At Home: Conversation PiecesJul 01, 2022 10:47AM ● By Karen Campbell
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
When Rick and Janet Kyle, both 58, first toured their future Skylark Heights home over three years ago, the for-sale property was in dire need of loving care. The lawn was horribly neglected, the back deck was rotting away, and the interior had remained untouched since 1960—the year the home was built.
Still, it was love at first sight for the Kyles.
The couple knew the house, near 114th & Pacific streets, would be ideal for their retirement years. It checked every box: it was a true ranch, they adored the neighborhood, and they could make the home their own.
“We have always said—and we have been together a long time—that we wanted to retire by the time we are 60,” Janet said.
While Rick, an electrician, beat Janet to the punch by retiring last fall, his wife is not far behind. She will retire at the end of this year from her position as an executive vice president at a Medicare contracts firm.
The Kyles, who were high school sweethearts at Omaha Northwest, had lived in Keystone for nearly 30 years while raising their three children. Now, as empty nesters with two grandkids, they were anxious to start their next stage of life in a new home.
Work started on the Skylark Heights home immediately after the Kyles purchased it in late summer 2019.
“We knew it was going to be a complete gut job,” Rick said. “We hired the same people who have given me work for years, who do good work.”
Bearded Builders was hired for interior construction on the project, and Barker Brothers to complete the home’s exterior renovation. Straightline Design contributed architectural services, while Janet, who has a love for decorating, served as interior designer. Of course, Rick handled all of the electrical work.
Once a cream-colored abode with black shutters, the home’s façade is now nearly unrecognizable with its midnight-blue exterior and natural pinewood pillars and trim. As the interior was reconfigured, windows were moved, so new Pella windows replaced old, less energy-efficient ones.
The home’s approach, which previously was a narrow concrete walkway, then two steps leading up to a tiny front porch, was transformed with natural pavers in earthy shades, minimal landscaping, and rock and boulders by Lanoha Nurseries. Two rocking chairs with a table nestled in between now practically beg guests to sit and chat.
Inside, the Kyles were adamant about having an open layout with generous flow from the entryway to the dining room, kitchen, and living room. It was also important they add unique touches—conversation pieces—to their home. A prime example is a telephone pole inside their entryway; the pole serves as a faux main support, as well as an eye-catching piece.
“We wanted to have something there and Janet didn’t want anything too normal,” said Bearded Builders owner Eric Price. “She wanted something interesting.”
“A buddy of mine mentioned something about using a telephone pole and we thought it was a great idea,” Rick said.
The couple used another telephone pole to wrap a steel support post in the basement as well.
Among the special touches is a rustic, reddish-orange hutch cabinet made by Bearded’s project manager Josh Whitmarsh. The cabinet’s color plays off the brick of the new, relocated kitchen. Hutch shelves house enamel cookware, crocks, and other vintage kitchen items.
“I said the entire house was built around this cabinet,” Janet said jokingly.
The great room, tucked directly behind the kitchen area, offers an informal family space. A single dark-blue wall resembling the home’s exterior hue and a buffet cabinet loaded with framed family photos add warmth to the room.
The entire main level was reconfigured to create a bathroom, laundry room, grandkids’ room, and sewing room, as well as the primary suite.
Janet knew going into the project she wanted a nook in the upstairs hallway to display two of her mother’s quilts. Some of the family’s cherished knick-knacks are poised on a nearby shelf built by Rick.
“My favorite is the sewing room,” Janet said. “Rick made me the ‘Sew Into It’ sign because I make quilts too.”
The Kyles used furniture from their old home to furnish their renovated house. To make their bedroom furniture fit, they had to add eight feet to the west side of the house to expand the bedroom and add a primary bath and walk-in closet.
“Janet knew how she wanted her furniture laid out, so we had to bump out the space to make it all work,” Price said.
Similar to the original main floor, the lower level was compartmentalized and needed extensive renovation.
Today, the showstopper in the basement is undoubtedly Rick’s collection of vintage beer cans that date 1976 or older.
“I collected beer cans from the time I was 8 until I was 12,” he said. “I’ve always liked that [beer can labels] are all different, bright colors that look like artwork.”
Janet said while she appreciates Rick’s affinity for collecting cans, they must “stay in this room.” Barnwood shelving units were built specifically to display the collection.
“We’ve actually gone out to beer can shows,” Janet said. “Yes, such a thing exists,” she added with a smile.
A wine barrel sink vanity, also created by Whitmarsh, adds quirky fun to the basement bathroom.
Initially, the Kyles lamented not having a dedicated exercise area in the new house. Then they discovered a secret space in the basement.
“Rick just happened to open this door and there is this whole other floor and hidden room,” Janet said. “We really didn’t need to do much to it, and we now have our workout room.”
The backyard, which Rick said had been “six feet of weeds,” was also landscaped by Lanoha. A massive new deck with pergola and a fire pit area provide great outdoor space to relax and entertain family and friends.
In keeping with the vintage country theme, the Kyles sectioned off a portion of the yard and created a horseshoe pit area. They also refurbished an old, rickety swing set that came with the house for their grandkids.
With the home nearly complete, the Kyles are ready to enjoy their retirement at 60, just as they’d
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.