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Taking flight
Kingfisher, a modern home nestled along the Rock River, has a strong organic influence that marries nature with comfort

Photos by Tricia Shay

April 2015

An open concept living room and dining room is accentuated by 13-foot-high ceilings and a limestone fireplace.

A Rockton, Ill., couple turned to a Milwaukee architect to make their dream of living on the Rock River a reality. The result is a modern three-bedroom structure ó a "bird" the owners named Kingfisher that takes flight, showcasing natural beauty and melding the riverís shimmering surface and the sloping, sometimes rugged, terrain above.

Robert and Tricia Nelson each admired the meandering river and the property that contained a dilapidated house for years before they married in 2011. Their infatuation continued while living in Robertís nearby traditional limestone home more typical to the nearby historic village.

Natural earth tones with strategic splashes of blue fill the open-concept living and dining rooms. Windows reach to the full height of the 13-foot ceiling, while lower windows open to bring in fresh air.


The couple hired architect Stephen Bruns, whose resume boasts many modern, riverfront homes, to fulfill their taste while gaining zoning variances. His plan nestled what would be the 2,900-square-foot home, adjoining pool house and swimming pool into the riverís west bank.

The house showcases a love of modern design and extensive travel, yielding Central and South American artwork and influences from Europe. Wrought iron pocket doors and furnishings that introduce blues into primarily earth tones help warm the interior. "Wood, on wood on wood," Bruns says, a design element that provides interior and exterior texture.

Wood, slate and a copper-clad island extend the clean lines to the kitchen. Instead of cabinets, homeowners Robert and Tricia Nelson opted for a walk-in pantry.


Triciaís favorites include a private master suite separated from the other two bedrooms (that accommodate her teenage son and a friend), a second-floor library, art studio and a full basement featuring a second fireplace, accommodating the familyís casual living needs.

The curved design of retractable wrought iron pocket doors separating foyer and kitchen puts a spin on the residenceís clean, straight lines. The Nelsons wanted the homage to courtyard gates from their travels to Latin America and Europe.

"Itís private with a nice setting and is the reason we wanted to move here," Tricia says.

Robert enjoys the master bedroom view, which spans across the river at the undeveloped bank of forest teeming with wildlife. "Sometimes, I still canít believe we live here," he says.

Homes can be special, Bruns notes. "We tend to live in uninspired structures," he says. "When someone is fortunate to have a great property, it also inspires our work."



This story ran in the April 2015 issue of: