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Interior chi
First floor remodel improves flow of Bay living space


The eating area in the kitchen is pushed a bit into the dining room to make room for the walnut-top island. Throughout the kitchen, the homeownerís fondness of Asian elements is clear. Like many houses of that time period, it had solid hardwood floors. They were sanded and stained a dark mocha color. The marble flooring complements the hardwood.

In the case of this Whitefish Bay remodeling project, familiarity breeds harmony, not contempt, as the old saying goes.

Thatís what architect Jim Grote of Cream City Construction, Milwaukee, and interior designer Karen Kempf of Karen Kempf Interiors, Waukesha, learned after working on two home remodeling projects for a Kohlís executive.

The latest project was the first floor in the execís newly purchased two-story home in Whitefish Bay. Grote says working with her previously and knowing her style and what furnishings and accents were of value to her helped him know what to incorporate into the newly created space.

Her tastes, he says, are eclectic ó she likes the old and the new, the antique and the contemporary. And blending the two was challenging. The house was built in the mid-1930s, and had a closed-in feel. Grote managed to work with much of the houseís original structure, but "the flow of the house is much better. Itís more open," he says.

The house was what he called a transitional home, and one with few embellishments ó no crown molding, for example.

Kempf says the newly remodeled space has a West Coast sensibility. The homeowner previously lived in San Francisco, as did Kempf. She says they achieved a feeling of serenity and calm through texture and color. "We took our cues from nature and being on the lake," Kempf says. "I think one of the reasons it feels so serene is that there arenít any jarring changes," Kempf says. "It has a very soft palette."

For Groteís part, he wanted to create an elegant look to the space. Without a lot of architectural elements, Grote says it was easier to go a bit more contemporary, with cleaner lines.

A decorative vintage light fixture in the office reflects the homeowner's love of antiques.  The office was once a bedroom with a closet, but that was removed and floor-to-ceiling cabinets were built.  The window treatments are the same color a walls so nothing interrupts the eye, says Karen Kempf, interior designer.

The fireplace in the living room is completely remade and replaces a flagstone one without a mantle, a style common to homes built in the 1930's.