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Old world feeling
Kuchler home combines best of new and old

By DONNA PINSONEAULT

 

Dick and Kathy Kuchler of Delafield peruse a cookbook while trying to decide what to make for dinner. The kitchen mixes beautiful woods with tumbled stone tiles. Designer Amy Seckinger of Hickory Hill Homes in Delafield chose a unique wall treatment to create a European-feel finish. Hickory Hill Homes
constructed the Kuchler house.

Dick and Kathy Kuchler opted for a large great room and sunroom when they built their Delafield home instead of the “formal living room.”


Dick Kuchler is an expert at seeing things that don’t exist yet.

“Dick is an engineer,” said his wife Kathy. “He can imagine what something will look like while it’s still on paper. I’m a visual person and I want to actually see something. Then I can decide.”

When it came to designing their Delafield home, the couple’s different skills created a perfect complement. They took advantage both of Dick’s engineering vision to imagine possibilities and Kathy’s view for visual detail to flesh out the fine points. The result was a 3,000-square foot hilltop home that is at once European classic and all-American contemporary. Though the couple moved in just three months ago, when they celebrate their first Christmas there this year, it’s likely to seem as if the family has lived there forever.

The Kuchlers came to the building process with a bit of experience. The couple first built a home together in 1973. The effort was so successful, they stayed in that house for 27 years, raising their children, refining their living space, learning to work things through, and collecting memories that would last. Once the children were grown, however, the Kuchlers were ready for a change. Like many empty-nesters, they thought about buying a condo.

“But Dick really likes to do yard work,” Kathy said. “So we decided to build again.”

The fact that their home seems so settled so quickly is the result of working from two principles — uncompromising attention to detail and refusing to settle for less than what they really wanted.

Visitors to the stone-faced dwelling arrive via a paver-edged stamped concrete walkway that leads to a sheltered front entry.

“We wanted that Old World cobblestone look,” Dick said. “I didn’t like the idea of putting bricks on dirt. We liked the rustic feel of the stamped concrete.”

The spacious foyer teases visitors with glimpses of the pretty rooms and views beyond. Oversize tiles in neutral stone-like shades set the stage for the home’s commitment to a carved-from-nature feel. A medallion, laser cut from Italian marble, creates a focal point underfoot while an alabaster light fixture draws the eye upward. An oversized framed mirror hangs across from the entry door, reflecting the pleasant outdoor scene from the open entry as well as from street-facing windows in the adjacent dining room. The foyer also boasts a huge walk-in closet that would be the dream of any couple who loves to entertain. Its space is especially designed to organize, protect and keep handy several table leaves, table pads and extra folding chairs.

The bathroom continues the Old World theme throughout the house with its stone-trimmed tub surround and porcelain floor tile.


“In our other house, we were always running down to the basement to get extra chairs,” Dick said.

The dining room opens to the right of the foyer. Done in the neutral shades Kathy loves, its walls are hand-decorated in a faux stripe over wainscoting.

“Choosing the paint color was the most frustrating process we went through,” Dick said.

Kathy agreed. “For me, the color had to be right,” she said. “We did samples on boards and changed it a couple of times.”

Amy Seckinger, a design coordinator with Hickory Hill Homes in Delafield, the builder with whom the Kuchlers worked with, had added a third point of view.

“For the dining room, I might have suggested a deep dramatic color,” she said, “but Kathy’s choice of neutrals throughout the home creates a more elegant feel and lets the fabrics and furniture pop out.”

Neutral backgrounds also create a fine counterpoint to the elegant woodwork throughout the home. Painted in a shade called “muslin,” the wood seems warmer than that painted in starker tones of white, adding to the overall sense of
comfort.

The kitchen is accessed through the open space that flows from the entry, or from the dining room through a well-stocked butler’s pantry that features plenty of storage for crystal and china and a built-in wine cooler.

A short walk through either access leads visitors into the interesting, inviting kitchen. The Kuchlers refer to its unique wall treatment as “Amy’s wall” because she personally supervised the creating of its European-feel finish.

“It’s done this way to create the look of an old home,” Seckinger said. “The plaster was hand-troweled then painted and glazed. The look was inspired by that of Old World English country houses.”

The kitchen successfully mixes beautiful woods with tumbled stone tiles. The ceiling is finished in natural pine while the floor is done in random-planked hickory. Birch cabinets are stained and sealed, then glazed with whitewash. Doors in the home are cut from poplar.

“Kathy was a little worried when she first saw the floor,” said Dick, an avid woodworker. “I wanted hickory because it has so much interest. I assured her that after it was stained, the varigations would blend well.”

Kathy trusted Dick’s eye for beautiful wood and set about choosing appliances like the Viking gas range and double ovens.

The kitchen has clearly been designed to accommodate more than one cook at a time.

“Both Dick and I like to cook,” said Kathy. “We wanted a kitchen that was fun to cook in and that was open so we could still be part of the group.”

Kathy searched through magazines for ideas that add even more appeal to their favorite room. The dishwasher, a European import, is so quiet, you hardly know it’s running, Kathy said. Ample cabinets include huge drawers for pots and pans. The kitchen’s uniquely-shaped center sink island features a polished granite counter top.

A second smaller sink was installed in a special food preparation center along one wall. Designed to look like a piece of furniture, the center also features a butcher block top, bread drawer and baskets for potatoes and onions. Like the rest of the room, its overall appearance is enriched with fine attention to detail.

“The finish carpenter did a wonderful job,” Kathy said. “Everything is so well matched and mitered.”

Kathy also selected a central vac system that catches crumbs with a flick of a switch and a large pantry where she can store odd-sized small appliances and lots of keep-on-hand foods. One spot in their kitchen, however, has been set aside for something other than cooking. A large cupboard near the butler’s pantry holds books and toys for Cailie, the Kuchler’s not-quite-two-year-old granddaughter.

“She put her stuff in there on moving day,” Kathy said. “Now it’s the first place she goes when she visits.”

Past the pantry, a short hallway features a huge coat closet that provides abundant storage for cold weather clothing and gear. It then opens into a two-and-a-half car garage with another nice bonus — a second stairway to the basement.

The wing also features a guest bedroom, currently claimed by Cailie, a second bedroom, full bath and large linen closet.

The kitchen is open to the great room, formally decorated this time of year for the holidays.

“We had a formal living room in our other house,” Kathy said. “The only time it got used was on Christmas day. In this house we decided to put the space to use as a great room and add a sunroom. We have the most beautiful sunrises here.”

The dining room is located off the spacious kitchen and carries on the neutral colors of the home.


The great room’s design was reworked to accommodate the Kuchlers’ desire for a large fireplace, then revamped when Dick insisted on a particular location for his entertainment center.

“I had selected the large TV early on,” Dick said, “and set that space aside for it. They tried to get me to switch its location. Eventually they hit upon building a pull-out system.”

Now the huge screen TV and accessories rest on a swiveling “drawer” that allows the set to be seen clearly from the kitchen as well as from the comfortable sofas in the great room.

“We wanted two sofas so the whole family could relax and watch TV,” Kathy said.

The family’s office opens across the hall that leads to the master suite, which includes a private bedroom, full bath, lots of closets and laundry room.

“We wanted the laundry room at our end of the house,” Dick said. The well-equipped room incorporates a pull-down ironing board, spacious sewing area and direct access to the master bath.

With its stone-trimmed tub surround, porcelain floor tile, walk-in shower with tumbled stone insets and stone-trimmed curved archways, the master bath re-creates more of the Old World feel. Because the room is used only by adults, the couple had counter tops installed slightly higher than normal. Instead of the more common double sinks, they opted for a single sink and a separate mirrored vanity area.

“In our other house, we weren’t competing to use the sink. We were competing for counter space,” Kathy said.

The master bedroom overlooks the wide lot where Dick plans to plant wildflowers next spring, and the informal firepit where the family can gather on summer evenings just as they would “up north.”

Though the house still needs some finishing touches (the electrician, for example, wanted them to live with their furniture arrangements for a while before installing in-floor outlets), the Kuchlers are totally satisfied with their new home.

“We couldn’t have done it without Amy,” Dick said. “It turned out just as I envisioned.”

“It was fun designing it,” Kathy added, “and really fun seeing it all come together.”