Rustic Luxe CharmerAug 21, 2023 04:04PM ● By Lisa Lukecart
Photo by Bill Sitzmann.
Ponca Hills Barn [11 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
"Order a house through the mail” reads an advertisement from an early 20th century newspaper. Sears, Roebuck and Co. was the first mass marketer of complete homebuilding kits through its catalog, Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans, in 1908. Over the next 32 years, 75,000 kit houses popped up across the US as people jumped on the mail-order bandwagon in search of the American dream.
Precut lumber, paint, and shake siding were typically shipped by railroad. Some customers hired contractors or enlisted neighbors’ help raising the homes. And the low cost of the homes just couldn’t be beat; in the 1920s, a ready-made four-bedroom would set a family back about $4,000. Another big appeal was the variety of charming models to choose from, including barns. One 1936 ad mentioned, “There is a certain ‘hominess’ about a wooden house—a readiness to receive the stamp of its owner’s personality.”
That homey, natural vibe is found in spades in a rustic wooden barn fittingly set on the rolling 40-acre vista of Ponca Hills in North Omaha. But cattle, sheep, and horses won’t be found inside these walls. Heated, wood-look tile floors replace dry hay and dirt underfoot. Big-screen televisions hang on walls instead of farm implements while oversized windows allow sunshine to stream inside, rather than dusty, dark shadows in corners. Think Little House on the Prairie but with a contemporary, luxurious twist.
Home manufacturer Timberlyne provided the unique residential structure. The company streamlines the home-building process, just like in the days of Sears, making it easy to embrace a quaint country lifestyle. Rather than the railroads, semi-trucks drop off the product at the building site. Buyers select models, floor plans, and accessories to match their styles, providing a unique design “stamp.” In this case, the homeowners aimed to create a high-end rustic retreat with ample room to host guests, gather with family, and relax while enjoying panoramic views.
“It doesn’t feel like a finished house, but [has] a barn-feel throughout,” explained Parker Edick, project manager with Frasier-Martis Architects, which consulted on the design.
Exterior additions, like a Truten corrugated metal roof that’s begun to rust, add vintage allure. The 1,392-square-foot wrap-around porch invokes a bygone era—homeowners rocking in chairs while sipping cold lemonade, or watching sunsets from the porch swing. Heaters supply warmth on winter days, while in summer, big black fans cool down guests who may have worked up a sweat on the dummy calf-roping setup in the yard or playing frisbee golf on the nine-hole course nearby. A two-sided wood-burning fireplace outdoors allows roasting marshmallows to sizzle on cool nights. Gray- and buff-colored river rock stone on the home’s exterior complements the 35-foot-tall gas-log fireplace indoors that serves as a focal point of the living space.
Indoors, earthy pine walls replace standard drywall, providing the aromatic sensation of walking in a forest rather than the 2,800-square-foot main floor. The entrance appears medieval with a timber round table; a salvaged rusted farm cog acts as its support. A bright red-and-gold rug laid beneath lends vibrancy to the mainly cocoa-colored habitat. A glowing chandelier dangles above, suspended by tan leather harness straps. The couple’s son-in-law designed much of the organic decor to add bucolic appeal and balance the modern amenities. Several heirloom pieces, such as a 19th century French hand-carved cabinet with a marble top, harbor memories and family traditions.
Besides the showpiece fireplace in the main space, the room’s mammoth antler chandelier catches the eye, reminding one of a 15th century feudal lord’s castle. A rope pulley system lowers the faux antler tines to change lightbulbs. Eras clash with an old-school Addams Family-themed pinball machine ready for a tug in the corner, while a tan felt pool table rests under lights suspended from an industrial-style beam hanging from a chain; others might stretch out to release a puck on the shuffleboard. An authentic cowhide bench and padded, top-boiled wool “chicken” footrest bring back the country vibe. Eclectic furniture includes a comfy forest green sectional, a tobacco leather sofa, and duck-patterned upholstered chairs. Handmade wall sconces, branded with the family initials, lighten dark spaces.
Hickory cabinetry and copper countertops continue the warm, natural decor theme in the kitchen. A handcrafted Zellige tile backsplash—the same as in the bathroom—adds muted green tones. An antique-white sink lends more farm ambiance.
A thick pine stairway, with 4-inch treads, leads the way to the 400-square-foot loft, while riser lights ensure steady footing. Bunk beds cut into the wall offer cozy nooks to tuck in grandchildren at night.
Marshall Builders LLC started the barn in the summer 2021 and completed it February 2022. Although the build took considerably longer than the 90 days that Sears once claimed was required to build a home, the finished result was well worth the wait. The home is a showcase with its high-concept rustic design and its peaceful, natural surroundings. Even more importantly, its the retreat of one family’s dreams.
“It’s just full of character. The barn fits the perfect setting of Ponca Hills,” said Trent Marshall, owner of Marshall Builders LLC.