Photo courtesy of H.J. Martin and Son

This story was originally written by Grace Olson and published by Fox Cities Magazine.

National Home Improvement Month is here, and that means the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is celebrating. 

Nari of Northeastern Wisconsin—NEW NARI—is one of three chapters in the state that serve homeowners by forging connections with home improvement contractors, various trade professionals, suppliers and retailers who uphold their code of ethics and high standards. 

“There are good quality, trustworthy contractors out there,” Executive Director Cheryl Kaczmarek insists. “(Members) must commit to and exemplify the NARI principles of integrity, fair business practices, continuous education/training, quality craftsmanship and home improvement excellence.”

It’s enough to commemorate, but the group takes it a step further by hosting an annual Evening of Excellence event each May, honoring members and their most noteworthy projects of the year.
“It’s become a very popular event because members like seeing what their colleagues have done and they love hearing it from the colleagues’ perspective,” Kaczmarek says.

From transforming basements into entertainment spaces, creating functional and charming kitchens and revamping a midcentury house into a forever home, this year’s projects highlight NEW NARI members’ innovation, vision and hard work.

Forever Home Whole House Renovation // Welhouse Construction

Project start: May 2020
Completion: November 2020 

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is an adage meant for Welhouse Construction’s recent whole house renovation. Not only its impressive transformation, but the necessary process during the journey.
Homeowner Henry was in Costa Rica during the duration of the project, which made creative connections between Henry and Paul Welhouse, President/Owner of Welhouse Construction Services, LLC, and Anne Griffin, owner of Redesign by Anne vital.

Communication was key, and technology proved to be a blessing and an obstacle.

“I met with Paul and I was comfortable with the work that he did and it turned out to be great because he didn’t need a lot of hand holding,” Henry says. “But the hardest thing about long distance was color correction on cameras and phones.

The modest ~1500-square foot home, built in the mid-1950s, was completely revamped to open up the space and allow natural lighting—and incredible views—to shine.

“One of Henry’s main visions was to bring in the ravine,” Griffin says. “We focused on opening it up and bringing the outside in so we stained the floors to go along with the black walnut trees. We wanted to keep it Zen and relaxing but also clean and contemporary.”

Nothing was exempt from renovation: a new exterior, roof, front porch, expanded kitchen, bathroom and living area and even moving the stairs to the basement were all included in the project. 

“It’s what we do,” Welhouse says simply. “We took it all apart and put it back together. It’s a new house.” 

“I’m really happy with how it turned out,” Henry adds.

Eclectic Industrial Basement // Timber Innovations

Project start: September 2020
Completion: July 2021

What began as a completely unfinished basement became a multifunctional space with a variety of components: a home office and gym, relaxing spa area with sauna, guest bedroom, home theater and a kitchenette plus entertainment space.

“It went from a blank canvas to a multi-purpose entertainment space with natural light,” Paul Driessen, Owner/President of Timber Innovations, says. “Large windows and stair-cased window wells brought in light from outside while providing an emergency exit. Using glass walls allowed that light to spread further toward the interior areas of the space. They made the basement feel less like a basement.”

While there were no major challenges, Driessen explains the lack of natural lighting, a support post that couldn’t be moved and a cracked foundation were the main design and construction challenges faced during this project.

“As the designer, as well as builder, on this project, we worked closely with the homeowner to create their exact vision for this basement,” he says. “They wanted a contemporary industrial look with fully functional spaces that provided areas for entertaining, relaxation and exercise. The completed project not only delivers this, but many smaller moments of artistry and craftsmanship.”

Functional and Flowing Kitchen // RH Design Build, LLC

Project start: January 2021
Completion: May 2021

With an end goal of creating a more functional flow to the kitchen/dining area while maximizing the expansive lake views and adding a mudroom/back entry off of the garage, Susan Hirschberg, Co-Owner, Architect at RH Design Build, says this home’s open floor plan actually proved to be an obstacle.

“The house is a unique shape and has an open floor plan… There is an original large steel beam separating the garage from the house, which really dictated the entrance into the house,” she explains. “The challenge was to use that opening but to create a mudroom to collect the mess before it enters the house.”

“The project went through many multiple design iterations,” Tania Harrison adds. “Despite the large footprint that the project had to work within… it required creative solutions, one of the most distinctive being the hidden pantry. It took advantage of the oddly shaped space, and created an opportunity to balance the symmetry of the space.”

The entire first floor—kitchen, pantry, mudroom, dining room, powder room, master bedroom, master bath, master closet, master laundry room and living room—were remodeled.

“The homeowners have a great design style and were instrumental in the finishes,” Hirschberg says. “The end product reflects their style. The house has a relaxed coastal feel, which makes you want to hang out all day and look at the water.”

From Dated to “Glam” Remodel // H.J. Martin and Son

H. J. Martin and Son’s project with Design House Interiors, LLC and Kuhlow Builders began in June and was done in phases, with the majority of the remodel completed recently.

“The owners recently purchased the home. They liked the layout, but felt the home was dated,” Lori Jansen, Designer and Owner of Design House Interiors, LLC, says. “ The goal was to update most of the rooms to fit the owner’s style.”

The style included “a little bit of glam,” and focused on lightening spaces by removing heavy oak tones.

H.J. Martin provided the bathroom’s porcelain floor tile, ceramic wall tile around the tub, stone mosaic and French doors. The kitchen includes stone mosaic backsplash.

“The main change in the bathroom was removing the awkward shower unit that was partially covering a transom window; now that window can help let more light into the bathroom and really opens up the space with tile going all the way to the ceiling,” Lisa Hooyman, Interior Designer at H.J. Martin and Son, explains.

“Both stone mosaics were hard to cut/work with since these mosaics incorporated small stone pieces and meshing sheets together is always a challenge to maintain pattern and grout spacing. The bathroom is a guest bathroom that is right off the front entrance of this home, so it is quite the eye catcher as soon as you walk in! This home has beautiful views outside, and now the inside is just as beautiful.”

Fully Finished Basement for Entertaining // Wood & Wire, Inc.

Total project time: 92 days

A fully finished basement with a family room, custom surround sound, full bathroom, workout room and bedrooms is a tall order, and Wood & Wire, Inc. made it happen seamlessly. There was even room for more.

“The transformation, or better, low cost addition, was a wet bar and entertaining area. The living area/family room was large enough to create a custom bar with a small game room/entertainment area for guests,” Samantha Blaine, CSMP, Partner, Operations & Project Director of Wood & Wire, Inc., explains.

There were no major hiccups during the project, but Blaine says a couple factors did prove challenging.

“The best location for the bar was against an exterior wall, which had ductwork and a low ceiling area of which we optimized the space and created specialty up and back lighting,” she says. “Another challenging piece of the custom bar build was the structure pole had to be integrated into the bar. Creating a custom bar top took a very detailed eye.”

Homeowners Matt and Angela from Neenah couldn’t have been more impressed.

“(Wood & Wire) helped us realize what our dream basement would look like, which exceeded our expectations. Al and Daymion are extremely knowledgeable, very courteous, and great communicators throughout the project. They take a lot of pride in their work and it shows in the results.”

Light and Airy Kitchen // VKB Homes

Project start: November 2021
Completion: February 2022

While dark and heavy has its place, homeowners shifting toward light and airy spaces is the trend, and VKB Homes recent project is no exception.

“We eliminated the dark cabinets, oversized heavy stone on the cooktop wall, columns and fireplace,” Misty Hermanson, Allied ASID, Interior Designer/Owner of VKB Homes, says. “We eliminated the dark flooring, wall paint and dark baseboards.

The space became more cohesive and calm by making the swap from dark to light in the kitchen, dining room, living room, foyer, mudroom and powder room.

“We chose white cabinets, a soft white and grey backsplash with a repeat pattern, added shiplap to the fireplace and mudroom and chose a light stone with white mortar,” Hermanson explains. “We added ‘pop’ with the light fixtures.”

Hermanson says one challenge was making the pantry big enough by using space on the other side of the wall, over the staircase.

“We eliminated a dining area to extend the island to create a more modern eat-in kitchen feel with the oversized island,” she says.

The result? Hermanson describes it as “a bright and calm space that is still very warm and inviting for all to enjoy.”








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