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Penthouse views and hues: After relocating to Omaha from NYC, couple find similar urban living at Midtown Crossing – Omaha World |

Penthouse views and hues: After relocating to Omaha from NYC, couple find similar urban living at Midtown Crossing – Omaha World

Susan Thomas pours a cup of green tea for her visitor and herself from a blue-and-white porcelain teapot. The gesture isn’t surprising considering her affinity for Asian culture and design, the enthusiasm and heritage of two adopted daughters from China, and calming seas of blue that flow through her condominium home.

Thomas, husband Steve Hutchinson and teenage daughter Jenna live in a penthouse suite at Midtown Crossing at Turner Park.

Three years ago, with eldest daughter Lilia attending Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, the family found itself ready to downsize and re-establish something they had left behind in New York more than 13 years earlier.

Susan, a Nebraska native, and Steve had both worked on Wall Street when they relocated from New York City to Omaha in 2003 to be closer to Susan’s mother, then 80. Their daughters were ages 3 and 7.

The family was accustomed to the big-city lifestyle they loved in an Upper West Side Manhattan apartment with a view of Central Park.

“I never aspired to be a house owner,” Susan confides. Neighborhoods with wide sidewalks and tall buildings were more her style.

“We liked one-level living,” with no yardwork or home maintenance required, Steve adds. “When we relocated to Omaha, there were hardly any family apartments or condos available.” Dundee was attractive with its dense population, mature trees and neighborhood school. “It was a great neighborhood for the kids to grow up in,” Steve says. “But that rationale disappeared” as they contemplated life as empty-nesters.

So with only one daughter living at home in 2014, they started thinking about saying goodbye to their three-story, single-family home in Dundee and hello to urban living once again.

The couple purchased the Midtown Crossing penthouse in August 2015 and moved in nine months later. “The walls were up, but otherwise the condo was a shell,” Susan explains. She did the concept designs for the build-out and hired Omaha interior designer Lester Katz to help her refine and execute the plan. “Lester and Susan get the credit for the way it turned out,” Steve says.

The three-bedroom, 2,600-square-foot luxury property has tall north-facing windows with expansive, unobstructed views of the Omaha riverfront and, on a clear day, the Loess Hills in Iowa.

“It’s a different perspective of airiness that most people’s homes don’t have,” Susan says of the eighth-story perch. Natural light pours in, even on overcast days.

“I love blue and gray these days,” Susan says of the interior palette. But there’s a caveat. “My husband is a big risk taker in business but not in décor.”

Katz employed a total of 25 tones of blue and gray in paints, tiles and textiles. Blues on walls change in intensity as you move through the home, creating subtle interest and depth.

Traditional furnishings, many antiques, are set against a contemporary artscape.

Some furnishings have been with Susan since grad school. “I was 28 when I began acquiring nice pieces a little at a time.” An antique mirror in the dining room area was one of her first acquisitions.

Four occasional chairs — Louis XVI reproductions purchased in 1985 — have been recovered six times in the past 33 years. Ditto for a custom sofa and a chaise lounge.

For the penthouse, upholstered pieces were stripped of skirting and tassels that looked at home in Dundee and recovered with modern fabrics to complement the clean lines of the penthouse. “Lester did an incredibly good job converting them,” Susan says.

“Our tastes in art are different. But that’s OK,” observes Susan, former founding executive director of the Omaha Creative Institute. Local artists represent at least 50 percent of their collection.

Two prized works hang by the baby grand piano: A Laurie and Charles portrait of Jenna and Lilia, and a painting by Ying Zhu — the first sold by the China-Midwest transplant. The connection is personal. She baby-sat for the girls as a college student when the family first moved to Omaha.

Tabletop accessories are limited to sentimental treasures. Of special note: An antique urn that holds 40 years of roses given to Susan as gifts. “It was something my grandmother did, and now my daughters are doing it, too.”

Lighting is both functional and artful. Some fixtures have hung in previous homes; others are custom designs. Three blown glass and gold leaf pendants by Julie Conway hang above a medieval-era dining room table. Another blown-glass cluster by the artist floats above the kitchen island.

Gorgeous sunsets and cool summer breezes are undeniable perks. “We have dinner on the balcony quite a lot,” Susan notes. 

Opera in the Park, Jazz on the Green and other community events are opportunities to invite friends over. “We like the activity,” Steve says. “Jena likes it here, too.”

She’s a senior at nearby Omaha Central High School. Father and daughter are regulars at the fitness center on the street level. Steve’s weekly routine includes yoga, tennis, spin class and workouts with a personal trainer. “Proximity is a huge motivator,” he says. “A one-minute elevator ride and you’re there.”

Grocery shopping is easy. Wohlner’s is a short walk through a heated, connecting garage.

“When we don’t feel like cooking, we just pop down to one of the restaurants in the neighborhood,” Susan says.

The couple say they plan to stay in Omaha as empty-nesters.

They’ve already tackled that inevitable task of downsizing.

“This is an easy place to walk away from. Just lock the door and leave for a time,” Steve says.

“It feels like New York but better,” Susan adds. “This is our Central Park.”

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