Top to bottom proud
Cape Cod goes craftsman



Jim and Elizabath Neubauer created their own dream home by adding a second story to the home they owned. Cornerstone Studio won a NARI award for this project.

When Jim and Elizabeth Neubauer took on the search for their dream house they were surprised at what they found. Their 1950 Cape Cod style house located on a quiet street in Whitefish Bay where they were living had everything they were looking for —well almost everything.

“We loved this neighborhood,” Elizabeth said. “Our daughter Rachel’s school… the neighbors. We’re on a cul de sac with the JCC right behind us. We loved the first floor of our house. It was the second floor that needed work.”

The Neubauers stopped their search for a new home and decided to convert their existing home from a Cape Cod to a 1920s Craftsman style bungalow. Sounds simple, but maintaining architectural consistency throughout required a contractor with an eye for details. Enter David Rinka with Cornerstone Studio. The Neubauer remodel won a Milwaukee NARI (National Association of
Remodeling Industry) Residential Addition Award for its quality of work and complexity of the project.

“The Neubauer home had two small bedrooms upstairs and they wanted to add a bath,” Rinka said. “What we did was remove the roof, raise the walls and complete a full two-story. We enlarged both bedrooms, added a bath and
essentially created two bedroom suites.”

The Neubauer family moved to the first floor and remained in the house while Cornerstone built the second floor. The project took about six months to complete.


“Anytime you add a second floor, you are working in a perilous situation,” Rinka said. “We made the job easier by framing the exterior walls on the first floor. We rented a crane and took out sections at a time.”

A particularly perilous situation arose when a storm with 70-mph winds
threatened the exposed house.

“At the time of the storm, the exterior walls were part of the new roof,” Rinka said. “We did not lose a single tarp. Everything was just as it should be.”

The night of the windstorm was the only night the Neubauers didn’t stay in their home during construction.

Elizabeth and Jim were involved with Rinka and his partner, Jay Iverson, in choosing the many details that went into creating this home. Rinka and Iverson were concerned with bringing the two floors together so they looked like a home from the same era. Some of the architectural details repeated throughout the home include battens, wainscoting and geometric patterns found throughout the home. The pewter hardware and three panel doors throughout also reflect the Craftsman style homes of the 1920s.

The old fireplace was completely rebuilt by a cabinetmaker to reflect the
geometric pattern of the new home. Ceilings in both living and dining rooms were redone to reflect the new style as well.

“One of the challenges was telling them we needed to replace the windows on the first floor to match with the second floor,” Rinka said. “We knew that the windows were relatively new, but it had to be done to match the style. They were very open to everything we suggested. They knew things would come up as the work went on that had to be evaluated.”

Elizabeth spent hours at the library researching details of Craftsman design. She kept clip files of looks that she liked and maintained organized files of
photos for each room.

I know that Cornerstone appreciated the fact that Elizabeth is so well
organized,” Jim said. “I’m so glad we were both open-minded throughout the entire process because there are so many decisions to be made.”

The new bedroom suites boast ceilings of almost nine feet in Rachel’s room to 13 feet in the master bedroom. The lighting is tucked in cove lighting that shoots soft light on the ceiling angles. Elizabeth decided to keep window treatments to a minimum to emphasize the windows and architecture of the home. Even the beds in Rachel’s room were handcrafted to match the style of the home. The new rooms each have a custom paint job done by Potter the Painter.

“We chose to put higher counters in the new bathrooms which is so nice to use,” Elizabeth said. “We didn’t go with a whirlpool tub in the master because we don’t know anyone who uses theirs enough to make it worth it. Instead, we chose two shower heads with four body sprays that we just love.”

The master bedroom suite features a built-in bookshelf and a built-in art niche. Both new bedrooms have generous window seats and the master suite features a beautiful stained glass design in the front window.

Yet another newly created space for the Neubauers from this project is the front porch. The generous front porch is large enough for a dinner night out and comfy enough for reading bedtime stories to Rachel. The ceiling is beaded board and the light fixtures feature the four square geometric patterns found throughout the home.

“The porch is one of our favorite places in the new house,” Elizabeth said. “Every time we drive up to our home now, we are just so happy. It is so beautiful. We loved our home before, but it just didn’t give us the same feeling. We are so pleased with the project and we never thought we would do something like this.”

The Neubauers aren’t the only ones happy with the result.

“This is one special project where I am proud of every detail in it from top to bottom,” Rinka said. “The best compliment is when people ask the age of the house. That shows that it really looks as if it were constructed in the ’20s. That is the best feedback we can get.”