Inside the Transformation of This 1980s Lakehouse

This home gets a roof-to-basement makeover that takes full advantage of its lakeside locale.


A Home that hugs Pewaukee Lake conjures up a certain vision, an aesthetic of the lakefront lifestyle. Outdoor dining areas. A light-and-bright interior. Windows framing the lake view. Major curb – or, in this case, dock – appeal.

But this house wasn’t it. Built during the 1980s, the 4,400-square-foot home hadn’t been updated at all. Rose-motif wallpaper clung to the walls in one bath, a wooden built-in made the dining room appear drab, and casement windows throughout blocked natural light. Worse, the beige exterior siding screamed “blah.”

The beige exterior of the late 1980s home was far from eye-catching and did not embody its lakefront locale.

“I wouldn’t call it a lake home per se,” says Matt Retzak, a project designer with remodeler Bartelt, about the “dated and dark” property pre-transformation. “You could find the house in any subdivision. It did not take advantage of what it could be.”



Nearly every surface in the newly invigorated spa-like bath is white, creating a timeless look (including the clawfoot tub) that also allows light to bounce around.

But it did have “good bones,” says Retzak, who teamed up with Bartelt interior designer Heather Scott to reimagine the home. Their No. 1 goal: make it look like a modern lake house. The two-year remodel added a screen porch, deck, dining area and one more bedroom to the house’s three, while also revitalizing the kitchen, common rooms and lower-level rec room. A clawfoot tub was added to one bath as a nod to nostalgia (the homeowner had always envied one in his grandmother’s home).

Creating a modern lake home vibe, says Retzak, “starts with the amount of glass and how functional living spaces all flow together. By adding that, you get these panoramic views of the lake.” Knocking down walls, introducing a vaulted beadboard ceiling, and installing new windows (including arched ones to capture even more of the view) were among the first steps. Aiming for a “Nantucket vibe,” they filled the new open-concept layout in with white kitchen cabinetry, a wet bar, a coffee bar, a mudroom, folding glass doors between the dining room and the screen porch, and other updated amenities.

“They wanted it to be cozy but not too grandiose,” Retzak says of the owners, a couple who often host their adult children for social gatherings and live here year-round. Swapping out every single piece of furniture and installing new landscaping, including a pergola above the garage, did wonders. “We didn’t keep a whole lot. It was pretty much a reboot of what was there,” says Retzak, adhering to “the blurring of the lines between indoor and outdoor.” For the final touch, they added white trim to contrast with the home’s new blue exterior. In fact, coats of white paint became the project’s biggest ally, right on down to the foyer staircase, where they painted over the wood trim and added a custom newel post with a contemporary chandelier overhead.

Knocking down walls and sticking to neutral hues turned this kitchen from lackluster cooking space into an entertainer’s paradise.

Scott’s favorite space to design was the lower level. The homeowner “has a larger-than-life personality, and loves [people],” she says. The “pub feel” room, inspired by his travels, is a new twist on the man cave for “after he’s been out on the lake all day,” Scott says. It has a faux-tin ceiling, a pool table, a gas fireplace with a crackle finish, mosaic tile and an antique mirror to dial it back a century.

All of the efforts during this two-year remodel proved to be worth the wait. Now the owners can uncork a bottle of wine in the pub after a day out on the lake or socialize with family and friends on the screen porch.

Plus, Retzak says, “it’s more cost effective than taking a bulldozer to it.”

More After Photos

Swapping out the chandelier and opening up the space below the stairwell kept its function while adding flair.
The design firm, Bartelt, is a member of the Milwaukee chapter of the National Association of Remodeling Industry
When efforts to install an original tin ceiling fell through, Scott painted over a faux version to inject a historic pub aesthetic, complete with a moose mount.


More Before Photos


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s October issue.

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A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine),, and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.