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Vintage elegance
Shevelands love to display their family mementos

By DONNA PINSONEAULT

 

Guests can sit and relax in comfortable leather wing chairs in front of a roaring fire at the Shevelands in Delafield.

When Helen Sheveland heard company was coming, she headed straight for the closet. The Shevelands had lived in their Delafield condominium just a few weeks at the time, but Helen and her husband Richard wanted to make their home as welcoming as possible.

Their new residence was blessed with an abundance of big closets — “closets galore,” Helen says — among them a deep catchall storage area near the kitchen and laundry room. That’s where Helen rummaged through stacks of unpacked boxes to retrieve a hodgepodge of interesting family mementos. Arranged atop the kitchen cabinets, the grouping would create an artful, lively display that would bring a sense of past and permanence to the home.

“Everything up there has a history,” Helen said.

The delightful arrangement includes colorful tin pretzel cans from her father’s pretzel-making business, her great grandmother’s turkey platter, a relative’s rolling pin, a stuffed rooster, and lots of antique baskets. On the countertop, greenery spills over the edges of her 79-year-old father’s metal lunch pail. The items are just a few of the touches that make the house seem as if the Shevelands have lived there for years. They also bring home the point that, in this home, people-comfort was the guiding principle for the condo’s interior design.

“The desire of my heart was to re-create the vintage look I fell in love with in our European travels,” Helen said. “What I like is Old English and Italian, but I didn’t want it to seem standoffish. I wanted rooms done so people could come in off the golf course or tennis court and feel comfortable and invited.”

Every piece of furniture, every fabric, and every accessory was chosen with that philosophy in mind. It began with a simple consultation with Nancy Metz, registered designer with the Boston Store Design Gallery.

“We talked about their lifestyle,” Metz said. “The Shevelands love to entertain. They wanted their home to reflect that.”

Removing a wall in the great room allowed for plenty of sunlight and a spectacular view at the Sheveland residence.


“I want the furniture to say ‘sit and enjoy.’ Have a good time here,” Helen said. Guests enter the Sheveland home through a simple but elegant foyer that offers visitors an unobstructed preview of the comforts that await. The 14-foot foyer ceiling is graced with a glistening chandelier that formerly hung in what would have been the dining area just ahead. A musician and piano teacher, Helen saw a better use for that space, filling it with a studio grand that, even when silent reigns as the home’s true center.

“Helen is the focus here,” Dick said with unabashed pride. “She is a
fantastic cook and entertainer. When we have guests, they gather around wherever she is.”

Ironically, though Helen made the final choices, it was an accessory Dick chose that determined how the
interiors would evolve.

“When I was just out of college, I went to an old building that had estate materials for sale,” said Dick who works in real estate management and building rehabilitation. “I found this old painting covered with soot in a big museum-style frame. Believe it or not, I tried to get the price down below $15. Then I took it home, threw away the frame, and had the painting cleaned and reframed.”

Collectors have told the Shevelands that the painting is worth a lot of money, but they wouldn’t dream of parting with it. To them its value lies in being part of Dick’s history. As a bonus, resting on the mantel as it does today, the painting sets the perfect tone for the Shevelands casually classic European-style great room, an eclectic room which combines the artistry of Venetian craftsmanship with English reproductions.

Flanking the fireplace, two reclining wing chairs are covered in a happy combination of leather for elegance and fabric for comfort. A lovely Old English tapestry in a dramatic mix of plum and green covers the thick sofa and echoes the shade of the green marble fireplace surround. Plum corduroy upholstery warms another large chair. A whimsical animal print tapestry covers the occasional chairs that also provide extra seating for the dining table. The rich color of all of the oversize furnishings is set off by the warm frieze carpeting underfoot and autumn gold paint on the walls.

“I didn’t want it to reek of being formal,” Helen said. “Nancy was so helpful. Her flexibility and creativity really pulled this all together.

One of the first and most significant changes the Shevelands made in the dwelling was removing a wall. Originally placed to divide the living room from a sunroom, the wall created too great an obstacle to the open, inviting look Helen craved. Removing the wall not only filled the great room with light from full windows on both the south and west exterior walls, it also opened up space for a large dining area.

“We regularly have 12 people for dinner,” Helen said.

The beautiful French-style wood table is flanked by more upholstered chairs with accentuated cabriole legs. “I call them thunder thighs,” Helen said.

Helen Sheveland loves to entertain and regularly has 12 people for dinner, she said.


Through every window, visitors can enjoy wide views of both formal and informal landscapes. Though in the home barely a season, the Shevelands have already managed to plant pine trees and a wide lawn. Helen has plans for making the most of their outdoor space, but wants to finish the inside first.

“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life decorating,” she said.

Helen actually calls the dining area her “gathering space.” Open to the living area, it also opens to the outdoors and guests are welcome to enter there directly from the golf course or yard. Just beyond the dining area, a bright spacious kitchen is a great place to relax with a sandwich and cold drink or a cup of tea. With white painted cabinets, cheerful fruit-filled wallpaper, and a long eat-at counter flanked with unusually attractive rush-backed stools, the kitchen provides yet another comfortable space where family and friends gather. Its galley-style workspace is filled with convenient extras like pull-out shelves behind the cabinet doors.

Beyond the kitchen a practical laundry room provides more conveniences including a long drip-dry bar. With its chicken wire patterned wallpaper, it also makes the perfect spot for Helen to display favorite items from her chicken-themed collection. Across the hall, an open staircase leads to the lower level, the only place in the house where Helen’s ideas take a back seat to Dick’s suggestions.

“I call this the men’s club room,” Helen said, pointing out the huge screen television, green leather sofas and game table. Dick’s office opens to the right and is partitioned from the media room with a glass wall and framed glass French doors. Helen’s office also opens off from the media room well-lit by the sunshine that streams through the glass walls. Several rooms on the lower level enjoy outdoor views.

“I love that everything is exposed to the outside,” Helen said.

The other side of the club room opens into a comfortable guest suite with a full bath and a bonus room with lots more closets.

Back on the main floor, the master bedroom, with its own luxurious bath, features a comfortable brass bed and lovely view of the adjacent Western Lakes golf course. A second bedroom and bath are done in soft shades of blue and green. A convenient two-way linen closet opens from both bath and hall.

Though new to Delafield, the Shevelands are not newcomers to Waukesha County. They lived in Brookfield for many years, then moved to Green Lake. It wasn’t long before they realized how isolated they felt from friends and decided to return to the Milwaukee area.

“When we moved back, Dick wanted to be as far west as he could,” Helen said. “This is as far west as I would go. The best part of owning this house was coming back to the metro area and being close to family and friends.”