“This house is a great collaboration,” says Dan Nilsen of his Sunset Hills home. “So many people have touched it, and every one of them brought their best talent to the project.” While Nilsen is quick to give credit, there is an easy energy to the house that is very much the owner’s own.
Nilsen has been in the house for two years. “I was thinking about moving into a condo on the Plaza. I thought I would downsize while I worked to grow the business,” he says of his event planning company, Bishop McCann. “And my friend Kurt Oetting said, ‘Why don’t you build? It will be easier than renovating.’” Nilsen laughs. “That did not turn out to be true,” he says of the project that took over four years.
Oetting played a key role in the design and construction. “Kurt was the brains behind so much of the house,” says Nilsen. It was Oetting who suggested the French feel of the house and dozens of the custom details that make it unique. He scoured the city for interesting materials, talented craftsmen and vintage and antique furniture. Craigslist and ReStore had some of his best finds. “I’d like to say I found Dan some great bargains, but everything we did with them was custom. It probably ended up costing him more money in the long run,” says Oetting.
Still, it was a labor of love. Nilsen wanted a home that was elegant but entirely livable. He loves to entertain, both small groups and large, and was adamant that people could put their feet up on anything and never use a coaster. When he’s having people over, the crowd seems to congregate in the kitchen, as crowds tend to do. Nilsen’s is, however, particularly appealing. Brazilian cherry floors inset with travertine provide a stunning base, and the large island is an easy spot to gather. A small prep kitchen tucked behind the range allows any mess to be hidden away. Not that it needs to be hidden with its graphic open shelving and charming counters made from the wood of a vintage bowling lane.
Architect Scott Bickford and builder Kyle Oetting (who is Kurt’s twin) were key to the design and implementation of the high level of custom work that Nilsen and Oetting required.
Once construction was complete, late designer Terry Landeck began the interior design. When she became ill, Doug Wells of Wells Design Studio, together with fellow designer Patrick Kappelmann of Arcadian Design, completed the interiors, including architectural components such as crown molding and an outdoor room off of the master bath that is one of Nilsen’s favorite spots in the house.
The gracious living room is arranged to accommodate a crowd or a cozy conversation a deux by the fire. “I found the vintage 1960s sofa that’s scaled perfectly for the large room and gives it a really chic vibe,” says Wells. It’s masculine without being heavy with its deep shades of chocolate and ink set against a neutral backdrop. Bold shots of orange and yellow keep things lively. Kappelmann selected the antique Fortuny fabric that covers the brilliant saffron-hued pillows. “We had a custom rug fabricated,” Wells says, “which joins the various seating areas to unify the space.”
Wells took Landeck’s original desire for a black dining room and realized it with a seven-step French-polish finish and added the dramatic gold-leaf paper on the ceiling, creating a bold space for entertaining. Kappelmann suggested hanging the abstract Lester Goldman painting on the main wall, which creates a dramatic first impression near the entry of the house.
Part of the impetus for Nilsen to build was making space for his three daughters. “I really wanted them to each have a really nice bedroom suite.” Designer Jennifer Bertrand helped realize his vision. Their rooms and Nilsen’s own have all the amenities of a luxury hotel.
But even with so many cooks in the kitchen, making the house personal was key. “It could have been disorganized, but it wasn’t. I had so much fun having so many friends involved. One night during the construction, we drank a little wine and placed five hundred crystals into the walls of the house. There are crystals in every door way and the corners of all the rooms. I wanted the energy to be good.”
Wells Design Studio
Studio Dan Meiners
Terrasi Living & Scandia Home
Weinberger Fine Art
Photographed by Aaron Leimkuehler. See our June/July 2015 issue for even more photos of this featured home.