Blog : Renovations

250 Circle Parkway

250 Circle Parkway

I’m in the process of designing a new office for my business. The current location, an office that I’m quite proud of, has grown tedious with envious conflict and expense, so I must leave. The process is exciting, the new building full of promise, but there is just one hurdle now. The Design. Do I make the office sleek and modern, like the sort of offices I see only on the silver screen? Do I make it comfortable and mature, with the smell of rich mahogany perfuming my masculine new space? Should the floors be wood or stone? The walls drywall and clean or wood and textured? Do I bite at the trend to make at least one bathroom clad in deep blue grasscloth with a shiny brass mirror and faucet? The questions are many, the answers hard to find, the situation perplexing. This is my office problem.

Lake Geneva Lakefront Home For Sale

Thankfully, on the lakefront, there is no such problem. The design aims are true. If we have a cottage and we wish to elevate it, the exterior choices range from shingles, to shingles, to also, shingles. If we’re having patios, they must be stone. There is no other choice. The driveway should be brick, and if we’re going through the trouble and expense of adding brick walks and driveways, then we should be smart enough to lay a herringbone pattern. What good is a superlative driveway without an equally impressive landscape? We have to add hydrangeas and perennials galore, to make the earth look as good as the materials we’ve applied to it. If the brick is set and the stone patios laid, the landscaping thriving, the shingles applied, we should also frame the view with tall and wide divided light windows. The bigger the better, but not so big that we ruin what we’re creating. This is what it’s like to design a proper lakefront home that stays true to the cottage style.

Views. And views. (and more views)

As is my way, if I’ve described it, I’m offering it to you. Consider 250 Circle Parkway in Williams Bay. The Tippy Top of Cedar Point isn’t just some normal spot on this anything-but-normal lake. It’s the spot with the best view. As one customer said after walking through, I can’t unsee that view. You can’t have many things that are “the best”. Hamburgers? Sure, plenty of places will serve you the best burger. Same with pie. But a view of Geneva Lake? There isn’t much of a competition here once you’ve laid eyes on that westerly view from 250 Circle. There is nothing else like it on the lake, and when I tell you that it makes all other views ever seen by human eyes in the history of humanity look like absolute mediocrity, you’ll have to see it for yourself to decide if that’s hyperbole.

Family Room

This home, aside from the landscaping and the views and those shingles and that new pier, is delightful. Thoughtfully, painstakingly, and beautifully renovated by the current owner, this home exudes a gracious lakefront style that is comfortably unpretentious. There’s nothing here that you might not need, but there’s little else you’re left to want. We have three bedrooms upstairs with three baths, along with two sitting areas and a private covered deck where that view demands you to sit and stare, at least for a bit. The bathrooms are renovated with playful pattern tile. The sweeping staircase that joints the bedroom level with the living level is oversized and grand. On the main level, you’ll find a bunk room with adjacent sitting room, vaulted and fun, with access to the private rear patio and entrance. The lakeside living room is complete with fireplace and ample seating, with large french doors that lead to that lakeside patio.

Master Bath

Once you take the bait and head to that patio, there’s nothing more you’ll care about seeing. I’ll suggest you check out the kitchen, with stone counters and stainless appliances and hidden pantries with clever nooks for storage, but you won’t care. That view is there and now you can’t unsee it. And why would you want to? It’s here, it’s ready, and it’s for sale. Now, that view can be yours, and you’ll have a hard time looking at anything else ever again. $2,825,000.

Ugly Houses

Ugly Houses

My cousin recently had a baby. I saw this baby at a different cousin’s wedding over the weekend and my suspicions were confirmed. It’s a cute baby. But what if it wasn’t? What if it was the ugliest baby anyone had ever seen? Would anything have been different? Would anyone have cringed at the first glimpse? Would anyone have opted out of the obligatory first hold? If the baby had been hideous, would the parent have even brought the baby to the wedding in the first place? Would the birth announcement cards have been sent sans baby photo, instead choosing a picture of tiny baby feet? After all, baby feet are undeniably cute, unlike, say, the baby itself. No matter the make or model of baby, we all must agree: that’s a cute baby.

But babies are not houses, and houses are not babies. This is the sort of news that only I can deliver. Babies are living, breathing, humans. They are valuable and they are, whether some teeter on the edge of this condition, cute. No one would, or should, suggest otherwise. But houses? We dance around the topic as it relates to houses, but houses, whether we admit it or not, can be ugly. Hideously ugly. Stomach turningly ugly. Disgusting, really. They can be so off-putting that one could wonder how someone could, indeed, sleep through the night in such a God-forsaken structure. We cannot pretend any longer: Lots of houses are ugly.

The initial OpenDoor, Zillow, et al, was the yellow sign in the median of the interstate that screamed “I BUY UGLY HOUSES”. This was thoughtfully engineered to appeal to those owners who own the ugly houses. And by admitting, at least internally, that you were the owner of one such ugly house, you would also, internally, recognize that your home is not as valuable as a pretty home. This is what the sign-maker wanted, and you played right into his ink-stained hands. If you own the ugly house, you admitted it’s indeed you who owns it, and this guy would be happy to buy it from you. Perhaps you should sell, after all, it is an immeasurable burden to be the owner of such a home, at such a time as this. Life is short and ugly houses make their inhabitants wish it were even shorter.

If you’re feeling picked on today, I assure you that your house is likely not as ugly as you think. A dated house in need of renovation is not, by rule, an ugly house. In fact, your older, dated house is likely beautiful, because older houses tended to have more of a pedigree than the homes that followed. Old does not equal ugly, by definition. I drive around this market and I see the ugly homes. The boring homes. The homes that lack symmetry and lack everything else, too. The danger in a summer-time market is that these homes come for sale, and these homes might be priced a bit cheaper than the similarly sized pretty home. The bait is placed, the trap is set, the ugly house awaits your weekend tendencies.

It’s cheaper, you say. I can fix this, you think. But the market today has these properties waiting for you. The ugly houses. You think you can fix them, but you can’t. The asymmetrical turrets cannot be fixed. The wall of windows, each one from a different sale at a different Home Depot cannot be replaced. The seven level interior, complete with two story spiral staircase, cannot be repaired. And even if it could, at what cost? Do you buy the Ugly because it’s cheap, and then, while desperately trying to eliminate the ugly, do you spend more than you could have spent to revitalize a pretty house? Yes. That’s why you shouldn’t buy it. Let someone else buy it. Let them work to not only update, but to pursue a fix that will prove eternally elusive. That’s because an ugly house is an ugly house, today, tomorrow, and always.