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Sea-worthy tour
Fundraising tour features historic home overlooking Milwaukee's lakefront

Photos by Doug Edmunds and John Kimpel

 June 2014

In the second-floor sunroom, Ken Michaels Furniture designers Michael Carter and Cathy Williams reinvent the traditional sunroom of florals and wicker with a sophisticated palette of greige — a gray/beige — yellows, reclaimed woods and a mix of metals. Gold and brass mix with silver details, and rustic pieces contrast with glam accents, such as the reclaimed wood chest and the set of mirrors above the sofa. "We wanted to nod to the notion that brass and golds are back," Carter says. "Almost everyone has spent the past decade slowly converting from all the brass and golds in their homes to all the silver variations, only for brass to once again come into the mainstream," Carter says. The chevron pattern on the chest is more subtle than using the pattern on a rug or pillows, he adds.

Breathtaking views of Lake Michigan are an impressive feature of the 2014 Wisconsin Breast Cancer Showhouse for a Cure, but the architecture of the Classical Revival Georgian home on East Lafayette Place has secured its standing in one of Milwaukee’s most distinguished neighborhoods for more than 100 years.

Add to that historic-preservationist owners — past and present — and a team consisting of dozens of designers and volunteers, and this year’s tour house is indeed a showhouse.

The three-story, 6,158-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bathroom house was designed by prestigious Milwaukee architects Ferry and Clas, whose credits include Milwaukee Central Library, the Capt. Frederick Pabst Mansion, the Woman’s Club of Wisconsin clubhouse and Cudahy Tower.

Bold poppy and lime green accents brighten up an otherwise gray and white kitchen. The kitchen had undergone a remodel a number of years ago, so designer Cheryl Ryan of Kitchens by Design focused on making the space more inviting through color and fabric. "With our gray winters, we need some pops of color," Ryan says. "I wanted the kitchen to feel like it was a traveled couple who lived there," she says. For interest, she wallpapered the inside of the china cabinet and displayed Asian and African artifacts inside. New stools at the island and new light fixtures play off the dark brown tones of the granite. A carved wood piece from Elements East above the range is more artful than practical, she acknowledges.

The house, known as the Fitzgerald-Herzfeld Mansion, displays Old-World craftsmanship throughout, starting in a large foyer lined with quarter-sawn oak paneling and a coffered, barrel-vaulted plaster ceiling. Other first-floor architectural highlights include walnut wainscoting in the living room, 10 1/2-foot ceilings in the dining room and two of the home’s five fireplaces. A wood-paneled staircase leads to a library, sunroom and two bedrooms on the second floor. A third-floor features a large ballroom and a spiral staircase that accesses a rooftop terrace via a ship-type hatch.

"The house itself is amazing in terms of architectural details, but it’s not a cookie-cutter version of a classical Georgian," says Alvin Heitmann, a designer with Ethan Allen. "One of the really wonderful things about the house is that for a large home it feels intimate."

Alvin Heitmann’s styling of the dining room was inspired by the luxury of 1940s Hollywood and the clean lines of early midcentury design. "I wanted to express the joy of a champagne celebration into everyday dining," the Ethan Allen designer says. The existing corset chandelier is a striking accent over the table. "I chose a round table because I wanted to create a feeling of intimacy in the room — friends gathering for dinner in a joyous, compatible space," Heitmann says. On the table, Heitmann creates an unexpected grouping of vintage Raymond Loewy dishes and a faux mink to give the impression of a dinner party in the making, or perhaps one that has ended. Heitmann imagines the Rondo swivel chairs right out of a 1930s Gable/Lombard movie or imagery ala Halston/Manhattan in the 1970s. "They aren’t pigeonholed to a certain time."

In preparing the house for this year’s tour, designers juxtapose the classic stylings of the architecture with fresh visions for modern living. Designers’ individual schemes come together to present a cohesive and fresh palette that flows throughout.

"When you go into a showhouse you just imagine what things can be like, not necessarily what you are going to live with," says Cheryl Ryan of Kitchens by Design. She infused the kitchen with a contemporary color scheme. "I wanted to show some unexpected touches to give people ideas and show them things that are current," she says.

The reflective silver quality of Lake Michigan, viewed through the windows of the master bedroom, provided the design inspiration for Nicholas Konzal of Nicholas Carl Design. "I wanted it to be really soothing, more in a monochromatic color palette," Konzal says. "Silvers and grays are really hot colors right now." Violet accents add a touch of vibrancy, but it’s texture and pattern that elevate the luxuriousness of the design. The tete-a-tete is covered in Barbara Barry fabric; the custom headboard is covered in black velvet with a geometric pattern shorn into the fabric. Konzal opted for a grasscloth wall covering, framed by custom molding. "Pattern (as in a wallpaper) can be overwhelming," Konzal says. "Grasscloth doesn’t have an in-your-face pattern, but still adds textural interest." Specially designed window treatments keep the views of the lake unimpeded while adding warmth to the room.

The house has been painstakingly restored throughout the years by a number of owners, most recently Randy Bryant and Cecelia Gore, who have owned the home since 2003. Gore is executive director of the Brewers Community Foundation; Bryant is president and chief executive officer of Ten Chimneys Museum in Genesee Depot and president of the Milwaukee County Historical Society board, among other posts. After many months of research for historical and architectural accuracy, the owners began a major restoration of the home and a kitchen renovation.

The guest room is a collaboration of Wendy Williams of Wendy Lee Designs Inc. and Mario and Cathy Costantini, owners of La Lune Collection. Williams knew which direction the design would go when she spotted the 1904 green potbellied stove in the room. "When I first entered the room, it was crowded with furniture and felt like an afterthought of a guest room," she says. The stove and the stained glass on the door called out to her. The twin beds were deliberate. "One bed means only one guest or a couple," she says. "So I chose to have twin beds. That way you can have two friends stay there, or push the beds together for a couple." The colors — green and blue, sky and land, air and water — were chosen with La Lune furniture in mind.

Past owners of the home included famed Milwaukee architect Alexander Eschweiller, who eventually converted the house into a two-apartment duplex in the late 1930s. It remained a rental property until it was converted back into a single-family home in the 1970s. (Milwaukee Bucks great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was perhaps its most notable renter.)

The house was commissioned in 1901 by shipbuilding heir William Fitzgerald, but construction was halted and the structure dismantled after Fitzgerald died unexpectedly in 1902. The house was eventually rebuilt according to the original plans, and Carl and Helena Herzfeld became the owners in 1906. The Herzfelds are tied to Boston Store, one of the first department stores in the country.



This story ran in the June 2014 issue of: