At Home With Aileen Smith
Aileen Smith loved her 1924 Wauwatosa bungalow the minute she saw it, even though its kitchen and bathrooms needed updating and it had “a hallway of doors.”
“I loved the basic layout of the house with the sunroom off the living room,” she said. “But there was a hallway between the dining room and the kitchen that had seven doors.
“There was a door between the dining room and the hall, doors to two bedrooms, a door to the second floor, one to a bathroom, one to the kitchen and one to a closet.”
Because of the odd layout, soon after she bought the house in April 2018 she updated areas that needed attention, “shined up” rooms that were in good shape and then furnished it in the eclectic/traditional style that she loves.
She ended up with the home of her dreams that had “a bathroom of mirrors.”
But it took a bit of tweaking to get to that point.
Aileen Smith’s new home is just a few blocks from the home she and her late husband purchased and where their two children were raised. (Photo11: Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
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Smith, who works for TRG Marketing in Brookfield, said that after she bought the approximately 2,300-square-foot house, she hired Sarah Anderson, owner of Sarah Anderson Interiors in Dousman. to help her furnish it, as well as to update its layout.
In the process, she had the kitchen gutted and enlarged by eliminating the hallway of doors, the bathroom off the hallway and a walk-in pantry. She also turned a first-floor bedroom into a powder room and the master bathroom she calls the “bathroom of mirrors,” as it has a large mirror over the vanity and a 5-foot tall-mirrored medicine cabinet that was built into the wall.
On the second floor she turned a half-bath into a cedar closet, and a new bathroom was built in space that was once a bedroom.
Throughout the process, Smith said she worked hard to retain the home’s original charm, whether the rooms were completely redone or just lightly touched.
“I tried to keep the original design of the house because I love the bungalow-ness of it,” she said. “I wanted to keep the warmth and coziness of it, but I also wanted a more open layout.
“The living room, dining room, sunroom and the upstairs bedrooms were just shined up. In those rooms plaster was repaired, I had them painted, the woodwork was cleaned, the floors were refinished in a water popping technique, and I rehung doors on bookcases next to the fireplace. They had been taken off, and I found them in an upstairs closet.
“When I got the house, it was also very dark,” she continued. “The windows had heavy roller shades and heavy drapes, and there was a lot of hardware. I had all that taken off and I put up honeycomb shades. I also added all new light fixtures. They’re all oversized.”
In the dining room, the mirrored top of a built-in buffet was also removed.
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“The bottom is original,” she said. “I was told the mirror was not at a good height and that it would take away from the piece. I trusted it was good advice, so I had it removed and I added a new countertop. A bonus was that the countertop I put on is the same as in the kitchen. It now has a warm and woody look. I was ready to have something lighter in this house because the last house I had had a lot of wood and was darker.”
While work done to the interior of the house took six months, it took far longer to purchase it.
Smith said she first saw her bungalow in January 2016 when she was living just four blocks away in a home she bought with her late husband, and where their two children grew up.
“Then I was in a big house and I was by myself,” she said. “I wanted to move to a small house, but I wanted to stay in this neighborhood. A neighbor told me the owner of the house had gone into assisted living and that the house would go up for sale.”
After she toured the house, she told relatives of the owner she wanted to buy it. But because it was filled with family pieces, it would take two years before she could make it her own.
When she finally purchased it in June of last year, she continued to live in her home of 25 years while her new home was being updated.
She recently talked about changes made in the home she moved into in December with her dachshund/terrier mix pooch named Delli.
Question: How did the number of bedrooms and bathrooms change?
Answer: I had five bedrooms and 1 ½ bathrooms. Now there are three bedrooms and 2 ½ bathrooms. The master is on the first floor. That was another thing that appealed to me about this house, was the first-floor living.
Q: What are some of the amenities you love about your home?
A: It has lots of thick molding, coved ceilings, ceiling trim in some rooms, large windows, bay windows, stained-glass windows over the fireplace, a built-in buffet and wide doorways between rooms that give an open feeling.
Q: How did you update your kitchen?
A: I added an extra eight feet. I put in all white cabinets and a four-burner range with a custom hood. The hood was made of quarter-sawn oak to reflect the style of the built-in buffet in the dining room.
I also put quartz on the countertops and the island, and I added a large sink. The island is 8 by 3 ½ feet, and it has a microwave pull-out drawer and a lot of storage. Everything about this kitchen is such a pleasure. I also had a glass-fronted cabinet added. I have family in Waterford, Ireland, so I have a lot of Waterford crystal.
Q: And the master bathroom?
A: It has a shower that is 5 ½ feet long and 3 feet deep with two large swing-out doors. In the shower I used a white glass subway tile that is stylized and has a little texture to it. The floor is a porcelain tile and it’s heated. I also put in a large sink.
Q: What did you add in the second-floor bathroom?
A: I put in an oversized tub because the room is so big. I also used a hexagon tile with black rosettes. The original bathroom on the first floor had similar flooring, so I wanted to keep that look.
Q: Why did you use the water popping method, and how is the process done?
A: The floors were sanded down, and water was put on them to open up the pores of the wood so the stain would be absorbed at different rates. We mostly did it because it looked cool, but it was a bonus that it helped hide some areas that were damaged. When I had the first-floor bedroom removed, I had flooring from it used in the kitchen when it was enlarged. I was also able to use flooring from the second-floor bedroom that was made into the bathroom. Most of the floors in the house are maple, but some on the second floor are fir.
Q: Did you add the laundry room?
A: Yes. It was part of the pantry. I had to relocate the door and add cabinets. I put in a pocket door.
Q: How do you use the space at the top of the stairs on the upper level?
A: I call it my weird landing room. It’s a small living space over the stairway. I got a futon for extra space, and it’s where guests can relax. I frequently have family over, including my relatives in Ireland.
Q: Is there a story to the antique chair in your guest room?
A: That chair was my husband’s great-grandfather’s chair. The family calls it the grandpa chair. The finish is worn off on the back where his suspenders rubbed.
This room is done in Magnolia lavender. All the colors on the upper level are from Magnolia Farms.
Q: What are some of the other colors you used in your home?
A: The living room and the kitchen are dove gray; the dining room is a rich blue color. It’s a little lighter than a navy. I used a light sea grass green in the master bedroom and bathroom and also in the first-floor half-bath.
Q: How did you decorate the other guest bedroom?
A: It’s furnished with my old furniture. The room is functional and comfortable and has a closet.
Q: Where do you spend most of your time?
A: In the kitchen. I love to cook. I’ve taken advantage of every cooking style since moving here. I cook every single day.
Q: What’s your favorite room?
A: The living room. I regularly fall asleep on the sofa with the fireplace on while reading a book. I also love the sunroom. I sit in here often. I love that it has a lot of sunlight. The sunroom also has an angled wall with a French door.
Q: What kind of fireplace do you have?
A: It’s wood burning, and that’s what I always wanted. I love building a fire.
Q: Did you make any changes in your yard?
A: I’m going to have the back and front yards landscaped in June. I plan to add a patio in back, and I already removed a back porch. With all the work that was going on with the house, I couldn’t do it last summer.
Do you, or does someone you know, have a cool, funky or exquisite living space that you’d like to see featured in At Home? Contact home and garden editor Nancy Stohs at (414) 224-2382 or email [email protected].
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