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The careful edit
Renovated Mequon tudor blends old and new

Photos by Doug Edmunds

June 2016


Tara Wilke of McNabb & Risley played off the antique oriental rugís pastel hues when selecting textiles for the couch pillows and ottoman. Rope molding original to the home and wooden ceiling beams bring a sense of intimacy to the space.

For Paul Apfelbach of Mequon, restoring historic homes is more than just a day job ó itís a passion. "I have a passion to resolve nonroutine solutions versus everything being prepackaged the way new construction is," says Apfelbach, whose many hats include real estate developer, residential broker and home-restoration expert.

This fascination led Apfelbach and his fiancťe, Mary Jo Tye, to take on a project of their own. The couple purchased a 1926 Tudor in Mequon last year, and together with the design expertise of Tara Wilke from Thiensville-based McNabb & Risley, theyíve spent the last 10 months renovating and restoring the historic home.

"The goal was to have people walk in and think they were walking into a 1926 house, from the light fixtures to the counters to the surfaces to the tile and the hardware," Apfelbach says.

"There isnít one surface that hasnít been touched. Everything has been refinished," says Wilke, noting hardware, stonework and tile as examples. "If there was anything we could keep that was integral to the home, thatís what we were striving to do. (Paulís) attention to detail is just astounding, especially when it comes to restoration."

An artful statue and antique dining room table ≠ó both family heirlooms ó function as the roomís focal points.


Conversely, deciding on new materials ó from floor stains and paint colors to hardware and light fixtures ó proved to be the biggest challenge, and Apfelbach says the editing process was key. "Itís not about the couple of hundred things we selected, but the thousands of things we eliminated," he adds.

Antique pieces passed down through generations of Apfelbachís family (think oriental rugs and ornately detailed chests and tables) are carefully positioned throughout the home. "Everything I have, I use," says Apfelbach. "Iíve fallen in love with this style (of home) because of the furniture thatís come through the family. (Mary Jo) has collected antiques and loves older things as well. She really appreciates the soul and feel of an older home." Wilke drew design inspiration from the antique itemsí rich colors and detailed textures when selecting furniture, textiles and accessories to complete each room, creating a seamless transition between old and new.


The kitchen, a complete gut renovation, boasts antique light fixtures from Heritage Lighting in Cedarburg, granite countertops by Lakeside Stoneworks in Brown Deer, and custom-made cabinetry by A. Fillinger Inc. of Milwaukee.

And despite the character and structural integrity a historic home provides (Apfelbach says the Tudor was "built like a bomb shelter"), he recognizes how beneficial 21st century building techniques and technologies can be. "I have 23 years of building experience, so I can incorporate all the new, high-end features, (such as) spray foam installation. It fills gaps around the perimeter and seals up a home in a way that couldnít be done in 1926," Apfelbach explains. "The science behind building is something I just love. It brings the very new into the old."

Having collaborated on projects for more than 16 years, both he and Wilke are quick to credit their crew when discussing how pain-free the renovation process was. "Whatís remarkable about this house is that we didnít have many surprises," says Apfelbach, who prefers to contract business owners/workers.

"Whatís important is having that correct crew in place when you do a restoration or a renovation," Wilke adds. "Having people you can depend on that will be as conscientious as you are when youíre trying to execute your vision, and knowing everything will be done correctly and in a timely manner." M

Deep navy walls (Benjamin Mooreís Deep Royal) create a cozy master bedroom oasis for the homeowners. An antique chest and light fixture are paired with bedding, furniture and accessories from McNabb & Risley.




The upstairs bathroom ó cast in neutral hues and rich textures ó maintains an open, airy feel, with finishes reflective of the homeís 1920s-era style.



This story ran in the June 2016 issue of: