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Omaha Magazine

A ‘Just Right’ Home

Apr 26, 2023 04:35PM ● By Lisa Lukecart

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Joy and Terry Johnson have a cautionary tale to share. In 2019, the couple (in their 50s) built a new ranch house and downsized from their two-story dwelling in Bennington. But after entertaining mainly at home during the first year of the global pandemic, it became apparent that a sizable mistake needed remedying. The new home made them feel like sardines in a “tin can.”

“We couldn’t even sit in the same room together,” Joy mentioned. “I thought…it’s just not working.” 

Terry, a 34-year veteran financial advisor, crunched the numbers on whether to add on to their existing home. He also considered the addition might make the home look choppy, and that his neighbors might be less than pleased with an awkward design.

At the same time, low existing home inventory and higher home prices due to the pandemic made buying another home in their beloved Elkhorn neighborhood improbable. The Johnsons considered throwing in the towel.

“The next thing we knew, we were building a new house,” yet again,  Joy explained. 

After it sold in 2021, the Johnsons rented it back from the new owners (delayed in California) for almost a year while Echelon Homes constructed a modern farmhouse ranch just blocks away. 
The home’s layout and architectural elements maximize space so it feels grand and airy rather than closed-in. Blonde alder wood beams with a clear-coat finish luxuriously stretch from the country-style entrance doors to the patio. The impressive, pointed cathedral ceiling enhances breathing room even more than the extra square footage.

“Joy had a design in mind, and it was fun picking her brain,” said Darren Thomas, a project manager with Echelon Homes. 

Her design included a double-sided gas fireplace that heats the sitting room. It’s white brick adds a rustic touch. Joy can sink into the room’s snowy white sofa, stretching out her legs while reading a thriller under an arched lamp. Or the couple can spend an afternoon working a puzzle while seated at a blonde woodside table next to the window. A black and white striped rug ties in the tonality of a round marble-topped table. Couch pillows in terracotta and sea green complement the room’s sage floral accent wallpaper. Joy, a retail vice president at home décor boutique Fluff Market, has helped customers make design choices for almost 20 years. 

“I love pillows, so it’s a dangerous place to work,” Joy said, laughing. “Pillows are like jewelry.”   

   Wicker proves another irresistible item for Joy, as woven baskets, lamps, and trays are artfully arranged throughout the house. Sadie, a golden retriever and shepherd mix, would rather snuggle with anyone than worry about the décor. Mini goldendoodle Willis, though, loves to propel himself off a bench as he flies over the back of the pale couch in the living room. The Defender performance fabric protects against any possible paw prints. 

Joy brought home brown leather saddle chairs with ebony metal armrests from the shop. A decorative tree stump accent table stands ready for drinks. Sand-colored vinyl plank floors shine next to pops of dark hues. A dormer window over the front entryway lets the sunshine in. 

Woven plates cascading down a living room wall play well with the modern, black metal chandelier in the dining area. Beige chairs beg someone to share a meal around the long, wooden table. Joy and Terry’s son and daughter, along with their spouses, stop by regularly for family meals. A stocked coffee bar, conveniently next to the refrigerator, allows guests to enjoy a beverage with dessert. 

Soft faux leather bar stools surround a kitchen island that blends warm wood with a quartz top, offering a popular gathering spot. Cone-shaped lights with raindrop glass hang down dramatically to illuminate the area. Charcoal matte appliances keep away pesky fingerprints, and glass pantry doors hide away boxes and cans of food while catching the sunlight. 

Terry, 57, tucks away his meat-smoking supplies in the mud room. He prefers to leave the design elements to his wife of 30 years, who’s an interior design graduate.

“She is good with color and how it works. I trust her immensely,” Terry said.

Terry is accustomed to spending time in their finished basement, as many Nebraskans do, unlike native Californian Joy for whom basements are a rarity. Friends amass around the television for sporting events, especially college football games. Smokey-hued sectionals and chairs and a fireplace lend ambiance. 

Terry fetches coffee from the lounge area during the day while working from his home office for BancWest Investment Services. A darker paneled accent wall creates an eye-catching splash amongst the neutral tones. A Sonos sound system pumps in relaxing jazz or awesome 80s music. Photos splash another wall with memories. 

“I feel like this is our home. I wish we could have moved into this from the get-go,” Terry said. 
“It feels warmer, cozier,” Joy agreed. 

Upsizing has definitely had an upside. Extra wiggle room remains vital, especially now that first grandson, Jude, entered the picture in March. 

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