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Like many couples who dreamed of building their own home, Dan and Jill Grasso kept a file of ideas they would like to incorporate into their dream home.

And Jill had a small sample of cobalt blue quartz that she knew would someday be on her kitchen counters.

"I carried it in my purse," she said.

After they bought the lot at 858 Capitola Drive, it was the one thing she was sure would be a reality.

The Grassos' home and four other architect-designed houses will be part of the Nebraska Chapter of American Institute of Architects home tour next Sunday from

1 to 4:30 p.m.

Designing their own home was always in the back of the couple's minds. When they purchased their lot about six years ago, they knew they finally could begin the process, Dan said.

Near the edge of Wilderness Park and Southwest High School, the location had just what they wanted. This home, they decided, would last them a lifetime, and the design plans had to reflect that.

Both Jill and Dan had a few must-haves on their list. They decided Dan, an architect, would focus on the exterior design, and Jill, an interior designer, would have free rein over the inside.

In addition to the blue kitchen countertop, Jill wanted a laundry room near a galley kitchen, which would feature a long wall of cabinets and counter space for efficiency.

Dan knew that the design would include a courtyard, which would be shaded in the evening and accessible from various rooms. He also wanted a pergola.

Both wanted a wood-burning fireplace.

Instead of selecting a specific color palette, they chose a palette of materials that would be used throughout the house. Black glass and porcelain tiles and maple floors were used in a variety of ways.

"We wanted to keep it simple and easy to clean," Jill said.

The continuity of materials is obvious when you walk through the house. The entry floor's porcelain tiles line up with the maple floor in the living room. The porcelain shows up again in the fireplace hearth and on the kitchen floor. Black glass tiles surround the fireplace and are used in the bathroom's backsplash.

Another priority was natural light. Dan designed each room so light streams in from two sides, opening up views of the outside at every turn.

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Walking in the front door, for example, visitors face a floor-to-ceiling window, which opens up the space and frames the wooded area outside.

Jill is a big believer in fresh air, so the design also allows for windows in every bathroom and in the bedroom closet.

With about 2,800 square feet, the three-bedroom home needed to be flexible for the couple and their 11-year-old son, Harrison.

The formal dining room doubles as a music room, where Harrison practices cello and piano.

Designing for specific needs is one of the pluses of using an architect for a family home, Dan said. And although some believe it is more expensive to do that, he disagrees.

"Architects have access to great resources, which in the long run, may save money," he said.

Left on the drawing board was a finished basement. The Grassos hope to have that done in the next year, because Harrison thinks it would be a great place to gather with his friends.

The landscape is continually evolving, too, Jill said. After three years, the mix of traditional turf, prairie grasses and wildflowers is really taking shape, with blooms throughout the season.

Reach Kathryn Cates Moore at 402-473-7214 or kmoore@journalstar.com.

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