The project began eight years ago
when Ken took a job in the Milwaukee area. Their youngest daughter
was just beginning her junior year of high school, so Nora stayed
in their home in St. Charles, Ill. until graduation. She and Ken
spent the two years shuttling back and forth, hunting for a lot,
then working with architects and designers to create the home of
I had to do the research in St.
Charles and it was hard trying to transfer what I found there to
resources here, Nora said. We had built homes before but
this time the architect started with a blank page. When you start
from scratch it ends up being a much bigger job than you thought.
The lot the Raders chose seemed
designed for meandering. Today a vinca-lined driveway curves
casually around a welcoming stand of pines. Veronica, coreopsis
and other friendly perennials nod greetings from
strategically-placed beds. A wide brick path rises in broad steps
to the front door while an informal stone path winds to the rear
driveway and yard where lavender clematis happily climb twig
In the two-story foyer, watercolor
paintings of the homes front and rear yards in full bloom flank
a large mirror on the main wall. Tone on tone paper sets the mood
for the mix of comfort and sophistication that makes the Rader
home so unique.
Nora has very sophisticated
taste, said Trish Sinclair, owner of Designers Touch, Inc. of
Pewaukee and the person who helped Nora make such successful
design decisions. But she loves a touch of country and is a
very gifted lady.
bedroom in the Rader home is done in a French theme in
rich yellows and blues. Nora Rader has sewed all the
quilts in the home, including the one adorning the bed.
Angled to the right rear of the
foyer, the spacious family room with its soaring 17-foot ceiling
uses color and pattern to make the generous space feel like home.
Deep green walls provide the perfect backdrop for the muted plaid
fabrics that lightly dress the windows.
The lot is so forested, I didnt
want to cover the window, Nora said.
One of Noras full-size quilts
hangs from a rod on the wall leading to the master suite. Across
the room, French doors open to an enclosed deck where natural
finished cedar flows up the walls to the peak of the ceiling. The
three-season room overlooks a splashing waterfall and more of Noras
painstakingly-designed perennial gardens.
The garden is finally coming
along, Nora said, but we have a herd of deer who like to eat
the hostas. They will come right up to the door!
Nora sewed the green-checked
valances that top the windows. My mother taught me to sew when
I was nine, she said. I made my own clothes, even my own
wedding gown and bridesmaids dresses.
Back in the family room,
comfortable sofas invite conversation and relaxation. Next to the
fireplace stands a simple chair and ottoman freshly upholstered in
a crisp white and blue plaid. That chair dates from the early
years of our marriage, Nora said. It used to be done in
Nora wanted a botanical feel in the
kitchen so she selected a wallpaper with a crisp ivy and berry
design on a white background. A hardwood floor, broad white
moldings, and lots of bright windows make diners in the breakfast
area feel like they are having toast in the garden. It feels
almost like an extension of the outside, she said.
The breakfast area opens to another
deck where an umbrella-topped table invites outdoor dining. Off
the deck more paths invite wandering among the twisty white oaks
plentiful on the two and a half acre site. Nora keeps a bird book
handy to help her identify those she hasnt seen before.
A lot of birds migrate through
here, she said. We probably have a dozen or so different
kinds that stay in the woods all year.
Noras favorite feature in the
kitchen is the granite-topped island that is home to the cooktop,
lots of work space, and extra counter space for snacking.
When everyone is here, its
really nice, Nora said. You dont have to turn your back
to anyone while you work. Its a real gathering spot.
stay warm on chilly evenings as they dine by a fireplace
in the dining room.
The kitchen opens into a tray-ceilinged
dining room in classic black, white and neutral scheme. Nora used
a formula to determine how large the room should be.
They say to open your table to
be as big as it can be, put the chairs around it, then allow two
and a half to three feet on all sides, Nora said. Our
builder said the room would be too large, but it worked out really
A sculpted-area rug warms things
underfoot. The dining rooms fireplace is shared by the adjacent
den where sophisticated stripes in burgundys and greens cover
well-stuffed chairs strategically placed to make the most of time
for reading and conversation. Dramatic color provides a soothing
environment for the furry sheep footstool Nora found in
London that snoozes by the fireplace.
The room has a warm, European
feel, Sinclair said. When you travel in Europe, you find
that people there arent as afraid of color as Americans are.
Step through the
bookshelf-surrounded arch and you are back in the foyer. Follow
the hall that angles toward the left to enter the main floor guest
We both have widowed mothers and
we planned a place where they could be comfortable and not have to
go up and down stairs, Nora said. The result of their planning
was a large white-carpeted bedroom with walls done in dusty pink.
Nora brought a simple dark finished bedroom set up to date with
stripping and pickling. A pretty floral tabbed valance tops the
window. The same fabric is used for elegant drapery behind the
With houses becoming so large,
the heavier drape look is coming back, Sinclair said. Here
it creates a nice, cozy room with a touch of elegance. A full
bath and large laundry room complete the guest suite.
For privacy, the master bedroom is
located at the other end of the house off a small hallway leading
out of the family room. The focal point of the room is a massive
bed set off by deep green walls and ceiling. Window treatments are
done in a floral print and nicely finished with trim detailing.
This room was large and cold,
Sinclair said. Now it feels cozy. The walls are faux painted,
but on the ceiling we used dark-patterned paper and border.
The adjoining master bath features
a two-sided vanity giving both Nora and Ken plenty of room to
store their personal items.
upstairs bedrooms share this bathroom which is decorated
in black, white and neutral tones with neo-classic
Kens office is the first room to
the left on the second floor and overlooks the front gardens.
Plans for the room, Sinclair said, include a golf motif and lots
of built-ins. Angling to the right, the room-size landing has been
finished as a loft with window seats overlooking the rear gardens.
The first large bedroom on the
upper level features two dormers with windows and is done in
shades of raspberry burgundy. My daughter wanted something
really deep and dramatic, Nora said. These are the true
English colors, Sinclair added. Using deep colors and
borders like this really accents the homes architectural
A second bedroom is done in minty
shades of green with a bright flower border in pinks, peaches and
lavenders. A colorful brown bag quilt covers the bed.
You cut pieces of every color
into every shape you will need for the squares, Nora explained.
The only criteria is value. You use about ten light, ten dark,
and ten medium fabrics. Then you stack the pieces of the same
shape and color, safety-pin them together and put them into a bag.
When its time to make your square, you reach into every bag and
pull out a stack. Thats what you are work with... but we did cheat
The third bedroom on the second
floor has a French theme done in rich yellows and blues. Topped
with a pansy border the warm yellow walls provide the perfect
backdrop for the plaid rick-racked trimmed swag. Second floor
bedrooms share a bath done in black, white, and neutral with
neo-classic Latin-inscribed wallpaper and a black and white
The homes lower level includes a
carpeted exercise area with plenty of space in which Nora can lay
out her quilts as work progresses. It also houses a huge sewing
room that includes a big cutting table, computer with state of the
art quilt-design software and an oversize closet for fabric
I love fabric, said Nora, who
is currently working on a tree-of-life pattern in greens, a quilt
for the first floor guest suite, and a Navajo-like adaptation to
the trip-around-the-world pattern for her husbands office.
Its a big house, but you dont
feel uncomfortable in it anywhere, Sinclair said.
Nora finds it hard to pick one
thing she especially likes about the house.
The whole thing is special
because we designed it ourselves, she said. We had to
specify everything from nails to doorknobs but, when it all came
together, it was a wonderful place to come home to.