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Depth of field
Modern take on rural living blends old ideals with contemporary flair



On a one-acre lot in Oconomowoc, Steve Puetzer and Tricia Shayís modern farmhouse interpretation is surrounded by public green space.

As husband and wife photographers ó he advertising and she architectural ó Steve Puetzer and Tricia Shay have been like-minded in the design of their farmhouse in a rural Oconomowoc subdivision. "Weíve been through a couple of different building projects in the past," Shay says. "We reclaimed an 1850s log cabin and put all the details in. We work well together and our choices are really similar. Itís as much him as it is me."

They worked with Chicago architect Paul Konstant ó a client of Shayís ó for the home design, and tapped into other contacts for guidance on colors, lighting and landscaping, though they made most of the design choices on their own.

When people ask them which part of the house is original, they know theyíve accomplished what they set out to do. "I love that," Shay says. "We wanted it to be timeless."

The barn at dusk

Q: Describe the style of your home.

A: Iíve been calling it an urban farmhouse. Itís got a traditional farm look, but itís a little edgier than that.

Q: How does the farmhouse theme play out throughout the house?

A: Going into an old farmhouse, thereís something warm and inviting in them, the house pulls that out. There are no rooms in our house that we donít use every day. The dining room is part of our living room. The kitchen is a gathering space and is warm and inviting. Weíre taking a long time to finish each space. Itís still a work in progress. I found an old crate in an antique store and put it up on the wall in the powder room. For me, new pieces donít compare. They donít have the history or the character that those old pieces have.

Q: The house is a study in neutrals. Why did you go with a neutral color palette?

A: We have a lot of hallways throughout the house. To tie rooms together we kept it neutral through the hallways, with little pops of color here and there. The powder room is orange; the green of the kitchen I call pea soup green; a kitchen accent wall of slate blue goes upstairs. The grays and beiges of the bedroom started from a piece of fabric I found. Itís a soothing palette for the bedroom.

Homeowner Tricia Shay says she has learned that itís OK to mix older pieces and newer ones in the design scheme.

Q: Are those your photographs in the photos?

A: A lot of them, yes. The one above the bed is mine. The one of New York is one of my husbandís. Weíve used some of our images we had printed up for art shows. It actually all started when for one of Steveís birthdays I came up with the frame concept just for fun and made the frame for the New York print. As we find images of ours that work, we put them up. Itís not so much that I want my images on the wall. We love collecting other peopleís artwork, too.

Q: There is a use of organic materials and wood accents in the house. How did that come about?

A: Iím a hobbyist furniture maker and I love wood. Through MATC in Oak Creek Iíve been taking the same millwork class with the same group of older gentlemen for almost seven years now, both semesters. Itís a creative outlet for me. The console table is rustic walnut; the table in the entryway is actually reclaimed barn wood from the 1850s. Each piece of wood is inherently fascinating to me. Furniture should be clear of cracks and knots, but I gravitate to those. I love the character they lend to furniture.

Q: Whatís on your wish list?

A: My biggest thing is a cool, old dining room table. Iíd like to find an old harvest table or something like that. Weíre currently working on plans for making a backyard outdoor entertainment area.

Natural colors along a hallway off the main entrance unify the spaces


Window treatment fabric inspired the color palette in the master bedroom. Shay, a hobbyist furniture maker, made the bedside table, bench and cabinet in the room.


Steve Puetzerís photograph of New York City hangs above a console made by Shay.


The laundry room.