The Rader house
Delafield home is a one-of-kind design

By Laurie Arendt


Ken and Cherie Sieth of Delafield say a good sense of humor during your kitchen remodeling project is of the utmost importance. The Kitchen Center in Brookfield is doing the majority of their remodeling project.

As a quilter, Nora Rader had been creating masterpieces from shapes for years. But no project she had ever undertaken matched the challenge of piecing unusual spaces together to create the home she and her husband Ken share today. Located in The Arbors in Delafield, the 4,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home is an interesting mix of uniquely-shaped rooms that wraps as comfortably around residents and visitors as one of Nora’s colorful quilts.

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 their dreams.

“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 trellises.

In the two-story foyer, watercolor paintings of the home’s 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.”

This 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 didn’t want to cover the window,” Nora said.

One of Nora’s 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 Nora’s 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 bridesmaid’s 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 harvest gold.”

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 hasn’t 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.”

Nora’s 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, it’s really nice,” Nora said. “You don’t have to turn your back to anyone while you work. It’s a real gathering spot.”

Guests 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 well.”

A sculpted-area rug warms things underfoot. The dining room’s 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 aren’t 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 suite.

“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 bed.

“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.

The upstairs bedrooms share this bathroom which is decorated in black, white and neutral tones with neo-classic Latin-inscribed wallpaper.

Ken’s 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 home’s architectural details.”

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 a little.”

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 harlequin-tiled floor.

The home’s 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 storage.

“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 husband’s office.

“It’s a big house, but you don’t 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.”