A SURE BET
Wild card in house hunt proves to be a winner.
Story by Chris Christen
Photos by Jeffrey Bebee
Every now and then, Bill and Carol Henrichs get what Bill calls a “wild hair” when it comes to real estate.
To explain, let's go back to 1998. The Henrichses were recently married and living in Escalante Hills in northwest Omaha when plans were announced for The Players Club at Deer Creek. Bill loves to golf and they were thinking about building a house anyway, so they drove out for a look. Along the way, they became distracted by a farmhouse at 114th and State Streets.
Just down the road from the old Sunset Speedway, the once-neglected farmhouse now was looking good and was nearly ready for resale.
“Wild hair” No. 1: They fell in love with the idea of something old instead of something new.
“We didn't want to like this place,” Carol says while sitting in the farmhouse's family room, which was 70 percent complete when the couple put an offer on the property.
At the time, the house was surrounded by cornfields and wildlife. “We loved it,” Bill says. “We had a fawn play with our dogs in the backyard for a couple of days.”
About six years later, the couple caught wind of plans for a housing development going up adjacent to their property. Not liking that, they put a “For Sale” sign in their yard.
Expecting to move, they snagged 40 gorgeous acres a few miles away at Glenn Cunningham Lake. They were planning to build a house there when they learned that a park and children's playground – not a housing development as originally announced – would be going in next door to their existing 2.5 acres in the Deer Creek area. The “For Sale” sign came down.
Today, their home is buffered from neighbors thanks to the park, a recreation trail, SID tennis courts and protected wetlands.
With the decision to stay put came a few home improvement projects. They ripped out a wraparound cedar deck, put siding on the house and redid the lower patio off the walk-out basement.
Then, in April 2008, Bill got “wild hair” No. 2:
“We bought a home in Vegas. We looked at 12 houses on a Saturday and put a down payment on one before the end of the day,” Bill remembers as Carol shakes her head knowingly. Bill, vice president of Miller Electric, slips away to Vegas about once a month now to play golf.
Then Carol got “wild hair” No. 3:
Something needed to be done about the view into their basement from that new and improved lower patio. They confide that they ended up investing twice as much as they had intended in the basement remodel.
“We have a bad habit of starting at a price point and then blowing it out of the water,” Bill says.
The Henrichses knew that they wanted a bar, a pool area and a TV area. They sought three bids, and went with the team that Bill says “outdid everybody” with ideas, passion and energy for the couple's nondescript walk-out basement.
“We didn't know what we didn't know” about the design process, says Carol, a nurse manager with Alegent Health. “I didn't have any idea of the hours involved in selecting materials.”
Terry Hurt, the general contractor, and Libby Pantzlaff, the interior designer for the project, didn't have an open checkbook, but they did have open eyes and ears, Bill says.
They started with a basic floor plan, and then took it to the next level with details that would eventually win the design team a prestigious national CoTy Award for excellence in basement remodeling.
The centerpiece of the project is a back-lit 3-D mural of a joker scattering a deck of cards. “We initially decided against it,” Bill admits. “We couldn't envision it.” Then the couple saw a Coca-Cola mural on a wall at another home, and everything else they had considered for the wide drywall expanse at their own home seemed underwhelming.
As the basement project was progressing, the Henrichses started looking at their kitchen. “We realized how dated it was compared to the basement,” Bill says.
You know where this is going …
They refinished the golden oak cabinets with a darker stain and modernized the hardware, sink, appliances, countertops and backsplash. While they were at it, they replaced doors and spiffed up the laundry room, front entry, dining room and guest bathroom.
All of the work was done with neither an original blueprint of the 1912 house or a blueprint for any of the additions made by the former owner. “We gave Terry's guys a challenge because they didn't know what they were tearing into,'' Bill says.
The homeowners lived with nearly five months of construction in the basement starting in January 2011. The upper level was out of commission from October 2011 to February 2012.
The addition of a master suite and exercise room off the back of the triple-car garage.
“Bill needs new knees,” Carol quips. “And our three dogs, who are really old, have trouble walking the steps to our bedroom upstairs.”
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