Delicate Balance

A North Lake retreat blends seemingly incongruous styles.

By Rick Romano | Photos by Blake Kenney

Differing style preferences converged to create a lofty outdoor living space for a Lake Country couple who chose to upsize their empty nest.

Designing the home’s outdoor portion was particularly challenging based on somewhat incongruous styles, says Karen Kempf, the Waukesha-based designer who helped fashion both the interior and exterior living spaces.

“It was definitely a delicate balancing act, because you have this exterior that primarily is traditional, and yet the interior is very contemporary,” Kempf says. “The extra challenge was that the owners wanted to extend the contemporary design to this outdoor space.”

Against her design sensibilities, Kempf worked to ensure the clients’ wishes. The result is a sleekly designed second-floor terrace using monochromatic hues and an emphasis on visual artistry.

The basic elements of the project go a long way to provide a spa-like, comfortable ambience.

A flat-screen television is hung over a linear gas fireplace encased in a stainless steel surround. Both the television and fireplace are easily viewed from a nearby white sofa as well as from a hot tub featuring a stainless steel base and built-in bench.

A perfect example of adjoining design styles is the rustic stone exterior wall married to the terrace’s light gray porcelain tile deck.

Designer Karen Kempf worked with her clients to ensure the contemporary interior flowed well to an equally modern courtyard. “It took a while for me to get used to blending those styles, but when it all came together, it worked,” Kempf says. “The client arranged for the flowers and the colorful pillows, so maybe my influence may have also rubbed off on her.”

For the client couple, the house they had built over a two-year period represented a life milestone of sorts. The woman of the house says she and her husband chose to increase rather than decrease their living space.

“I suppose we did this in the opposite way — in that we did not downsize,” she says, explaining that their previous home on North Lake, where they raised four children, was 1,500 square feet with one bathroom.

“It’s quite a change, but we wanted to have a place where our entire family, (which) now includes four grandchildren, can come together, and where we also can entertain friends,” she says. “There’s a lot of celebrating that goes on here.”

The home’s aesthetic also celebrates the couple’s travels to places like New York, Chicago and Las Vegas, where they learned to embrace contemporary design.

The new home was built on a relatively small footprint to avoid adjoining wetlands, so the terrace is off the second floor, connected by a stairway to the driveway and garage.

Favorite project elements for the client are various visual elements, such as the comfort areas to a hidden outdoor hallway connecting the house to a man cave/game room.

Kempf says she is proud of how the project, including the interior, came together. “The outdoor space feels intimate, though it can accommodate a lot of people,” she adds. “It was good to be challenged.”

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