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Timeless treasure
A collaborative effort results in the beautiful restoration and expansion of a historic gem

Photos By Tricia Shay

December 2015

The design construction team worked hard to make this kitchen addition look like part of the original home. Along the way, they combined copper, brass, bronze and pewter hardware and other elements nicely lit from large leaded glass windows and recessed fixtures.

It took a village of artisans to help a Whitefish Bay family make its 1929 home practical for today’s lifestyle without losing yesteryear’s charm.

"It really was a great opportunity because in Milwaukee, there are very few artisans left," says Kate Shortall, owner of Blackstone International, a Pewaukee-based design fabricator of hard materials. "It was a collaboration with a lot of other people who do very specialized work. I’m doing finishing work, but I need others who are creating spaces and working on other parts of the project. In this project, we all worked so well to create."

A widened access to the kitchen and modified wainscoting are nods to a contemporary lifestyle while preserving tradition. A Shabahang & Sons rug covers the floor.

The creation included a 20-by-20-foot kitchen addition with a more open concept to the dining room, converting a previous kitchen space to a mudroom, and refreshing additional first-floor space. The object was to make the enlarged kitchen appear as the original space.

Architect Meg Baniukiewicz, owner of HB Designs in Whitefish Bay, caught the homeowners’ attention from work she had done for neighbors. The homeowners knew they wanted to expand their kitchen as soon as they bought the 3,600-square-foot home six years ago, and they were not in a hurry while weighing their options.

A new alabaster fixture illuminates the foyer’s original plaster ceiling with copper-painted borders.

"I began working with them three years ago," Baniukiewicz says, noting the owners wanted to expand the original maid’s-style smaller kitchen that was cut off from the rest of the house. "Aesthetically, we needed to create a natural progression from the dining room to a larger kitchen, and that required the addition."

Reimagined traditional elements in this kitchen include oversized carved mahogany legs supporting a large quartzite-topped island fabricated by Blackstone International’s Greg Heil and a custom copper hood.


As the homeowners hired Ryan Seymour of Seymour Custom Builders in Menomonee Falls to be their contractor, the rest of the team expanded from Shortall and Baniukiewicz to include Aaron Vogler of Vogler Metalwork and Design, Jim Budiac of First Quality Woodworking, Cabinetry and Millwork, and Steve Kaniewski of Brass Light Gallery. They and others worked to put a unique Old World spin on the new kitchen by installing a copper hood over a Lacanche French range with brass knobs, carefully crafted cabinets with a mixture of copper and bronze hardware, leaded glass that mimics the home’s original windows, mahogany legs supporting a quartzite top island and a crackle-finish backsplash woven with glass-beaded grout to enhance splashes of natural light.

This original-tile master bath and its hand-crafted materials offered the template for Kate Shortall’s tile work in the first-floor mudroom and pantry. The European look, she says, set a historical influence for the newer work.

"Making this addition look like part of the original house was important," says Seymour, whose crew also provided a lower-level addition for a home gym. "There were a lot of details, but matching the woodwork alone was a challenge."

A specially crafted ceramic tile floor influenced by existing tile in the master bathroom and lighted, rich-wood cubbies give this mudroom a touch of style.

Beyond the kitchen addition, the team worked to widen the kitchen-dining room opening to 10 feet — more than three times the original doorway. The mudroom took shape with lighted cabinets and carefully crafted ceramic floor tiles. Paint and stain in the adjoining dining and living rooms were redone to provide more depth within original woodwork.

Featuring a wine refrigerator and beer taps, the self-serve bar shines with lighted mahogany cabinetry, quartzite countertop and leaded glass doors.

In a way, the design team included the late Alexander Bauer, the original architect and homeowner known for his design of Milwaukee’s Oriental Theatre. Bauer’s intricate touches of art deco and Asian influences drove the work. "It was important to be true to the original architecture," Baniukiewicz says.

"This was a unique project because the house really spoke to us," adds Shortall.


This story ran in the December 2015 issue of: