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Comfortable Balance
An unapologetically modern, family-friendly Elm Grove residence


March 2017

The combined dining and living rooms flow between a wall of glass on the left, which partially opens to a deck, and a lengthy shelving unit on the right — a blend of concrete wall, black steel backing and American walnut. These first floor rooms, including the kitchen, are meant to connect and yet maintain their individuality.
Photo by Ryan Hainey

Sometimes designing and building a home is all about making the right connections.

One such example is a 3,000-square-foot, modern jewel in Elm Grove, enveloped by a mini forest of trees and hidden from the hustle and bustle of nearby Bluemound Road.

The three-bedroom, 3˝-bath home, built naturally into the sloping landscape, serves as the perfect domestic haven for a busy health professional couple and their young son. It came together because the family found a like-minded interior designer, who led them to a like-minded architect, who in turn brought the interior designer back in to complete the dream.

“It just stands on its own as unapologetically modern,” says Amy Carman, the home’s interior designer and owner of Amy Carman Design. “This (home) has been very well-crafted and tailored to our client. The scale is perfect, and technically everything that is in the home really mattered because it was going to use every day.”

A walnut floating staircase is partially hidden from the kitchen behind a slatted walnut wall.
Photo by Ryan Hainey

Carman worked alongside Milwaukee-based architectural and design firm Vetter Denk. John Vetter says the project’s success, as in any project, hinges on the collaboration between the design team and client.

“The other ingredient that elevates the overall design and quality is having a passionate, involved and sophisticated client,” Vetter says, noting in this case the homeowners had open minds with no preconceptions.

The homeowners had a good idea of their desired style from a previous existing home search, where they met Carman. Their search for a modern lifestyle led to building their own home with professional help.

The result is an impressive two main stories of living space set over a garage and additional lower level space. Carman and Vetter used exposed concrete, glass and black steel to create the modern feel.

To achieve a comfortable balance, Carman incorporated various wood elements, including African celtis floors and walnut cabinetry. The dining room table top is a mixture of fir and pine, among other materials.

Fabric selections, such as durable linen on soft-sloping furniture pieces, also play well against the sleek frame of the rooms.

To satisfy the homeowners’ desire to create uncluttered, simple lines with splashes of color, Amy Carman’s design utilizes shades of white and gray. Various species of wood flooring, dining table top, stool seats and a slatted stairway wall work with abstract art to create practical visual interest.
Photo by Ryan Hainey

Lustrous details include a master bedroom with pops of color and a walkout onto a deck made of ipe, a teak/mahogany-like species that Carman says weathers beautifully. The master bath has a “wet room” with adjoining tub and shower encased in large-format white porcelain tile, magnifying the space. A floating staircase tucked behind a slat wall leads to a second floor that houses a tree-house bedroom, where tall windows offer dreamy views of the forested landscape — an attractive enclave for the homeowners’ young son.

Carman’s favorite space is the living and dining room expanse on the first floor.

“It’s one shared space, and yet each space is different,” she says.

Her affection includes the tall, expansive windows and entry onto a deck, thus almost doubling the living space in nicer weather. 

A wet room shower-tub combination is accentuated with oversized porcelain tile and served by a subtle floor drain running the length of the tub. The contrasting black window frame is emblematic of the home’s interior.
Photo by Ryan Hainey

The living room features bookend gray panels and shelves and a low, sleek, alcohol-burning vent-less fireplace at one end.

A long horizontal section of walnut shelves attached to a black steel back spans the dining and living areas. The kitchen, decked out in stainless steel appliances, features a mix of walnut- and gray-painted cabinetry. For homeowner Ross Cerniglia, who resides here with wife Maureen and their son, the appeal is the overall balance of clean, modern design and natural touches.

“My favorite is the office because there are windows that look out to the wooded lot, which makes it very relaxing,” he adds.

He also favors practicality.

“All the spaces are utilized very well,” Cerniglia continues. “It’s a small thing, but I like that I can drive directly into a heated garage and go upstairs. It’s convenient and well done.”

Resource center: How to re-create the look

»The wide-plank, oil-finish African celtis hardwood flooring used throughout the home can be found at Schmidt Custom Floors in Waukesha.

»The dining table with a reclaimed wood top and steel base is available through Amy Carman Design in Elm Grove.

»The abstract painting alongside the dining room table is an original from Wisconsin painter Pamela M. Anderson, the current artist-in-residence at The Pfister Hotel.

»The kitchen countertop is Caesarstone quartz in Blizzard and can be sourced at

»The 2-feet-by-4-feet porcelain tile featured in the master bath is available through Milwaukee-based Lexco Tile & Stone.


This story ran in the March 2017 issue of: