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Smart Spaces
Two local projects maximize space and satisfy homeowners' needs


November 2016

Matthew Jahns of Refined Renovations helped the homeowners reimagine the first floor of this Whitefish Bay home by opening up space while maintaining a cohesive ambience.
Photography courtesy of Refined Renovations.

Creating space in any home remodeling project requires the ability to work within boundaries and craft a sensible scale that fits the big picture.

Such is the case of two projects intended to better match needs. One is a refresh of a newer, 15th-floor condo with Lake Michigan views on Milwaukee’s Prospect Avenue completed by Nick Konzal of Nicholas Carl Design. The other is a thoughtful expansion of a modestly sized, prairie-style home in Whitefish Bay guided by Matthew Jahns of Refined Renovations. Each designer shared his philosophy regarding space considerations and project details.

All about scale

“This project tested our creativity structurally as well as (how to respond) to this family’s needs,” Jahns says of the Whitefish Bay prairie-style home. “We took the home from a small, 1,300-square-foot house (with three bedrooms and one bath on one floor) to a two-floor home with four bedrooms and two baths — one a master bath.”

The project involved tearing off the original roof to build the second floor and reimagining the first floor to more directly connect the living room, dining room and kitchen. It was done to a scale true to the prairie style, Jahns says, because the family wanted to preserve the home’s original character.

Jahns says many of the materials, such as Brazilian sapele wood, help tie the rooms together while giving each its own personality.

Also, all mechanicals were updated, and more windows — with efficiency in mind — were added.

Adding storage was part of the challenge. While a small desk nook occupies a corner of the kitchen area for various family needs, a smart cabinet unit sits at the top of the stairs on the second floor for additional bathroom-related items.

The result is appreciated by client Lecia Johnson, who along with her husband and two children are getting used to the new digs.

“We lived in the home for 12 years before we had it renovated,” Johnson says. “Over time, and now with children, we had collected a lot of things and needed more space.”

Johnson says she appreciates modernizing the interior while maintaining the prairie-style exterior, an architectural style that grew on her. She says warming up to an open interior concept has taken a little more time, but adds that it’s more family-friendly.

“The storage, the extra windows and how it all fits our family really works,” she says.

Reflecting a coastal life

“Space is always driven by function,” Konzal says. In this case, his clients, who also keep a home in Florida, wanted their smaller, 1,500-square-foot condo to emulate that same coastal vibe for entertaining when in Wisconsin.

Through furnishings and lightly refreshed paint colors, Konzal used a monochromatic backdrop, weaving various reflective whites, silver and light grays with occasional splashes of attention-grabbing color.

Taking a cue from a spectacular lakefront view, designer Nick Konzal of Nicholas Carl Design gives this living and dining room a translucent quality with low-back sofas, glass tables and a crystal light fixture.
Photography by Doug Edmunds

Examples abound in various rooms — each with their own kind of monochromatic-splash mix.

A starburst mirror and sculptural table holding a simple, clean piece of pottery and sleek candlestick holder set the tone in the foyer. Low-back sofas were selected to accentuate the living room’s spectacular lakefront views, while a glass-top coffee table helps open the space and provides a desired translucent quality. The theme extends to the dining room, where a 6-foot-wide, glass-top table sits on a custom steel base, surrounded by white fabric chairs. A crystal light fixture floats above.

A statement-making art piece stuns in the foyer, adding a splash of color to an otherwise whitewashed palette.
Photography by Doug Edmunds

The kitchen and master bedroom offer more white-on-white layering, with nautical splashes that break up the otherwise white-washed space while reflecting the clients’ penchant for the coastal life. 


This story ran in the November 2016 issue of: