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Inside the design
Showhouse coach house interiors blend historic charm with modern living

Photos by Doug Edmunds

October 2012

Coach house great room by Warren Barnett Interiors design team

For its "in-the-moment" space in the coach house, designer Mara Wierschke and the Warren Barnett team approached the design with a yin-yang concept in mind. "The overall and undeniable theme was to find the balance that every getaway should have, namely, a little Zen calm and a little energy/diversity at the same time," Wierschke says. "Itís expressive, without being overdone; refined and fun at thesame time."

Q: This is a big room; how did you break it down?

A: We knew that it needed to multitask. It was easy in that we wanted to address comfortable living and needed to have seating and an area for entertaining and dining. The fireplace is the natural focal point of the room. The sofas flank the fireplace and the dining area is in the back half of the room. There was some debate about that because it was farther away from the kitchen but it laid out really well that way.

Q: What did you want this room to be design-wise?

A: There definitely was a strong concept in our mind as a group. As a coach house it could be addressed as a guesthouse. We wanted it to have a retreat feeling so we kept it somewhat minimalist. I say that with a smile; we wanted it to have a Zen feeling so we used some neutral (elements), but we also wanted it to be inviting. (We concepted) a well-traveled idea. If you were staying there you could conjure up fun times taking trips and travels you had. Thatís where travel and Zen come together. (The vibe) does kind of evoke that wanderlust.

Q: What was the inspiration?

A: The agave colored leather consoles with their arabesque shape, outlined with dramatic nailhead trim. They solidified that we were on the right track with the design.

Q: If this room were a song, what would it be?

A: "Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes" by Paul Simon. Itís layers of happy, and a deep soul.

Q: What are the "now" design elements?

A: Maybe the most au currant element would be the horse picture. Itís got that very neutrally calming Zen vibe. Itís got just enough color but didnít go too far with it.

Each year Milwaukee designers converge on the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Showhouse for a Cure to imagine spaces that will impress and inspire. Visitors to this yearís showhouse ó Andy Nunemakerís 1905 home in Milwaukeeís North Point South Historic District ó were treated to a bonus: the 3,500-square-foot three-bedroom coach house, which was entirely redone for the tour. Here are three spaces from the coach house and a designer Q&A on the thoughts behind the designs.

Coach house kitchen by Colleen Thompson of i.e. DESIGN

In assessing the coach house kitchen, Colleen Thompson was struck with a thought: Remove the wall between the dining room and the kitchen. "The space felt kind of confined," Thompson says. "When that wall came down it changed the whole flow of the space. The kitchen became more of a gathering space rather than just somewhere to put food together."

Q: Design-wise, what did you want this room to be?

A: I wanted it to be striking and in tune with what the coach house was originally intended to be. I also wanted it to be very clean and simple ó not fussy ó and to give it a contemporary edge.

Q: What was the inspiration?

A: It started with the backsplash tile. It was a random geometric both with glass, which is contemporary, and stone, which is traditional. That, and the Kohler Karbon articulating faucet (were the inspirations.) Those are the things I started with and really pushed for."

Q: Tell me about the custom island.

A: We followed the geometric pattern of the backsplash tile. The round top has a stainless steel square inlay in it. The island cabinet door style is just a slab door, something youíd see in a European kitchen. The door handles are clean and contemporary; the pulls have leather accents. The Touchstone cabinets are painted maple and the island workspace counter is Carrara marble.

Q: What ties this room together?

A: Itís the geometrics. The clean, simple squares and circles playing off of each other.

Q: Describe this room in three words.

A: Redefined, balanced, timeless.

Coach house master debroom by designer Mary Schaufelberger and assistant Danelle Blazejovsky of Steinkellner Decorating Center

"Restrained Hollywood regency" is how designer Mary Schaufelberger describes the coach house master bedroom. "This room could be for a male or a female. I really held back (so it wouldnít be too feminine). Itís more masculine Hollywood glam with the red and stripes. There arenít any flowers anywhere."

Q: That wallpaper pops!

A: Initially, I just had the stripes ó but it was too boring. I wanted something really impactful. It was the starting point for the rest of the room.

Q: Tell me about the bed.

A: I made the headboard. It is a linen tweed. I wanted something very tailored and very simple against the trees. I loved the idea of the great big buttons and carried that same detail down to the bedskirt. Because the headboard is so simple, I added texture and glitz for balance in the softness of the cut velvet shams and the red pillows. I chose a faux silk spread because I wanted focus on everything else in the room. I made the throw to match; itís trimmed out in same fabric as the velvet shams.

Q: The light fixture is a little retro.

A: I had envisioned a chandelier, but I didnít want lots of crystal and drippy stuff. Itís from Elektra Lights. There is a red glass bead right in the middle. I love the chrome and the linen shades. It has bottom glass diffusers so when you are in bed and looking up you donít see the harshness of the bulb.

Q: If this were a celebrityís room, who would be sleeping here?

A: George Clooney. Heís kinda hip and elegant but not too serious. Canít you just see him in here in a smoking jacket with his hair slicked back? 

In addition to the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Showhouse for a Cure, numerous related events are held to raise funds for breast cancer and prostate cancer research. The Pinktacular Fashion Show and Luncheon will be held Oct. 4 at the Italian Community Center, 631 E. Chicago St.

The event begins at 10:30 a.m. with a shopping bazaar, followed by the luncheon at noon and fashion show.

Tickets are $65, or $85 for a patron level; tables of 10 are available for both levels. For more information, call (414) 324-1868 or e-mail



This story ran in the October 2012 issue of: