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Modern Comfort
A Historic Third Ward home combines contemporary appeal and family-friendly amenities


November 2016

A staggered mix of reclaimed wood and rosewood pieces covers the western wall of the master bedroom, forming the focal point of the room. A custom-made, plush velvet headboard is paired with a silk Persian rug from Persian Rug Gallery in Whitefish Bay.
Photography by Doug Edmunds

A family of four is not the Historic Third Ward’s typical demographic, but for one Milwaukee area homeowner, his fiancée and his two children, a 3,200-square-foot condo in the trendy Cream City neighborhood is home.

“I think we might be the only people in the (Historic) Third Ward who have kids full time,” says the homeowner with a laugh. “We wanted the kids to have an urban experience.” His daughters, he adds, often frequent nearby spots like Purple Door Ice Cream, the Milwaukee Public Market and Holey Moley Coffee + Doughnuts.

The home itself is the result of a six-month-long gut renovation, where nearly every piece of the original space, from flooring and wall coverings to light fixtures and hardware, was replaced. The second level, once a master suite, was sliced in two. “We took the master suite upstairs and converted it into a media room and two smaller bedrooms for the girls,” he explains. “The idea was to get them out of their rooms and into the family space.”

“We always start with rugs,” explains Jessica Forston, interior designer and co-owner of Fringe Interior Design and Fine Furnishings in Whitefish Bay. A vintage-inspired tribal rug sets a relaxed tone for the living room, while gray Italian plaster walls painted by local artisan Carrie Chimenti maintain the condo’s modern vibe.
Photography by Doug Edmunds

“He and I both work, so we knew we wanted it to look great at night because that’s when we spend the most time here,” adds the homeowner’s fiancée, who was equally instrumental in making project-related decisions.

To assist, the pair hired Jessica Forston of Fringe Interior Design and Home Furnishings in Whitefish Bay. “They knew what they wanted. There was no finagling, which I loved,” says Forston of her clients’ ideas. Her approach to interior design, she says, is one rooted in trust. “You form a personal, social and professional relationship (with your clients),” Forston adds. “My job is to stretch them outside their comfort zone, just a hair.”

The kitchen cabinets were modified to match the surrounding woodwork. Quartzite hardscapes, including both the backsplash and countertops, are stylish yet durable.
Photography by Doug Edmunds

One such “hairy” example (no pun intended) is found in the dining room, where two ivory- and charcoal-colored faux fur chairs bookend a custom-made dining room table. “They’re wild, but much needed to soften (the room),” Forston says of the chairs’ design. “They’re conversation pieces. That’s the beautiful thing. Someone will walk in and say, ‘Wow, that’s pretty wicked.’” Items with a similar wow factor — like a custom-made, handblown chandelier by Galilee Lighting, a Miami-based company — are found throughout the home.

The homeowner initially sketched the design for the custom-made bar on a paper napkin. “Having been a bartender, I knew enough about where to put the refrigerator and so forth,” he says. The bar’s steel base mimics the same material found in the building’s lobby, and custom-made bar stools secured by Forston add further interest.
Photography by Doug Edmunds

Forston also aimed to strike a balance between modern and livable, pairing comfortable fabrics like leather and velvet with industrial-inspired accents. Two midcentury chairs, for instance, are outfitted in bomber jacket leather and chrome frames, increasing the living room’s seating capacity. “They’re very interesting, but you’re not losing your comfort,” says Forston. “We kept everything user-friendly, as not to worry about staining and spills.”

“(Jessica) took the ideas we had and made it happen,” says the homeowner’s fiancée. “For us, it’s not just a place that looks great — it has to be functional; we have kids.

We also entertain, so it needed to be durable too. It’s truly a functional place with a beautiful aesthetic.” 


This story ran in the November 2016 issue of: