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His taste runs to turrets
Master bath adds elegance

By CARLA CUDA

 

Greg Burke has a critical eye for design. He had a distinctive vision of what he wanted.  He wanted the bathroom to resemble a Roman bath with European flair.  It was to be highly personalized and individualized to suit his taste.


We all want a bathroom that is beautiful and functional. After all, a bathroom is the most used room in a house. At times it can be our precious place of sanctuary and one of the only places where others usually won’t follow.

Greg Burke and his son, Tom, a sophomore at University School of Milwaukee, moved into a two-story Colonial house in Fox Point two Januarys ago.

“Since the day we moved in, we’ve been fixing, painting and expanding the house,” Burke said. “I wanted to bring the house back to life.”

One of the additions is a turret. The turret was just the beginning of a dramatic bathroom design that would follow.

The existing second floor master bathroom included a separate vanity/dressing area lined with globe lights and mirrors from floor to ceiling and across the ceiling. It felt like stepping into a theater dressing room. Burke plans to change this into a walk-in closet.

Burke met with several contractors and chose Bartelt-Filo Design Build Remodel of Menomonee Falls to design an entirely new master bath rather than remodel the existing bathroom. Bartelt-Filo specializes in custom residential, commercial and historical renovation projects.

As a former designer of outdoor play equipment, Burke has a critical eye for design. He had a distinctive vision of what he wanted. He wanted the bathroom to resemble a Roman bath with European flair. It was to be highly personalized and individualized to suit his taste.

“Bartelt-Filo came up with the most exciting plan,” Burke added.

A design team that included Chad Mertz and Tama Sundstrom came up with the idea of adding a turret in the master bath. The height of the turret from ground level to peak would be 36 feet.

Burke was thrilled. “I liked the shape and the turret look.”

First, the exterior walls had to be bumped out and a first floor addition had to be added in order to build the bathroom and square off the house. The decision was made to make the addition a conservatory.

Burke said, “The idea with the conservatory was to create a room for our African Gray Parrot, Dennis. I wanted the bird to feel at home.”

The conservatory became a place to show plants and offer refuge for Dennis (although the bird will remain in his cage). The adjoining room is now a billiard room. A honey colored oak floor was installed, as well as bookcases and two walls of windows. The conservatory and billiard room face the east allowing the Burkes to multiply the view of the surrounding wooded setting that lines their backyard.

Instead of using traditional porcelain sinks, Burke chose spun glass bowls from Kohler that partially rest above the countertop.


Matt Jahns, Bartelt-Filo’s project supervisor for the Burke remodel, said that when tackling any remodel project it can be a surprise to find out what is behind the existing structure. The house was built in 1941, and in this case, there were no structural problems.

When the Burkes moved in the cedar sided house was painted forest green with white trim. With almost two acres of land that also needed attention, Burke saw the potential in this Lake Drive home. The house is no longer green; it is a soft gray with a green tint and cream colored trim, along with a copper roof on the turret and copper gutters.

“We wanted to stay true to the design of the home. So we incorporated a look that was consistent with when the house was built,” Jahns said.

However, techniques have changed. “For example, wall thickness has changed and the structural integrity of the floor trusses that would support the bathroom foundation have changed,” Jahns indicated.

Jahns and the crew needed to make sure the foundation would support a tumbled marble floor in the bathroom. Tumbled marble has a more natural appearance than a finished polished marble floor.

Entering the master bath, the breathtaking octagonal turret is framed by an archway and columns. The space explodes into an airy light-illed room with a 15 foot vaulted ceiling. The eight transom windows on each wall of the turret will display the changing seasons. They illuminate the tub area and provide natural light.

Designer Sundstrom explained that it was unusual, but not impossible, to find the perfect Kohler whirlpool tub with a waterfall faucet that fit into the octagonal shaped turret. Each end of the tub is shaped like half of a diamond. The tub deck is integrated into the shower which creates a bench seat in the shower.

In the evening, wall mounted sconces shaped like dragonflies will provide ambience in the bath. A tempered glass shower enclosure is sandwiched by the columns which in turn are anchored to the wall by the arches.

Instead of using traditional porcelain sinks, Burke chose spun glass bowls from Kohler that partially rest above the countertop. Sundstrom called them functional art.

“Many times this type of sink is mounted to a wall and the plumbing is visible. In this case, they are set into limestone counter tops and it was our idea to obscure the plumbing by gently sandblasting the bottom of the bowl,” Sundstrom said.

A necessity to every bathroom is a toilet. Bidets aren’t an essential fixture, but they can be useful to a bathroom. Burke carried the European theme throughout the bathroom and selected a matching toilet and bidet set. The elegant brass fixtures echo those elsewhere in the bathroom. To complete the room, a faux finish was applied to the walls.

Without a doubt, Burke created timeless beauty and added elegance to his home. It was a transformation of a good idea into reality, including all the ingredients that would blend seamlessly with the existing home.