The kitchen in the Milaitis home is
separated into different zones to accommodate every member of
the family, from cooking and baking stations to homework
and art areas. The Baltic Green
granite on the island complements the Bianca
Iran granite on the countertops.
Karen Milaitis reflects upon her
kitchen remodel the way others recall a Caribbean vacation. Words like
"fun," "stress-free," and "exciting,"
describe the process by which this family of six overhauled a kitchen,
dining area, living room and patio.
"I just wanted this to be a happy
home," Milaitis says. "This is truly a family home.
Everybody gathers here and we have loved living here. This home is
meant for kids and their friends and that is how we’ve used
"Everybody" includes Karen,
her husband, Rimas, and her four children, who range in age from 2 to
11. This five-bedroom Mequon home is set on an expansive wooded lot.
Built in the late 1960s, the home includes an indoor pool.
"This home is comforting,"
she says. "Everyone is welcome here. This is a beautiful open
lot. We wanted to open up the family room and kitchen to really fit in
all the features we wanted in a kitchen. I had pretty strong ideas
about what we wanted."
What she wanted was foremost a family
haven. A place where you can teach your 11-year-old to bake cakes
while your toddler plays nearby. The plan included a kitchen that
worked equally well for an elegant dinner party as for a child’s
birthday party. A place where placement of the art supplies is just as
important as placement of the baking center. This home’s faux
textured butter colored walls cover magnetic paint so the kids can
hang their art or their plastic ABCs. From the spill-friendly flooring
to the dishes placed within a child’s reach, this is a family
"We included two dishwashers and
two full ovens because that is how we use the kitchen," Milaitis
says. "We have ‘zones’ for everything from art projects to
baking to cooking to table setting. My grandmother always used to say
‘Keep it simple,’ and that really helped decide what was important
to us in this space. Joan Vogel helped us with space planning.
"She could take my idea and refine
and organize it. She helped us choose colors and lighting that worked
for us like the faux texture on the walls - you can splash spaghetti
and yogurt on it and it still looks great. Toys can go flying and we’ll
call it distressed. Living just adds character to the room."
The ceramic flooring includes radiant
heat that maintains room comfort even with the abundance of large
"You can go without socks
throughout the winter," Milaitis says. "You can sit on the
floor and be perfectly comfortable. It is one of our favorite features
of the home."
Bob Quigley of Brillo Home Improvement
says the heating alternatives are becoming more popular.
"It is great to have that many
windows in a Wisconsin home and not feel the cold," Quigley says.
"You can be comfortable without overheating another area of the
home. The focal point of this home is really the kitchen. It was a
very smooth process partly because the family really knew
what they wanted and they were flexible and open-minded."
Milaitis kept files of books she
admired and drew inspiration from the images for her home. The rustic
looking dining room set was one of the first
choices she made in the process.
"I saw this table years ago and
knew I could design a house around it," she says. "I knew I
wanted a clean look in the kitchen. I don’t like stuff sitting out
so everything had to be hidden. The baking center has everything we
need for coffee, tea, hot chocolate and baking, but it is all behind
cabinet doors so you don’t have to look at it. Right down to
electrical strips and lighting, everything is hidden and placed where
you need it."
The maple cabinetry and the
wrought-iron accents complement the natural
setting outside. Drawers are 36 inches wide and the appliances have
cabinetry fronts. Just a step off the kitchen is a built-in china
cabinet and desk area.
"I don’t really use a desk
because I never sit down," says Milaitis. "But we use the
area to store everything you need to wrap gifts.
"I wanted the little kids to be
able to get their own cups and plates from the drawers," Milaitis
says. "When they’re older they can be used for table linens or
anything. They can get the table set without walking through the
cooking zone so you don’t have people tripping over each
It is hard to imagine elbowing for
space at this kitchen island. The nerve center of the room, one side
is zoned for cooking or grilling. Another side for baking - an art
area and homework area complete the zones. You can empty the
dishwasher without running over the chef - that was intentional in the
"We chose to do the island in a
different color stone than the rest of the counters," Milaitis
says. "Because there is so much counter space I thought it would
have been too much to do it all in the same stone. I wanted a stone
that would complement but not compete with the rest of the
The Milaitis family chose to add an
indoor gas grill to the kitchen and had a commercial-grade hood custom
built over the stove and grill.
"When you have little kids you can’t
just walk outside to the grill," Milaitis says. "We had a
commercial fan put in. This is one of the pieces that we think they
just did so well. It is drywall skimcoated to a textured finish to
look like stonework. It is a commercial vent. The rock wall really
balances the room with the fireplace."
Quigley credits Scott Gretzon of Brillo
for the creation of the hood.
"Just our luck that Scott has a
masonry background and knew exactly what this would look like
finished," he says.
Another area of the remodel that is
particularly seamless is the exterior matching of the new stonework to
the existing stone.
"I guess it was a mix of a
dedicated effort and dumb luck that we could match the stone that
well," says Quigley. "One of the first things we try to
accomplish with an addition is how well we can match stone, and for
this home the process worked particularly well."
The home’s construction provided a
strong canvas for Milaitis’ vision.
"This house is exceptionally
well-built," she says. "All it needed was updating. We
wanted to tie the rooms together and open the space. We prepared
ourselves for glitches, but honestly everything went so well."