Gift of the Nile: Egyptian-themed decor blends with modern art, 1880s brick in a downtown penthouse redo

Mary Jochim has never tired of the Egyptian Art Deco motif in her homes.

The themed pieces are dazzling. And colors such as turquoise, lapis, teal, gold, scarlet and black are too much to resist.

“I like pow,” Mary says.

It shows.

Purple walls, bright rugs and Egyptian furnishings and accessories fill the 3,000-foot home she shares with teacup poodle Mini Me.

Mary couldn’t believe the fifth-floor penthouse overlooking Gene Leahy Mall had been empty for six months when she first visited two years ago.

“My jaw dropped,” Mary says. “This place, empty, was glorious.”

The space in the 1889 warehouse near 10th and Douglas Streets was such a great opportunity that Mary didn’t think it would work out. But the property company checked off on 2,000 square feet of storage in the basement, a two-car garage and a spot for a few flower pots along the entryway that has since been transformed into a courtyard.

“They made it too good,” Mary says.

Mary, a registered investment adviser, took the leap and along with interior designer and friend Julia Russell of Julia Russell Designs transformed the once boring beige and brick walls with bursts of color, highlighted by her favorite regional artists.

The focal point is a pair of 6-foot King Tut brass doors that flank a Steve Joy painting in the living room.

“Art along with plants breathes life into a space,” Mary says. “I love seeing the art in a 130-year-old building. Both look better together.”

This is her third home with Egyptian décor, which includes gilt brass cobras that guard the sink in the main-floor powder room.

People used to warn her that she would grow tired of it.

“No way,” Mary says.

Russell built on the work of Mary’s original designer, the late Ruth Ann Davis.

“Walking into the penthouse for the first time, it was easy to see how Mary’s bold colors and Egyptian-themed décor was going to look incredible,” Russell says.

Light fixtures were sourced from all over the world, rugs were custom made and fabrics were custom selected for Mary’s upbeat personality.

The only challenge was to provide lighting for Mary’s artwork. Inexpensive clamp lights sourced at a hardware store were the answer.

Mary says the eclectic blend of modern and Egyptian works. The arched windows and views, and the brick walls and beams give visitors a place to rest their eyes from the vibrant decor.

“I didn’t want to go over the top,” she says, “and have someone walk in here and either get spooked or wonder if they had been transported to a theme park.”

Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.