Reviving Mid-Century Modern

Reviving Mid-Century Modern

Renovation  |  Wausau, Wisconsin
An adventurous couple renovated a mid-century modern home to fit their current and future needs, while enjoying light and views through Kolbe’s VistaLuxe WD LINE windows and doors.
Video - Reviving Mid-Century Modern - Wausau, Wisconsin

Tucked within a historical neighborhood in Wausau, Wisconsin, this 1958 home boldly rises out of the ground with renewed vigor. Stripped down to the studs during an incomplete renovation, the remodeling project was skillfully taken over by Rob and Mary Brodhead, an adventurous couple with an appreciation for mid-century modern design. Welcoming the opportunity to return to their Midwestern roots, the new homeowners put their heads together and their design skills to work, making this house truly their own.

The Brodheads were familiar with the Wausau area but were living in another region of the country when this renovation offered the chance to move closer to family and craft their ideal space.

Mary explained, “We were visiting our kids for Christmas a couple of years ago, and our daughter mentioned to us that the house across the street was available for sale again. It had been gutted. The exterior had been let go for probably a decade and a half. So, we came and looked at it.”

rear exterior of home

Rob added, “I think we both have always been interested in a mid-century modern home. We had never lived in one, but we felt like that would be a new and fun experience for us.”

The couple called Larry Meyer Construction Company on the 23rd of December and explained they were considering a house that needed major remodeling but were looking for some expertise. Willing to take on the challenge, Larry Meyer’s team was there at 10:00am the following morning.

rear exterior of home
rear exterior of home

The project manager, Kris Zuleger, saw both the hurdles and the potential immediately. “We ran down and took a peek at it and knew it needed a lot – it needed everything. But the house was structurally in good shape, so they were willing to make that investment to purchase the house and then go through the complete remodel of it, from start to finish.”

Some windows were missing and boarded up, and pieces of siding remained. The interior was also very dark, so everyone involved knew that new windows, new views and more daylight were going to be significant parts of the project. In Zuleger’s encouraging words, “This could be something special.”

Historically Correct, Yet Personalized

Rob and Mary’s main goal was to maintain the character of the mid-century modern home while updating it to achieve the performance and layout they desired for their future. The plans for remodeling the historic home had to be reviewed by the City of Wausau, as officials were in the process of having the area listed on the National Register for Historical Neighborhoods.

Once the design was approved, everyone hit the ground running.

“We have beautiful views here and we knew we wanted to take advantage of that as much as possible,” Mary explained. “And that’s when Kris at Larry Meyer suggested that we talk with Kolbe, and he said, ‘They’re going to have the windows for you.’ And they did.”

We have beautiful views here and we knew we wanted to take advantage of that as much as possible. And that’s when Kris at Larry Meyer suggested that we talk with Kolbe, and he said, ‘They’re going to have the windows for you.’ And they did.
rear exterior of home

Rob and Mary visited the Kolbe Windows & Doors Wausau showroom in person to explore numerous options. They felt that the VistaLuxe® Collection was best for maintaining the mid-century modern character while also providing minimal lines and generous views. It also offered the warm wood interiors they desired.

The couple replaced the original windows with larger direct sets from Kolbe’s VistaLuxe WD LINE and added two windows on an adjacent wall that originally had none. This brought additional light into the space and established new sightlines. A window was also added over the stairway to further extend daylight and views.

rear exterior of home

“I think we certainly wanted to minimize the frame of the window and maximize the glass because we are up on a hill here. We’ve got spectacular views pretty much every day. We wanted a lot of sunlight, and we wanted it to feel like it was the outside coming into the home,” explained Rob. The white interior finish blended into the wall color to further hide the sleek frames.

The couple also looked at different door types and colors in Kolbe’s showroom, selecting an Ultra Series flat panel door with a glass insert, finished in a vibrant Fortress Teal custom paint color.

Mary beamed, “It’s the jewelry on the house, that front door. Yeah, it’s the diamond earring on our façade.”

rear exterior of home
Thoughtful Design

Rob and Mary considered every detail with care as this would likely be the home where they would spend the rest of their lives.

Mary explained, “One of the things we had topmost in our minds was that – being in our mid-seventies – this would probably be the last house that we would do. So, we wanted this house to work for elderly people like us and we wanted this house to work for the two of us. We like to entertain; we like to have friends and family over.”

rear exterior of home

The house was remodeled to emphasize things that were most important to Rob and Mary – welcoming lots of natural light, organizing the living space all on one level and featuring plenty of entertainment space for friends and family. Additionally, they took universal design into consideration with wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. They even had a two-story elevator installed to minimize stair climbing.

Rob explained, “One of the things that Larry Meyer said early on was that we could put in an elevator, and we thought, ‘Well, we don’t need it now, but someday it may come in handy.’”

rear exterior of home
rear exterior of home

He continued, “When you drive into this property, the garage and the driveway are one level down. The entire living level requires that you go up a set of stairs. So, that was when we decided we had to have an elevator in order to make this work for us.”

Spaces that Fit

When the homeowners thought about the existing spaces and their affinity for entertaining friends and family, they turned an awkward, almost unusable space off the kitchen into a bar.

rear exterior of home

“I think my favorite space is the kitchen and bar area there right next to each other. It’s really kind of all the same space. And, of course, I like to cook. So, I love my kitchen, and I love the light from the south that we get in that bar room,” said Mary.

She continued, “I have to say, that was unbelievably fun and rewarding to design a kitchen for the way that I cook and the things that I have. I’m 70-some years old and I have never had a kitchen that is designed for me personally, but this whole house is designed for us personally, so we’re very comfortable here. We tried to set the spaces up for our lifestyle and we find now that we did, it works.”

rear exterior of home

Zuleger agrees, “My favorite part of the home really is the living room space tied into their kitchen with all the natural light. Now, with the west-facing windows that we added, you get some late afternoon sunshine coming into that space and it kind of warms up that whole space in the afternoons.

My favorite part of the home really is the living room space tied into their kitchen with all the natural light. Now, with the west-facing windows that we added, you get some late afternoon sunshine coming into that space and it kind of warms up that whole space in the afternoons.
Private Spaces

Living in Wisconsin, Mary and Rob enjoy opening the windows, especially in the bedroom on cool evenings. In the home’s original design, none of the windows opened. Rob and Mary replaced them with awning windows that looked similar to the direct sets on the exterior, complemented the mid-century modern design, and opened to allow fresh air inside.

rear exterior of home

“In those homes, the windows were kind of small and higher up the wall than is typical in a modern house,” Rob explained. “Well, we made them a little bit larger, but we kept them high. So, we accomplished two things: we kept the aesthetic of the mid-century modern, but we also improved our privacy because we live on a corner.”

The powder room was inspired by a photo Mary saw in a magazine, and this vision further fueled their interest in taking on a mid-century modern remodel project.

Rob commented, “I remember her tearing the page out of the magazine, and she said, ‘I want to try to duplicate this in our new home.’”

bathroom with direct set windows
The Right Components

To the Brodheads, the remodel project was as much about the journey and partnering with the right people as it was about the transformed spaces and views.

Zuleger offered, “Doing a project of this caliber in this size is really about spending the time to get your design and your plan done before you start. You know, everybody’s very excited to get started. They want to start seeing that transformation. But to make the transformation work hard, it’s really important to nail down the design ahead of time and make some of those important selections that dictate the whole project early on.”

Mary echoed this idea: “You have to start with the structure that actually existed. There was nothing inside at all. They had stripped out all the wiring, all the plumbing, all the drywall, insulation – everything was gone. So, it was basically a wood box, and we could make anything we wanted out of it. We had very few restrictions so we could put the rooms where they needed to be.”

Rob added, “I think the bones of the home were good. We knew that we’re in a wonderful neighborhood. And probably one of the most rewarding things is that we’ll be outdoors and one of the neighbors will come by and say, ‘Thank you for taking the home that was here and doing what you have done to it.’”

“We never really had a feeling of it being anybody else’s house, but it became our vision when all these pieces started to fall into place, when the light came in, and when the paint went on the walls, and it became light and bright and clean. And here it was ours. We almost feel like we can wear this house in an odd sort of way that fits us, and we’re just comfortable rattling around in here,” Mary concluded.

Related Links: VistaLuxe WD LINE