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Omaha Magazine

A Made-to-Order Modern Prairie

Dec 27, 2022 08:09AM ● By Kara Schweiss
Architecture. Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Echelon Homes President Zach Nelson is accustomed to wowing his clients with beautiful, new-build custom homes; but it was particularly interesting to build for someone very close: himself. 
Nelson and his wife, Chelsea, with their two children, moved into their new five-bedroom, five-bathroom, 5,317-square-foot home in The Prairies in September 2022. 

Considering Zach’s experience in the industry and Chelsea’s real-estate sales background—both also had grandfathers who were builders (“It’s kind of in our blood,” Zach said.)—the Nelsons knew what they wanted and were able to make quick, decisive choices. 

“I save hundreds of pictures to my iPad and pulled a lot of random ideas from all over,” Nelson said of designing his home. “One weekend I sketched up a rough floor plan and front elevation and took it to [our drafter.] We just flipped a switch last fall and in a matter of a month designed the house.” 

Nelson described his home’s architectural style as modern prairie. It has three types of roofs: a flat roof, a shingled roof, and a standing seam metal roof. It also utilizes four exterior finish materials: EIFS siding, which resembles stucco; natural limestone; durable James Hardie lap siding; and Nichiha accent panels, a performance-engineered composite product with the look of wood. The home also features a metal accent band above the office window.

“There’s a lot a lot of different textures, for sure,” he said. 

Nelson called in Structur Design + Interiors as the drafting company, with designer and principal Garrett Friesen taking the lead. 

“He’s the one who’s ultimately responsible for taking all my sketches and chicken scratch and turning it into a working document,” he said. 

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.


The home’s black-clad windows paired with tan-colored limestone and siding painted in Sherwin Williams’ ‘Alabaster’ provide an on-trend, high-contrast aesthetic. Recessed exterior lighting along the roofline adds to the modern vibe.

A three-car garage is tucked to one side, while double front doors featuring security glass panels with an acid-etched finish for privacy welcome guests up front.

“It’s always a pleasure to work with Zach and Echelon Homes…but it makes it even more special when we get to work on the design of his personal home,” Friesen said. “I love the clean lines of the low-pitched roofs and incorporating some horizontal accents to give the home just a little more contemporary feel…we really wanted to add some wood elements on the exterior of the home to add some warmth and texture. Exterior wood typically requires a lot of maintenance, which is never fun for a busy homeowner, but we were able to find some nice alternative solutions with the Nichiha siding.” 

The home’s landscaping, installed by Carson Enterprises, was designed with a family in mind. 
“Because our kids like to play outside in the backyard, we did a fire pit and some bubblers and some berms so we could sit outside and enjoy them running around,” Nelson said. Soft accent lighting and Aspen and pine trees complement the relaxing scene. 

The build schedule was ambitious, but Nelson is used to working under pressure, he said. Plus, he knew where ongoing supply-chain issues were having the greatest effect. 

“We were pretty cognizant of trying to pick what’s in stock,” he said. “Being a homebuilder, we obviously do this enough to know what we can get ahold of in a timely manner.

“We had a lot of fun with it,” Nelson added. “And it was pretty cool to see it come to fruition.” 

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.


This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Omaha Home magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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