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Omaha Magazine

A Bit of Country in the City

Aug 29, 2022 03:44PM ● By Hannah Amrollahi
well lit kitchen with green apples on counter

Photo by Mandy McGregor

In 1980, before Omaha’s expansion would reach much west of 109th Street, a farmhouse was erected. The home featured a brick exterior, an extensive porch, and two prominent dormer windows. 

Nearly four decades later the farmhouse remained, much unchanged and sitting on just under half an acre. The home proved the ideal spot for the Keebler family to plant new roots in the metro.

Photo by Mandy McGregor

“I didn’t think I’d have a wrap-around porch in Omaha,” Amber Brown Keebler said, noting their strike of luck in finding the property. The generous yard, with room for a garden including sweet corn and play area for their two young boys, was also a big hit. The home’s location in the Westside School District sealed the deal.

Keebler and husband John moved to Omaha from Missouri in 2017, starting positions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Methodist Hospital, respectively. They were location-first buyers, and coming off a previous “unpleasant” renovation, and sought out interior designer A.J. Baumann early on.

“We were with him before we even bought the house,” Amber said. 

The couple was attracted to the many “useable spaces” of the home, which would help them avoid major structural changes. Yet, the home’s price tag and lack of updates made it truly ideal to make their own.

Stone steps and a walkway lead to the main entrance of the two-story home, while a side entry sits just off the driveway. French and French-Dutch doors open onto the porch and yard, allowing “so much inside-outside activity,” according to Baumann. 

Whether sitting on the front-porch swing looking out onto the spread of bur oaks, gardening in the beds, or soaking in the hot tub in their private courtyard, there’s plenty to tempt the Keebler family outside. 

Inside is where the main renovations took place. The Keeblers contracted Bearded Builders for the job.   

  Phase one started with the ground level and included the kitchen, a bedroom and bathroom, and a powder room.

“We touched every surface on the first floor,” John said. 

Photo by Mandy McGregor

Hiring an interior designer and contractor from the very start helped facilitate a cohesive plan. “Having A.J. was a huge help in finding our style and minimizing the decisions we had to make,” Amber said.

Baumann used a teal-colored plate, that Amber loved, to springboard the modern-country design scheme. Classic white trim runs throughout the home, while white, cool gray, and light blue walls make for a neutral backdrop to furnishing and finishes. Marble countertops and modern subway and penny tiles add classic touchs to bathrooms, while a mix of furniture styles lends an eclectic and comfortable ambiance to rooms. Different shades of blue repeat throughout the home, providing a relaxed and unified atmosphere.

Photo by Mandy McGregor

“I always ask clients how they want to feel in the space,” Baumann said. 

Amber, a consummate hostess for the Brown and Keebler extended families, wanted a kitchen that invited guests but kept them out of the “cooking space.” Bar seating on either end of the kitchen allows guests to congregate nearby without crowding the chef.

“Everyone can be there but not in the way,” Baumann said. 

The two-tone kitchen with granite countertops has formal white cabinetry that dresses up the fridge, while stained wood under the counter and a large farmhouse sink lend a country charm. 

“Elijah was 2 when we moved here and nothing has been irreparably stained,” Amber said, noting the practical materials used. 

Photo by Mandy McGregor

More cabinetry disguises two dishwashers, two ovens, a microwave, chilling drawer, wine cooler, and hidden pantry. The lime-green Kitchen Aide mixer sits upon ample counter space.

“My kitchen is number one,” Amber said. “It is my dream kitchen and there’s nothing I would change about it.” 

Beautiful wood floors, a floating staircase to the second floor, and ample light define the main living space. While the design is “somewhat linear” from the entryway through the family room, dining room, and kitchen, room definition is achieved through half-walls and features, including the fireplace, Baumann said.

Photo by Mandy McGregor

Across from the entrance, the powder room’s wallpaper has a textured, matte finish and a pink floral Middle Eastern print. Similar patterns are seen on accessories throughout the home, including a living room throw and a bedroom bedspread.

Photo by Mandy McGregor

Phase two of the renovations has wrapped, with a remodel of the boys’ bedroom and ensuite, and the primary bedroom and bath, all on the upper level. 

“Upstairs, [they] needed creative problem-solving for the space,” said Bearded Builders’ owner, Eric Price. The primary bathroom had an odd L-shaped layout of toilet, sink, and shower, with a walk-in closet housed behind. Baumann and Price took out the closet wall and installed a large soaking tub and new walk-in shower, and hid the closet space in the walls under the gable. 

Photo by Mandy McGregor 

  “There’s lots of stories [of the home] we were tapping into and joining...bringing harmony and adding on to those stories,” Price said.

John’s closet was also fitted into the walls of the primary bedroom, making the best use of space. 

The boys’ twin beds and twin closets fit snugly into their suite remodel. In their bathroom, a pair of step stools allow access to large porcelain sinks at a wood vanity. Whimsical animal pictures hang above their beds and tie in with the framed dog-themed art in their en suite. Just off their bedroom, there’s a now-insulated finished crawl space that’s popular for kids’ sleepovers.

Photo by Mandy McGregor

Amber and John said they’re looking forward to the final phase of their remodel, which includes creating a “landing library” on the second floor, as well as collaborating with Baumann and Price once again.

However, Baumann admitted he’s glad that Amber’s old taxidermied raccoon, Rocky, no longer catches him by surprise appearing in a new place in the home every few days—a little prank that John and Amber liked to play on the men from time to time. 

“It definitely scared the contractor and me a few times,” Baumann said. 

Price confirmed, but added: “That’s what makes a big project so great, though. Getting to know and work with people.”  And having a little fun, now and then.

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

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