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Interior Influence
A multiyear, Elm Grove renovation combines function and flair, showcasing the homeowners’ penchant for European items.


Oct. 2017

Tucked into a wooded lot, this stately Elm Grove home recently underwent a multiyear renovation, which included extensive remodeling of the kitchen and guest suite, among other rooms.

The first of many renovation projects completed by Ruvin Brothers Artisans & Trades for this Elm Grove home, the sunroom exudes cozy charm and European panache.

Long-term relationships between a home design-build company and its client can begin in myriad ways. It took a broken ceiling pipe in an Elm Grove residence built in the 1930s to forge a strong association between Mequon-based Ruvin Brothers Artisans & Trades and homeowners Mike and Barb Lauer.

Total Mechanical repaired the pipe and referred the Lauers to Ruvin to restore the sunroom ceiling as well as second-floor damage.

Completed in 2011, the restoration project was just the beginning. Over the six years that followed, the Ruvin team has renovated the Lauers’ bedroom-bathroom guest suite, kitchen and another bathroom. All the work, they say, was done to preserve and incorporate an interior European flair. 

 As part of a third-floor guest suite makeover, the guest bedroom oozes a Euro-cottage feel.

The connecting bathroom includes waffle-pattern floor tile paired with large-format wall tile.

Ruvin owner and president Tony Enea and lead designer Julie Voeller recall the progression of projects.

Beginning in late 2011, Enea and Voeller helped the Lauers update an old, third-floor guest suite, removing walls, ceilings, floors and insulation. They added custom cabinetry designed to enhance storage, decorating it with stick-like hardware that matches the bedroom’s primary light fixture. The suite’s bathroom was transformed into a neutral, spa-like oasis, complete with a Carrara marble floor, large-format wall tile, Vicostone quartz countertops and Hudson Valley sconces.

The kitchen remodel revitalized a 1980s-designed space that featured cherry cabinets and granite countertops. “The idea was to lighten everything up and bring it into today’s style,” Voeller says of the project. As with the suite, the kitchen finishes, such as the inch-thick stone floors, were demolished. New Marvin windows were installed, and Total Mechanical upgraded the kitchen’s electrical, plumbing and in-floor heating. Among the details are Taj Mahal quartzite countertops, Quintessenza backsplash tile and antiqued Bleu Fonce limestone floors. The appliances — a gas cooktop, double oven, warming oven and wine refrigerator — are Sub-Zero and Wolf.

 With a charge to redesign the kitchen into a brighter, more welcoming space, the Ruvin team demolished all the finishes, creating the desired update while maintaining a European flair.

The key to making a contractor-client relationship work — especially over the course of multiple jobs and years — is appreciating each other’s skills, say the Ruvin team and homeowner Barb.

“Barb has a real European flair,” Enea says. “That’s apparent throughout the home.” Voeller says that flair, plus a certain confidence in her choices, makes Barb a good design partner. “She collects European items and she showcases them, so it’s as much about the interior look as it is about the exterior architecture,” Voeller says.

For her part, Barb credits a passion for design and being blessed with a discriminating eye. “I would describe my interior design style more as ‘wabi sabi,’ meaning perfect imperfection, instead of eclectic,” she says. “I know what I want. Julie and I worked well together.”

Reflecting on how the relationship with the Ruvin pros was formed, Barb notes her fondness for the sunroom and its needed restoration.

“The sunroom provides respite throughout the year,” she says, “while sitting in a favorite easy chair with the latest magazines or a good book.”

Resource center: How to re-create the look

»The guest suite’s bedroom features woodsy-inspired cabinet hardware and lighting. The hardware can be found at Neu’s Hardware Gallery in Brookfield and Menomonee Falls,, and the light fixture is from Elektra Lights & Fans in Wauwatosa,

»The Carrara marble floor tile, which infuses the guest suite’s bathroom with an updated, vintage charm, can be found at Childcrest Tile & Stone in Menomonee Falls.

»Hinkley Lighting fixtures hang over the kitchen island and can be purchased from Elektra Lights & Fans.

»The customized kitchen cabinetry, which helped brighten the space from its original darker motif, is from Burmeister Woodwork Company in Hales Corners.

»Blackstone International in Waukesha sourced a variety of floor and countertop materials throughout the home.

This story ran in the Oct. 2017 issue of: