Country Charm Meets Urbane Elegance in this Hartland Home

A family of four has built a Hartland home with lots of heart.

At the end of a long country road sits a modern farmhouse, its matte black door standing out against white siding and cedar shutters. The contrast, like the rest of the 2,100-square-foot Hartland home, is striking.

Mike and Jessica Clark have been married for six years. Their brood also includes 2-year-old Dallas, 4-year-old Vada and a docile golden retriever named Banksy. Jessica is a graphic designer and photographer, and Mike is an operations leader for a local manufacturing company.

They dreamed of building a house in the country (tackling it as a DIY project) where they could farm and lead a more sustainable lifestyle. After they searched fruitlessly for more than two years for a lot with ample acreage in their price range, the Hartland property finally came onto the market, and they pounced. The location – in an undeveloped area, but close to family – was ideal, and the price was within their budget.

The interior of the four-bedroom home, set on eight acres, is also full of contrasts: dark fixtures but lots of natural light, austerity but warmth, sweeping ceilings but cozy nooks. Family relics include a black walnut mantel that was the bar top from Jessica’s parents’ home and a pair of weathered barn doors on either side of the entryway from a warehouse in Mike’s hometown of Merrill.

They broke ground in October 2016 and worked through the winter, using a blueprint from that Franklin-based architect Jim Wozniak modified to comply with local codes. Mike admits he shoveled snow off the subfloor far too many times.

With some advice from a contractor brother-in-law, he built the vaulted ceilings covered in cedar, the shiplap (a material typically used in building exteriors, with a horizontal groove) behind the fireplace, concrete countertops, the kitchen shelving and a few of the light fixtures, among many other tasks. “People thought we were crazy doing this ourselves,” says Mike. But the Clarks, who moved into the home in May, estimate they saved close to $80,000 by building and managing much of the project themselves.

In the months to come, they hope to add a guest suite in the lower level and an outbuilding to keep chickens and goats. Jessica also plans to construct a root cellar and begin canning, really embracing country life. ◆

‘Built to Last’ appears in the February 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Jenna Kashou is a writer, storyteller and journalist specializing in lifestyle and culture feature writing for print and web. She is a frequent contributor to Milwaukee Magazine, MKE Lifestyle Magazine, The Business Journal and more. She was chosen as the fifth writer in residence at the historic Pfister Hotel where she wrote about and photographed guests and events. A Milwaukee native, Kashou has lived abroad and visited far-flung locales like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, and Argentina. She has always had an enormous sense of pride for her hometown and spreads this Milwaukee love everywhere she goes.