If Jenni Herchenbach were to win the lottery, the first thing she’d do is hire a full-time carpenter.
“And I would keep them busy,” she says.
That’s what happens when you live in an architecturally significant home like the Smyth House in Omaha’s Gold Coast neighborhood.
The stately 1906 residence at 38th and Webster Streets has eight bedrooms and about 6,000 square feet, plus a detached garage designed by famed Omaha architect Thomas R. Kimball.
Jenni and husband Scott have spent the past two years renovating the property and don’t expect to ever truly be finished.
“As long as we live here, there will be a project list,” she says.
It may seem too big for the almost-empty nesters but with six daughters, that may not be an issue for long.
“It could be filled some day with 36 grandchildren,” Jenni says.
The couple bought the house in 2013 after a two-year search that stretched from Crescent to Weeping Water. They were considering new-home construction at West Shores in Waterloo when the Smyth House came on the market — as the 2013 Omaha ASID Designer Showhouse.
That gave the pair a chance to poke around on their own and fall in love with it. It’s not a frou-frou house, Jenni says, with lots of fireplaces and built-ins, but she never tires of the view as she pulls into the driveway.
“It was the only one we both walked into and said, ‘This is it,’” Jenni says.
“It was special,” Scott says.
While they haven’t had to do a lot inside besides paint, the outside has undergone a transformation.
One not without controversy.
The Herchenbachs wanted to redo the facade to look as close as possible to the original, minus the pea green paint. Some neighbors were alarmed to learn that the white house was going to be painted a new color.
After hours of consideration (at one time there were 22 quarts of paint samples sitting in their foyer), the Herchenbachs decided on Sherwin-Williams’ “Aloof Gray” for the main color, “Urbane Bronze” for the base and windows and “Snowbound” for the trim. The peaks are “Pewter Green,” in homage to the home’s original color.
The choices add depth to the house’s architectural details, says Jenni, who enjoys watching passers-by gawk at the multiple stories, columns and porches, restored in all their glory.
In other work, metal siding was removed and the original cedar siding was restored. That project gave the couple a look at the house’s original color. The capitals at the top of each column were restored, from horsehair-and-terracotta to a more modern cast. That necessitated raising the roofs above them, and lots of phone calls by Scott to find a company that could craft the replacements.
“To get the exact same size was a nightmare,” he says.
Halfway through the project, they switched contractors, and started over successfully with Stein Construction. They declined to specify how much all the work cost. “A zillion and counting,” they said with a smile.
Now that the outside is done, they’re happy with their choices and feel as though they’ve stayed true to the house that so many people remember.
They also renovated the yard and fountain, making it more expansive for the entertaining they love with less maintenance. A kitchen makeover is on the to-do list along with the upstairs master bath. They’ve already started refurbishing the basement.
The couple says this is the “forever” home they’ve always wanted.
Jenni says, “This house feels so good when it’s full of people, laughter and music.”