With a friendship that spans more than 25 years, it stands to reason that when Terry Fetherston purchased her Cape Cod home on Milwaukee’s North Shore three years ago, she called upon Donna Sweet, vice president and senior designer at Haven Interiors to spearhead renovations and decoration. The goal was to transform the home’s “tight” floorplan into one that better accommodated Fetherston and her family, which includes her husband and their four adult children and 10 grandchildren.
“Walls came down, and they came down fast,” Sweet says of the renovation. “Terry and her family are this wonderful, big family. They do things together and they want to be together. … Open concept for them is really meaningful.”
Each living space now flows seamlessly into the next. “In terms of vision, Terry is comfortable with layering colors and patterns and styles,” explains Sweet, who also designed the interiors of Fetherston’s two previous homes. “We had [pieces] we were bringing in [new], and we wanted to try to keep certain items. Some things were negotiable, but there were other things that were really important.”
Beloved statement pieces, such as a lacquered sideboard and a Henredon hutch, were non-negotiables, so Sweet balanced their storied charm with pops of color and neutral walls. “I have to say, in each home, Donna has taken the best of what we have, and she puts that new spin on it,” says Fetherston. “She always [sees the] big picture.”
Sweet says there are no rules or absolutes to her process, but rather a visual that evolves organically in her own mind. “The only person who knows what [the final space] looks like is me,” she adds. “Terry has amazing vision and knows where we’re going, but I know exactly what it looks like. I can picture the whole thing in my head.”
The end result is an interior richly layered in primary colors, playful textures and defined patterns, and a home in which an expertly curated mix of fabrics is arguably the most defining feature. “When I start this process at work, I just start to throw fabrics on the floor,” explains Sweet. “I can’t put them on a table. I can’t put them out neatly. I just throw them on the floor, and then I start to pull out ones that just don’t feel right.”
Sweet groups the remaining fabrics together. “It always has to do with, how will this balance?” she says. “I don’t want someone to walk into a space and … [have it] be in your face. I really want people to sit down and then look around and notice either how it flows or what the details are.”
A nod to the family’s Irish heritage, a pair of tartan-covered chairs flank the fireplace. Additional plaids, patterns and bold primary colors are offset by neutral walls, painted Anew Gray by Sherwin-Williams, and an area rug sourced from Persian Rug Gallery in Whitefish Bay grounds the space. Two larger armchairs, upholstered in a Ralph Lauren equestrian fabric, offer additional seating.
A Hendredon hutch adds warmth to the dining room, where cooler tones and primary colors shine. The walls – painted Iron Mountain by Sherwin Williams – provide a dramatic contrast to the red cushion drapery, and a Thomas O’Brien chandelier is a fresh take on traditional lighting. That fixture was an absolute,” says Sweet. “It was a combination of being a crystal chandelier and not being so literal.”
Fetherston says what she enjoys most about working with Sweet is how the designer often weaves in an obscure touch, dubbing it “the exclamation point on her design.” “It’s like her trademark,” Featherston continues. ” You’re not really comfortable with it, but it often becomes the thing you love most about your room. She left her trademark in your home, and when she is your friend, it’s endearing.” In the living room, Featherston counts the sofa’s black and white hyde pillows as Sweet’s trademark.
The black and gold sideboard functioned as a buffet in Featherston’s previous home, but here it makes a statement in the entryway. “When you decorate a home, there are certain treasures,” she says. “You bring those treasures with you [when you move], and you work them in.” The vintage barn canvas – sourced for $10 from the Ottoman Society, a consignment store in Elm Grove – introduces blue and green tones, complementing colors used throughout the adjacent living room.
“There’s a thread that takes you from room to room that makes the room make sense,” says Sweet of how she creates a subtle cohesiveness between multiple spaces. In this North Sore home, that thread is the use of predominantly black and white fabric in each room, and here, in the master bedroom, it’s best represented in the decorative throw pillows and custom window treatments.