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Omaha Magazine

Coming Home to Wedgewood: Colleen Kavan's Ranch Reno

Apr 28, 2022 05:11PM ● By Meghan Townley
large abstract portrait in bright living room

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Omaha real estate agent and interior designer Colleen Kavan has a success story to share; one virtually unheard of in today’s era of supply chain issues and construction worker shortages: She purchased, gutted, and completely remodeled her 1976 ranch home in the Wedgewood neighborhood in southwest Omaha in seven months. 

Kavan didn’t accomplish this feat alone, but rather with help from her family and a bevy of trusted subcontractors, many of whom have become friends over the years.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

“In this market, I sold my [old] house five seconds after I put it on the market, so I had to get this one done. But, you have to be patient,” Kavan said. Luckily, she didn’t have to wait long at all.   

  “My three boys demoed the entire house. It took three days and five dumpsters. We got it done fast,” Kavan said. “And my youngest son trimmed out the entire basement.”

Kavan used to work in the home building industry and formed relationships with subcontractors when she co-owned Kavan Custom Construction with ex-husband Rich Kavan, with whom she remains friends. On this home project that was uniquely hers, she acted as her own general contractor. 

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

“I had subcontractors in here that I went to grade school with, and my kids went to high school with my painter,” Kavan said. “A lot of relationships were formed while we were building.” The ranch home renovation was a labor of love, she said.

Rich Kavan, Kavan’s three sons, and her builder worked together installing a 16-foot, 600-pound steel support beam into the basement ceiling. The beam and a 10-foot header became necessary when the upstairs kitchen floor started to droop after removing two walls. The beam was carried around the side of the house (requiring the back fence be removed), then hoisted into place through a basement window, secured, and drywalled over. It was quite an ordeal.

  “Watching this scared me to death,” Kavan said of the arduous process. 

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

“My boys and Rich did a lot of the labor in here,” Kavan said. She credits the relative ease and speed of the project to her network of contractors and her extensive experience building houses. Kavan’s advice for novice home renovators? “Oh boy. If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t do it.”  

Sticking to her timeline took a lot of preplanning, she added. “I had picked out the hardware and the lights and the good stuff months before. I shopped almost every day somewhere. Lights, carpet, hardware, vanities…but it didn’t come together for me until the hardware went in, the countertops [were] put on, and the stain went on the floor.”

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Kavan’s style—clean-lined contemporary design with a hint of traditional—is on view throughout her home. The upper level is flooded with natural light streaming in from her glass front door and sliding glass deck doors. The white pine flooring throughout the entry, living room, and kitchen, paired with the clean lines and black and brass finishes, provide a fresh, modern landscape for the colorful art on the walls.  

  A focal point of the home decor is artwork by Kavan’s brother, the famed local artist Dan Boylan. His paintings hang in almost every room in the house. 

“They make it special for me, which I love,” Kavan said while looking at one of Boylan’s portraits in her living room. The work hangs above another treasured piece—a framed photograph of another brother, who passed away.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

A custom metal fireplace in the living room was created by Steve Nollette at Nollette Metal Works of Blair. The distinct work is made of an oxidized steel sheeting finished with carriage bolts and metal strapping secured with screw rivets. Nollette oxidized the black steel and then sealed it with a satin clear coat to protect it from rusting and oxidizing further. The project took about a week from start to finish and has an industrial feel to it. The carriage bolts give the whole facade a stylish look. The end product is a statement piece at the center of Kavan’s living room.

Nollette also restored the once-rusted government desk in Kavan’s office.

“We cleaned it up, reinforced some spots, oxidized, and sealed it,” Nollette said of the desk. “We had to do a four-part clear [coat] to get that durable finish using both satin and gloss automotive paint.” 

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Nollette said he appreciated Kavan’s trust in his design skills.

“She said that she would love whatever we came up with because she knows our work,” he said. “Those are the jobs that we really enjoy; when we have the freedom to get creative.”

Besides the renovation and design, Kavan had insight on how to buy the right house for renovation for the right price, thanks to her history selling real estate. 

“I had a lot of things going for me, I guess,” Kavan said. “And a supportive neighborhood. You can imagine the trucks that came through here.” Residents complaining about the noise and traffic were not an issue, she said.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Wedgewood, near 120th and Pacific streets, has proved to be a great location for Kavan for other reasons as well. 

“This is a fantastic place to live,” she said. “I belong to St. Robert’s [Bellarmine Parish] and I can just walk up to church. It is a social neighborhood and the friendliest bunch of people.” 

The neighborhood hosts a book club and wine nights at the Wedgewood club house, which is also walking distance from Kavan’s house. There are tennis courts and a pool as well.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Kavan couldn’t be more pleased with her renovated home, its ideal locale, and her congenial neighbors. 

“I have lived all over Omaha, and knew that I wanted to get back here. My son’s mother-in-law lives right down the street, and my son lives right over there,” Kavan said, pointing west across 120th Street. “I just felt like I was coming home.” 


This article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.