Basing Adventure at HomeOct 21, 2023 06:06PM ● By Chris Wolfgang
Photo by Bill Sitzmann.
The Mutchie Family Elkhorn Basecamp [12 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
"Remember the Brady Bunch?” asked Nicole Mutchie as she led a tour of her Elkhorn Prairies neighborhood residence. “It was always in my head: I gotta have that floating staircase. That was probably what started the house, and then we built it around that.”
From the industrial brick-and-wood exterior to the crisp, white living room on the main floor, the two-story home balances contemporary-mountain-lodge with a midcentury-modern-sitcom-set. “We knew we wanted an open floor plan,” Nicole said of herself and husband, Brian. “Really clean, sleek lines.”
For example, the Mutchies eschewed 1970s shag carpeting for the floating staircase on the main floor, instead opting for simple metal and glass.
A few pieces of art thread throughout the living room, dining area, and kitchen. They include canvases custom-made by neighbor Tiffany Rase, a tiny gnome hand carved by one of their sons, and a metal bike sculpture displayed on an end table.
For the most part, though, the space remains open and clear with plenty of natural light. “I didn’t want a lot of bookshelves per se,” Nicole explained. “I didn’t want to make it an option to have clutter. I’m not a keeper of things. If it’s in a box, it’s probably not that important, right?”
Still, if you look closely, there are hints that Nicole, Brian, and their three teenage boys aren’t sacrificing a full life in order to maintain a pristine home.
“We are very outdoorsy,” Nicole confessed. “We love camping. We have an airboat. We take it on the Platte a lot.”
Spending time in nature has been central to Nicole and Brian’s shared life since they met at UNL while studying horticulture. Post graduation, “we went and played for a couple years,” Nicole said, working ski lifts in Jackson Hole and Vail. About 20 years ago, they came back to Nebraska to start their business, Mutchie Tree Care, and a family.
Of course, outdoor hobbies are a guaranteed way to collect stuff.
How do they keep the clutter at bay?
“Okay, if you want to open that can of worms…” With a laugh, Nicole led the way to what the family calls their mezzanine. Through the mudroom and above the garage is a plain plywood-floored storage space that resembles a miniature REI outdoor supply shop. Floor-to-ceiling shelves are stacked with dry bags, tents, sleeping bags, and all manner of hunting, fishing, camping, and winter gear, all easily visible and accessible.
“My husband’s very organized,” Nicole said, “so it works.”
Brian’s organizational skills are also on display in the garage, part of which functions as a personal bike shop. “He’s super into mountain biking, as are my boys,” Nicole said, “so this is where they dink around.” The shop includes a water bottle filling station, bike repair stands, and light fixtures made out of old tires and gears.
A small garage door opens in the back of the shop and leads out onto a flagstone patio behind the house. Astroturf between the pavers avoids the hassle of trying to keep natural grass from frying in a Nebraska summer. Follow the patio around, and you’ll come to an outdoor living room complete with gas fireplace, TV, and heaters in the ceiling.
“We never anticipated using this that much,” Nicole admitted. “It was kind of put in because that’s what fit in this space with the house design. But we spend a lot of time out here. It’s great in the fall.” The lot backs into a small woods rather than a neighbor’s yard, perfect for casual family parties and for their puppy, Nash, to run around.
This adventure base camp in Elkhorn is the first home the Mutchies have built. “We were never like, ‘Oh we can’t wait to build a house.’ It just kind of happened. We found the lot, we liked the neighborhood, so we were like, 'All right, let’s do this.’”
In under two years, Zachary Nelson at Echelon Homes and Wendy Shaw from Absolute Design Interiors had the Mutchies’ forever home move-in ready by December 2021, with six bedrooms and five baths.
“The building process was so smooth,” Nicole recalled. “It was flawless. As soon as it was done, we were like, we could do this again. Which nobody ever says, right? Zach was amazing, and Wendy was monumental.”
“We definitely had fun together,” Shaw said. “So many people want to do the same thing over and over. Nicole made me think outside the box.”
For example, Nicole didn’t want lights blocking the view of the kitchen’s high-gloss acrylic cabinets. So Shaw helped Nicole find some pendant lights that gave the quartz island adequate light without competing with the rest of the space. “It’s important to be able to put on the style of the client,” Shaw said. “And those lights? They’re like the jewelry of the kitchen.”
The glossy cabinets are certainly still the stars of the show. Open the one to the left of the range, and you’ll find a walk-in prep pantry keeping the coffeemaker and other cooking gadgetry hidden from view—plenty of room for life tucked behind clean, sleek lines.