conley6.gif (2529 bytes)


Creature Comforts
Inspired by the home’s history, designers behind the 20th-anniversary showhouse created rooms made for lingering.


June 2017

 “Black is the next hot accent color in fashion design and home design, so I wanted to work with a black-and-white color scheme,” says Nicholas Konzal, owner of Nicholas Carl Design. He started with the striking Cole & Son wallpaper, and then added warmer elements, including the hand-carved tin mirror from India perched over a burlwood ash desk stained a dark tobacco for added drama. The nightstand by local woodworker Matthew Gramling features a black stain and a contrasting white stain on just the grain.

You can admire the beauty of a house — its architectural elements and the design of its rooms — but, ultimately, what makes a house a home is its people. That’s why for WBCS Inc.’s 20th-anniversary Showhouse for a Cure Jessica N. Bertoni began her design concept for the living room by imagining the homeowner. “It started with thinking about who might live in this space,” says the design consultant for Ethan Allen.

Overlooking Lake Michigan, the 6,700-square-foot home on North Terrace Avenue has housed several folks over the years. In 1902, Falk Corporation’s Clarence Falk and wife Margaret hired Milwaukee architect Alexander C. Eschweiler to build the 2 ½-story house. An aviation enthusiast, Falk once entertained Charles Lindberg in the home.

Given this rich history, showhouse designers were inspired by the past even as they took care to include modern-day comforts.

“We of course fell in love with the architecture and the (bay) window, but we really had such a feeling of the past come through,” says Carol Bergman, an interior designer at Boston Store Furniture Gallery, of the dining room. “How can we as designers use that past in the present?” she asks. “The windows, for instance — 14th-century Belgian abbey — how many eyes have looked through those windows?”

“We made decisions based on the principles of hygge. That’s how the whole thing evolved,” says Boston Store Furniture Gallery interior designer Carol Bergman, who designed the
dining room with colleague Kim Streater. Hygge, they explain, hails from Denmark and focuses on comfort and coziness, hence the cushioned seating at the table. They arranged a sitting area in front of the 14th-century Belgian monastery windows as a perfect spot to read with a cup of cocoa.

 Julie Spillius, owner of The Great Room in Pewaukee, used a vintage Hopalong Cassidy rug as her inspiration for the play room onthe third floor. She and her team handmade the tepee. “We wanted it
to be woodsy, rustic and as if children were actually camping outside,” she says of the room that blends modern comforts with nostalgic touches, such as the antique rocking horse. “It’s a whimsical escape from reality.”


She and colleague Kim Streater answered their own challenge by enhancing echoes of the past, such as the plaster hops vines — a nod to the Falks’ brewing history — that decorate the ceiling. They replaced the chandelier with one from mid-20th-century Germany, and the elegant choice radiates a soft light.

In fact, they used lighting to create a warm, inviting atmosphere for their imagined homeowner, which was part of their overall approach based on hygge, a Danish concept of coziness. “Hygge helped us so much in pulling together the little details — and making it a room that somebody wanted to be in,” the designers say.

Interior designer Nicholas Konzal, owner of Nicholas Carl Design, also considered comfort — and what it means today. In the master bedroom suite, he expanded the bathroom by turning twin closets into a water closet and shower, and updating the space last remodeled in the 1980s.

“I wanted to pay homage to the history of the house, but give it a more modern look,” he says. To that end, he chose white subway tile throughout the room, white hexagonal tile in the shower, and a handmade Mexican cement floor tile in a black-and-white geometric pattern for the floor. He then carried the black-and-white theme into the bedroom for a continuous look throughout the suite, which provides yet another retreat in this historic home.

 In approaching a design for the living room, color was key for Jessica N. Bertoni, design consultant at Ethan Allen. She chose a blush tone for the walls appropriate for the cause. “I added in contrast with the draperies’ deep rich navy and turquoise,” she says. “Gem tones became my accent for the space.” She also wanted to complement the view from the gorgeous windows: the blue of Lake Michigan and the greens of the grass and trees.

To see the showhouse, you can buy advance tickets through June 2 at or locations throughout the greater Milwaukee area. Tickets will also be available at the door when the showhouse opens June 3, and you can tour the home through June 18. Proceeds benefit research in early-stage breast cancer and prostate cancer at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The Human Side

More than 500 volunteers with an emotional connection to the cause help make the Showhouse for a Cure happen each year. Three of them share their stories:

Kay Brogelman, historian

 “My mother passed away from breast cancer when I was 19,” Brogelman says, adding that her mom had been diagnosed five years earlier, in 1960. At the time, she says, she was not always aware of her mother’s physical and emotional struggles. After Brogelman retired, she was asked to help staff the 2004 house. “It took about 10 seconds for me to decide to help,” she says. “My work at WBCS is a tribute to my mother.”

Robert Fono, WBCS board member

“I had prostate cancer in 2001, and that is how I became interested in volunteering for the organization,” says Fono, whose wife, Susie, is also a volunteer. “We survivors help to raise money for research because who else are better examples of what funds can do to advance an eventual cure?” That attitude also put him on the runway twice at the annual WBCS fashion show.

Linda Short, WBCS board member

After volunteering at the showhouse for 12 years, Short herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I kiddingly say I should have volunteered for the humane society, and then I would have gotten a puppy,” she says, adding that in the subsequent five years she has earned status as a survivor. Unfortunately, her personal experience didn’t end there; the day she was given an all clear, her identical twin was diagnosed with breast cancer.



This story ran in the June 2017 issue of: