The family room’s rustic beams inspired many of the
home’s interior selections,
says interior designer Karen Sullivan.
Tucked into a secluded, River Hills lot is a recently
renovated home inspired by its woodsy surroundings. Wild pheasants
and turkeys roam the property, and rustic touches, like the family
room’s overhead wood beams, bring the outdoors inside. “Having grown
up in Milwaukee, in the North Shore area, I have a certain respect
for the feel of that kind of home,” says Karen Sullivan, an interior
designer with Haven Interiors Ltd.
Construction on the home began earlier this year, and Sullivan was
brought in to help with selections soon thereafter. “The homeowner and I
spent an afternoon at our (East Side) studio sharing thoughts,” Sullivan
says. “To prepare for that meeting, I filled our design table with rugs,
paints, fabrics and furniture ideas, from traditional to more
contemporary. The homeowner (then) shared his thoughts on the options.
A homeowner favorite, the dining room table is both
modern and durable. Banquet seating adds drama to the space.
“… Almost every room has something in it that the
homeowner had a strong, positive reaction to,” she continues. “I
took those one or two things and created the spaces out of them.”
She points to the recliner’s buttery-soft leather fabric and the
pedestal-style dining room table as examples. The gray, mohair
upholstery covering the family room sectional reminded the homeowner
of the family dog, so Sullivan readily embraced the fabric’s color
and texture, which both lend to the space’s laidback,
To connect the dining room and kitchen, Sullivan
used the same fabric to cover the dining room chairs and the kitchen
island bar stools. A muted gray color palette lends to the home’s
casual yet timeless feel.
Navy hues were used to ensure a
nearby antique dresser (also a family heirloom) and its
maple color remained the focal point of the room. A pair
of colorful throw pillows adds additional pops of color.
For Sullivan, engaging the assistance of an interior
designer early on the construction process is key. “Getting expert
help in the beginning is worth its weight in gold,” she says.
“(Items that are) custom and unique, the drama — that’s what a
designer and his or her resources can bring to a project that
retailers can’t. … We know when and where to break the rules or do
something a little quirky, without it being silly looking.” Armed
with a keen eye for spatial planning and recognition, Sullivan also
welcomes the opportunity to review floor plans before the
construction phase begins. “I’m a mother of four, and I know how a
kitchen (layout) should work,” she adds with a laugh.
The home’s neutral color palette continues into the
bathrooms, with a statement-making vanity top sourced through Blackstone
What’s more, an early hire ensures the home maintains
a certain sense of cohesiveness — one in which all elements, from
hardware and paint colors to furniture and hardscapes, complement
each other and create visually appealing spaces, as was the case
with this River Hills home. “Since the homeowner and I had our
initial inspiration meeting very early in the process, I was able to
share color and fabric selections with those helping us in order to
come up with exceptional products for the spaces,” Sullivan says.
She is quick to credit these vendors, many of which she collaborates
with regularly, and their detailed knowledge of their respective
trade or craft. “They all make me look good, and I couldn’t do my
job without them,” she adds. “The project isn’t right without their
Sullivan says a
project’s success is ultimately based on the client’s happiness with the
end result — and the trust formed between homeowner and designer. “The
most important thing that made this (project) work is that the client
put trust in me,” she adds. “That’s hard, as a designer, to achieve.”
Center: How to
Re-Create the Look
designer Karen Sullivan collaborated with Kate Shortall of Blackstone
International for hardscape selections, including the kitchen’s quartz
island top and the bathroom’s black-and-white vanity top.
found throughout the home, from knobs to pulls, was sourced from Neu’s
Hardware Gallery. The company has locations in Menomonee Falls and
Design Build served as the project’s general contractor. m-designbuild.com
light fixtures were sourced from Wauwatosa-based Elektra Lights & Fans,
another vendor Sullivan began working with early on.
Wisconsin handled the project’s plumbing needs. ablewi.com