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Still Life: Home
Updates to 1920s Tudor play upon home’s original elegance

Photography by Doug Edmunds

April 2014

Bringing the kitchen back to the home’s 1920s architecture was important to the homeowners and the design team, undoing a now-outdated previous renovation. "It was so divorced from the period; it just didn’t work with the house at all," says M Design Build’s Mike Slawnikowski. Original artwork by the homeowner hangs on the wall.

With their daughter going off to college, Lisa and Jim Gleason decided the time was right to spruce up their Whitefish Bay home.

The project started small, as many do, with some work in the upstairs bathroom by M Design Build Inc. New fixtures, a steam shower. Then another bathroom. A fireplace surround.

The Gleasons had long wanted to utilize the space over their garage, even having plans drawn up for a media room at one time. "The deck started out that they just wanted a little retreat out there," says Mike Slawnikowski of M Design. "We were talking one day and my carpenter had this idea that he never had the chance to execute."

"Our visions matched up," Lisa Gleason says, "and we said, ‘Just go with it.’"

Inspired by a garden tour in Wauwatosa, the homeowners turned a previously bare side yard into a welcoming walkway lined with flagstone, an aluminum fence and romantic greenery.



The result is likely the envy of the neighborhood. Perched among the trees, moveable screens create the mood of a private haven or an open-air enclave.

"Privacy is a little bit hard to come by in the city, where houses are a little closer together," Slawnikowski says.

Then, while shopping for tile for her husband’s office, Lisa Gleason found a backsplash tile for the kitchen, and the artist in her was intrigued. "We weren’t actually going to do anything with the kitchen," she says.

Fold-down screens on a second-story deck alternately allow privacy or views of the surrounding neighborhood. The deck was built above the garage and is accessible from a second-story landing off the master bedroom. Exotic ipe wood decking and a wireless surround-sound system add to the import of the outdoor room.

The tile went up but ended up being torn out and replaced with the same glass mosaic because the lines wouldn’t match up with the countertop, which they had decided to replace.

Enter interior designer Marianne Kohlmann of Blue Hot Design, who teamed with M Design to help the couple with material selections. "I got her house and understood her so I just went for it," Kohlmann says.

"There was a really good feel to the yard," the homeowner says. "You could tell it was someone who spent time here." Ferns, rose tulips and a plum tree were part of the original landscape design. The Gleasons worked with Garland Alliance in recent years to rework some of the landscape.

Granite counters, a maple floor with the look of hickory, new cherry cabinetry with antiqued mirror inserts in the upper cabinets, a custom pot rack and kitchen ladder complete the space. That spilled over into an adjoining butler’s pantry, back hall and front entry. "The goal was to find things that had the character to fit the house but were all new and modern inside," Kohlmann says.

"Maintaining the period of the house was always really important," Slawnikowski says. "It looks like nothing was ever done." M



This story ran in the April 2014 issue of: