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Omaha Magazine

Home to the Senses

Feb 22, 2024 01:47PM ● By Veronica Wortman Ploetz
At home home to the sense nikki klugh home march april 2024

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Home to the Senses [8 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
Tucked into the curve of a quiet cul-de-sac in the Eagle Run West subdivision is a charming brick home recently renovated by Nikki Klugh, an interior designer with a national design portfolio, who has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Ebony Magazine, and USA Today. She and husband, Dr. Arnett Klugh, moved to Omaha in 2020 when he joined the neurosurgery team at Children's Hospital and Medical Center. The couple met at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, raised four sons together, and are now empty-nesters. The family moved many times with the military for training and assignments. Each time, Nikki rebuilt her interior design business as she responded to the needs of the new locale’s clientele and changing external environments. 

Nikki can recall being passionate about design at the young age of 8 years old. “My mom and I were decorating our home as far back as I can remember. We were Weekend Warriors before it was ever a hit TV show—painting, installing crown molding, making custom draperies and changing out light fixtures,” she said. 

When Nikki left the Naval Academy and returned home, she and Arnett continued a long-distance relationship. After Arnett graduated, they married and started a family. His first training assignment moved the family to Albuquerque, New Mexico. “I was busy raising a family at the time—I didn’t know interior design could be a professional career,” Nikki reflected. “I waffled among design, chemical engineering, and math, because I was also really good at science.” 

 Settled in Albuquerque, the couple purchased and decorated their first home during the emergence of HGTV. It was then that Nikki decided to obtain an Interior Design degree from Santa Fe Community College. She worked in a furniture store on the weekends and found it helpful to have a sense of furniture styles and trends to pair with her school experience. 

“My very first design job was working on a $14-million design build with Lisa Delong as the principal designer for two years,” Nikki said. The next project was with one of the nurses who worked with Arnett, and word of mouth built her clientele in northern California. Arnett recalled that during this time, Nikki worked incredibly hard to obtain her professional status with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and her National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) accreditations. 

The family moved to San Diego during the housing crisis, which presented new learning opportunities. Nikki became practiced at stretching budget dollars during an austere time. She networked with entrepreneurs and learned the business of design, marketing, and pricing goods and services. She also became adept at team building, for which the State of California recognized her work hiring veterans and military wives. The momentum of success was in full swing, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., selected Nikki to be lead designer for its international headquarters in Washington, DC. The project spanned two years, and Nikki learned to work with a large construction project management firm. 

Long-distance design concepts, paired with the exploding influence of social media, ignited Nikki’s entrepreneurial energy, and she began defining signature topics on which she could speak with authority. She built an online community around topics like creating “sacred spaces” (ones that exude peace and calm) and “money spaces” (typically, office spaces designed to help generate profit). Through the pandemic, for example, she coached clients through developing home offices for maximum productivity and profitability. “There is scientific and evidence-based design to enhance focus, clarity, and creativity, keeping goals in front of you so you can do better,” Nikki explained. 

The Klugh family moved to Omaha when Arnett’s military career came to an end. Nikki began renovating the four-bedroom, seven-bathroom, 6,000-square-foot home. While she loves to involve Arnett in the choices she makes for their home, the only thing he desires is a lot of storage room for his extensive sneaker collection. “It may sound tongue-in-cheek, but she is home to me, so whatever she does with the space, I trust her implicitly,” he said. The couple describes their style as a blend of modern and transitional and more on the contemporary-modern side. “We love bold colors and art,” Nikki reflected. “Comfort is the main goal in any space. We aim to create a casual elegance.” 

Personally and professionally, Nikki has developed her own approach to design. “Yes, I call it ‘sensory design.’ but more importantly, how spaces feel—how spaces are textualized, so that they are tactile, both physically and visually,” she said.

The first of five senses to engage when visiting the Arnett home is smell. Nikki has installed a whole-house fragrance system and carefully selected a signature scent that is diffused through the HVAC system. On their way into the living room, the Klughs may offer guests a smoked whiskey from the infusion kit located on the cocktail bar. Nikki uses soft and inviting fabrics to create cozy seating areas, furniture, and pillows, while kitchen and work spaces are more durable.

In the renovation of their current home, Nikki featured bold, saturated colors and alternating textures in her design. She added and reconfigured walls to create defined spaces, using “anchor furniture,” highlighting a view of the golf course and creating a blank space to fill with fabulous artwork. An oversized print of Bisa Butler’s “Daughter of the Dust,” framed by Malibu Art Gallery, is overlaid on matting with deckle edges complementing the texture of the quilted portrait. She’s taken pages from the art book, "Memories and Muses: Selected Works" by Tamara Natalie Madden and framed them above the couch in the living room. 

 To engage their auditory sense, Nikki plays light mood music throughout their home and carefully controls volume to allow for conversation. 

Nikki stimulates their tactile senses by using plush velvets and soft linens. Aroma 360 hotel scents are infusioned throughout their central air, allowing them to enjoy scents they both love. Visually, their design styles and "tastes" are expressed in each of their spaces. 

Purchasing their home was an exercise in analysing the use of space. "It was important that we both have our own closets, bathrooms and offices," Nikki shared. This allowed for Arnett's ample shoe storage and for both to have spaces that express their individual design aesthetics. With the help of Allison Helligso of NEAT Method Omaha, Arnett was able to organize and proudly display his sneaker collection. "Allison really helped me pair down my wardrobe and keep the pieces that I truly love," Arnett said. Nikki united the various spaces by using color palettes that complement one another.

All the sensory design elements come together beautifully in the room Nikki and Arnett refer to as their “sexy kitchen.” The selected elements work in concert to communicate sophisticated style that engages the senses. Walls, pantries, and closets were reconfigured to an even plane for cabinetry and appliances. Zongkers custom furniture manufacturer sourced the Euro-style cabinetry. Beneath the cabinets are sleek black granite countertops from Counterworx. The kitchen's gathering point is a stunning natural Patagonia granite slab with flecks of iridescent mother-of-pearl from GMS Werks. Arteriors Caviar lights, designed by Laura Kirar, are polished, perforated nickel pendants with clear glass globes. They create ambient light over the kitchen island and cast a textured shadow on the ceiling. The kitchen sink faucet is motion activated, and the dishwasher runs silently. Functionality was not sacrificed for style: the microwave drawer and the stove area pot filler are great aging-in-place elements. The French-style range is the platform for cooking delicious holiday meals with traditional fixings. 

Nikki enjoys setting the stage to entertain in their home. She reflected, “Arnett is a department chair and it is important to us to have an inviting space to host members of his team who may not be rooted yet in Omaha.” 

To follow the interior designer’s work, visit

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