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Beauty lies in the details
This gray-toned Hartland residence combines contemporary design and international influence


October 2016


The stone countertop on the kitchen island features waterfall edges, and subdued leopard-print barstools make for stylish seating. A herringbone tile backsplash gives texture to the space.

Standing on the outside of this three-story, 6,700-square-foot Hartland home, one might easily believe that its inhabitants yield to the traditional. With its large stone and stucco exterior, and adjacency to the marshland, the newly constructed home seems more reminiscent of a lavish rustic retreat. Behind its walls, however, is a chic and contemporary dwelling where beauty truly lies in the details.

During the home’s recent construction, Karen Kempf, interior designer and owner of an eponymous design firm, worked closely with the home’s architect to execute the homeowners’ modern vision, which largely included international influences awash in an immaculate gray palette, Kempf says.

A two-sided fireplace divides the great room, while yellow accents in the patterned armchairs, chandelier and other decor provide pops of color.


"The (homeowners) travel a lot and are exposed to unique and beautiful spaces pretty regularly," Kempf says. "But they really wanted everything gray. We referred to it as the ‘50 Shades of Grey’ house. But it is beautiful."

To break up some of the neutrality, Kempf incorporated an array of textures, patterns and pops of color into the home’s design. The result is an impressive spread brimming with intriguing minutiae, from the trough-style sink in the powder room, to the waterfall edge of the kitchen island, to a herringbone tile backsplash, and a floor-to-ceiling glass wall overlooking the first floor — a feature more likely to be seen in an office lobby, not in a residence. A sheepskin floor rug, picked out by the client, provides warmth to the small seating area.


A grand chandelier illuminates the glass railing on the home’s catwalk, seen behind the kitchen’s dining area.

Commercial influences also carry over to the home’s grand entry and staircase, which are fashioned to look like an art gallery.

"The clients had a collection of photographs they wanted to highlight, so we designed an art niche on the wall opposite the front door," Kempf says. "I didn’t want to fill that space with a lot of furniture and dilute the architectural features."


Double French doors and a custom wood wall with fireplace offer a cozy retreat and views of the property’s marshland.

A catwalk above the space includes a curved glass wall to keep the home’s vantage points wide open, Kempf adds. "The staircase is so dramatic and the real showstopper," she says.

In the kitchen area, a custom Saarinen table base makes the banquette, and in the nearby dining room, a pedestal dining table crafted with walnut was made by the client. Kempf used a variety of grays to keep the room from feeling too sterile.


A glass shower enclosure and rear window create space in the couple’s narrow master bathroom.

"Staying with the warm gray tone theme, we selected a gray stain for the black walnut cabinets," explains Kempf. "The floors are white oak and also have a gray wash stain."

The gray motif continues into the master suite as well as the great room, which boasts a double-sided fireplace and custom sectionals. The bathroom includes a freestanding ceramic tub and a glass shower amid dark, serene grays. In the master bedroom, a custom wood wall of similar color is used as a headboard, extending overhead to the ceiling and down the opposite wall, where a flatscreen TV sits above a gas fireplace. Both spaces use the scene outdoors.

The gallery-inspired staircase highlights the home’s architectural features and photos from the couple’s travels.

"I love the stark contrast of the woods outside that create the backdrop for the sleek interior," Kempf says. "The outdoor scenery creates such an interesting juxtaposition."

And speaking of the woods, there is one room that emanates the couple’s Wisconsin roots. In a separate wing, and vastly different from the rest of the home, the husband’s man cave emulates that of a gaming lodge.

We call that compromise. M



This story ran in the October  2016 issue of: