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Omaha Magazine

Black, White, and Red (brick) all over

Apr 26, 2023 04:32PM ● By Sean Robinson

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

With its black and brick interior, it’s hard to believe Michael Murphy and Tim Ganser’s downtown Omaha condo was inspired by the sunny shores of California. When they first saw the space nearly three years ago, it was a just a shell of its now ultra-chic self. Exposed piping, unfinished walls, and concrete stretching from the back door to the front greeted them. 

Talk about a first impression—but what the couple saw before them was a 1,350-square-foot blank canvas. Remembering dreams shared during SoCal strolls, they knew this unfinished listing that had frightened buyers aways for weeks had potential to become a masterpiece of a home.
“I wasn’t scared of the challenge of turning this into something livable,” Murphy said. “When we lived in California, we used to walk past the empty shops off Seal Beach. We would have this joke where we would say, ‘What we would do with a space like that?’ We found that here.”

Three years later, what was once a single, narrow, sizable room is now a two-bedroom, two-bath condo, with each corner and countertop carefully curated to Murphy and Ganser’s liking. Sharp finishes. LED lights shining high from 16-foot ceilings. A fireplace that looks like it belongs in the lobby of an art deco hotel or a Bond villain’s lair.

The space may not be huge, but it’s big on style. Stepping through the front door, the  condo’s design is mostly modern, offering little evidence this condo was once a turn-of-the-20th-century print shop. Or that it’s part of a building dating back to 1910. The original brick remains while everything else has been made new.

“We embraced the idea of adaptive reuse, where you take old buildings and find new uses for them,” Murphy said. “There are so many great spaces—some wonderful warehouses sitting empty in Omaha—where something industrial can become a cozy home.”

Much of the work needed to take this little piece of 15th and Leavenworth from the past to the present was undertaken by the couple themselves. As the marketing director of Lee Douglas Interiors, Murphy had the resources to act as the primary interior decorator of the home. He had the experience and skills, too. Murphy has worked as a design producer on HGTV’s “Design on a Dime” and as well as Discovery’s “Interior Motives” and “The Christopher Lowell Show.”

Murphy and Ganser marked up their own floor plans, choose all the design finishes, and created a PowerPoint presentation to show their contractor exactly what they dreamed the space to be. Even before architectural drawings were approved, the couple had tile on order. 

“I’m a big planner and somebody who wants things ahead of time,” Murphy said. “As soon as we got the go ahead that this was ours, the building started speaking to us and telling us what we wanted.”

That wish list of wants included a stark black kitchen. The island that’s perfectly sized for entertaining? Dark as coal. Every cabinet door? Like ink. The high-end stove? Yep, it’s black, too.  
 That color theme carries over to their primary bathroom, which includes a waterfall shower with glass doors that more than double the height of standard bath fixtures. Just a lazy morning stroll away from bed are all the trimmings of a professional spa. 

“It’s a very masculine and calming space in many ways,” Ganser said. “We’re mostly home in the evenings, too, so it’s more a nighttime place. We didn’t want to over-clutter it too much.”  

Clutter there isn’t, but a bookshelf that runs along their hallway proudly displays artifacts from travels to all corners of the globe. Whether it’s a doll from Ecuador they’ve lovingly named Beyonce or paintings from a market in Paris, each item holds a memory. Gasner, who once served as the vice president of the international division at Nielsen ratings, has been to more than 30 countries; on many of those trips, Murphy accompanied him. 

“I want this space to tell the story of us,” Ganser said. “It should tell the history of our travels and the things that are important to us. It’s a reflection of the 25 years we’ve spent together.”

This downtown condo as a setting to their story is still in its first chapters—after two years of renovations, the couple moved in this past November. Their first summer here is coming up. From their floor-to-ceiling front windows, they’ll trade watching evening snow pile up for hazy July sunrises. 

“This place has never been a home before. This is the first time,” Murphy said. “We just wanted to do it justice.” 

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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