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Masterfully Transformed
Renovated bedrooms and bathrooms combine high design, form and function

Photos by Doug Edmunds

February 2015

"Monochromatic experiences create a high level of design," explains Blavat. The area rug is from Persian Rug Gallery, Milwaukee. Custom wall coverings and furniture-like finishes are the work of Yulia Minina & Paul Steffes, with finish carpentry by Bruce Nordgreen of Northgreen Builders, LLC, Mequon.

City Sojourn

Architects Nick Blavat and Richard Scherer of Deep River Partners, Milwaukee, encountered a unique experience when recently remodeling a Gothic Victorian on Milwaukee’s East Side — one in which the homeowner served as the project’s general contractor. Blavat and Scherer began working with the homeowner and her husband more than five years ago, transforming their home into one fit for a contemporary couple.

Blavat and Scherer initially completed a master plan for the entire home, with the intention of approaching each portion of the renovation in phases. Since the home’s original floor plan had no real master bedroom, the architects combined two bedrooms and an almost "unusable" bathroom to create a private master suite for the couple. Preserving the historic integrity of the 1890s-era home was key, so the existing fireplace was maintained, serving as a natural buffer between the bedroom and spa-like bathroom.

Installed by Todd Leppien of Stonehouse Tile & Marble, Milwaukee, the accent tile set in the marble floor creates an area rug feel. The applied molding on the ceiling mimics this pattern, tying the floor plane to the ceiling plane.

Not lacking in amenities, the master bathroom features dual showers, separate toilet rooms, and heated floors and towel bars. "It’s very modern in amenities even though it looks so traditional," adds Blavat. "It is possible to combine modern trends with historic trends." The bathroom vanity, designed by Ryan Fillinger of A. Fillinger, Milwaukee, provides a generous amount of built-in usability ­— nearly every piece is functional.

Like the bathroom, the master bedroom maintains a traditional scheme but with an added freshness. The homeowner worked with interior designer Susan Scherer of Deep River Partners to keep the room warm and inviting, employing a monochromatic color scheme. "It truly feels like a great escape at the end of the workday," she says. The custom millwork, which appears throughout the historic home, is also the work of Fillinger.

"It was truly a collaboration," says the homeowner, whose satisfaction with both the team at Deep River Partners and the finished product — a sojourn-like master suite — is clear. "They allowed me to grow and learn, and they gave me enough support and help on everything. I don’t think this could have been possible with anyone else in this city. They were true mentors."

Modern Maximization

The walk-in shower’s three dividing towers are lined with oceanside glass mosaic tile handmade in Mexico. Its iridescent effect provides contrast against the room’s otherwise neutral tones.

For homeowners Kevin and Jackie Leis, remodeling the master suite of their Brookfield home meant incorporating technology-rich features and modern amenities without compromising the sleek design of the space. The couple retained Jake Ruiz from QRS Group, Pewaukee, and Marianne Kohlmann from Blue Hot Design, Glendale, to achieve their vision. Both Ruiz and Kohlmann worked with the couple on the first-floor renovation of their home.

"For their bathroom, we wanted to incorporate technology without it being complicated," says Ruiz, who led the architectural, design and contracting aspects of the project. The result is a digital sound system that can be manipulated via iPad or iPhone, and a keypad that adjusts the room’s lighting according to a specified theme.



Porcelain Italian tile surrounds the Heat & Glo gas fireplace. The 2-by-4-inch tiles coordinate with the floor and wall tiles used throughout the bathroom without directly replicating it.


Maximizing every square inch of space was also important, so Ruiz added storage wherever possible, including cabinet space behind each of the two bathroom mirrors. The less visually appealing necessities, like towel hooks and the toilet paper holder, are hidden, further enhancing the sleekness of the space. Other features include heated floors throughout and the digitally programmable Kohler carwash-style shower. "It’s very simple, elegant and modern looking but also easy to use," adds Ruiz.

Glass doors separate the bathroom from the master bedroom, which now serves as a cozy place of respite. "Because Jake and I had already remodeled their first floor, I knew they liked sleek and modern design, with an emphasis on blocks of rich color and original artwork," explains Kohlmann, who assisted Ruiz with the material selections and interior design elements. The mural hanging above the Leis’ bed, for example, was painted by Jackie’s brother, so Kohlmann used the mural’s color palette as a source of design inspiration.

Technology’s presence is also felt in the master bedroom, where Ruiz installed a full-panel surround sound system. The speakers are tactfully concealed and a digital, theme-specific keypad, similar to the one installed in the master bathroom, controls the room’s lighting, fan and fireplace settings.

Boathouse Bath

It’s not uncommon for projects to be inspired by their natural surroundings, and such was the case when remodeling the bathroom of a boathouse on Oconomowoc Lake. "It was definitely inspired by the lake setting," says Lisa Moore of Moore Designs, Inc., West Bend, who served as general contractor. The floor, a matted stone tile, resembles the lake’s rocky shores, and ceiling is made of pecky cypress wood salvaged from the deconstructed areas of the boathouse itself. The vanity mirror, which is mounted on the millwork between two windows, gives off a floating effect, adding to the room’s overall soft and airy feel. Wade Weissmann of Wade Weissmann Architecture, Brown Deer, was the project architect. 





In Sync

For two professionals living in Whitefish Bay, finding a way to accommodate similar morning routines was key when remodeling their shared master bathroom. "Their schedules sync up, so when we did the bathroom, we had to plan for getting them out at the same time," explains architect Russ LaFrombois of Russ LaFrombois Architects, Milwaukee. The result is two identical marble-topped vanities, each equipped with a large mirror to magnify the space. "The design is very straightforward — simple lines, simple materials and a lot of light," adds LaFrombois.



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