RAVENNA — There is a lot of family wrapped up in Sara and Kent Urwiller’s new home east of Ravenna on Highway 2.
The couple’s children — Tessa, 4, and Kayden, 1½ — fill the place with the sounds of play and exploration, and occasionally leave a few of their toys laying around.
Other family touches are present in the furnishings, many of which either were created or handed down from the special people in the couple’s lives. For example, visitors can’t help but be struck by the distressed allure of a dining room table Sara’s dad built during many months of labor using lumber from the nearby St. Michael’s School.
“I said I wanted a big table,” explained Sara, who grew up in the Minden area.
A dresser and cedar chest also are family touches from Sara’s side. They were gifts from her grandparents and are in the master bedroom.
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As for Kent’s side of the family, the 14 acres on which the home stands is Urwiller property. Kent is the sixth generation of his family to live on the land. In fact, the sturdy evergreen windbreak standing north of the home was planted by Kent’s grandfather.
Sara said having the family items in their home gives it a heart and soul, even though it’s a modern structure and they’ve lived in it a little less than two years.
“Everything about a modern house, anyone can have,” Sara said. “With a new home, it doesn’t have a history yet, but with these things it feels personal.”
The Urwillers’ home encompasses 2,200 square feet upstairs and another 2,200 square feet in the finished basement.
That might seem like a large house for a young family, but Sara and Kent paid their dues to get where they are today. They own Prairie Hills Wireless. They sold an earlier home and two cars, then lived in tiny apartments for a few years to buy their stake in the wireless communication game.
Next step for their business will be to erect a 40-foot-by-70-foot supply warehouse and garage for Prairie Hills Wireless next to their home.
“We’ve always run the business out of our home,” said Kent, who earned a two-year degree from Central Community College-Hastings before launching the wireless company. Sara has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Now she’s working for a doctorate in counseling.
When it was time to close the chapter on their life in tiny apartments and open a new chapter with something larger and more comfortable, Sara and Kent did their homework. They sought bids from several contractors, and they priced a pre-manufactured home, but when the cost of the pre-built house came in higher than they anticipated, they opted for a stick-built house.
After looking at a number of his houses, the Urwillers sought the services of Brad Rasmussen Construction. At the top of Sara and Kent’s wish list was an open floor plan that could swallow plenty of guests, such as big family gatherings around the holidays.
The result of their design parameters is a home that wears its size well, with an open concept living room, dining room and kitchen on the ground level, along with an oversized fun room in the basement. Nine-foot ceilings upstairs and downstairs amplify the openness.
Thanks to those many family touches of heirloom furniture and woodshop creations, the decor complements the home’s modern lines with a softer look that says it’s OK to walk around in your stockings. Sara kept the look elegantly simple by selecting a Shaker design for the kitchen cupboards, and carrying that theme throughout the home with doors and trim.
With two energetic children and a pair of dogs, the couple opted for durability in some of their major decorating choices. For example, by selecting a special wood-effect vinyl flooring, they managed to mate beauty with long wear. Ditto with the stained concrete floor in the basement. It has a brown, leathery look, and Sara and Kent don’t mind when their kids ride bicycles or rough-house in the basement.
“Brad (Rasmussen, the contractor) was really nervous about doing the stained concrete, but we think it looks great,” Sara said.
Both the basement floor and concrete garage floor are heated. The warm floor downstairs adds comfort and makes the quiet, private space extra inviting, regardless of the season. Adding the heated floor in the three-car garage melts away winter ice on the Urwillers’ vehicles, and on cold winter mornings, they never have to jump into a cold car.
Sara and Kent revealed two other splurges: a spacious walk-in shower and four wireless hotspots. Adding the hotspots was Kent’s idea. Both he and Sara said the large walk-in shower came at the expense of a bathtub. In hindsight, the couple said that including a tub in the master suite would have been wonderful because there are times when there’s no substitute for a good soak.
The Urwillers’ kitchen is well-equipped for family living, with a rugged gas oven and stove, stainless-steel appliances, a farmer’s sink next to the dishwasher and three stools next to the granite-topped island for meals on the go.
Actually, the kitchen lacks an island. Instead, Sara opted for a peninsula shape that wraps around the kitchen’s working area. The peninsula still acts as a natural gathering point for guests who easily can serve themselves without congesting traffic in the kitchen, where a big wood table is handy for food preparation.
Near the kitchen is the laundry room and entry to the three-car garage. The Urwillers rigged a nifty pet door and kennel space so their two dogs, Bella and Gunner, have a little space of their own. Near the garage and windbreak is a playset for Tessa and Kayden.
The play area overlooks Highway 2 and Grandpa Urwiller’s large watermelon patch south of the home, which is set back from the highway several hundred feet. About a mile to the north of Sara and Kent’s place is the Middle Loup River.
The setting is peaceful — the kind of place Sara and Kent dreamed about.
“We always talked about living here,” Sara said. “It was going to be 15 years into our marriage, but the (wireless) business jump-started our plans.”