The 5th Wall

Years ago, actually more than a decade ago, I tuned into the Christopher Lowell Show on the Discovery Channel several times a week. Besides encouraging the DIY’s, Christopher spoke daily about the 7 layers of design, emphasizing the 5th wall.

For many years, the 5th wall; the ceiling was often forgotten or just painted ceiling white. Although if we reach back far enough to 1512 and Michelangelo’s’ painting of the Sistine Chapel, we can see the beauty of decorating the ceiling.  Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel mural and sculptures far above our heads reminds us to look to the heavens for hope, guidance, and to meditate on the path of our lives.I remember laying on my back as a child, contemplating the swirls on my bedroom ceiling. Trends in decorating the ceiling come and go as do all decorating fads. In my lifetime I’ve seen various transitions from the white plaster swirls of my childhood to the horrible popcorn finish, to beams, crown molding, coffered ceilings, to several layers of the tray ceiling. Cathedral, tray, planked, and coffered ceilings are hot in today’s’ new construction.

Transform a plain room to one with the wow factor by using a ceiling treatment. It doesn’t have to be elaborate to create interest. A tray ceiling with rope lighting creates romance and ambiance. I especially love it when the ceiling is painted with various tones of the same color creating depth and drama.                                                                    tray ceilings with rope lighting

Coffered ceilings can remain an elegant white, be richly stained, or paint the ceiling first and then add the coffered for a dramatic effect.Tin tiles have made a resurgence for ceiling decor over the bar area or the kitchen island as seen here in the Jon Huss Custom Homes Showcase house.

Since ceiling decor trends come and go, do what feels right to you and it will last forever.Believe it or not, we often look up so it is best not to forget the 5th wall as Christopher Lowell would tell you.

Build Your Home with Personality

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Our homes should be an expression or reflection of our personality. How you decorate and design you home often tell visitors a bit about who you are and what you enjoy. It  also makes it a comfortable place for you to nest.

I once bought a very poorly taken care of and damaged home because it had built -in corner cabinets with glass doors, crown molding, rich looking woodwork, and an adorable telephone niche. The house had great bones and I loved the cape cod lannon stone exterior. The previous owners destroyed much of the house and allowed the landscaping to become entirely overgrown, but I saw beyond all of that because of the telephone niche and built-ins.

When designing and building your new home, I encourage you to add something that reflects you. If you love to bake , maybe you want to add a baking station or if music is your passion, build a music room. For those bibliophiles, put bookcases under the stairs or built-in shelving to display your collectibles and books. I recently saw a finished lower level that reflected the owners love of aviation. They incorporated airplane propellers into the ceiling fan and made the bar out of an airplane wing. The rest of the decor tastefully used different maps and airplane parts making the room a reflection of the owners’ passions.

While we often want our homes to be a showcase for others to admire, it is more important to make it yours. The advantage of working with a custom home designer such as Midwest Design Homes and Jon Huss Custom Homes is that your home will be unique to you. We don’t build cookie cutter homes nor do we develop whole neighborhoods, rather we prefer to enhance them with beautiful high quality custom designs that reflect you and make your home your castle.

Are you thinking about building a home that both fits your needs and reflects your personality? Then we should talk about what I can do for you. Contact me.

Empty Nesting or Building Your Forever Home

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Your last child prepares to leave home and you embrace the transition with both trepidation and excitement. Your home is yours again to do with as you please. But, as those adorable children aged, so did you and your body. The stairs seem to have gotten steeper, the number of bathrooms to clean have suddenly multiplied, and the extra bedrooms just sit empty. What to do with your family home, the home where you raised those beautiful babies becomes the nagging question.

The number of baby boomers with the desire and need to age in their “forever”home continues to increase each year.Very few homes exist on the market today that fulfill the needs of the empty nester desiring their next home. Thus many soon to be or those already experiencing the empty nest are considering building their last home.

So what should be incorporated into the new empty nest?  Although there are many elements, this article focuses on the top 7 on most everyone’s list.

  1. Easy access- Your new home should be built in an area with easy access to shopping, doctors, and cultural activities that you enjoy. The home should also be built with easy access from the garage to the home with either zero entry or room for a future handrail or ramp.
  2. One floor living. Consider one floor living with as many maintenance free features as possible. Incorporating an open floor plan with enough storage eliminates the need to use the basement stairs as much as possible.
  3. Open floor plans. Open floor plans allow for extending the dining table and adding extra chairs for entertaining. You can easily move furniture around when entertaining family and friends.
  4. Fewer but larger bedrooms that can serve both as an office, sewing room, and guest bedroom with ample storage.
  5. Functional kitchens with good storage and entertaining space. Becoming an empty nester doesn’t mean life stops, it just changes. Entertaining becomes more enjoyable since your family no longer requires large daily meals.Many empty nesters look forward to finally building the kitchen of their dreams with the latest technology
  6. Wider hallways, doors, and walk-in showers. Plan ahead just in case the inevitable happens and a wheelchair or walker is required at one time or another. No one wants the frustration of trying to maneuver equipment in tight spaces.
  7. Convenient laundry rooms. Although downsizing, doing less laundry since the kids are gone, and moving to a ranch home eliminates carrying the laundry up and down stairs; consider locating it off of the master suite. Saving a few steps and being able to put the clothes away straight from the dryer is just another benefit of a well planned home designed for just one or two people.

The above are just a few suggestions for planning and building your next forever home. Finish the lower level with another bedroom or two if you want to encourage your children to visit frequently. We downsized twice in the past 3 years; first from a 5 bedroom 3 1/2 bath 4,000 sq. ft home to a 4 bedroom 3 bath condo with 2 bedrooms in the lower level,and finally settling in a 3 bedroom 2 1/2 bath ranch home with an unfinished lower level. Cleaning and maintaining our home is much simpler and easier and our kids still visit comfortably for an extended period of time.

Are you thinking of downsizing or resizing? Let me help you plan and build your empty nest filled with light, well planned spaces, and great storage.

 

 

The Holiday Staycation

We stayed in Appleton for the holiday with big plans to play tourist again. Our daughters came to visit and one brought along a cold or the flu, thus our tours were cut short and this blog post is late.

We had plans that included visiting ice sculptures, touring holiday light displays, volunteering with We Care Meals, hiking on Christmas Day, and stops at various museums and local shops and coffee shops. Surprisingly, we accomplished several of those things.

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Before our daughters arrived and the rain melted the Appleton downtown ice sculptures, my husband and I ran downtown on Christmas Eve to take a gander.We didn’t have a lot of time as we spent the morning shoveling the heavy wet snow, building a snowman, and needed to rush home for the Packer game.Although the sculptures had started to melt, you could still see the creativity and skill that went into each one. It is a shame that the wicked temperatures on carving day put a damper on the winter event.Still, we enjoyed the sculptures and the snowman in Houdini Plaza and appreciate the Downtown Appleton, Inc. on their hard work in continuing to make the downtown thrive.

My family toured different Christmas displays than we saw last year. For the most part the ones we saw in Appleton were somewhat disappointing. We got a chuckle out of ourselves  as we loved the home that played a Santa video on a projection screen in the front window. Even as four adults we enjoyed the creativity.

Although the flu put a damper on our staycation, we did find an opportunity to venture out at the end of the week. First we enjoyed brunch at Appleton’s iconic Little Diner Xpress followed by a trip to the Kohler Design Center and museum. We spent hours in both. A trip to Kohler is well worth the drive; especially if you take the more scenic back roads. The ideas and technology displayed in the two levels of the design center are endless and have something for everyone.We loved the history in the lower level; having no idea that the Kohler family was involved in the manufacturing of agriculture implements, cast iron furniture, and in helping farmers and the country with the development of the diesel engine connected to an alternator; as well as design and manufacturing of plumbing fixtures. Kohler invented and manufactured the first dishwasher and garbage disposal as well as the first indoor bathtub modeled after a horse trough. Kohler, an innovative and forward thinking company, believes in taking care of their families and employees. The beautiful American Club is a prime example of the hospitality and warmth the Kohler family extended towards their employees and the community. Their story is worth reading and telling.

Lastly, we took a short jaunt to Menasha on New Year’s Eve for coffee and lunch at the charming coffee shop , “Your Daily Grind.” We stopped in a few shops which are all independently owned. At the recently opened Renewed and Reclaimed,we happened upon a great find we couldn’t resist. These simple snowmen were made by the Neenah High School special needs students in Workshop 120. The owner of “Renewed and Reclaimed”, Jodi, sells these items to support the students in the endeavor to hone their skills and buy specialty tools . One hundred percent of the proceeds goes directly back to Workshop 120. Please stop by “Renewed and Reclaimed”, located on Main St., in Menasha to support Jodi in her efforts.

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Although our holiday and the beginning of the new year were hampered by illness, we enjoyed getting to know our community of the Fox Valley a little better and highly recommend you touring these places. We are open to hearing about other “must see”destinations in the Fox Valley.

 

 

The Volunteer Spirit

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My family and I searched for a venue where we could physically volunteer on Christmas Day in order to bring happiness to others. Obviously we aren’t alone in the spirit of giving as many of the volunteer opportunities in the Fox Valley were full- of volunteers.

Luckily, we found an opportunity to volunteer, although we didn’t get to do much besides deliver meals to 4 homes. I was able to talk to a few people who took advantage of the free homemade meals. The gratitude for both the free hot holiday meal and a few minutes of friendly conversation showed on their faces. While we welcomed the small opportunity to help others, it was really the story of how Ed Rathsack and his brother started the We Care Meals Group in Appleton, that touched my heart.

I spoke to Ed Rathsack at length on Christmas Day about how the We Care Meals served on Christmas and Easter came about. Over 30 years ago Ed and his brother were returning home after a family Christmas gathering where the table and their stomachs were filled with holiday food, spirits, and love from spending time with family and friends. As they listened to the radio they were distraught to hear of 4 suicides committed right here in the Fox Valley due to loneliness and depression during the holidays. These two men vowed to make a difference.And what a difference they have made. The original We Care Meals were started by Ed and his brother, a chef in the Fox Valley Tech Culinary program. While the We Care Meals Program has expanded and evolved over the last 30 years, it only exists due to donations, grants, and the many volunteer hands and hearts. Manderfield’s Bakery, Van de Walles, and the Outagamie County Sheriff’s department are some of the businesses and organizations that volunteer food, time,and money to make We Care Meals in the Fox Cities a success.

We Care Meals provides both home delivery and the opportunity to share a communal meal complete with live music and gifts for the young ones.This year the meal took place at the beautiful Riverside Gardens. You don’t need to explain yourself to partake in a meal or to have one delivered, We Care Meals are open for all in the community. We Care Meals also provides an opportunity for others to give. It warmed my heart to see families with young children volunteering right alongside everyone else. I hope to have the opportunity to volunteer again but in the meantime Ed Rathsack and his crew are already accepting donations for the next We Care Meal to take place on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017. Please call 920-731-7867 to make a donation.You may also contact the United Way of the Fox Cities.

Thank you Ed- The Giving Grandpa!

Just in Time for the Snow

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Just in time for winter, snow and the arctic blast our 3 season room is completed. We started planning the room last February when we met with 4 different contractors to draw up plans and give us bids. Unfortunately the process took us a lot longer than we ever anticipated as some of the contractors dropped the ball, changed jobs, and decided that they did not want to build the room. We wanted a custom built room , not one built from a kit. Once we finally settled on a contractor we were excited to begin. Unfortunately for us, it was to be a long wait.

Our 16 x 16 ft. three season room was to be started the third week of August. I don’t think we started until sometime in October. Luckily for us and for our contractor, we had a unusually warm fall. Of course we received quite a bit of rain which also set things back a bit. We received at least an inch of rain on the day the pilings were dug and poured.20161221_145125

Our contractor doesn’t like mistakes and believes in measuring twice and ordering once. Therefore our windows were ordered after everything was framed putting us back another couple of weeks. We can’t complain about that because the windows fit perfectly. Even though the room consists of mostly windows, our contractor took special care to thoroughly insulate the roof and the floor. Even with only a small electric fireplace and the 12 below zero temperatures that we received last week our room only dropped to 42 degrees. Not ideal for the Luxury Vinyl floor but so far it is working.

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Our 3 season room was supposed to be done by Halloween, then by Thanksgiving, but was just completed last week. When building the client must have patience. The delays while he worked on other jobs is really our only complaint. But we have experienced that before as contractors try to satisfy several customers at once. The wait was worth it. We love the room with the high cathedral ceilings and clear story windows. It is so bright and on a sunny day reaches temperatures in the mid 70’s even with the minus zero temps with 20 below wind chills we received this past weekend. It is beautiful at night with the glow of our lights shining on the glistening white snow. We love the white trim against the lavender/blue paint that we chose.

Our three season room already received several compliments and we feel like we are on vacation as we drink our Sunday morning coffee, read the paper , and listen to soft jazz.

A Year in Retrospect in the Fox Valley

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A year in retrospect in the Fox Valley. We returned to live in the Fox Valley last December 21st after a 23 year hiatus. We lived all over Wisconsin during our time away and found many things to love and of course a few to dislike about each area.

So what is it about Appleton and the Fox Cities that we find attractive? The winters are NOT on the list of what we ( especially I) love! Actually, I abhor them and am already freezing and tired of wearing so many clothes. But we had a beautiful summer and a long fall, allowing us to spend weekends on the boat, take long walks in the evenings, and partake in all of the outdoor music the area has to offer.I can’t wait for spring to arrive.

The Fox Cities really grew up in our time away. As a matter of fact when we first moved here in the early 1980’s, one had to go to Green Bay to do big shopping other than Sears and J.C. Penney’s. Then the downtown developed with the Avenue Mall and later the Fox River Mall came on the scene.It is exciting to see a bustling downtown with locally owned shops, restaurants, and coffee shops.  Today, the arts and music scene, while continuing to evolve offers something for everyone. We loved the Heid Summer Music Series and attended each one . The Mile of Music, extremely well done with a wide variety of acts, attracted a crowd of all ages, including the little ones at the Lawrence University Academy of Music. We’ve enjoyed the arts too, with visits to the Trout Museum, Take Me to the River month long exhibit at the old Thilmany Mill in Kaukauna, the Art Fair in City Park, and the Paine Art Center in Oshkosh. The beautiful PAC brings in some great shows.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Fox Valleyaires Barbershop Concerts and area competition in which my husband participates.

We have also taken time to enjoy hiking in both the winter and fall at Thousand Islands Nature Preserve while watching the wild river run over rocks and logs into the more serene lake. We’ve driven along the lakeshore in both Oshkosh and Manitowoc, thrilled with the park areas that have been established so people can enjoy some of the areas natural beauty.

The sporting events have also grown in the area. We love hockey so ventured up to Green Bay to watch the Gamblers and the UW- Madison Hockey team. We’ve been to the Timber Rattlers for baseball and will most likely return.

The year hasn’t been all about what the Fox Valley offers. It also involves work. In the spring, I started a job as a new home designer with Midwest Design Homes and Jon Huss Custom Homes. This fun position allows me to use my creativity in helping people design their dream homes. It also means that I need to go out and network. I have met some wonderful people in the area through the chambers, BNI, and Fox Valley Women in Business.

We also spent that past year working on settling in our new home and making it ours. That meant hours of sweat equity in landscaping and maintaining a brand new yard. To think that 2 years ago I was reveling in the ease of condo living. Now we are once again shoveling snow, mowing, and weeding. Plus, our beautiful 3 season room should be completed today!

We need to continue to discover and enjoy the area. First on my list is to seek out the best holiday displays and visit the Kohler Museum over the holidays. We will also return to the Trout Museum and walk downtown Appleton to admire the ice sculptures.

What are your favorite activities in the Fox Valley area that you would recommend?