Architecture: Little A-frame on the PrairieSep 29, 2022 04:23PM ● By Katy Spratte Joyce
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Growing up in The Ozarks, Angie Norman would spy the A-frame houses scattered throughout the hilly countryside on her hour-long bus ride to and from school every day. It was on these journeys that her longtime love affair with the homes—with their skeletal framework and steeply pitched roofs—was born.
Norman's affinity for A-frames continued to grow later in life. On road trips with her husband, Andrew, from their East Lansing, Michigan home, they’d pull over to view the innumerable A-frame cabins sprinkled around the state’s northern reaches. Somewhere around this time, the idea to own one of these charmers themselves took root.
In 2011, the couple moved to Omaha’s Benson neighborhood, where they bought a 1890s 1.5-story home for their young family. The opportunity to buy the empty lot next door led to the realization of Norman's lifelong dream: an A-frame creation eventually given the moniker the Dahlia House.
For a time, the Normans and their son, Townes, used the extra lot as a large yard. But as they brainstormed what to do with the space, “the A-frame sparks finally landed, and we decided to build,” Norman explained.
After much research, the couple tapped Lincoln-based contractor Carlson Projects for the job. Co-owner Stefan Carlson shared, “We are consistently building interesting spaces, but at that point, we had not done an A-frame. It was a fun, unique challenge to create. In theory, it is an uncomplicated structure to build, but since it is so minimal...framing has to be more spot-on than a regular home. With a smooth ceiling, it’s even more noticeable if your framing is not straight or in line.”
Carlson continued: “I love how open the A-frame style feels. The spaces’ footprint is not very large, considering standard houses today, but as soon as you walk in, you feel the expanse of the vaulted ceiling, and it is very relaxing and grounding.”
As the project got off the ground in 2020, pandemic delays in materials slowed construction. The eventual result, a year and a half later, was a 1,100-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bathroom A-frame home, which the Normans utilize as an Airbnb rental property.
The exterior features charcoal-colored shingles and wood siding, symmetrical triangle windows that follow the roofline, and a frosted glass-panel front door in a cheery red hue. A concrete ramp entryway, friendly to wheelchairs and strollers, escorts guests inside. Curated outdoor spaces include a barrel sauna, a greenhouse with patio seating, an outdoor fireplace, and a stock tank pool. Recreation and entertainment opportunities for guests abound.
A mini meadow of mostly native plants and trees, as well as the namesake Dahlias, constitute the landscaping and were sourced from Benson Plant Rescue, Midwest Natives Nursery, and Mullein Hill Farm, among others. Norman remembers thinking, “Can’t I just plant wildflowers everywhere?” and went for it, with a mix of sunflowers, zinnias, milkweed, cosmos, geraniums, and more. The outcome was a pollinator’s paradise of color that pops against the home’s inky-toned exterior.
Overall, the Normans are beyond pleased with their one-of-a-kind creation, a dream come true.
Carlson agreed with the assessment, adding, “I would say if you are dreaming of doing something unique, don’t give up on it. It’s worth the effort to create something special.” And the Dahlia House is certainly that.
For a look inside the Dahlia House, visit airbnb.com.
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Omaha Home magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.