Omaha couple's home brings all of their loves together.
Story by Chris Christen
Photography by Jeffrey Bebee
Darcy Beck and a friend were house-hunting along Douglas Street north of 87th and Dodge Streets when Darcy decided that she wanted a closer look at a house that she liked. The house wasn't for sale, but that didn't stop her from asking the homeowner if she could see the inside.
"We kind of barged into the place," Darcy recalls of the January 2006 encounter. She told the homeowner: "If you ever decide that you want to sell, give me a call."
The owners did. And Darcy, a realtor with Deeb Realty, and her architect husband, Steve Conley, had the keys to the house before the month was out.
Steve and Darcy were married in 2000 after a courtship that started with a blind date arranged by a mutual friend. “We immediately clicked,” Steve says. No one was more surprised than Darcy, who had been happily single for 46 years. “I fell smack in love,” Darcy says.
As newlyweds, they lived in Darcy's English Tudor home in the Country Club neighborhood. Steve immediately set to work designing a “huge modern dream home” for the couple in the Ponca Hills area. That house, however, proved to be more than the couple needed or could reasonably manage, they say. “That home was a reality check,” Darcy admits.
They put the Ponca Hills house on the market, moved into a “mold-ridden dump" with their Great Dane and a St. Bernard mix, according to Darcy, and embarked on their most recent house hunt.
“We wanted something that was architecturally engaging and fun,” Darcy says of the home search. That led her to Indian Hills, a Mid-Century modern neighborhood.
Their current home – more so than their original home together – symbolizes a coming together of everything they love, including the architectural style of the 1960s.
Renovations began immediately, “and we're still working on them,” Darcy says. “It's kind of what we do. Everything is a work-in-progress.”
"We can't leave well enough alone," Steve says. "Everything here was done with our own chewing gum and spit. That's the art of this home. There's not a corner that isn't representative of who we are."
One of their biggest projects involved knocking out a wall between the kitchen and the dining area to create a more open floor plan. “It was a pivotal project because it changed the interior aesthetic,” Darcy says. The couple also installed teak flooring throughout the interior, and finessed various spaces to show off treasured art pieces and furnishings. They also had fun with paint, wallpaper and tile.
IKEA became Darcy's new best friend for its closet systems. "We made so many trips to IKEA in Minneapolis, our car was on automatic pilot," Darcy says. "We'd return with tailpipes dragging. We call ourselves the nouveau Clampetts" (referring to "The Beverly Hillbillies" sitcom).
"We have pieces that are disgustingly expensive and some that are dirt cheap," Darcy says. They're all mixed together, along with a treasure trove of furnishings and accessories mostly from her family.
Two (of three) Salvador Dali originals inherited from Darcy's parents share the living room with a trio of 12-inch equine figurines. Two are authentic Japanese Tang horses; the third is an "ancient" Chinese relic purchased online for $.90 plus $90 for postage.
In the dining area, functional art Seatbelt Chairs from the Phillips Collection surround a glass-top table with a stone base crafted by Darcy's father.
An interior wall with “tchotchke holes” formed into the drywall features seven original art objects. There is also an imposter: a ceramic head from Marshalls, sale priced at $16.99 (evidenced by the tag that's still attached to the base).
"I'm a scavenger," Darcy admits.
And an improviser. When she couldn't find a rug for the sunroom, she bought two rugs and had them sewn together to achieve the perfect dimensions.
And then there's the menagerie of whimsical art:
- A bird's nest sculpture from Jackson Artworks in Omaha that once was part of a public art installation at Central Park Mall.
- "Erma," a larger-than-life female form by Nebraska sculptor Al Rhea. The aluminum piece was a Christmas gift to Steve from his mother. "It's extremely important to us for its sentimental value," Darcy says.
- "Featherweight" and "Clumsy Ballerina," headless torsos in tutus by Kathleen Breitinger, purchased at Hot Shops Art Center.
"We like to bring characters into the house," Steve jokes of the sculptures.
Complementing the household: Woogie and Lamb Chop, Standard Poodles rescued from homes in Texas and Kansas.
"They make us a certified Mid-Century modern family," Darcy says of the perfectly groomed dogs. "But I'm not the typical Mid-Century modern housewife. I do not travel from room to room with Comet or a dust cloth."
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