Home & Garden

Lofty Ideas Translate into Extraordinary Designs


From industrial loft-style kitchen to luxury three-season porch, these dream spaces are filled with inspiration.

This industrial, loft-style kitchen by Past Basket, in Geneva and Milwaukee, combines everyday function with the unique architecture of the home.

This industrial, loft-style kitchen by Past Basket, in Geneva and Milwaukee, combines everyday function with the unique architecture of the home.

When Jamie Speaker and his family built their dream home in Cedarburg, Wis., a northern suburb of Milwaukee, they had their minds set on a specific style of kitchen.

“We wanted an industrial-looking kitchen with a wood ceiling and exposed beams, along with natural wood stain and painted cabinetry that would provide a warm, earthy look and feel,” he says. “It’s an awesome balance.”

And spacious. The Speakers’ kitchen is 30 feet wide by 60 feet long, with cathedral ceilings, outer and inner islands, and stainless steel appliances.

“The kitchen has to function for everyday living,” Speaker says. “It’s the focal point of our house. We wanted a kitchen for everyday cooking, entertaining and aesthetics, that fit the motif we wanted in this woodland industrial home. We were trying to create a unique environment.”

Speaker found the industrial kitchen design by looking through magazines. “I have an interest in architecture, so I’m always looking at different structures and homes,” says Speaker, who co-owns a manufacturing company. “We had an idea of what we wanted to do – we just needed to find the right architect to bring it to life. It’s all about the team. When you get the right people together, good things start to happen.”

The Speakers teamed up with Kubala Washatko Architects in Cedarburg and Past Basket Design, in Geneva and Milwaukee, which is co-owned by Dave McFadden, wife Linda and son Dan.

“Our objective on this project was to give proper definition to the kitchen space, blend into and complement the home’s architectural elements, create a work zone for everyday meal prep and accommodate large social functions,” says McFadden.

The first order of business in a project like this is to interview the homeowner. “The initial conversation was about space considerations,” says McFadden. “How often do you entertain? Do you need a functioning bar? Do you want a separate cleanup area? Will both husband and wife be doing the cooking? What are the sizes of the appliances? These are all important questions when coming up with the design of the kitchen.”

The Speakers’ kitchen has many special features. A pantry with open shelves was made attractive with a hutch that disguises items on the open shelves. The outer island is 14 feet long, with seating for five and a counter overhang supported by custom steel posts that match the ceiling trusses. The inner island, which resembles a traditional farm table with table legs, includes refrigerator drawers and a prep sink.

“Natural materials were used – concrete flooring, stone and wood walls and painted cabinetry in a quiet green finish, so it wouldn’t compete with other materials,” says McFadden. “The exposed trusses, vaulted ceiling, polished concrete floor and open floor plan give the loft feeling.”

There were design challenges – especially the expansive windows that gave little opportunity for wall cabinets around the cleanup areas. This was solved by providing outer-island cabinetry for dishes, not far from the dishwasher. Lighting a kitchen with vaulted ceilings proved to be a challenge. Structural framework, resembling the ceiling trusses, secures the can lighting at the top of the upper cabinets.

The Speakers’ kitchen is turning heads. The project recently won the 2014 National Kitchen and Bath Association award in the large kitchen category. McFadden and co-designer Debbie Larson traveled to Las Vegas to receive the award. “It’s pretty special to earn nationwide recognition,” says McFadden. 

Speaker says the award was well deserved. “Dave and his team really understood what we were trying to accomplish with the look and feel of our kitchen,” he says. “You start with an idea and concept, and hope it all comes together. Dave found a nice compromise of blend and style that’s interesting and comfortable. It was everything we wanted it to be.”

It’s a project that McFadden and Larson won’t soon forget. “The best part is seeing the smiles on the Speakers’ faces,” he says. “It was an important project for them. You feel good as a designer when you nail it. That’s where our satisfaction comes in.”

The unique two-level fireplace on this porch, designed by Korte Architecture in Crystal Lake, enables multiple family gatherings through three seasons.

The unique two-level fireplace on this porch, designed by Korte Architecture in Crystal Lake, enables multiple family gatherings through three seasons.

Indoor/Outdoor Paradise

Tom Berg loves being outdoors. Whether it’s on a ski vacation or just relaxing at the Crystal Lake home he built 15 years ago, Berg, wife Lisa and their three boys prefer being outside every chance they get. That is, until bugs became a problem in their spacious tree-lined backyard. “The mosquitoes are brutal,” says the medical device sales manager.

Two years ago, Berg decided to do something about it when he replaced his 16-foot-by-20-foot wooden deck with an 18-foot-by-22-foot three-season porch, which is located directly off the kitchen.

“With three kids, we thought we could benefit from added space,” he says.

The Bergs enlisted the help of Korte Architecture Inc., in Crystal Lake, owned by architects Brian and Andrea Korte. The firm has been in business since 2000 and has worked on a number of residential and commercial projects.

“This is the most elaborate screened porch we’ve ever done,” says Brian. “As far as screened rooms go, it’s the Cadillac. It was more about creating a showcase outdoor space that included fireplaces, tied in with the deck and integrated well with the home and landscaping.”

The porch, accessible from the kitchen through French doors, has a rustic look that fits with the rest of the house. The trim work and structural beams are made of reclaimed barn wood that dates back to the 1850s, which Berg found through a barn wood dealer. In fact, he says you can still see the wood pegs and ax marks dug into the hand-hewn beams. The exposed vaulted ceiling and heavy timber beams round out the lodge look and feel.

“I was influenced by rugged Western architecture typically found in Utah or Colorado,” Berg says. “You see a lot of reclaimed barn material in mountain log homes found out west. I like the look and feel of that type of architecture.”

In addition, the room has removable window panels and no heating or cooling system, instead relying on a fireplace along the wall. Further down the wall, and located outside, is another fireplace. Stone accents in the masonry chimney are consistent with the rest of the house. “The fireplaces tie in well with the beams, since the fireplaces are Old World, with stone and brick,” says Berg.

A vented gas grill sits in a back corner, providing a perfect setting for making burgers and brats without any worry about the weather. Filling out the room are oversized chairs, a loveseat and coffee table. After much consideration, the Bergs opted not to have a television on the porch, instead leaving the room for conversation.

“It’s a nice gathering place,” says Tom. “There’s nothing better than having people over on a cool October evening and turning on the fireplace.”

Outside, the Bergs enjoy the second fireplace on a concrete patio that flows down into their swimming pool. The patio also offers up a nice view of the woods at night, when the Bergs and guests are huddled around the fire.

As with any project, budget was a factor for the Bergs. They toyed with the idea of adding a full basement underneath the space, or perhaps adding a changing room, but ultimately they decided against both ideas. “It’s all part and parcel to working with the client,” says Korte. “It inspires you to come up with workable solutions. I always tell clients to be realistic with their expectations of how much it will cost. Come up with a needs and wants list. You might not get all the wants. For the Bergs, they wanted a showpiece that extended their outdoor living, and they achieved that.”

The Bergs couldn’t be happier with the outcome. “It’s awesome,” Tom says. “We don’t have to worry about the weather or mosquitoes. It’s nice to sit out there in the morning and put your feet up. Our oldest son learned how to play guitar out there. It’s a great space for parties or just to enjoy by yourself. If I had to do it again, I would have included the porch when we built our home. And to think, if it weren’t for mosquitoes, we might not have ever done this project.”

This warm and wide-open kitchen by Luv My Kitchen & Bath, in Crystal Lake, is illuminated by LED lights strategically placed above several work zones. The custom cherry cabinets, by Plantation Cabinetry, complement the solid Brazilian cherry flooring.

This warm and wide-open kitchen by Luv My Kitchen & Bath, in Crystal Lake, is illuminated by LED lights strategically placed above several work zones. The custom cherry cabinets, by Plantation Cabinetry, complement the solid Brazilian cherry flooring.

Designer Showcase

Dana Frankowski has spent several years in the kitchen and bath remodeling business, transforming outdated spaces into inspiring, functional rooms. When he updated the kitchen in his Crystal Lake home two years ago, the designer and owner of Luv My Kitchen & Bath in Crystal Lake created an impressive showcase of custom features.

The focal point of this wide-open kitchen is a spacious center island with a Picasso granite countertop. The island seats five and includes plenty of underneath storage with slow-close rollouts, a mixer storage unit and a lazy Susan. The island also includes a prep sink.

“Features such as exotic granite, pot fillers and stow-away places for items that are not used everyday are becoming more popular,” says Frankowski. “Customers are demanding solutions to solve their storage needs.”

The custom-built cherry cabinets by Plantation Cabinetry glow with a deep, cordovan luster that complements the warm, Brazilian cherry flooring. The kitchen also includes a cooktop built into the counter, a double oven and a double-bowl sink.

Prior to renovations, Frankowski’s kitchen was small and closed in. But the new, more opened space contains wide walkways that allow a natural flow between the kitchen and the adjacent family room. The layout has maximized storage space.

Frankowski also brightened up the new kitchen, illuminating the island with drop-down sconces and installing recessed lighting that lights up each of several custom work zones.

“Designing and planning the space are key, and the most important aspects of remodeling,” says Frankowski. “You have to be precise in every area when maximizing space.”

When he renovated the main-floor bathroom, Frankowski stayed true to the original design of the home, even as he doubled the room’s size. He updated the lighting and installed a sleek travertine tile flooring. A small vanity was replaced with a contemporary bowl sink that sits atop a slate countertop. The contemporary bathroom is painted in a faux finish, and is accentuated by colorful wall art and accessories, including a large circular mirror.

Between his new kitchen and bathroom, Frankowski has created two fully functional spaces that also reflect his family’s lifestyle and taste.

“Homeowners are looking for their homes to reflect their personal style,” he says. “They want to relax and enjoy a home that’s custom-designed to fit their needs.”

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