PHOTO BY DOUG EDMUNDS
It didn’t take Jim Drzewiecki of Ginkgo Leaf Studio in Cedarburg long to
realize the work he was hired to do for a New Berlin couple’s home would
need to combine differing personal tastes while being true to the home’s
“It’s a prairie-style house that had existing landscaping with
Asian-style flavor,” he says. “Stylistically, they still wanted to
maintain a little of the Asian flavor, but the husband also wanted a
midcentury modern look. So we blended all three things, and in my mind,
all blended well together.”
Photo by Westhauser Photography
To achieve that triumvirate of styles, Drzewiecki
kept the Wright-style urn tucked into a corner of the house,
strategically placed ornamental grasses and purple coneflowers as a
prairie-style nod throughout, and incorporated simple, modern lines,
with elements such as bluestone steppers along the driveway.
distinctive quarry stone was used as the palette for the home’s
midcentury modern address plate near the street, which features Summer
Beauty allium on its facade and to the left. May Night salvia plantings
in subdued hues dot the right-hand side of the plate.
“We like to repeat plantings throughout, provide a splash of color, and
utilize plants that have a long period,” Drzewiecki says, adding that
the mixture is of less-controlled forms and geometric shapes to
complement the geometry of the house.
On a mission to restore the structure to its single-family elegance, the
motivated homeowner of an important historic Wauwatosa home added an
architecturally blended new front entrance, with the assistance of S.J.
Janis Company Inc.
The home is a 1905 grand gem by railway executive Frederick Underwood,
who used concrete during construction because his daughter had died in a
house fire on the East Coast. Over the years, the home was split into a
duplex with two front doors.
Its current owner set out to bring back the original intent of a single
front door. This time, the plan included an enclosed front porch that
would blend with the original construction. In a document used for the
Wisconsin Remodeler Awards, Wauwatosa-based S.J. Janis pointed to
several noteworthy elements, such as a directly proportional gable over
the new front door that respects the two second-floor gables. The
structure includes an oval window that was found in the attic,
refinished and repurposed.
Inside the front-entrance addition, windows provide cross ventilation,
and a tile rendering of a railroad scene pays homage to the original
Outside, additional stucco columns add architectural relevance and curb
Joe Klein, director of design at S.J. Janis, says a lot of the credit
goes to the owner. “She had a great vision,” he adds. “It was a long
project, but it was fun.”
Photo by Jim Charlton
Going With the
Lake home owners think of their front door as the lake side, says Mike
Manke, landscape architect at LandCrafters Inc. in Wauwatosa. The front
entrance accessible by land, however, is just as important.
In the case of Manke’s work on a contemporary Pewaukee Lake home, he
found that improving curb appeal also involved building an intricate
water reclamation and flood control system. The home sits on a slope — a
30-foot grade change from the road to the waterfront.
“It’s a typical narrow lake lot,” he says, “so we needed to build not
only an aesthetic for that side of the home, but also a functional
The project called for 100 tons of stone outcropping that, with just the
right configuration and accompanying plantings, eventually provided an
appealing, natural way to direct and purify water as
it flows into a series of catch basins, dry beds and rain gardens.
“We wanted a natural look, so we didn’t go with pre-engineered
material,” Manke says, noting an asphalt drive was replaced with natural
materials, further emphasizing the property’s contemporary architecture.
“This is a summer home, so we selected plants that bloomed primarily
during that time,” he adds.
Plantings highlighting yellows and lavenders include ground cover,
hostas, hydrangeas, coneflowers, ornamental grasses and evergreens.
“Now, it’s a park-like setting with flowing lines, very natural,” Manke
Landscaping is no time to curb your enthusiasm. First impressions make
the difference in establishing pride of ownership or setting the stage
for a sale, local experts say.
brief checklist about plantings and hardscapes
» Follow the architecture.
“It’s our number one rule,” says Jim Drzewiecki of Ginkgo Leaf Studio.
“You don’t want to clash.” Andrew Herndon of LandCrafters Inc. says to
use asymmetrical designs for craftsman homes; repetition and angular
forms for midcentury modern homes; and a formal, symmetrical and
balanced approach for Italianate structures.
» Be odd.
Drzewiecki suggests using plant groupings of threes, fives or sevens to
create a more natural scene.
» Create a focal point.
It can be as simple as spicing up a front door to avoid a monochromatic
facade or adding a small, covered porch, says Jim Pitzen of S.J. Janis
» Be original.
Try to avoid a cookie-cutter look with overdone approaches like a birch
tree planted in the corner, Drzewiecki says.
Herndon urges homeowners to familiarize themselves with elements and
principles of design so you’re more knowledgeable when hiring a pro.