A design firm helped the new owners of this 1950s Wisconsin home navigate the tension between staying true to the house’s roots and bringing it into the 21st century.
After looking for a mid-century home for years, the owners knew they’d found something special when they purchased this 1950s Wisconsin house with the intent to respectfully renovate it.
“They were one step short of purists,” says Matthew Jahns, owner of Refined Renovations, the firm that oversaw the project.
From the beginning, all parties involved wanted the necessary updates to maintain the original look and feel of the home.
While the name of the original architect is not known, the clean lines, exposed beams, wood paneling and brick fireplace all speak to the classic mid-century features in the design.
Matthew knew from the start that renovating the house would mean maintaining a careful balance between preservation and updates as he made decisions with the homeowners.
“We introduced them to that ‘line’ and walked it successfully,” Matthew says. “We wanted to approach it very carefully.”
Reworking the Footprint of the 1950s Wisconsin Home
The biggest update involved changing the layout of the kitchen to meet the homeowners’ desire for more space.
“There was no way they were going to get what they were hoping for by just staying inside the footprint of the original kitchen, so we carefully introduced some new ideas to them,” Matthew notes.
In the end, they decided to remove an interior partition between the kitchen and the current TV/game room and enlarge the north-facing kitchen windows. The work required Matthew’s craftsmen to blend the kitchen cabinets into the existing fireplace where the wall
“They appreciated the fact that we were able to keep the fireplace intact and then blend in the cabinetry almost as if it were original,” Matthew points out. They used the wood paneling from the removed wall between the TV room and kitchen to replace some of the water-damaged paneling and electrical outlets in the TV room.
Matthew and his team also worked on the project with architect Justin Racinowski of Racinowski Design Studio.
“Justin was locked in on the fact that the cabinets had to be designed using a clean, simple approach, with natural materials,” Matthew says. “The seamless panel blends beautifully into the Mid Century Modern aesthetic and allows the wood to really speak for itself.”
The room’s luxury vinyl floors and white countertops all contribute to a fresh take on the classic lines of the space.
Bringing it All Together in the 1950s Wisconsin Home
Once the structural changes were complete, the team worked on the details.
“We completely revamped the lighting, along with the dramatic function and form of the kitchen; and, changing it demanded that we look at the lighting a new,” Matthew says.
Refined Renovations also worked collaboratively with the homeowners on the interior design.
“Some of these pieces they brought to us; other pieces we brought to them,” Matthew says. The massive couch in the main living space and kitchen table were finds that the homeowners brought with them. In the kitchen, four Design Within Reach stools grace the bar area.
“We worked really hard to find the right stools,” Matthew says. “We wanted something natural but still flexible and cleanable.”
The leather-wrapped stools with wooden legs add an organic warmth and a touch of MCM sophistication.
While making the decisions for this project took some time, Matthew and his team soon found an easy rhythm with the homeowners—because they all looked to accomplish the same goal.
“Surprisingly, the house had been really well maintained for the past 70 years,” Matthew says. “We wanted to make sure the original architect would have been proud of what we accomplished.”
“The kitchen is kind of oriented pointing north, so it doesn’t get a lot of natural sunlight. Our new plans called for larger windows facing this nice, built-in pool area,” Matthew Jahns, Owner of Refined Renovations, says. His craftsmen were able to successfully install larger windows without greatly affecting the look and feel of the exterior brick. The expanded windows flood the kitchen with natural light, creating a brightness that wasN’t there before.
Check out other Midwestern MCM homes such as A Spacious and Vibrant Michigan Home and A Modern Family Finds a 1975 Sherbondy Home in Indiana. And of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Mid Century Modern inspiration!