KEARNEY — Ask the children of Heather and Justin Cruise what they enjoy most about their home near Prairie Hills Golf Course south of Pleasanton and they don’t mention having their own rooms with walk-in closets, or the huge fun room in the basement.
They don’t mention the wildlife that parades through their backyard or the sweeping vista they view from a raised deck.
They don’t mention many of the features that thrill kids about most modern homes.
Instead, they mention the stories they accumulated as they helped their father, uncle and grandfather raise their home place from the footings to the rafters.
“Getting to see what it looks like and learning how to build stuff was my favorite part,” said Cohen, the Cruises’ 12-year-old son, about his experiences building the family’s home.
Taylore, 18, is heading off to college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in a few days. She said she’ll carry warm feelings with her to Lincoln about helping with the carpentry and other tasks.
“You make a lot of memories with your dad and uncles,” she said.
Taylore’s younger sister, Jordyn, 16, said she favors babysitting over building, but she said working together does draw the family closer.
Some of the Cruises’ favorite stories aren’t about what went right, but instead how they encountered challenges and figured out solutions.
Hoisting the huge living room window into place was among the challenges. It was a tight fit for the window, but somehow they were able to lift it into place. The only thing guests see through all of that glass is a panoramic view of blazing sunrises and rolling cornfields, but to the family, remembering the struggles to muscle and finesse the window into place is another triumphant chapter in the story of their home.
As for Heather and Justin, the first chapter was written as they settled on a floor plan and then sifted through the smaller details. They said their goal was to anticipate what it would be like living in their new home. Savvy carpenters measure twice and cut once, so they worked hard to ensure walkways were wide enough, that the clutter of family living could be organized, and that features that most homeowners don’t give a lot of thought to received the needed attention.
One example that Justin shared about anticipating life in the finished home involves the cold northerly winds that buffet many country homes. Knowing the wind was bound to blow on the house, he packed the north wall and attic with extra insulation. He overspent the budget on insulation, Heather said, but the result is a quiet, more comfortable home.
Heather and Justin also invested a lot of time trying to anticipate traffic patterns to avoid bottlenecks.
Justin comes by his insight into home design and construction naturally. His father, Randy, and his uncle, Nick, are partners in Cruise Brothers Builders.
The three-man crew hires subcontractors to install plumbing, drywall and heating and A/C, but frames every house and performs many of the other phases of construction. A lot of what they’ve learned during the years goes into every house that Cruise Brothers builds. Justin said his job is to take the anxiety out of building new, adding on and remodeling.
Currently, the Pleasanton-based company is building in Minden, Kearney and St. Libory. They’ll kick off 2020 with two projects in Loup City.
Heather and Justin and their family moved into their new home in June 2018. The family had been living in Kearney, but the couple kept alive the dream of living in the country, as both did when they grew up. Heather and Justin decided, after Justin’s brother, Kyle, built his home near Prairie Hills Golf Course, that an oversize lot near the golf course would be a great place to build.
The countryside is beautiful there, and it’s just a few minutes to school in Pleasanton or to Kearney.
“I put probably five years of planning into this house. You want a house to feel like a home,” Heather said. Her primary goal was to build a family house for the present that, in the future, would be a comfortable and welcoming place when the Taylore, Jordyn and Cohen visited with their kids.
The home is 2,160 square feet on the ground level, and the same for the walkout basement. The Cruises’ home has four bedrooms, 3½ baths and a three-car garage. Justin said he hopes to build a large shed to store construction equipment owned by Cruise Brothers Builders as well as some personal belongings.
Like many modern homes, the Cruise place is built around an open-concept great room. The ceilings in the kitchen, dining room and walk-in pantry are 9 feet, while the living room features an 11-foot ceiling.
The island measures 4½ feet by 9½ feet and is large enough for the family to take meals. The nearby dining room is reserved for special occasions and overflow situations.
The main kitchen has lots of counter space, but there are counter tops and kitchen appliances — toaster, blender, microwave — inside the walk-in pantry. Heather said the arrangement works well for everyone to prepare their own breakfast. If there’s no time to clean up, just swing the pantry doors closed and the clutter is concealed.
Clutter-catching bins flank the fireplace, and an organizer in the laundry room/mudroom helps keep coats and backpacks organized.
The window in Cohen’s bedroom opens to the front yard and Clubhouse Drive.
Also in the north wing, the master bedroom is bright and airy. The master bath features tandem basins and walk-in shower and walk-in closet.
A comfortable place to relax after work, the deck is accessible from the dining room and is protected from the baking sun and blowing wind.
Next to the main entry is a home office. Entry is via sliding barn doors built from aged lumber from a barn on the farm of Heather’s mother near Wilber.
Downstairs is a large wraparound sofa and television, along with a large open space that’s yet to be furnished while the parents and kids debate how best to use the space. The family can walk out of the basement onto a small patio.
Taylore and Jordyn have basement bedrooms. There’s plenty of basement storage in the utility room and adjoining space, including a spot over the front porch that’s ready for use as a tornado shelter.
Asked what he enjoys most about their home, Justin said it’s the great room, especially the kitchen where the family can talk and enjoy some food before rushing off for activities. Justin also said he’s happy he tended to the unseen details, such as extra insulation.
“You can always put in granite 10 years down the road, but you’ll appreciate the extra insulation,” he said.
Heather said she enjoys almost everything about the home. Location, traffic flow and floor plan are on her list.
“I’m so glad we really had the time to look at the plans,” she said. “We like to call this our little piece of heaven.”