Maximizing the Hidden Gem of a Diamond in the Rough

Remodeled living room
Photograph by Zane Williams

This 100-year-old house with Lake Mendota views needed some TLC. Aspects of the house were very outdated, but there were also signs of serious neglect: water stains, musty odors, extremely worn flooring, and even structural problems causing the porch to slope and feel unsafe. The new owners, although eager to make improvements to function, foundation, and style, also realized that this house had some serious historical charm. Their goal was to make the home brighter and more modern while preserving the quirky details that define Madison lake homes of this period.

A full house window replacement was needed with extra emphasis on the lake side. Small original windows were removed and window openings enlarged to increase natural light throughout the home. Additional windows were added to capitalize on lake views waiting to be enjoyed. The existing bay windows on each side of the house were enlarged to allow for glimpses of the lake as much as possible. In the master bedroom, mirrored closet doors were installed to reflect the lake views and make it possible to enjoy the views even while reclining in bed.

After realizing that the existing flooring on the entire first floor simply could not be sanded anymore or it would disintegrate, a plan was made to replace all of the flooring throughout the home. The owners felt strongly about respecting the historical styles and details of the house, so new materials had to feel period authentic while providing modern quality. White oak in every room on the first floor added to the feeling of lightness and provided cohesiveness. Basketweave tile in the bathrooms is not only a nod to the past, but also provides geometric interest.

Adding built-in cabinetry in the dining room and library preserves the feel of a vintage home and also provides function. The original door hardware was covered in paint and just needed to be cleaned up and restored. The new owners love the unexpected charm of original glass door knobs throughout.

The kitchen was truly a unique mixture of styles and updates done over the years, and felt like a mix of 1960s and 1970s elements. The new owners enjoy cooking and wanted modern functionality but, again, hoped to keep some of the vintage details. Inset cabinetry, icebox latches, and a farmhouse sink provide the authentic vintage feel while all-new, state-of-the-art appliances give the modern chef what they need to operate efficiently. The whole kitchen floor plan was reconfigured as well to provide ultimate ease of use.

All of the trim throughout was dark, as was the style 100 years ago. An overall color scheme incorporating lighter, more peaceful colors was chosen, and all trim was painted white. All existing walls were smooth coated with plaster to remove the heavily textured finish. The color scheme was extended to the porch as well, and a large folding glass door from Marvin connects and opens up the porch to the main living area in nice weather. Accessories and furniture were chosen after the entire house’s color scheme was decided upon.

Having a grand porch on a Lake Mendota home is a luxury, and many would say that the porch is the best room of the house! Footings and foundation were in desperate need of repair, so the whole porch was removed and reconstructed. Other alterations included installing heated flooring under the tiles and removable glass panels for easy conversion to a three-season porch. A new roof, LP® shake siding and trim, Marvin windows and doors, and a new garage door complete the exterior transformation.

The combination of major structural and functional updates and attention to period style and details resulted in a truly original Madison lake home that the new owners will be able to enjoy for years to come. Sometimes, the old and the new cohabitate very well.

Project Credits

Design/Build Firm:

Architectural Building Arts


Bridget Ninmann - Architectural Building Arts

Interior Designer:

Carol Ferris - Posh & Patina Interiors


Zane Williams