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Omaha Magazine

Irrefutably Groovy

Feb 22, 2024 02:42PM ● By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman
home arnolds feature irrefutably groovy home march april 2024

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

The Arnolds’ 1970s Far-Out Abode [8 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
Rainy days don’t seem so gray inside Sarah and Chance Arnold’s house. The Benson bungalow radiates with shades of green, yellow, and orange, as well as thrifted items, popular half a century or more ago.

A fabric artwork of orange and brown wavy lines undulates on one wall in front of a brass mineral-oil rain lamp. Situated on a bookshelf that displays a variety of vintage Halloween decorations and other orange items sits a Saturna series lava lamp from the late 1970s, oozing red goo up and down its glass cylinder. A spherical terrarium rests on its white plastic base as inside green plants thrive.

At least, that’s the way the house appears on the day of the interview. Sarah rearranges her irrefutably groovy collection of vintage finds as she discovers new favorites. Her maximalist style started many years ago.

“I’ve been into vintage and collecting in general since I was maybe 11 or 12,” Sarah said. “I used to go down to Homer’s, and they would have cardboard boxes full of posters that were promos for old shows that you could pick through and get for free. I have a few of them still—I have Jimi Hendrix; I have the Stones; I have the Beatles.” 

 It would be a while before she could fill a home with a “Partridge Family” aesthetic. As a youth, she and her family resided in apartments, and Sarah and Chance also lived in rental units when they moved to Denver soon after graduating high school. Rents constantly fluctuated, facilitating nearly annual moves. In 2020, however, Sarah and Chance returned to Omaha and purchased the Bedford Avenue house. While Sarah has long collected smaller vintage pieces such as Pyrex dinnerware, she and Chance purchased many of their large pieces after acquiring the home. The Arnolds’ retro treasures often come from estate sales.

Sarah also uses online searches. That’s how she scored a yellowish-green, fireplace-esque electric heater, which possibly originated from a Midcentury Montgomery Ward “Style House.” It displays a glowing plastic log on a wall near a sturdy couch covered in brown-printed fabric.

“I think it was on Craigslist,” she said of the heater, for which she drove more than two hours to obtain. “I’ll search basic words, like ‘vintage furniture’ or ‘1970s’. People say ‘I just need this out of my barn.’ I drove past Atlantic in Iowa, and it was at a literal horse farm. I had to go off the gravel main road down this crazy dirt path. The guy was like, ‘Just pull your van over to this corral.’ He put it in my van, and I think I paid him about a hundred bucks.”

The fab vibes follow throughout the living room. A swath of orange-and-black patterned fabric lines the wall underneath the breakfast bar, and an olive-green velvet chair and ottoman begs one to sit and read the final issues of Look magazine. Sarah found the shag rug beneath the chair, featuring a variety of red shades and patterns, after nearly three years of looking for the perfect such carpet to place in her living room.

Her favorite items, however, tend to be small items that people used every day, such as coffee mugs, measuring spoons, and a green cloth wall calendar printed with psychedelic-looking pink-and-purple mushrooms dated 1973. 

“The majority is estate sales. I’ve been lucky to be able to go into some really great time-capsule homes in the country and areas around Omaha,” Sarah said.

It also helps that she runs a popular Instagram page on which she sells vintage items she has restored. Sarah also sells items at Brass Armadillo and Junkstock. Her account, @highwaychildvintage, had more than 27,000 followers in late 2023, often prompting people to ask her if she wants their “old stuff.”

“People will reach out and be like, ‘Hey, myself or my relative is clearing out a house, and all this will be going to a dumpster, but do you want to come buy some of it?”

The retro feel extends to the eat-in-kitchen, where she and Chase dine at a white fiberglass table.
“I screamed when I saw it on (Facebook) Marketplace, almost the minute it got posted, and I messaged the lady and said ‘I live so far away, but I’ll drive there right now,’” Sarah said. “Please don’t sell it (to someone else).”

A collection of greeting cards from her father is stuck to the refrigerator with vintage magnets. She acquired those from her grandfather, who lived in the same house for 50 years and kept many precious physical memories such as birthday cards.

While the majority of her buzzed-about items are preserved as though sealed in a time-capsule, one modern item in the kitchen also garners attention. To keep her dishwasher from sticking out like a 21st-century sore thumb, she covered it in contact paper featuring retro flowers in shades of emerald, tangerine, and sunflower.

“Everyone comments on that,” she said. “It’s just contact paper.”

Whether sitting on a couch watching a lava lamp, eating snacks from a 1970s Lazy Susan set in the kitchen, walking through a beaded curtain to the bedrooms, or drying one’s hands on a towel with shades of pink and red in the bathroom, the Arnolds have curated an aesthetic that is far out of the ordinary in 2024. 

Visit @highwaychildvintage on Instagram for more information.

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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