Home Feature: A Sophisticated Country StunnerAug 27, 2021 04:02PM ● By Lisa Lukecart
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Parker, also known as The Al Capone, snorted. The horse could not be bothered to engage in social pleasantries during lunchtime. Nancy Keegan smiled at him as she walked into the clean, cool stables on a balmy summer day.
Parker is just one of the handsome American quarter horse studs who roam Keegan’s lush, 125-acre property on Rainwood Road in rural Douglas County. When she and her husband, Don Voelte, dreamed of a permanent home, it included an equestrian center. After years of traveling the world for their careers in the energy and investment banking industries, the Omaha-born-and-raised professionals were thrilled to return to their home state and make their wishes a reality.
The center’s stables include a courtyard, providing a sunny spot for their four grandchildren to enjoy the horses, and a welcoming lounge with enough room and atmosphere for a dinner party, which Keegan plans to host soon for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Board of Directors. She and Voelte hold leadership roles with a host of organizations, including University of Nebraska Foundation, Nebraska Medicine, Nebraska Global Investment Co., and UNL’s College of Engineering, among others.
Keegan, an avid rider and competitor, wanted to ensure her horses had the best. The hilly countryside east of Bennington is an ideal spot for riding, where the horses can gallop free in the fenced-off acreage. (The couple also owns an additional 240 acres in the region.) Keegan practices in the 100-foot by 200-foot heated indoor arena, complete with a sand floor. In poor weather, the horses exercise in the European-style walker. Ryder, a multiple world champion, is retired at 16 years old. But Keegan, a member of the American Quarter Horse Association, still competes with three of their five horses, in English and Western flat classes.
“I was born into loving them,” said Keegan, 61, who has been riding for 55 years. Dii, her 8-year-old rescue Chihuahua mix, yawned, causing her pink pearl collar to jangle.
“She’s the horse person in the family,” Voelte explained, then joked, “Nancy runs and owns all this, but I got just one acre around the ‘manzebo.’”
Voelte, 68, isn’t a rider. Instead, he hangs out in the gazebo area built specifically for his “manly” activities, such as grilling and trap shooting. But this isn’t to say Voelte doesn’t have other spaces in the home. Some days, he spends time in his heated garage with his cars, or “toys,” as he calls them. Or he relaxes in his sauna. A wine room, blue-lit and temperature-controlled, holds bottles waiting to be opened. Voelte keeps a spreadsheet on when each vintage will peak.
“He spends more time choosing and studying than drinking. It works for me because I like drinking it,” Keegan joked. “If too many peak (simultaneously), that’s when people get gifts.”
When building their 7,168-square-foot house, the couple wanted it to include interests and accumulative experiences. It needed to be a spot where friends and family could congregate. The homeowners appreciate an open floor plan, allowing ample natural light to filter throughout the home. The running jest is that it’s a full-time job to keep the windows washed. Arjay Builders of Omaha constructed the traditional-style home, adding modern design elements. Voelte trusted the company to spin the four-bedroom house about 10 degrees to allow more sunlight to enter, which warms the wood floors during winter.
The interior, though, needed the right person to harmonize the design scheme.
“Nancy and I have big visions,” Voelte said.
Colorado-based designer Frances Karsh with Karsh Interiors tweaked the couple’s Steamboat Springs condo, so they knew she was up to the challenge. Karsh added a fresh, transitional look to the interior. The result is spacious rooms layered with hidden gems. The library, for instance, appears conventional with books stacked to the ceiling. On closer inspection, a hidden door in the shelves leads to a shelter. A burnt-orange window seat and velvet chairs provide cozy comfort. A black lacquered writing desk gleams, waiting to be utilized. The desk was bought in Los Angeles, earlier in their 31 years of marriage.
Karsh, with 21 years of experience under her tool belt, also had to design around collections. Eclectic, modern artwork focuses on their later years in life. Some purchases came from local artists in Vietnam and Australia. Vases, paintings, and sculptures commemorate travels from countries such as Russia and Japan. A modern painting by Karen Lastre displays a splash of dark reds and oranges against a white wall that catches the eye right when someone walks through the front door. Round pendant lights and a fireplace emit vibrant vibes. Classy grays and whites in the sofas and rugs soften the scene.
“It’s a classic, subdued, somewhat modern color palette,” Karsh said.
The primary bedroom’s dark wooden door almost appears to be an art piece in itself. It opens to an art niche built into the wall to hold a heavy alabaster Chinese horse sculpture. The horse’s bridle, blanket, and saddle symbolize the Forbidden City. An alien-looking light dangles from the ceiling over the bed. White barn doors slide to reveal the bathroom, which houses an infinity tub, a stone mosaic shower, and heated floors. The homeowners make use of the adjacent “owner’s office,” where they focus on their philanthropy and volunteerism.
Hosting company means visiting the great room, which encompasses the living, dining, and kitchen areas. The dining room contains a linear, handblown lasso chandelier, which proved difficult to install but provides a big effect. A walnut dining table stretches underneath. The living room invites guests to sink into blue-gray chenille chairs surrounding a round glass table. The kitchen’s soothing gray tones beckon people to sit on the patterned white-and-gray stools in front of the split-level quartz island. A butler’s pantry declutters the countertops by hiding appliances. Every element in the space is well considered and planned.
Down the small flight of stairs is a lower-level bar for entertaining, and a lounge area where the couple unwinds. Just a door away there’s a seasonal room, where Voelte exhibits some of his personal artwork. (He dabbles in painting a bit himself.) A see-through fireplace and heated wood floors enhance the atmosphere on chilly days. Keegan enjoys having a cup of coffee on the home’s stone deck, and the balcony provides an impressive view of the countryside.
The couple can now call a place home in Nebraska after years of traveling the globe. That home, and its vista, are a dream come true.
This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Omaha Home Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.