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The next chapter
Karen Ellenbecker finds move from Lake Country to city life suits her active lifestyle

Photos by Doug Edmunds

November 2014


Karen Ellenbecker appreciates the expansive view of Lake Michigan from her downtown condo after living on the shores of Pewaukee Lake.

As a financial adviser who primarily consults clients who are retired or nearing retirement age, Karen Ellenbecker routinely sees retirees build their dream homes only to be disappointed when suburban living falls short of their lifestyle expectations. "They put too much thinking into the house, but not the surrounding community," says Ellenbecker, founder and strategic adviser for Ellenbecker Investment Group. "You can’t just hope your lifestyle falls into place."

Designer Patt Krejci hired Trillium Ltd. to do custom decorative painting throughout the condo. In the master bedroom, an oversized floral pattern in muted tones that adorns the wall behind the bed is soft and feminine, yet not overpowering.

So when it came time for Ellenbecker to decide to move on or stay in her single-family home on Pewaukee Lake, the 65-year-old opted for a different approach. "I thought about the lifestyle I wanted and tried to plan accordingly," she explains.

Ultimately, Ellenbecker decided a condo in downtown Milwaukee better suited her active lifestyle. "I felt isolated in Pewaukee — particularly in the winter when all of the windows were closed," she says.

In 2013, Ellenbecker looked at the Regency on Astor Street at the advice of a friend who owned a condo in the building. Accustomed to living on a lake, Ellenbecker liked the sweeping views of Lake Michigan from the complex’s upper floors. The building’s generous landscaping and a park directly across the street made up for losing her yard.

"I enjoyed the flowers and trees in my yard in Pewaukee so having a nice outdoor space so close was ideal," she says.


Ellenbecker does a lot of entertaining for family and friends so the large custom kitchen island was a must in the redesign of the space.

After purchasing two units on the 19th floor, Ellenbecker quickly got to work, hiring contactor Michael Kellogg to completely overhaul the space. Interior designer and close friend Patt Krejci helped develop a new floor plan that better utilized the living space and gave priority to Ellenbecker’s love for entertaining. "We totally gutted the condo down to the bone," says Ellenbecker. "It was crazy because the whole building is concrete. We had to drill through concrete to do the lighting."

After seven months of intensive remodeling, Ellenbecker moved into her condo in July 2013. Now the 2,000-square-foot unit features a brick accent wall that mimics the bricks on the outside of the Regency and a custom kitchen island that can fit 13 people around it.

Like the rest of the condo, the master bath is done in subtle shades of cream. The tone-on-tone color scheme carried through in the cabinetry and the slate floor tiles keeps the space light and elegant.

"I do a lot of entertaining for family, friends and clients," says Ellenbecker, who has three children and seven grandchildren. "I love to cook."

Ellenbecker describes her condo’s style as casual and relaxed. She replaced all of the windows to take full advantage of the panoramic lake and city views. "Every window offers amazing views," she says.

In the powder room, an ornate vessel sink from Linkasink’s Jewelry Collection makes a striking statement.

Custom-built window seating that opens for storage runs along the length of the windows. More custom cabinetry throughout the condo provides additional storage — another must-have for Ellenbecker. "I have a place to put everything," she says.

Textured walls and decorative painting accents by Trillium Ltd. also enhance the character of the living space.

Though Ellenbecker admits it was hard to move from the house where she raised her children, she says the transition to downtown living has been smooth. "I realize now that you take your home with you," says Ellenbecker. "It feels so rewarding. I practiced what I preach to my clients."



This story ran in the November 2014 issue of: