Case Study:
The Condo Life for Me?



Do you spend your time watching Netflix shows about amazing street food vendors and wish you were part of the action? Or imagine yourself in a walkable part of the city? The trend for downtown urban living has never been more popular. As the lines between the business sector, residential, and entertainment are being blurred we move towards a community feel of our downtown area. This is very exciting as a designer because I get calls from people who want this excitement and adventure in their lives. They are also the same people that want a modern feeling home, filled with the latest technology and modern amenities. This is where the problem lies, and where I come into peoples lives.

I recently worked on a condo on Milwaukee’s East Side in the Sterling Building, which was built in 2005. While that’s not too far in the past the build-outs from that time can be shockingly out of touch with the modern day. In 2005, Milwaukee saw an unprecedented number of condos and large commercial buildings being converted to livable space for residential use. It was building boom right before the housing crash. Because of the boom, a lot of these build-outs were done with basic building specifications, often overlooking key design elements that would make it appealing to today’s buyers. Often doors, casings, cabinets, and flooring were all done in varying wood species and just as many varying stains. This is not seen in older classic buildings of the 1920s, however, it is seen very frequently in the early 2000s era and is somewhat of a pet peeve of mine and many clients. As seen in the before picture, the casings, doors and cabinets in my project were all different stains and species of wood. Not seen is the floor we ripped out almost immediately that added another level of just enough off stain to really throw your eye for a loop.

Before, left. After, right.

Photography by Amy Lamb

Although the building is in a fabulous location and is a modern build, the client knew that something was not right with the flow. This is when we have to get real about the materials the builders installed and decide what stays and what doesn’t. For this condo, we decided to paint all the wood work including the doors (both sides) to eliminate the varying stain shifts from door to casings. Then we changed the ailing flooring to a warm whitewashed oak pre-finished floor from Gehl flooring that modernized the look right when you walk in. We decided to keep the kitchen cabinets, countertops and sink. I devised a color scheme and solution to the kitchen where we painted the cabinets, added a metallic hand-glazed Kelly Wearstler backsplash and replaced the faucet with a new Kohler fixture to achieve a brand new modern kitchen look, while only doing a partial renovation. A big consideration to our plan was the outdated halogen recessed and track lighting that was throughout the space. We replaced and added energy efficient LED can lights and track that will consume only 6% of the original electricity the halogen were using. All of these considerations came into play while we planned this gorgeous transformation.

Don’t be afraid to make changes to a relatively new space that doesn’t fit the needs of today!

For more advice on your renovation please call me to set up a design consultation, 414-510-3449, or see my blog for more posts on the latest trends.

The bottom line of this blog post is to inspire people to create their best life through design, and to understand that the challenges of your newer condo can be met and exceeded to create a breakthrough design. Once renovated, units like these are in high demand and sell for top dollar. Don’t be afraid to make changes to a relatively new space that doesn’t fit the needs of today! While 2005 was not that long ago, the changes in how we live in our space and what we want are vastly different.

If you would like professional help to make sure you achieve the highest level of design success please feel free to reach out to me! I enjoy the challenge these properties present.

Left, Kelly Wearstler backsplash. Right, Kohler faucet.