Eleven years before designing their dream home, David and Sarah Ullsperger’s partnership began in January 2010 when Karie Milford (Editor of Milford Magazine) set them up on a blind date.
Originally from California, Sarah had just moved to Omaha to live near family. The winter had been particularly snowy, and Sarah says she cried for weeks. However, circumstances changed once she settled into her environment and met David.
At the time, David was a superintendent at a local construction company where Karie worked as the office manager. When Sarah came in to apply for a job, Karie arranged for her and David to meet.
“I asked her if she knew anyone, and she said, ‘Yeah, I do!’” Sarah says. “That was it. We haven’t been apart much since.”
A Nebraska City native, David moved to Omaha at 18. His father owned a construction company that gave David early exposure to the field.
Although David and Sarah grew up miles apart, they were united by their construction backgrounds. Now, the husband-and-wife team owns several businesses, including NBG Framing, a commercial subcontracting company.
An agent at Milford Real Estate, Sarah says she always wanted to do a full-scale home renovation. In summer 2021, she set her sights on a 1978, 10-acre run-down ranch in the Millard area.
However, David was unhappy with her chosen project. The landscaping was overgrown after being vacant for three years, and the inside needed updates. Sarah had to convince him to even tour the property.
“I did not want to be here,” David says. “I was like, ‘There are so many other things I could be doing at work right now than walking through this crap hole.’”
When they looked at the ranch, David says he felt like he was on an HGTV show featuring the worst house in the neighborhood. Yet, David and Sarah agreed the home had potential.
“Even as ugly as it was, we walked in and we were both like, ‘This just feels like home,’” Sarah says. “The bones were good.”
Despite its appearance, Sarah says the house won them over due to its layout and functionality for their family.
“It’s really long and really wide, and that’s what I wanted,” she says. “I wanted a single story because we have an autistic daughter who likes to climb in windows. I don’t ever want her to fall out, but she’s safe here. It hit all the markers, and it has the U-shaped, roundabout driveway. It had everything that we wanted.”
The 8,200-square-foot ranch provides plenty of space for David, Sarah, their 6-year-old son Graham, 4-year-old Caroline, a cat and four French bulldogs. The couple also likes the architectural details, which feature high, arched ceilings, triangular kitchen wall cutouts and large windows.
While the previous owner hid those attributes, David says he and Sarah worked to uncover the house’s charm. After purchasing the property in June 2021, they spent the next seven months transforming the five-bedroom, eight-bathroom ranch into a unique living space.
“We love it here, but both of us completely agree that Omaha is stagnant when it comes to design on houses,” David says. “We knew that whatever we were going to do, we were going to try to make it different.”
To achieve their desired look, David and Sarah renovated the entire home themselves, redoing landscaping, wiring and plumbing. They also converted some of the bathrooms into half baths and added a dog wash in the mudroom.
Sarah says the design inspiration was a cigar bar theme, with colors such as blues, browns, and golds. She and David incorporated touches like crystal door handles and dark wood floors to lend a timeless feel.
“In 10 or 20 years from now, whether we’re still living here or selling it, I don’t want people to walk through and go, ‘Oh yeah, that house was definitely built in 2022,’” David says. “I want people in 2040 to have no idea when this house was remodeled based on what it looks like. That’s what we were going for.”
David says many people told them a seven-month renovation was ambitious, but they maintained an aggressive timeline. Challenges included navigating lead times and COVID-related shipping delays, but David and Sarah persisted, contacting multiple sources for products such as doors and windows until they achieved results. Amidst setbacks, they remained flexible.
“Bob Ross was super right when he said happy mistakes,” David says. “Each one really is an opening to something else. It’s crazy how it works out.”
From the landscaping to the interior, David says everything ties together. He and Sarah continued the architect’s vision of triangular and rectangular-shaped finishes, ensuring every piece had a purpose. Their favorite features include a “Beauty and the Beast” library with sliding ladders and an odd-shaped hallway they converted into an antique motorcycle museum.
Since moving into the home in January, David says they have hosted many guests. Visitors tell them they considered every detail.
“That’s what we always get told,” he says. “We still think of things all the time where it’s like, ‘Oh, I wish I would have done that,’ but for the most part, we tried to think of everything we possibly could.”
Sarah says the most rewarding part was completing their first home remodel with minimal disagreements.
“We did it very successfully and we did it fast,” she says. “I think we did an amazing job. We succeeded at this giant renovation.”
After finishing the front yard and interior, Sarah says their next project is adding a backyard pool, fire pit and children’s play area. They also plan to build a garage with an office space upstairs.
David says he sees the ranch as their forever home.
“I would love for this to be where our kids get through school,” he says. “This is perfect. We tried to create our dream situation, our dream home out of somebody else’s original dream. It was tough to do, but we did it.” ◆