A clear idea and a careful choice
Dust and debris don't daunt dreams

By Judith Wood


East Side resident Ann Brotz enjoys her remodeled kitchen.

The experts want you to know there is more than just dreaming involved in doing a kitchen.

“People have to realize when you are talking about a kitchen remodel, you are talking about an awful lot of dust and debris,” said Richard Froze of Froze Design-Build. “If they aren’t emotionally prepared to deal with the mess and the inconvenience, sometimes we advise them to take up residence elsewhere while the work is being done.”

Part of Froze’s job is to prepare them for what they are about to undertake, make alternate kitchen arrangements, and offer support throughout the project.

“We try to keep as much of the working kitchen intact until we absolutely need to tear it out,” he said. “We will set up a temporary kitchen in the basement or another room in the house with sinks and temporary hookups for gas. If they have kids, we want them to know this is a huge imposition. Tell them to expect to be out at least 2 months, maybe more, maybe less depending on what comes up.”

Ann Brotz knows a bit about temporary arrangements. While Froze remodeled the kitchen in her Shorewood home, she set up temporary workspace in the dining room and the powder room.

“We didn’t eat out as much as you

might think,” Brotz said. “We had the refrigerator in the dining room and used the bookshelves as a pantry. We used the microwave a lot. After almost nine months of doing dishes in the powder room, we were just so happy to move back in when the job was completed.”

What he considers his specialty is respecting the architectural integrity of the home—particularly some of the older homes on the Northshore.

“We do a fair amount of historical work on existing homes making sure that the woodwork and architecture of the home is consistent with the addition or remodel we are doing,” Froze said.

The original kitchen was also representative of the time—dark, little workspace and incompatible with a lot of modern kitchen conveniences.

“We had collected clippings for at least two years of what we wanted in a kitchen,” Brotz said. “Sometimes you can just tell certain things won’t work because you have to consider how you use the kitchen, how you like to cook.”

After getting a clear idea of what you want out of your kitchen, the next step is to carefully choose a contractor. Peter and Sandy Earle of Shorewood can’t stress enough how important it is to find someone you feel good about.

“You just have to go with your gut,” said Sandy Earle. “We wanted someone who would take pride in the work—someone with attention to details.”

The Earles’ Shorewood home was built in 1916. Unique architecturally, the home features dark woodwork and leaded glass work throughout. As only the fourth owner in the home’s history, Peter Earle was very concerned about preserving the unique woodwork and cabinetry details in the new kitchen.

“In one part of the kitchen we had this hardwood flooring that is sewn oak,” he said. “The oak of the period the home was built in and the oak of today are very different. Froze selected the wood and they milled it themselves to get it as close to the original as possible. There is a tulip pattern in the stained glass throughout the home. It’s in the front windows, the door to the dining room, and in other areas. Froze duplicated the pattern in a leaded glass cabinet in the new kitchen.

“Everything fits together with the house. The cabinets were custom built right here to match. The drawer pulls and hardware all match or come very close to the original work. That was very important to us,” Froze said.

That kind of attention to detail requires a lot of hours on the job.

Find a contractor who will work within your budget. Froze said the only time the jobs come in higher than quoted is when changes are made after the work has begun.

“Making changes not only means more money in some cases, but it can also mean delays if we are waiting on certain products,” he said. “A lot of clients will have friends or family come over during the work and give all kinds of suggestions and that is when the changes start. Sometimes it sends us back to the drawing board and drives up the price.”

Froze said both the Brotz and the Earle kitchens exemplified the more detailed aspect of his work.

“Both incorporated granite, hardwood and special glass work,” he said. “The idea is to make them look like they have always been there, that they fit the house. Both used to be the coldest rooms in the house, now they are the warmest.”

Both Earle and Brotz also appreciated Froze’s eye to the future with their remodeling projects.

“We have future plans for remodeling upstairs above the kitchen that they anticipated for which was important to us,” Earle said. “They put in wiring and piping that will make that future job easier. That is very helpful to us. You really need to have collaboration with the contractor. I would tell people to take time out at the front end of the project and really figure out the details. Get different bids and find someone you have chemistry with. I’m a trial lawyer and I just don’t want to come home and have an adversarial relationship with the contractor.” For both families, the result was well worth the wait.

“This was something I wanted for so long that I think I was really prepared for it,” said Brotz. “There were some frustrating things that came up along the way, but our project manager handled them so well. I would tell people going through this that if something doesn’t look or feel right to them, to be firm about it. You are spending a lot of money, make sure you get what you want.”