Interior designer Sandy Koepke has always specialized in blurring the line between indoor and outdoor living.
She found the perfect place to carry out her designs when she returned to Omaha 3½ years ago after several decades in California.
It required gutting the inside of the house in the Elmwood Gardens neighborhood and tearing down interior walls, but she likes the results.
“It feels really connected to the outdoors,’’ Koepke says.
It’s not something she often sees in Omaha with its more traditional bungalows, Tudors and ranch homes.
She can stand at her kitchen island and see glorious garden beds outside wherever she turns. A bedroom filled with windows gives her never-ending views of the changing seasons.
“It’s really beautiful in this bedroom when it’s cozy inside and you can watch the bunnies run in the snow ... and the birds come to the pond,’’ she says. “In the summer, I’m drawn out there all the time. In the morning I’ll go out in my bathrobe and start plucking and pruning. I’d rather be out there than in the house.’’
Koepke’s house, which reminds her of the Mendocino homes she saw while living in California for 40 years, stands out on a block filled with more traditional ranches.
Built in the 1970s after the original house on the lot was destroyed by a fire, it has the look of a big brown barn. Painting it wasn’t in the budget and she had planned to transform the front with a wildflower garden. Neighbors said OK to the project, but then she decided she didn’t want to use an herbicide to kill the grass.
Instead, she put down cardboard to clear a 20-by-20-foot patch in the back of the house and put a wildflower garden there.
“It makes me happy,’’ she says. “It’s right off the back bedroom door. It’s beautiful all the time.’’
While she’s satisfied with what she has accomplished with the property, the Omaha native says Nebraska’s winters have become too harsh and she feels homebound. She recently sold her house and is moving to a place near Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.
The change in seasons is more subtle there, but she finds that peaceful. Although, she says, it will be wrenching to leave Nebraska in the spring with her gardens bursting to life.
Thankfully, the new owners love her outdoor space, finding it serene.
“I was so glad I made somebody feel good here,’’ Koepke says. “I know it’s a healing place.’’