Lori Jolin starts a meeting with a new client by asking them to list what is not working with their home. Along with lack of storage space, almost every homeowner’s list includes rooms that are too small or too dark. Sunlight is universally appealing, enhancing a home’s comfort and appeal. Allowing natural light to play across interior spaces is an effect so important to Lori that she has developed several techniques to amplify its effects.
At the first meeting with the owners of a 1980s traditional two-story home, Lori, of Lori Jolin Design LLC, listened carefully, and learned they were eager to update the entire home to create a more inviting living space that reflected their interests. The home’s backyard features large, mature trees and beautiful perennial gardens, planted by the homeowner, and they hoped to incorporate the yard’s view and color palette into the home.
Lori has backgrounds in both interior design and general contracting, and her company’s tagline defines her approach: “From floor plans to the cherished interiors, it’s all in the details.” Almost immediately, Lori suggested a major change that would create a wow factor. A large flagstone fireplace rose from floor to ceiling and extended into the room three feet, overshadowing the space. She sketched a plan to replace it with a lower profile fireplace, a beautiful mantel, built-ins, and a large expanse of windows going up to the vaulted ceiling. Along with sliding patio doors and transom windows running across the rear wall, these changes showcased the backyard and let in an abundance of natural light.
For windows, Lori encouraged the homeowners to visit the Window Design Center showroom, where they worked with Jody Lindsey. They chose Marvin Windows and Doors’ patio doors that easily open the room to the patio beyond. Lori is an enthusiastic proponent of the new Marvin awning windows, which hinge on the top, without the visual breaks of double hung or casement windows. Lori used the existing headers for the new awning windows, but extended the openings down to get more height. This is especially noticeable in the kitchen where two corner windows reach down to the countertop, allowing generous backyard views.
Lori often suggests tearing down walls in older homes with smaller rooms. Here, after some hesitancy, the clients agreed to removal of the wall between the kitchen and dining room. The installation of two-way glass cabinets between the rooms let light from the new dining room patio door fill both rooms.
Details, large and small, are evident throughout the home. Taller and wider interior trim, and new white crown molding, received sleek, semi-gloss paint, replacing the home’s dark wood finishes and boosting the brightness. The fretwork detail in the kitchen cabinets was repeated in the dining ceiling, the under-cabinet trim, and the corbels. Custom decorative glass designed by Lori and Linda Ewing, owner of Studio Glass Works LLC, was set in the new front door, and in a picture window above the door on the second floor, providing the entry with privacy and natural light. Off the kitchen, large windows and bright wicker furnishings create a cheerful sunroom, ideally positioned to enjoy the surrounding greenery year-round.
The trees behind the home inspired the use of large windows upstairs, as well. In the master bedroom, huge awning windows open to the treetops beyond. Lori, known for her signature bathrooms, ensured that light poured into the bathroom by installing a very large Marvin awning window over the bathtub to provide the effect of taking a bath in a tree house. The project earned a 2015 NARI Contractor of the Year Award for Best Entire House $250,000 to $500,000, one of three Contractor of the Year awards Lori won this year.
Lavish window expanses rely on great views and pleasing landscaping on the other side. As we move within our homes, windows serve to frame our views of the outdoors, and landscape designers understand that those views can invite us outside in any season.
A Nakoma couple completed a remodeling project and wanted to be able to extend their entertaining to the yard outside their new windows. The space held some challenges for Errin Schlapbach, a landscape designer at Ganshert Nursery and Landscapes LLC.
A large oak tree, a species particularly sensitive to root disturbance, was a prominent feature of the shady yard. There were two big stones, left behind by an earlier landscape attempt, and the backyard sloped toward the house, which meant water control would
Errin began by designing an inviting traffic pattern. She placed the grilling area near a mudroom entrance for convenient access, and positioned a larger patio space immediately outside the home’s French doors to create an enticing gathering spot. The open concept of the home allows views from the family room and kitchen into the backyard, and the home’s breakfast nook boasts a large window overlooking the new outdoor space.
The homeowners wanted guests to be comfortable on the patio without adding a lot of furniture. Errin designed a seat wall, which runs along the patio’s edge, both in the main area and near the grill. Built-in low voltage lighting runs just under the cap of the wall and shines gently across the patio pavers.
To keep water away from the home’s foundation, Errin recontoured the backyard and added several features. Rainwater runs off the large roof area into a rain barrel, which then empties, as necessary, by flowing under the patio and into a rain garden. The rain garden is a five-foot depression, prepared with a special mix of native soil, sand, and compost, then planted with native plants commonly found in wetlands. These plants are better suited for the extreme variations of water inundation and dry soil.
Other plantings in the yard add brightness and texture, especially important since the shade of the oak tree meant fewer flowering plants. Plantings provide pleasing views from within the home in all seasons. To allow for three-season use, Errin tucked the homeowners’ portable fire pit along one edge of the patio to allow for three-season comfort. In fact, the homeowners keep the area shoveled and find they spend more time outside year-round.
The landscaping project won a 2015 NARI Madison Contractor of the Year Award for Landscapes under $60,000, but more important to Errin is the owners’ newfound enthusiasm for spending time in their yard. Errin reminds us, “A well-designed outdoor space can really change people’s lifestyle. If it’s a space you love, it becomes an extension of your house.”
Yvette Jones is president of designCraft Advertising in Madison, and serves on the board of NARI Madison.
The following NARI subcontractors were involved in one or more of the projects mentioned in this article.
Each offers supplies and services specialized for remodeling projects, which often tend to be more
intricate than new construction jobs.
Badger GraniteWerks, Inc.
Brunsell Lumber & Millwork
Hensen Fine Cabinetry
Studio GlassWorks LLC
Window Design Center
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry, or NARI, represents people who work in and with the remodeling industry.
NARI professionals are expected to be licensed and insured, educated about current industry standards, ethical, and dedicated
to excellent customer service.