Decorator José Carlino gives an East Side condo an exuberant new look.

A lifestyle change that involved moving from her North Shore home of 38 years, where she had raised seven kids, to a sleek Downtown Milwaukee condo nudged this homeowner to embrace an exuberantly bold color palette.

While the previous home was adorned with traditional furnishings, this two-bedroom beauty with walls of windows overlooking Santiago Calatrava’s soaring wings of the Milwaukee Art Museum offered an opportunity for a bright new beginning. From the first walk-through of the space, the homeowner saw potential, falling for the traffic flow and a two-sided fireplace.

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But she needed more color, “to make it a joyful and lighthearted space,” says interior designer José Carlino. The first stroke went in the kitchen.“‘How about turquoise?’” Carlino recalls the homeowner suggesting. A turquoise countertop morphed into turquoise cabinetry. “It’s happy, and it sets the tone for the rest of the space.”

Reupholstering old pieces in bright, new fabrics (like the two sofas’ dull brown, swapped out for floral greens, yellows and pinks; and the dining chairs’ cream and blue print with newly white-washed wood) turbo-charged the vibrant palette, deftly mixing and matching numerous patterns.

“What I try to do is balance the geometric and the organic, and have a thread throughout, such as tones of the same color, without you knowing they tie together,” says Carlino.

New acquisitions include an iconic Pedro Friedeberg “hand chair,” which is often turned toward the windows with a pair of binoculars nearby. Art bought through Tory Folliard Gallery before the homeowner even moved in – like a Mark Mulhern painting above the two-way fireplace that Carlino dressed up with faux-marble mantel and Venetian stucco finish – sharpened the project’s focus.

Carlino made a deliberate attempt to infuse the space with elements that made it warmer and more welcoming. Built-in bookshelves lined with books and other mementos, plus a towering potted plant and circular tufted ottoman soften the vibe.

In the living room and kitchen, white walls provide a backdrop against which the owner’s art collection pops. Carlino took his cues from colors and textures in those artworks to guide his selections, which made the process feel more like a partnership. “I like working with someone who’s a collaborator,” says Carlino, “because with that, you get the person’s personality.”

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Photos by Tom Grimm

Whimsical art in the new condo pairs with traditional pieces brought from the homeowner’s previous home, including silver platters and pairs of candlesticks in the built-in bookshelves, and sofas newly recovered in bright pastel fabrics.

In this more intimate seating area off the living room, a study damask pattern on the twin set of wingback chairs was swapped out for pale pink. The shapely rug is from Beauvais Carpets in New York City.

For dinner parties – along with 35 people at Christmas – the homeowner wanted a pink dining room to host cheerful gatherings. “Pink comes in many shades,” says Carlino. “Our color inspiration came from the Stark carpet.” Carlino custommixed base paints from Benjamin Moore for the raspberry hue.

Intricate hand-painted florals on the walls in the master bedroom create a serene sanctuary awash in neutrals, and serve as a departure from the rest of the condo’s colorful flair.

Turquoise kitchen cabinets anchor the open layout’s nod to beachy, chic hues in the pillows, a Dash & Albert rug and wall art.


More 2019 Home & Design Guide


The “Homes Guide” appears in the October 2019  issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning September 2, or buy a copy online.

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