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Moving Parts
A contemporary Fox Point home is transformed into a Scandinavian-inspired oasis


January 2017

A vaulted ceiling, dark-stained maple beams, expansive windows and a lively pattern of wall covering from the Borastapeter Jubileum Collection let plenty of personality shine through the clean lines of this master bedroom addition in Fox Point.
Photo by Doug Edmunds

Some extensive home makeovers begin traditionally — a homeowner meets with the design-build company to go over needs, noodle ideas and work toward a plan to become reality. Other projects have a different rhythm, percolating for years while the family dreams, gets ideas through an out-of-town architect friend, and then searches for a firm willing to take on the preconceived project.

The second scenario is exactly the case for a family living in a contemporary, 1950s Fox Point home for five years, knowing the residence did not fit their taste or lifestyle. After consulting with an architect friend, the owners interviewed various design firms with appropriate experience and a willingness to come in to massage and finish the preliminary plan.

In the spring of 2015, Wauwatosa-based design-build firm S. J. Janis went to work for the family of five — a busy couple with three young children. Nathan Wachtl, an architect and the firm’s director of sales, guided the project for the next eight and a half months.

“The client wanted to make sure they hired someone who understood what they meant, who could speak a lot of architectural languages and give them peace of mind,” Wachtl says.

The project, he says, had a number of moving parts. 

Those parts included turning a drab beige exterior into a California modern rustic showpiece, installing larger windows to brighten a dark interior, and developing an open-concept first floor that fits well with the family’s needs. Adding 1,215 square feet to the second floor brought the home’s total to almost 4,000.

A walnut island positioned beneath crackled-glass pendant lights leads to sleek, handle-free cabinetry with hidden outlets.
Photo by Doug Edmunds

The reworked exterior is flanked in custom-milled cedar — a rustic yet modern look.
Photo by Doug Edmunds

Exterior design blend

An exterior that balances rustic and modern was created with custom-milled cedar as a canvas. Six-inch-wide vertical strips separated by narrow shadow grooves are garnished with 4-inch horizontal darker stained sections to provide scale and depth. The exterior depth is further emphasized with a dark bronze-shaded front door. Clad and anodized aluminum windows frame the access of natural light to the home’s interior.

Interior nod to clean lines

A Scandinavian family heritage drove the desire for a minimalistic interior with simple, clean lines. The previously updated first-floor powder room — complete with mosaic tile and a retro-modern mirror set under canister light fixtures — provided a blueprint.

“That was a good indication of what our client wanted,” Wachtl says. “We took it from there.”

In the expanded second floor, a multifunctional children’s playroom was built to accommodate other uses for years to come. The master suite includes a bathroom with floating vanities and an enviable double-spaced walk-in closet.

A first floor red brick fireplace was transformed with a gray troweled plaster coat, giving just enough texture to create a centerpiece break to otherwise clean lines.

Scandinavian style shines in other interior elements too. A floating staircase partially framed by a lathe wood wall, just inside the front door, serves as a conversation piece, and handle-free cabinetry and a sleek cooktop with stainless steel hood in the kitchen further reinforce the home’s nod to European design.

Providing a blueprint for designing the rest of the home, this previously remodeled powder room maintains a Scandinavian clean-line look, dotted with mosaic tile, a retro-modern mirror and canister light fixtures.
Photo by Doug Edmunds

The living room's centerpiece fireplace was reimagined by replacing red brick with a coat of troweled plaster, which blends well into the natural color scheme.
Photo by Doug Edmunds

Making it work

Balancing style, function and budget was important. Wachtl says a mudroom want was rethought twice.

“The couple wanted radiant floor heating beneath porcelain floors, but because of budget concerns, they took it out,” he says. “She was very disappointed, but while she was out of town, her husband surprised her and had it put back in.”

While a heated mudroom floor may have made her day, her husband says he was most happy with the built-in expanded storage.

“I am happy with everything,” he adds, “but having the extra closets and other storage may be my favorite.” 


This story ran in the January 2017 issue of: