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Omaha Magazine

Dopamine Decor in Hanscom Park

Dec 22, 2023 12:02PM ● By Veronica Wortman Ploetz

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Gaby Woolman's art-filled home [9 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
Gaby Woolman’s Hanscom Park home is filled floor to ceiling with wonderful eclectic works of art that she herself creates. “Art for me is a lifestyle,” she said. “It's meditative and a form of therapy.” 

The self-taught artist’s mediums of choice range from acrylics on furniture and canvas to thread employed for hand sewing pillows and wall hangings. Woolman dabbles in decoupage and even tried rug hooking. Inspired by international experience that has involved both living and traveling abroad, the homeowner said, “One of the first things I do in any city is visit their museums. If I like something, I think maybe I could create it. When it’s complete, it’s very satisfying.”

Satisfying indeed. The home’s main floor features full gallery walls, hand-sewn pillows, vintage oriental rugs, and custom-painted furniture. The second floor bedrooms, bathrooms, and study are filled with an abundance of character and charm. 

 Woolman’s home aligns well with the interior design movement known as “Dopamine Decor,” which is distinctive for its skillful blend of whimsical nostalgia, eclectic patterns, and bold colors. Interiors, the decorating mandate specifies, are meant to make people happy. Woolman’s home lives up to the mission. “I get a high from creating art,” she said. 

People are noticing. Woolman joined a Facebook group called “Maximalist Decor” on a whim and posted photos of her artworks and how she displays them throughout her home. “The first time I posted, I got a good response, it was either 800 comments or 800 likes,” she shared.  

To create the floor-to-ceiling gallery walls that garnered so much praise, Woolman shops for antique frames at local second-hand and antique stores and refurbishes them as needed. She’s become particularly fond of visiting Junk N Treasure near 35th and Leavenworth Streets. Her husband, Dan, has painted many of the rooms (and ceilings) with bright colors to showcase the frames that display his wife’s creativity. Of all the art in the home, Dan remains most fond of the artist. “It pains me to think about all the nail holes in the wall, but long ago, I let it go, because she is so talented," he admitted. 

Woolman grew up in a home where her father covered their family’s walls with art. “I kind of made the connection that this must be in their genetics,” Dan said. To further support his theory, the couple’s adult son, Teddy, is often brought in for consultation and production assistance when Woolman is planning a new project. An organic chemistry professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha by day, Teddy creates with his mother outside work. 

According to Woolman, Teddy is simultaneously her biggest fan, compassionate critic, and dedicated collaborator. “When I am trying to sketch something and can’t quite get it, I ask him to help me. He is naturally good at anything he tries,” she said.   

 Together the mother-son team refurbished an Amish wood trunk, hand painting it in the Pennsylvania Dutch style. The lettering “Anno 1894” is featured prominently and has particular significance. It is the year Woolman’s grandfather was born. “I named Teddy after my grandfather, Theodore,” she shared. 

Teddy is himself accomplished at linocut printmaking. “We often check in on one another, exchanging critique and artwork,” she said. A linocut made by Teddy of his wife, Mayu, hangs in the main dining room. The two have also created the home’s antique-inspired stained glass front door. “Come on, Teddy, we can do this!” Gaby recounted of how the project came about. “I am all about recreating art, because I can’t afford all the fine art I want to fill my home,” she laughed. 

The family moved to Omaha over 30 years ago and settled in Hanscom Park. “We love older homes, the history, the woodwork. It reminds me of the apartments in old Berlin,” Woolman shared. Dan walked to work at the VA and Teddy walked to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic school. Woolman worked from home as a medical transcriptionist during the days when doctors sent cassette tapes via courier to the house. “If you sit at the computer all day long, you need an outlet, and art has always been my great love,” Woolman said. “I’d start searching the internet and find all sorts of ideas.” During lunch breaks, she scoured online resources for art project inspiration. 

A hand-painted antique pie cabinet she and Teddy created with Pennsylvania Dutch style stencils is one of the homeowner’s most cherished objects and  houses a display of Mexican pottery. “It doesn't really match, but I love how it somehow comes together,” she said. Even her daughter-in-law, Mayu, has contributed to the artwork in Gaby’s home by crocheting an eye-catching multi-colored curtain for the kitchen. 

Fond memories, family history, and meaningful relationships serve as Woolman’s inspiration. “The entryway is all Asian decor. My father was stationed in Yokohama in the 1950s. My mother loved the Japanese people and culture. I started to collect things over the years. I refurbished an entryway table with Asian-inspired furniture transfers,” she said. Oriental rugs are an obsession. Woolman purchased several on Ebay over 20 years ago, “when they were practically giving them away. Now, they are en vogue, and the prices are so high,” she lamented.

Woolman is deliberate with her creative process and works on one project at a time. She explores new techniques such as the art of Japanese Sashiko, a traditional form of Japanese embroidery that translates as “little stabs,” which she uses to sew her colorful wall hangings. She’ll knot macrame or crochet window coverings or decoupage a terracotta planter with a cheetah and cabbage rose pattern. Small metal knobs are added to planters to give them an extra element of flair. “My art is rarely perfect on the first try, but it’s the imperfections that make art so appealing to me,” she said. “Creating my own art makes me feel very good.” 

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Omaha Home magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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