A Treasure In The Grove
Concealed along a quiet road in the center of Elm Grove is a hidden treasure. As we enter the property, flowering pear and linden trees frame the architecture and create a dramatic canopied entrance. This leads us into a carefully proportioned drive court bordered by hedges of boxwood and dogwood shrubs, all surrounded by meticulously laid out lawn and ground cover panels that frame vistas across the property.
According to the home’s architectural designer, Russell Zimmerman, the home celebrates the romantic chateau architecture of France’s Loire River Valley from the gothic period. The home was purposely designed asymmetrically to reflect the longstanding European tradition of beginning with a castle, and guardedly adding to it over the centuries. It takes many years for the surrounding landscape to blossom and for copper to patina, but this home actually looks like it could have been here for centuries, despite the fact it was actually completed only seven years ago. The façade is primarily rubble stone with random-sized pieces peaking out of the heavy mortar mimicking the 13th century classics. The towering walls are accented with handmade red brick and finished with hand carved limestone around the upper doors and windows, protected by wrought iron railings. The roof is clad with a green Vermont slate with copper gutters, rainwater heads and downspouts.
The home is set on nearly one acre of beautifully manicured grounds courtesy of Charles Hyams of Scott Byron and Company. As we work our way around to the rear of the home, the gently sloping property continues to unfold with a combination of horizontally layered Wisconsin ledge rock and Lannon stone, flowering specimen trees, shrubs and perennials. Gently flowing off of one of the huge turrets in the back, a balustrade detailed upper terrace and stairs gracefully descends to a bluestone patio and outside dining area; creatively outlined by boxwood hedges, flowering roses and climbing hydrangea.
Arborvitae hedges shield the perimeter, providing privacy and backdrop to the lush green lawn, punctuated by a grove of specimen river birch.
While the exterior is certainly something to marvel, it is clearly overshadowed by the character, grace and charm of the interior. The focal point entryway, with its pinnacled buttresses, is surrounded by a stone balcony with a custom forged wrought iron railing. Along here and on several other strategic places around the façade, you’ll find skillfully hand carved limestone ornaments such as poppy head finials, crockets and green man faces. As we begin our tour of the interior, which was a collaboration between the owners and James Connelly of Connelly Interiors, one immediately feels the warmth of intimately sized rooms and effortless transition from one to the next. Located across from the richly paneled dining room, the living room features a hand-carved limestone natural fireplace as its focal point. The palm plaster walls and rift cut flooring are featured throughout, along with several elegant variations of custom crown moldings. As we pass through the living room nestled into the primary turret is a walnut clad library. As music gently fills the room, one cannot help but imagine retreating to that space to enjoy a novel and a glass of wine.
The family room, like most of the rooms in the home, has been carefully designed to make the most of the natural lighting. Even though it was a mid-day tour, I was well into the home before I realized that there wasn’t a single light on in the house—as it is so perfectly bathed in natural sunlight. This family room brought another interesting feature to my attention— the ceiling height and treatment is subtly unique in almost every room. It’s not something you really notice because the rooms flow so smoothly from one to the next. There are different combinations of coffer, trey, cathedral and split-level ceilings—some with eight-or nine-foot walls and some ten feet or higher—all pn the same floor. As we walk toward the kitchen we pass a wall of windows and an informal dining area overlooking the backyard. Straddled by two French door entrances, each leading to the upper bluestone terrace, it’s a lovely view with a bright southwest exposure.
The spacious kitchen is next and filled with character. A wall of transom windows allow you to take in the view and the natural lighting from the backyard. The uniquely designed custom beams suspended from the ceiling are stunning. With that being said, the kitchen actually has abundant countertop and cabinet space and a huge island, in addition to having the most modern appliances for today’s cooking enthusiasts. Adjacent to the kitchen are a separately fashioned storage pantry and a butler’s pantry. Completing our circle of the first floor, we pass the entrance to the three-car garage, the elevator and the first of two laundry rooms As we move up to the second level there is another intriguing storyline to share; both staircases were built offsite by a sought after craftsman in Racine, WI, in his own woodworking shop. Each is staircase is very particular in its own rite. Just one more attribute in this striking design.
The second level brings us to another highlight, the master suite. As you enter the room your eyes are immediately drawn to the circular turret, which houses the window-clad sitting room with cathedral ceiling. The suite includes a large walk-in wardrobe and elegant master bath. The second level is finished gracefully with three additional bedroom suites, each one taking advantage of the stunning views of the landscape. Conveniently there is also a second laundry room on this floor. Making our way up the custom stairs to the third level, we’ll find a state-of-the-art home theater. This retreat is ideal for watching both movies and sporting events.
Another one-of-a-kind experience is the one you get as you head down the circular staircase on the west side of the home—this stairwell actually winds down all the way from the third level to the lower level. The infrastructure of the lower level allows for a clear-span layout for fitness and recreation rooms, as well as a guest bedroom and full-bath, all with nine-foot ceilings. There is another wall of windows providing a ground-level view of the stunning exterior landscape and more bedroom and office space as well. The state-of-the-art electronics and mechanicals are neatly tucked away in bright and open back rooms.
All told, there are seventeen rooms on four floors; including five bedrooms, four full baths and two half baths. While the sheer size is undeniably impressive, there was just something completely different about touring this masterpiece. The rooms are impeccably proportioned and flow effortlessly from formal to functional to fun and casual spaces—all with incredibly scenic views and abundant natural light. However, it’s the way the home unfolds, all ten-thousand-square-feet of it without ever being overwhelming or in any way unwelcoming which is most extraordinary.
This home was built as part of a five year labor of love for the current owners and will undoubtedly be difficult to walk away from.
They assembled some of the most talented teams of craftsmen available, utilizing the most luxurious and detailed materials from across the country, completing an architectural masterpiece. The result is a wonderfully warm, intimately scaled and incredibly engaging home. It incorporates the classical features of European yesteryear, along with many of the most modern amenities and technologies available today. It will easily stand the test of time. The home is currently being brokered by Richard Ruvin of Circle Realty.