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Remodeler's dream

Photos by Doug Edmunds

November 2012

Jake Ruiz endured a serious house hunt — from Hartland to Wauwatosa — before putting in an offer five years ago on the 1937 Lannon stone fixer-upper on a dead-end street in West Allis. Yet the house was no dead end: its good bones realized Ruiz’s remodeling dream.

"When I walked into the house I could immediately see the potential," says Ruiz. "It was very well-built, but way out of style." Out went decades-old butterscotch shag carpeting, lacy kitchen-window curtains and outdated bathroom tile. A wall between the kitchen and the living room was removed, and the staircase to the second floor opened up. Closet-shelving space was quadrupled. Now, a palette of autumn-inspired hues throughout — like the pumpkin wall at the top of the staircase, or the kitchen’s milky chocolate walls — marry with accents such as the Café au Lait granite master-bath vanity, the breakfast bar’s quartz countertop with mirror chips, and shimmery glass-tile backsplashes in the kitchen.

Armed with home-remodeling experience (he’s a project manager for his family’s business, Quality Remodeling Specialists in Pewaukee, and the house is a showroom for clients), Ruiz kept only the exterior brick and the house’s frame. Everything else is new, including copper gutters, the roof, two walk-in showers, shiny stainless-steel kitchen appliances, and even heated tiled floors. Plumbing, electrical and HVAC were updated too. Yet there’s a nod to the past in each room, such as crown moldings in the guest room and reeded-glass doors on kitchen cabinets.

The face-lift’s best part lies in the upstairs master-bath suite, former attic space converted to two bedrooms in the 1960s that Ruiz gutted to install a high-end bedroom and bathroom, as well as a skylight. Drawers built into the bedroom’s half walls store clothing and audio-visual equipment, and beyond a curved glass-block wall is the room-size shower with Travertine stone, a heated bench and floors, and shower heads and body sprays for two (with separate controls).

The home’s inclusion in this year’s NARI Spring Home Improvement Showcase brought Ruiz his best compliment. Not only did it win "Best in Show," "the people who previously owned it came through and they were brought to tears," Ruiz says.

Light touch

"Lighting is super important to how the space is going to feel," says Ruiz. He installed top-notch halogen and LED lighting (with tags to depict the mood, such as "Entertain," "Movie" and "Relax") that can transition with the flip of a switch, whether it’s a football-game viewing party in front of the 65-inch flat-screen TV, reading in bed or putzing around in the kitchen making morning coffee. Throughout the ceiling of the entire home are 3-inch and 4-inch recessed lights, also on the stairwell steps, and in quirky spots like a half wall in the master-bedroom suite. All lights in the home are controlled by electronic dimmers. "I brought the whole house up to speed for how we live today," says Ruiz, adding that thanks to an iPhone app he can easily "turn off the lights" while lying in bed at night, simply by tapping his phone.

— Kristine Hansen



This story ran in the November2012 issue of: