Home Tour: Inside This Charming Cedarburg ‘Tree House’

A creative couple unearth lots of history in an 1858 Cedarburg home.

For a long time, the Lochers, who once owned a 650-square-foot cabin in Richland Center and a 6,000-square-foot pad in the Third Ward, were torn between city and country living. They found the best of both worlds in an 1858 home in Cedarburg, in a neighborhood bustling with artists like them – Joe transforms salvaged wood into furniture and owns a branding company, while Karen metalsmiths jewelry.

When the Lochers first saw the Cream City brick farmhouse, which once sat on 80 acres, one wintry day in 2008, Joe noted “great bones and a great soul.” Since they unpacked in November of 2009, they’ve sold both their other homes.

The 1,800-square-foot Cedarburg home was well-preserved but dated. So the Lochers set about renovating it, and they eventually added another 1,650 square feet of living space and a fourth bedroom in the style of a limestone barn.

They opened up the front stairwell “to reveal the bones of the structure a little more,” says Joe, and added thin-plank wood ceilings – and chandeliers that Karen designed – to many rooms.

The biggest challenge in writing this 160-year-old home’s second chapter was the kitchen. “We didn’t want one of those makeover kitchens,” says Joe. Instead, the couple sought to honor the period while incorporating modern conveniences. A hand-stenciled table that belonged to his grandparents, who emigrated from Hungary, is joined by wide-plank pine flooring (found under layers of wood and linoleum) and a Carrara marble countertop the couple scrubbed with lemons until it dulled. Backsplash tiles were crafted in Delafield, and a black granite countertop was quarried in Wausau.

By 2014, they’d built two timber-frame barns on the lot; one for each of their studios. Karen’s is connected to the original house via a winding hallway and hewn-cherry staircase that’s buttressed by the roots of a once-towering redwood that Joe smoothed down. “I was moved to tears [the day Joe showed it to me],” recalls Karen. Several smaller trunks, all sourced from western Wisconsin, shoot up through the floorboards of Karen’s studio, their forking branches supporting the studio’s vaulted ceiling.

Joe’s studio is in another, free-standing two- level barn. Its all-over wood paneling and rustic finishes call to mind a cozy Northwoods cabin, or a tricked-out tree house. Reclaimed wood from a barn was used for the flooring, while more wood was turned into a desk.

The Lochers spend the most time in an addition to the back of the original house, where side tables Joe hewed from tree slabs and an armoire from a Tibetan monastery blend in with faux-fur throws. Karen’s sconces provide a soft glow, and French doors open to the yard, just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Cedarburg. ◆

Photos by Matt Haas

‘Tree House’ appears in the March 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning February 26, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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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), FoodRepublic.com, CNN.com 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.