Casa SxS Fulfills a DreamDec 30, 2021 11:45AM ● By Chris Christen
Photo by Daniel Johnson
Jason “Sutty” Sutton appreciates a home that satisfies everyday pleasures. For him, that’s listening to music, cooking, and hanging out with family, friends, and pets.
His ultra-contemporary Zipper House in Seattle set the bar for his model back in 2005. Every inch of the reimagined 1950s split-level house by DeForest Architects was designed for low-key living, working, and entertaining. Jason has realized that again in Casa SxS, a 1920s Spanish-influenced home in Omaha’s Happy Hollow neighborhood.
Jason and his wife, Simone, and their two grade-school-age children relocated to Omaha from Seattle in July 2020 after living in London for two years. Serendipity brought them here.
Jason grew up in Douglas County and has an affinity for Omaha’s historic neighborhoods. Every now and then he would browse residential real estate listings online for virtual tours. In June 2019, a Spanish beauty on Happy Hollow Boulevard caught his eye.
Even as a boy, he knew the neighborhood had “magical appeal.”
Jason couldn’t resist clicking to learn more.
At the time, the Suttons were days away from breaking ground on a Swedish-modern farmhouse—designed by the same architect as the Zipper House—in Seattle. “We were shovel in the ground,” Jason said, when the Happy Hollow listing changed everything.
His first call was to friends Mark and Mikal Eckstrom, designers with Maison MxM, with a request to check out the property. The Eckstroms did one better with a FaceTime tour.
Jason was immediately sold on buying the 5,500-square-foot home and relocating his family to Omaha. Simone needed convincing.
“We had to sell her on the idea of living here,” Jason said. “She had never been to Nebraska.”
Horses are a big part of Simone’s life, and Nebraska’s wide-open spaces cinched the deal.
The Suttons’ purchase offer was contingent on closing the sale in six business days.
“It was all about hitting our wedding anniversary,” Jason explained. Plus, time was of the essence in pulling the plug on their Seattle building project.
The Suttons enlisted the Eckstroms as creative directors for the home’s makeover, setting a firm completion deadline: one year from the closing date. It would be dubbed the Casa SxS project, in a nod to the homeowners’ names (Sutty x Simone) and the style of the house.
The Eckstroms delivered, one year from the date of purchase. And the results found their way into Luxe Interiors + Design magazine’s 2021 RED Awards competition.
“I still can’t believe we did it in 12 months, with long-distance clients, during a pandemic,” Mikal said. “Under typical circumstances, it would be a multi-year project.”
A design plan meticulously developed and managed by Mikal provided a detailed roadmap for architect Brian Stokes, general contractor McDaniel Wallquist, and a long list of subcontractors, suppliers, and vendors.
“Everything was front-loaded,” Mark said. “Jason didn’t want anything left to chance because of the tight timeline…We hunkered down for about 80 hours one week and mapped out the design plan for the whole house—room layouts, hardscapes, custom rugs and metalwork, carpets, fabrics, fixtures, everything. Then it was all about implementing the plan.”
Zoom meetings, FaceTime chats and text messages at all hours kept everyone in the loop. Scheduled work time in the house protected subcontractors from COVID-19 exposures on the job.
The Eckstroms love deep dives into design, and Casa SxS displays a high degree of creative license.
“We’re all about stretching creative boundaries. If we’re not making you feel uncomfortable, then we’re not doing anything special,” Mark said.
A cardinal rule: “We don’t like everything to be one note. If there’s something old, something new has to be next to it.”
You’ll find a nod to Mexican artist and designer Pedro Friedeberg in their work. In the Sutton home, the surrealist’s influence is seen in graphic plays of black and white in flooring, tile, upholstery, and ceiling wallpaper.
Spanish colonial accents borrow from the home’s architectural style and Simone’s love of Spanish equestrian themes and motifs in textiles, art, and decor.
“Throughout the house, we considered who they are, where they’ve lived, where they’re going,” Mikal said.
“Everything is connected in the design—furniture, lighting, art, rugs, draperies, motifs,” Mark said.
A highlight is a custom family crest—two interlocking S’es in a quatrefoil with a corner star for each family member. The crest graces everything from china and glassware for entertaining, to decorative ironwork, to a 27-foot cowhide area rug in the salon.
Equally innovative: A Cole & Son Fornasetti cloud mural on a newly arched ceiling in the primary bedroom suite, and Gucci’s Green Heron print wallpaper in the ensuite bath.
An Omaha World-Herald story from 1931 called the Sutton home one of the best examples of Spanish architecture in the Midwest, with its red-tiled roof, symmetrical stucco design, and arched windows.
The house reportedly was built in 1928 for the then-princely sum of $16,000 by noted architect Bert Hene, whose timeless mark can be seen throughout the Happy Hollow, Fairacres, Dundee, and Country Club neighborhoods.
Among its distinguishing features are a salon with a massive smooth-stone hearth and Juliet balcony, and a 40-foot sunroom with broken-marble-and-tile flooring.
The salon—originally a library/music room—holds one of the home’s most intriguing stories.
On Sept. 29, 1947, a gunshot was fired through a window of the home. The bullet hole remains to this day in a bookcase shelf. The shooter is unknown.
“It makes for great cocktail fodder,” Mark said.
“We love to entertain, and this is a perfect house for it,” Simone said. “Although that’s been a little limited with COVID.”
She’s a laid-back, informal hostess. For her, the ideal party has “great food, good drinks, and loud music” with a playlist compiled by her husband. “Jason is the resident DJ.” He thoroughly enjoys their whole-house audio system and media room surround-sound system.
“We always have music going on, kids around, families around,” Jason said. “Friends are coming around again, too. The pool attracted a lot of neighbors over the summer.”
“We had a dream team, from the contractor to the architect to the project manager to the landscaper,” Mikal said. “There was an energy and willingness to let each other breathe, then take control. The end result was magic.”
From Mark’s perspective, “The client had a lot to do with that because Jason is so diplomatic and so kind. He would listen to people and be a mediator and keep the project moving forward.”
“Most people don’t match my aesthetic,” Jason said. “Our dialogue was nonstop.”
“We knew that we were in great hands,” said Simone, a speech therapist at a therapeutic riding stable in the Omaha area. “The house lives well.”
The Suttons’ collaboration with Maison MxM continues on a farmhouse renovation near Kennard, Nebraska.
“You will never see a farmhouse like this, ever,” Mikal promised.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.