Stories from middle America

Over the last few years, a lot has changed in my life and in my business. And I’ve discovered the only thing that feels right to me is living an intentional and honest life, and sometimes that means it’s messy. I don’t want to be perfect or design perfect spaces. Honestly, those are boring.

Inevitably COOP is starting to reflect those changes.

I don’t want to only share the glossy style posts we see on most lifestyle blogs. I love pretty as much as the next person, but I like the behind-the-scenes adventures more. I don’t want anyone buying filler items for their house, and I don’t want to throw filler junk up on this site. I want to get to the guts of everything. Get underneath the shiny surface and dive into what’s real.

And thanks to Steve Gordon of RDQLUS Creative, who designed the badass rooster logo (dude, I want a T-shirt!), and Eric Downs who revamped our website, I feel like we can communicate this philosophy better.

We’re also adding a couple new regular contributors to the mix.

My best friend Amanda Rucker is a smart, accomplished, and hilarious woman. She’s also my partner-in-crime and adventure. 2015 felt like a time to make this little space on the internet feel more personal. So I persuaded her to help me recap the sometimes ridiculous but mostly wonderful experiences we work hard to make time for in our lives.

If mindfulness is a buzzword right now, there’s good reason for it. A consistent yoga and meditation practice has positively impacted my life more than anything ever has. It’s not weird, everybody. It’s awesome.

Stefanie Monge is a yoga teacher and a bartender. (See, people don’t fit into boxes.) Her approach to zen is really accessible and I never feel intimidated being myself or trying something new in her classes. I’m really looking forward to reading more from her.

Here’s to a new look and some new perspectives!

Photos via Hooton Images.

You took weeks to view a half dozen spaces before making an offer on that house with the perfect built-ins by the fireplace. Or you spent hours searching Craigslist, while posting feelers on your social media feeds for leads on apartments in your dream neighborhood.

You took the time to find the right place for you, the space that fit your needs and felt like home.

After all that effort, doesn’t it make sense to be as intentional designing your space?

We suggested this more selective approach to design while working with creative couple Caleb and Daphne to make their charming home a perfect combination of lived-in and cool, with an inviting living/dining room. We also created a functional, multi-tasking, business meeting area. They needed a lot from this little room, which meant taking our time to find the just-right pieces was the only option.

I explained the design inspiration last year. We’ve made considerable progress on the implementation.


These clients work from home, so this small front area needed to serve multiple functions. Though it won’t always be used for business needs, occasionally the clients hold meetings or quick brainstorm sessions in what might normally be their home’s living room. There is no stand alone dining room in their house.

And since the couple loves to regularly host intimate dinner parties, it made sense to focus on bringing in a large table that can function as a dining area and as a workspace, instead of attempting to use furniture made for lounging.


floral chairs-coop

Though there wasn’t enough room for a couch, we still wanted a place for people to take a seat. We loved the vintage caned chairs the clients already owned, but felt they could stand out with new upholstery. This bold floral pattern looks cool and contemporary played against the white walls and abstract art. (Caleb is a talented artist; lucky us!)

gold drapes

We knew that white walls would keep the snug room feeling bright and airy. The trick was adding texture and interest with mustard colored velvet drapes, an antique Persian runner, and varied lighting elements: a Jonathan Adler green table lamp and beautiful brass ceiling fixture from One Forty Three.


The real showstopper is the custom mural Caleb painted on the back wall. It acts as a vivid focal point, yet doesn’t overwhelm. The layered Teal Gardner art adds a contrasting brightness and hit of color. And that touch of pink in the adjacent hallway? What a fun moment.

We’re not completely done with everything. The chairs around the table will be replaced once we find the perfect set by Milo Baughman. Soon, every piece will have a purpose and be exactly what our clients love.

It was fun to read our client’s experience on thoughtful design and working with Birdhouse.


It’s the holiday season, and I’m writing a post for a lifestyle blog.

So, what does that mean?

You guessed it: the ubiquitous holiday gift guide!

Rather than focusing on a roundup of gifts made by people who don’t live in my area code, I’d prefer to highlight those doing (and making) cool things where I call home.

In partnering with the Omaha organization Heartland 2050, I continue to realize the importance of positive community development. Shopping local is a wonderful way to support your city’s residents and its economy. (And listen: you live where you live for one reason or another. Don’t you want that place to be a better city? One with a richer culture and greater opportunities? I thought so; you’re smart like that.)

There is a Makers Market this weekend where some of the items I’ve suggested will be available. I’m sure the event will feature plenty of other worthwhile items that aren’t on my list, but could certainly pique your interest.

If you’re not in Omaha, a few of these suggestions are available online.

1. Film Streams Membership

This past Thanksgiving weekend, I went to a late night showing of “Birdman.” I sat alone, drinking a Dark Side (a delicious beer brewed in Lincoln, Nebraska) in this charming nonprofit theatre “committed to screening films based on their creative, artistic, and social merits.” It was a treat – an incredibly relaxed, entertaining, and rewarding evening. I often have those experiences at Film Streams. And I feel proud that it is in my city.

2. Joslyn Museum Membership

Opened in 1931, the Josyln is Nebraska’s largest art museum. An impressive collection of art, ranging from American Indian to Modern, pepper the walls within the beautiful art deco architecture. It also regularly welcomes temporary featured exhibitions. General admission to the permanent collection is free to everyone. But a membership helps supports the museum, and provides free access to ticketed exhibitions and events.

3. The Object Enthusiast:

Emily’s ceramics are stylish and functional. She expertly (and tirelessly )makes everything herself, and each piece feels like a one-of-a-kind. My pick is the large mint teardrop vase with polka dots.

4. Beansmith Coffee

I’m late to jump on this local bandwagon, but jump I have! This coffee is delicious. My favorite is the Mockingbird blend, maybe just for the smell alone. (Oh, and word on the street is they are opening up a second location downtown.)

5. Intro to Woodworking Class at Bench

This is not just for the men. Anyone can appreciate learning basic woodworking skills. And playing with power tools is awesome.

6. Heather Kita Jewelry Design

We interviewed Heather earlier this year, and her work has remained with me. I already own a geometric pendant necklace, and plan on investing in a few other statement pieces. I’ve got my eye on the Turquoise Crescent Pendant.

7. A donation to The Union for Contemporary Art

Art should be about connectivity. It shouldn’t be divisive, and something only certain sects of the population are encouraged to appreciate. With a goal of “the arts to become a bridge, connecting our diverse community in innovative and meaningful ways to create a stronger, more inclusive Omaha,” the Union is doing some amazing work.

8. 1877 Society Membership

I’m the committee chair of this new group of library enthusiasts in their twenties and thirties who support and advocate for the Omaha Public Library, its programs, patrons, services, and staff. Clearly, I couldn’t overlook including a membership to the 1877 Society on my list! And did I mention it supports our library system?

Happy holidays!





November 14, 2014

Bits and Pieces

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 11.18.51 AM

From my bathroom stall at Whole Foods this week. 

I no longer feel guilty taking some time to read blogs, newspaper articles and magazines. Staying abreast of current cultural conversations informs my work, and more importantly, my humanity.

And I really like playing on the internet.

Here are a couple of pieces I found interesting this week.

Stop Taking Pictures of Homeless People

“If you want to make a statement about the state of public health care, mental health, affordable housing, or abuse, then do that. Spend time with people, talk to them, have an agenda and a message you formulate yourself and commit to it. That is interesting. Taking a picture of a dude passed out in a park isn’t telling; it’s annoying.”

For real.

Showroom vs. Sanctuary

I can’t begin to describe the impact this article has had on me. I’ve been struggling with the sometimes frivolous world where I make my living and my absolute passion for what I do.

Sharing Synesthesia with Kaitlyn and Matt Hova

I was fortunate enough to meet Kaitlyn and Matt at a party before they left for California. She discussed synesthesia and it was incredibly interesting learning about it and how it affects her music. It’s even cooler that Matt has developed a way to share in his wife’s super power.

Happy Friday!