiring). Like so much of Worrall’s home, the garden’s layout echoes a traditional folk art canvas—with the pared-down, repeating pattern of black-and-white squares in the center, allowing the border, a multicolored, magpie assortment of flowers and plants, to really stand out.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann    

It’s a design philosophy that’s given Worrall room to keep, and even showcase, some of the beloved antiques that she couldn’t bear to part with as her style evolved. She sleeps in the bed her grandfather was born in, and one of her guest rooms has a pie safe that had been in her grandparents’ basement throughout her childhood. There’s also a wicker chaise foraged from the nurse’s office at the first school where she taught, and a pristine dust ruffle, hand-stitched with birds, that she made from a set of curtains her mother found at Goodwill. “The shapes of these pieces are so interesting, but you have to get rid of the knick-knacks, the doilies, and all that or else it just looks fussy,” Worrall said.

Taylor added, “What’s really special about Lisa’s home is that she takes pieces of her past history and her current life and work and puts it all together in a way so that every place you look tells a story about her life.”

The two women first met about five years ago when a friend of a friend brought Taylor to see Worrall’s home—the type of thing that turns out to happen frequently in Worrall’s world. As she explained, “I think it’s inspiring for people to see that you can start with just one wall, and before you know it, you’ve changed everything.”  

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

Photo by Bill Sitzmann