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Lake House Effect

Eclectic accents and modern architectural lines come together effortlessly in a playful riverfront dwelling designed for an active family who loves the water.


The home is designed as a series of glass boxes that overlook the river, with long balconies that connect the rooms outdoors.


Blackened steel ceiling beams have been exposed in the upper-level gallery, where an angled skylight, concealed spotlights and a vertical LED cove at the end of the corridor highlight the artwork, day or night.


Built-in shelving and an upholstered headboard wall are the focal point of the modern master bedroom, accented with hair-on-hide, leather and Lucite stools from Zentique and pillows in a Knoll fabric by Basia Frossard Design. The artwork is from a gallery in New Orleans.


Solid white oak flooring with a custom stain runs throughout, and the kitchen island stools are from Anthropologie.


The library pairs modern furnishings like a sofa from Jayson Home, plus chairs and wood stump tables from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams with a cocktail table the couple brought back from Indonesia.


Custom cabinetry by dSPACE Studio in the open kitchen is paired with a double waterfall island clad in Caesarstone’s Blizzard, a Calacatta backsplash from Transceramica, a Lindsey Adelman light fixture and dining chairs from Andreu World.  

Michael Hartmann, an ER doc, and Ruth Warren, a medical oncologist, make the most of the precious hours they have together with their kids, and in the summer, you can often find the energetic family splashing around in their swimming pool or launching kayaks from the dock behind their home along the Fox River in De Pere, Wis. Although the waterfront lot posed several challenges, the chance to make happy memories like this—not to mention the grandfathered-in boathouse—overruled any reservations they might have had about building on the site. “It was the smallest lot with a decrepit 110-year-old house that nobody wanted to buy,” Warren explains, “but we had a vision.”

Recalling the stunning houses on even tinier lots that she and her husband coveted when they attended med school in Chicago, the couple targeted designers in the city and soon hired architects Kevin Toukoumidis and Tom Hagerty of dSPACE Studio, and Aimee Wertepny and Lauren Warnock of PROjECT Interiors, to team up on the design of their new abode. “We wanted to enhance the beautiful art and architecture in any way we could,” Wertepny says, “and maybe learn a few new tricks from working with Kevin and Tom.”

Built into the top of a hill that slopes down toward the river, the 6,500-square-foot modernist manse is composed of a series of linear boxes, each with an entire west-facing wall of floor-to-ceiling doors that open to long balconies overlooking the river. Italian porcelain tile, charcoal metal panels and strategically placed cedar cladding add warmth and interest to the linear steel-and-glass structure. “The wood is used in places where you can touch and see it,” Toukoumidis explains. “Every detail has been considered.”

Lighting is one such detail, and a crucial one at that, with LEDs integrated into cabinetry, tucked into an angled channel along a 40-foot skylight in the upper-level art gallery and expressed as a vertical cove at the end of a long corridor. On the lower level, the dining area and kitchen also have a moody evening glow, thanks in part to a light trough in the ceiling. “You’re not just confronted with a bunch of down lights hitting you in the space,” Hagerty explains. “It’s more subtle and comfortable.”

Adding to the ambiance is a two-sided fireplace that can be enjoyed from the kitchen or the adjacent music room, which Wertepny outfitted with smoky glass-and-steel sliding doors that allow it to be closed off when the kids are practicing their instruments. A tribal-inspired rug adds another layer to the monochromatic palette and gets on famously with the charcoal-stained white oak built-ins with custom vertical off-white inserts that the PROjECT team dreamed up. “Aimee’s work is playful, global and full of texture,” says Warren. “It’s cozy but not traditional, and it has a really nice edge.”

The look continues in the open living room, where the cool surface of the blackened steel fireplace meets the warmth of a textural wallcovering with fringed burlap by Chicago artist Anna Wolfson. Pieces covered in denim, leather and hide layer in even more textural variation. “Ruth and I have a similar personal style, so we knew right away that this house would be filled with contrasting materials,” Wertepny explains. “Something rough-hewn, something glossy or polished, and not a whole lot of color.”

There are exceptions to that rule, including a boisterous and intensely personal floor-to-ceiling wallcovering consisting of hundreds of photos from the family’s Instagram feed. The vibrant display has been installed alongside a fireman’s pole that connects the top floor with a lower-level mudroom, allowing the family to travel from bedroom to garage in seconds. “When we first visited, we saw the kids riding a skateboard through the house,” Toukoumidis explains, “so we knew that this house needed some adventure and excitement.”

The active family relishes spending time outdoors, swimming in the pool, boating or just sharing a few laughs around the sculptural concrete fire pit after a long day out on the river. Although summer is all too short, the hot tub was still open in December when Toukoumidis and crew—swimsuits in hand—ventured north for the studio’s annual office holiday party shortly after the project concluded. “We’ve all become friends,” Warren says. “There was so much love and energy put into this home, and it shows.”


Single-family home

De Pere, Wis.

dSPACE Studio

PROJECT Interiors

C&C Custom Builders

dSPACE Studio and PROJECT Interiors

dSPACE Studio

Custom sewing and upholstery

Countertop and custom sink in powder room

Leather chairs in living room and leather sofa in library

Chandelier in open kitchen 

Living room sofa frame, chairs and wood tables in library

Custom coffee table in living room and chandelier in family room

Sconces in master bedroom

Drapery fabric in living and dining room

Fireplace porcelain tile

Calacatta for kitchen backsplash and master bath