and Joanne Potratz of Brookfield turned a small, narrow
Florida room into this beautiful garden room
where they love to entertain. Bill Winters of Winters
Design Group LLC in Wauwatosa was the interior designer
for the new room.
basement doesnt have to be just a concrete box where you keep
holiday decorations. A foyer or sun room can hold more than just a
chair and a small table. With a
little remodeling magic, you can turn any defunct space into a
very useful and integral part of the house.
Such was the case for Dale and
Joanne Potratz of Brookfield. They used to have a small room
called a Florida or sun room in their home right next to the
great room. It was just eight feet wide and 20 feet long. It wasnt
equipped with heating or air conditioning, so they couldnt
really use it in the winter because it was too cold, and they
couldnt use it in the summer because it was too hot.
We had rattan furniture in
there, but we seldom used it, said Dale Potratz. In the
winter, there was no way of heating it. There was an electrical
heater, but it didnt do any good. In the summer, it was hot
because there was no air conditioning. Also, it was too narrow.
You couldnt do anything in that room.
But the Potratzes loved to
entertain and were becoming acutely aware that they needed more
space in the house to do so. A bar separates the Potratzes
kitchen from the great room, and whenever the couple entertained,
guests would mill around the bar and kitchen area while Joanne was
trying to cook. Something had to give. The couple turned their
attention to the seemingly useless sunroom, which now presented
itself as an opportunity for expansion.
Bill Winters, architect with
Winters Design Group LLC in Wauwatosa was called in to rectify the
situation. He expanded the small space into a 20-foot by 24-foot
garden room, as he calls it, or bar room, as the Potratzes call
it. The north, east and west walls are constructed almost entirely
of windows and doors, giving the room plenty of sunshine and a
panoramic view of the beautifully-landscaped and decorated
backyard. Two French doors separate the garden room from the great
room, and two more French doors lead to the brick patio outside.
The room is elegantly decorated
with gold, black and beige colors. The bar is made of a golden,
brown tiger wood. All the lamps and chandeliers are made of gold
brass with black shades. Theres a cozy sitting circle with two
beige love seats and two burgundy chairs. There are also four
chairs and a glass table a perfect area to have breakfast or
play bridge, Dale noted.
Garden room is a term I
use to describe a room with a lot of windows looking out at the
yard. It kind of brings the outside inside, said Winters. Its
nice even in the winter time because on a nice, sunny day, you
almost feel like youre outside, which does wonders for cabin
Now the Potratzes can sit
comfortably in the room no matter the season because heating and
air conditioning were installed. I worked with the existing
furnace and created a separate zone for that room, said
Winters, who also installed recessed lighting in the ceiling and
walnut parquet tiled floors.
Theres a nicely done wet bar
with a granite top and mirrored back; upper cabinets with glass
doors and lighting inside with a low voltage halogen lighting in
the cabinets, said Winters.
There was just one structural
challenge during the remodeling job, Winters noted.
The second floor of the existing
house overhung on part of this room. The wall we took out was
supporting that, so now theres a huge beam up above the
ceiling, supporting the second floor bedroom. That portion of the
second floor room was there and was lower than we wanted the
ceiling of this new room, so we dropped the ceiling in just that
area. But it looks good. It accentuates the entryway. It had to
stay, so we made it into a feature. We turned a negative into a
positive, he said.
The Potratzes echo the same
sentiment about the entire room that what was once a negative
is now a positive. Its now a fully functional and necessary
space that fits perfectly with their lifestyle.
Its amazing how the room
opens up the whole house, said Joanne, adding that shes
pleased to finally empty the kitchen of her guests and have a
perfect room in which to entertain.
A dance studio is just about the
last thing youd expect to find in a persons home. But Rita
Pincsak said when she and her husband built their Brookfield home
12 years ago, they knew that was precisely what they had in mind
for the basement. Both of their daughters, Leah, 15 and Hannah,
12, are ballet, tap and jazz dancers and compete on a national
level. Because the girls take their dancing very seriously, the
Pincsaks wanted to make sure their daughters could practice any
time they wanted morning, noon or night without having to leave
When they built the house, they
rigged the basement for plumbing and electricity, had an area
allocated for a bathroom, and made sure the basement would never
have a flooding problem.
We took precautions with gravel
backfill all around the house, so weve had no problems with
that, said Pincsak.
But the basement remained basically
barren up until three years ago, when they finally decided to make
their original visions a reality. There was nothing in it for
years, just storage boxes, Pincsak said.
Winters Design Group was the
remodeling company called for the job because the Pincsaks had
worked with them before and were pleased with the results. Winters
took their unfinished basement and turned it into four useable
rooms a dance studio, a family room, a full bathroom and a
storage room/art studio.
Winters said this was definitely an
unconventional project. A 14-foot by 26-foot area was turned
into a dance studio. We dont get much call for this, but they
had done lots of research, he said.
The floor in the dance studio, for
example, had to be a special type for dancers wood with mat
cushions under it. The ceiling had to have special insulation and
dry walling to contain the sound when the girls music is
playing. One entire wall is mirrored; the other side of the wall
has a ballet bar. There are custom-made birchwood cabinets housing
the sound system; framed ballet posters on the walls; and a ballet
dancer wallpaper boarder all along the ceiling.
What once was nothing more than
concrete is now teaming with activity. The girls use the studio
for dance and pompom practice.The dance room also gets used for
group numbers, said Pincsak. The girls will get their
friends together and practice. It was well worth everything we put
But thats not the only room in
the basement thats getting used to the fullest. Right across
the way from the dance studio is the family room-complete with a
desk and computer area for the girls to do their homework, a
large-screen TV and a living area with kitchenette. Its a great
place to hold slumber parties, Pincsak noted.
I made the cabinetry in this
room in birch and the same style as in the dance room a very
traditional style with raised-panel doors, said Winters. This
room is carpeted and has a lot of living space for a lot of sleep-overs.
The stairs leading to the basement,
the hallway and the family room all have kelly green carpeting.
The walls and furniture in the family room and the bathroom are
all done up in burgundy, kelly green and almond.
Im not afraid to go dark,
Pincsak said of her color choices. Now that the basement is
finished, furnished and getting plenty of use, Pincsak said her
favorite room is actually the storage room because it doubles as
her art studio. Here, in this little part of the basement, is
where she works on her pottery wheel.
I love my storage room, said
Pincsak. Bill customized it to fit 15 big boxes of all my
Christmas decorations, but I also have my pottery wheel down
there. Its a big enough space to do my art work. Its just a
rough storage room, but, boy, I love it!