Quintessentially Midcentury ModernMay 23, 2023 03:16PM ● By Sean Robinson
Photo by Bill Sitzmann.
The Bowmans Renovated Fairacres Home [14 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
When Eric and Emily Bowman walked through the entry of their home four years ago, they were greeted with the fall of light, fluffy snowflakes. Winter howled outside behind them—and there it was, again, ahead of them even as they embarked on their first tour of the midcentury modern house.
“It was kind of like walking into a snow globe,” Emily said.
The residence near 66th and Cuming streets has that effect on most as they first pass through the large iron gate at the beginning of the driveway, into the home’s small, private courtyard, and into what seems like layer after layer of windows and doors.
Outside meets inside here—and that’s because there’s a neatly manicured space in the heart of this home. Built around a large atrium with floor-to-ceiling windows, the space connects back to nature, a common theme for midcentury modern builds. However, this house stands out among the streets of Fairacres, a neighborhood that claims some of Omaha’s largest and finest historic homes.
Built in 1962, it’s a split-level that’s comprised of straight lines, right angles, and a gabled roof.
While homes just around the corner have colossal pillars and estate-sized yards, the Bowmans’ home is simple—and welcomingly so. Partially tucked away from street view, all that’s seen is a red brick front and an iron grill of black circles shielding the recessed entrance.
It’s like the set of “Mad Men” has come to Omaha.
“Growing up in California, I was surrounded by a lot of midcentury modern homes like this—a lot of Eichler homes,” Eric said. “We both saw it separately on Zillow and immediately said, ‘We’ve got to see that.’”
It was important for the Bowmans to stay true to the home’s '60s roots, too, when they moved in in February 2019.
“We really wanted to embrace and lean into the original architecture and design,” said Eric, who has a natural flair for aesthetics as an independent graphic designer. “Something that’s really important to midcentury modern is being able to pull in the outdoors and make it an extension of your living space.”
To do just that, the Bowmans had a big project on their hands: the atrium needed a facelift. Today, it’s a functional space with seating surrounded by curved beds of trees and plants. Streams of water with built-in lighting give the space added character. When they moved in, though, it was the home of a 30-foot tree—and that’s it.
“All you could see was trunk all the way through the roof,” Emily said. “It was an elderly tree, and it just looked old and sad. We decided it would make more sense to get it out of here before it became a problem.”
So, a crane was brought in. Limbs cut off. The stump ground down. By December 2021, the tree was no more. However, the couple did give it a proper goodbye before it was torn down. They hosted a “Hug the Tree” party, complete with a guest book where friends and family could sign and suggest what to do now with the space.
Do they turn it into a ball pit? Or, what about filling it with water and making the world’s coziest shark tank? In the end, the couple worked with Kinghorn Gardens to create their very own Zen garden for yoga and morning coffee.
The atrium was just one of two large renovations. A month after they moved in, a 60-degree rainy day melted mounds of snow outside. What was great news for those welcoming the end of a brutal winter meant a flood for the Bowmans’ basement.
“We ended up trying to make the best of the situation,” said Emily, who works for Nebraska Medicine. “It was finished before, but we had a desire to redo it. We just weren’t necessarily planning on doing it that quickly.”
A wooden ballet floor, which they were considering keeping, had to be torn out and the space converted to a home gym. New lighting, paint, and cork flooring were added, as was a kids’ desk (which came just in time for at-home schooling during the pandemic). Another portion of the basement was made into a guest bedroom with a kitchenette.
“We knew it would be a main family hangout space where young kids would play and learn, so we wanted to make it colorful, comfortable, and bright. The basement also needed to serve multiple purposes,” said Jessica McKay, owner of Birdhouse Design Studio, which completed the transformation.
“It's layered, inviting, and somewhat unexpected, which is exactly the feel one gets when they walk in the front door of the midcentury gem,” McKay continued.
That’s what the Bowmans want, too: for many to walk through the door and feel welcomed. With its open layout, centered around a natural place to entertain, the family hopes the home is a place of parties and memories. Eric and Emily watch movies in the backyard with their kids and host an annual “Pitting Out with Bowmans” party the night of the Memorial Park Concert (called “pitting out” because of the BBQ pit and…well, it’s usually one of summer’s most sweltering nights).
“Though we put our own mark on the home, we hope the changes complement the original integrity of the house and it’s something that can be enjoyed for future owners,” Eric said. “But we don’t plan on going anywhere for quite a while.”