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Good intentions
Shorecliff residence combines Midcentury modern and prairie-like styles

Photos by Justin Racinowski

October 2016


A wall of windows and glass doors let in natural light and blur the line between outside and inside in the open-concept floor plan.

The newcomer at the north end of Shorecliff Lane on Mequon’s Lake Michigan bluff is a 4,500-square-foot, prairie-style home with a midcentury, modern-influenced interior.

Those design styles are seamlessly combined by Justin Racinowski, a Fox Point-based architect. Racinowski worked in tandem with clients Paul and Terri Danola, who moved to their new address last November.

"We were on the same page," Racinowski says. "They were looking for a modern, prairie-style home."


Architect Justin Racinowski used a fir ceiling and stacked stone to frame the home’s 9-foot-tall front entrance.

Prairie and midcentury modern should not be considered stark and cold, he notes.

"For me, it’s about the spaces that are created and also the materials," Racinowski continues. "I am personally drawn to warm, natural materials." He favors wood, stone and concrete with warm colors and textures, evoking a natural feel. He weaves in metal details to provide dramatic "edge."

The home’s front exterior includes prairie-style staples of hip roofs, accentuating horizontal, linear planes, and long, narrow vertical windows placed within a stacked stone and rich wood trim façade. Beneath a bridge from the front sidewalk to the front door is a fun-factor, slate chip Zen garden.


Exterior lights accentuate the prairie-style series of horizontal roof lines and long, narrow windows.

At the rear, Racinowski incorporated lifestyle-friendly elements, including a covered back porch with remote-controlled roll-down screens to keep pests out and heat in from the Rumford fireplace. A nearby step-down deck leads to a rustic walkway down the bluff to the beach.

The exterior also features Japanese-style rain chains directing water from the gutters.


 The translucent kitchen island countertop plays well with alder wood cabinets and natural gray-green-toned clay walls. 

Inside, the architect worked with his clients and local interior designer Ariel Steuer. Clerestory windows and a wood soffit capture natural light and define space in a tall, open-concept living room, dining room and kitchen. A calmly hued but impressive custom-mirrored art piece from Milwaukee-based design studio Scátháin draws attention to a concrete fireplace as a living room focal point. The kitchen extends the natural material theme, including Asher cabinetry, a translucent quartzite island, granite countertops and glass backsplash.

Those materials and more awash in subtle earth tones continuing throughout the three bedrooms, four and a half baths, office spaces and a rec room. The lower level bath features subway tiles and a New York subway designed sign, "Brooklyn," an homage to Paul Danola’s hometown.


Clean lines work well in the master bedroom, featuring a television, fireplace and spectacular views of Lake Michigan.

The interior levels are connected by floating staircases with steel cable rail and linden treads from a repurposed on-site tree.

The Shorecliff home needed a specific footprint that adhered to a 75-foot setback from both the bluff and the street while capturing ample natural light from the east and west.

While working within those parameters, Racinowski kept his clients’ lifestyle at the forefront of his mind, as he does with all his projects.

"I ask, ‘How does this building work for people?’" he says. "I try to create spaces that really enrich people rather than push my own style." M



This story ran in the October  2016 issue of: