Classically Modern

Local designer Nick Konzal creates a contemporary feel in his historic home.



Nick Konzal restored the built-in feature in his 1928 Craftsman home, adding a fresh coat of white paint that pops against the vibrant splashes of color in his Cole & Son wallpaper.

When interior designer Nick Konzal of Nicholas Carl Design bought his 1928 Craftsman home in Wauwatosa, he had big plans for a renovation — as long as those renovations maintained the integrity of the 90-year-old home, whose previous owners had lived there for six decades.

“When I was looking for a house, I was looking for something that had a lot of the original character left so that I could make the changes I wanted,” Konzal explains. “I didn’t change the floor plan in the kitchen. I didn’t change any of the footprint of the floor plan. I wanted to work with what was there and make it a classical space, but update it and respect the architecture of the home.

“I’m not removing things like the built-in buffet,” Konzal continues. “That’s something that was done in 1928, part of the original character. Other homes around me have taken character out, and people are used to removing [it]. But that’s the style of the home, and that’s what I wanted to keep.”

To honor the sound structure of his historic home, Konzal repurposed as much as he could, including disassembling, repairing and reinstalling the 1920s windows, which had been painted shut, and sanding down and refinishing the home’s original hardwood floors.

“A lot of the stuff in older homes is already put together so nicely that you really don’t need to replace it with new stuff,” he says.“What I’m interested in is exploring history through [homes], respecting where the home came from and the time period of what it’s about — the story that it’s telling — but [at] the same time, infusing modern-day living.

Keeping the integrity of the house’s structure, Konzul maintained the bones of the rooms and added modern design touches, such as the gold and white striped Cole & Son wallpaper, sparkling gold backsplash, new cabinetry with gold accents and a shiplap ceiling feature.

To cohesively blend old and new, Konzal sourced relics from antique auctions, new items from lines he uses in other home designs, and custom pieces for a one-of-a-kind touch.
Keeping classic colors like black and white in the forefront, Konzal added touches of blue and gold, along with some wood pieces for a warmer feel and eye-catching accent.
“The vision was to keep it light and airy, but also blend in a modern style,” he says of his chosen palette. “I wanted to bring color in, so I have a lot of blues and some accent colors that are warmer — [a] mustard color — and I like to use white a lot. Black and white in the rug and [accents of] gold.”

Konzal kept the walls a simple white for a clean look, but added bold pops of color and texture to the ceilings. The living room ceiling features a light Tiffany blue paint, while the bedroom sports a Cole & Son wallpaper in a pattern reproduced from a 1960s David Hicks geometric design. The kitchen brings back the original character of the home with a
shiplap ceiling.

Konzal says his color selections are often driven by the beauty of lakes and oceans.

“Nature inspires me and water inspires me, so bringing in blue was a natural choice for me,” he muses. “That’s ... based on my time in Florida and my time [spent] traveling.”
Konzal also brings an outdoorsy vibe into the bedroom via a horse photograph, and extends the design element into the living room with artwork featuring a buffalo and a collection of real pressed butterflies from the 1960s that he found in an antique shop.

Custom pieces add character to the already distinctive home, including a one-of-a-kind headboard in the bedroom. Konzal freehanded the design for the piece, sourced the fabric, and enlisted his contact at Homestyle Custom Upholstery to build it. “I like to do things that are custom,” Konzal says, “When you can bring in something special to the project and something that fits the space exactly how you want, that’s when things become really unique.”

Over time, Konzal plans to call back Chuck Maercklein from Finishes of Design and Geoff Slater from Elatia Property Services to help renovate the second floor into a master suite. But for now he’s  content to enjoy the colors and design of his classic and contemporary home. MKE

Konzul added unique touches to his home, such as the custom headboard he created with carpenter Geoff Slater and upholsterer Home Style Upholstery. Infusing old and new, the butterfly art and dresser are finds from auctions, while the bold striped black and white rug adds a classically modern flair. The airy living room offers a relaxing respite, with touches of blue as a call to the designer’s love of moving water and the warm brown and gold tones as a reminder of all things nature.