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Shedding light on lake living

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 12-2-12

Shedding light on lake living

By J.A. Berger 

Jerry and Donna Walsh are lake people — it just took them a while to realize it. They lived in New Berlin where they built a house and raised their two daughters — now grown and on their own. “We saw a story in the Journal Sentinel about lots on Green Lake and my husband wanted to go and check them out,” Donna remembered. “They were too expensive.”

Donna and Jerry had ulterior motives for wanting to live on a lake. “We thought if we lived somewhere so appealing our daughters would come home more,” she said with a chuckle. The couple started looking for existing lake homes. “The Realtor showed us some homes on Beaver Lake, but they were out of our price range too.” They told the agent they were open to building and, soon, the agent found a piece of property on Beaver Lake that had been subdivided back in 1960. A lot with 100 feet of lake frontage and an old shed was for sale. Jerry and Donna bought it. That was 2007.

Then the Great Recession hit. “We just didn't have the courage to build,” Donna said. But that didn't stop the couple from enjoying lake living — albeit a bit rustic. “We bought a kayak. We would pack a picnic lunch and come out here. During those five years we spent a lot of time in the shed — as a changing room, a shelter from storms and a surprise birthday for Jerry.” That wonderful, old shed was eventually torn down.

The north shore lot, officially in the town of Merton, had lovely elevations and by 2009 the Walshes decided it was time to build. “We had a very contemporary home in New Berlin,” she said. “Now we wanted something cozy and Old World.” They contacted Barenz Builders who work with a number of architects to suit their customers' tastes, budgets and lifestyles. The custom home that was designed for the Walshes was completed in December 2011. 

The 4,200 square foot, two-story home has its master suite on the first floor. The den, great room, kitchen and sunroom all face the lake. There are three bedrooms on the second floor and 4 ½ baths throughout. The home and patio are multilevel designs giving unobstructed views of the lake. “The house is built on the lot's elevation,” Donna said. The home and patio design complement the topography.
The Walshes wanted to build green. “Barenz suggested in-floor radiant heating on the first floor, which we love, and we had a geo-thermo system put in,” she said of the system that uses the Earth's temperature to help heat and cool the home. 
What's her favorite feature of the house? Donna couldn't settle on one thing. “I love my sunroom. We love the master bath with its green marble, glass block and double showerheads. My kitchen is awesome — it has a huge island with a five-sided end with seating. It's great when we entertain.”

The patio, where they spent their first of many summers, can be accessed from the kitchen and den. Its multilevel space offers a cozy area to curl up on a glider with a good summer read or an area with a dining table, grill and seating for family, friends and yes, their daughters.

Barenz Builders, owned by Ron Barenz, has specialized in custom-built homes on individual client lots for 35 years. “We build three to five homes a year,” said son and project manager, Ronny Barenz. “We build every home as if it was our own.” 

View Article - shedding-light-on-lake-living-12-2-12.pdf

2009 Milwaukee Home & Fine Living Design Awards Wi

Best Remodel/Addition Over $100,000
Gold: Barenz Builders: Schlesing Remodel

Best Lower Level
Silver: Barenz Builders – Schlesing Lower Level

Gold: Barenz Builders – Cooley Lower Level

Room for More

Milwaukee Magazine Article (October 2008)

Room for More

No matter what size your new home is going to be, you want to get the most for your money. But that doesn’t mean constructing a bigger building with a larger footprint. More often today it means building smarter, not bigger. And that means optimizing space so you can do more with less.

“There’s definitely a trend of optimizing space while minimizing footprint, going away from the largest McMansions to smaller spaces with the same amenities,” says Ronny Barenz, project manager at Barenz Builders in Germantown. “People are looking for something more manageable in terms of utility bills and maintenance costs. It also relates to ‘green’ building and minimizing the impact on the environment.

“This challenged home designers to create floor plans that are flexible,” Barenz continues, “and offer a variety of different uses and functions within the same room to optimize living space.”

Barenz Builders constructs five to eight high-end custom homes per year. Barenz is one of 14 people in Wisconsin who are “graduate master builders,” having fulfilled the highest certification requirements of the National Association of Home Builders.

Some of ‘Barenz Builders’ homes include multipurpose utility rooms that have two large drawers that double as laundry baskets. There may be a planning desk near the back door for a laptop plus docking stations for recharging cell phones and iPods.

Bonus Rooms

“Bonus rooms” are typically areas that in the past may have been unfinished, such as the basement or above the garage. Today, every inch is used, frequently with the best finishes available – floor and wall coverings, countertops, etc. “Flex space” is similar but usually allows the homeowner to dictate the room’s use. An extra room may serve as a den, bedroom or play space for kids.

In recent years in southeastern Wisconsin, finishing off the basement has become extremely popular as families seek to entertain and spend more time at home.

For some of its homes, Barenz Builders offers a porte-cochere, a structure that extends from the second floor of the home over the driveway for about the length of a car or two. Above the driveway, a bonus room can be constructed, such as a home theater or game room.

Taking advantage of space that in the past may have been unfinished is much more economical than adding to the footprint of the existing home. Busting out walls, excavating and running new electrical and plumbing for an addition to the home can cost serious dough.

Planning Ahead

Barenz recommends that consumers who are building a new home think ahead. Even if they’re not planning to finish off spaces immediately, they can plan for more flexible use of the home in the future.

Spancrete, a concrete product, reduces the number of vertical beams necessary to support a floor. So in the lower level beneath a Spancrete floor, there’s more usable space – for today or in the future.

“We can use Spancrete under a front stoop to allow for usable space below,” Barenz says. “That makes a perfect spot for a wine cellar or safe room.”

You may also want to plan for adding an elevator later. In the meantime, the space can be used for closets. “An elevator allows better use of a second-floor master suite to minimize the building footprint,” Barenz says. Instead of building horizontally – and breaking additional ground – it’s less expensive to build vertically.

You can also place special support beams-storage trusses- over the garage to make it easier to finish the attic later. And where the second floor of an attached garage meets the home, structural beams can be placed. This allows a door between the over-garage room and the home to be added later.

With plumbing and electrical properly planned and placed in the basement, the lower level will be ready for finishing at any time in the future.

The same can be said of an unfinished attic. Rough-in the plumbing and electrical, and it can more easily be converted to another bedroom later.

Another option is to finish a room, but outfit it with removable elements. For example, a theater room above the garage may have removable arena seating or cabinetry. So if the family later decides an exercise room is preferable, the change is easier.

“It’s thinking into the future for resale, family growth or changing your mind so the room can serve a different function,” Barenz says.

Builder stages tour to raise money for MDA

Professional Builder Magazine

Homebuilder stages tour to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy Association

By Susan Bady, Senior Editor, Design -- 4/1/2008

Barenz Builders of Germantown, Wis., found a unique way to help adults and children with muscular dystrophy: a fund-raising event that lets people travel without leaving home. Last October, Barenz hosted "Passport to Europe: A Dream Home Tour for an MD Cure," which raised $60,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Southeastern Wisconsin.

Participants in "Passport to Europe" toured the Barrington Manor, a 10,000-square-foot home Barenz built. Among the features of the European estate, which sold prior to the event for $2.1 million (without lot), are a stone turret; alder woodwork with walnut burl inlays; three stone fireplaces; a state-of-the-art home theater; and a ballet studio.

"We chose MDA because we thought they were underserved," says Vice President Cheryl Barenz. "And the research we've done assures us that the money we raise will stay in southeastern Wisconsin, directly benefiting those [here] who have the disease."

"Passport to Europe" kicked off with a VIP reception at a local country club, where international food-tasting stations paired with imported beverages. The VIPs included suppliers and trade contractors who worked on the Barrington Manor and the builder's past and present clients. Guests even took a limousine to the home, and the public was invited to tour it for a week after the reception.

Barenz didn't have to act alone. Area distributors, including Kohler and Pella, came on board as sponsors, and the local CBS affiliate broadcast reports about the event during the week prior to the VIP party.

About 200 people attended the VIP reception and more than 400 visited the home in the following week. And that exposure generated some good leads for future custom-home projects, says Barenz.

This is the second year Barenz Builders has organized a Passport event. In fact, it's been so well-received the company has already started planning the 2008 event.

Barenz Builders named 1st Graduate Master Builder

Ronny Barenz of Germantown-based Barenz Builders Inc. was recently named the first builder in the Milwaukee metropolitan area to attain a Graduate Master Builder (GMB) designation, identifying him as one of the building industry’s top professionals. He is currently one of only 14 professional builders in Wisconsin and 400 builders nationwide to attain a GMB designation which is administered by the National Association of Home Builders University of Housing.

On The Move

Ronny Barenz, project manager of Barenz Builders Inc., has successfully completed the "Certified Construction Professional" program and has earned the prestigious CCP designation from the Metropolitan Builders Association.

The curriculum to earn this designation includes education in safety, building science and design, uniform dwelling code, better business, land development and sales and marketing.

Barenz Builders is on Mequon Road in Germantown and specializes in luxury home construction.

Abode Magazine Article

Building a new home.  The very thought can conger up feelings that range from excitement to downright fear.  Kristie Malone, who built a home with Barenz Builders 2 ½ years ago, entered the building process clutching teeth and holding onto her checkbook.  Her husband had made the decision to build but she wasn’t convinced.  Not only did her fears diminish as they progressed in the building process, but Malone had the time of her life.  “We’re living happily ever after in our home now, and I could start the building process all over tomorrow.  That’s how much we enjoyed it.” Malone said.


Malone is not alone.  Several area families who have had wonderful building experiences have graciously shared their stories to help those contemplating building.  It is their hope, (as well as the MBA’s) that their experiences, as different as they may be, may show you the brighter side of the building.


(Other stories)

Let’s not forget Kristie Malone.  When she let go of her fear, she was amazed by the confidence she found in her builder, decorator, and all the craftsmen that worked on her home.  “The people who worked on our home acted like it was a privilege to do so.”  Malone said. “It was quite evident that everyone cared.”


**Featured in: Abode Magazine

Barenz Builders designs homes for baby boomers

Baby boomers, the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, represent nearly a quarter of the U.S. population.

            According to Forbes magazine, more than 70 percent of them are homeowners, and they are part of a growing niche market in the home building industry.  They are mature adults looking for a smaller home with less maintenance but with all the quality and comforts of a former home. 

            Barenz Builders is answering this demand by introducing its 2004 Parade of Homes award-winning model, the LeTreon, located in Pabst Farms.  With a history of parade awards, Barenz has designed a home with Old World craftsmanship built with today’s modern technology.  This 2,400 square-foot split bedroom ranch was designed for the sophisticated buyer who appreciated the finer amenities that can be found in a well-planned small home.

            The curb appeal of this home is accentuated by the front façade of stone, exposed cedar rafters, copper gutters and carriage-style garage doors.  Once inside, the architectural details rich in European tradition include hand-troweled textured walls, 9-foot and higher ceilings, exquisite woodwork, arched entries, granite and marble countertops and rustic cherry wood and tiled floors.  The kitchen/dinette offers a gourmet cook top with textured hood and custom alder cabinets.  The master suite features a shower with therapeutic body sprays, whirlpool tub and double sink marble vanity.  A private screen porch offers a welcome respite.

            Call Barenz Builders at (262) 253-2282 for a private showing.  To view some of Barenz other homes, visit


**Featured in: Oconomowoc Enterprise

View Article - Baby_Boomers.pdf

Invest in Your Future with a Barenz Builders Home

Invest in Your Future with a Barenz Builders Home


Consider this motto Barenz Builders, Inc. “Old World Craftsmanship with Today’s Technology.”  For over 26 years, we have been designing and building homes graced with the quality of yesteryear combined with the comforts and technology of today.  Our admiration of the architectural details found in older homes has inspired us to create homes that boast “Old World Craftsmanship.”


Our approach to building is unique in that we are a family business borne out of a building background.  We work as a husband and wife team and surround ourselves with a family of skilled craftsmen.  Building is not only in our blood; it is what brought us together.  The two of us met when Ron, the son of a cabinetmaker, came to work for Cheryl’s Dad, a carpenter.  Our homes look the way they do because we both were raised in families that emphasized the pride that can be achieved when things are done right the first time.  It is Ron’s early experiences working alongside diligent, precision craftsmen that helped to define the strict standards that must be met in all the homes we build.  Details that are hidden from view are inspected as closely as those that command attention in each home.  This insures that the end product will be a home we are proud to put our name on and you are proud to call your own.


One reason Barenz Builders has so many satisfied customers is our use of proven superior products.  Two examples of those types of products are Pella Windows and TrusJoist Silent Floor joist.


Our quest for excellence is apparent in everything from the quality building materials we select to the construction techniques we employ.  Our skilled craftsmen will turn your home into a showcase of exquisitely crafted woodwork and masonry.  The trademark of a Barenz Builder’s home, a magnificent two story fireplace, is sure to become the focal point of your living area, while intricately carved woods will highlight the unique architectural details that abound in your new home.


Barenz Builders is renowned for our masonry as well as our detailed woodwork as demonstrated by the First Place National Award for “Beauty in Brick Design” that we received.  We also take pride in the fact that we have won the First Place award in the Parade of Homes in four of the last five Parades we have participated in.


Our Goal is to exceed your expectations and make your building experience pleasurable.  We take special care to make sure we are building a home that reflects your lifestyle and individual taste.  Our homes are creative, yet practical and functional.  Having a family of our own helps us offer you insight into your own building plans.  We do not limit ourselves to a specific price range, style, or type of project.  Yet, we must limit the number of homes we build each year to guarantee the personal attention and outstanding quality control needed for each one.


We have built luxury homes starting at $250,000 as well as the million dollar plus homes we are recognized for.  In addition we also do major remodeling projects.  We have lots for sale in some of the “premiere” developments and luxury condominiums on a golf course.


We offer a variety of model home plans as well as a design service for custom plans.  Since every design can be customized to meet your specific expectations, we have never built the same home twice.  Barenz Builders will work with you and your budget.


Our hope is that you will give us a call to find out more about the Barenz commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction.  Allow us to show you why our dedication to impeccable craftsmanship and personal service have made Barenz Builders, Inc.  one of the most sought after and respected builders in the area.


Building a home can be the most important financial decision you will ever make.  Choose your builder wisely.  Invest in your future with a Barenz Builder’s Home.  We will not disappoint you.


**Featured in: Community Concepts (Winter 04')

View Article - Community_Concepts.pdf
View Article - Community_Concepts_2.pdf

A Well-Crafted Partnership

Cheryl and Ron Barenz have been business partners almost as long as they’ve been marriage partners.  They were newlyweds for only two weeks before uniting their professional strength to form Barenz Builders in Germantown.


Looking back at their accomplishments, it’s difficult to separate the Barenzes personal life from their professional.  Both were raised in families where building and woodworking were as much part of their lives as breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Cheryl, the daughter of a carpenter-contractor, was taught the sense of achievement and pride that comes from a job done well.  Ron, the son of a cabinetmaker, realized early on that craftsmanship is defined by attention to details.  Working together as a team over the past 27 years, it is clear they have perfected the philosophy behind Barenz Builders, which maintains that a builder’s trade should be approached with an understanding of “old world craftsmanship with today’s luxury in mind.”


The Capilano Model

One of Barenz Builders’ latest models, the Capilano at the prestigious Legends at Brandybrook golf community in Wales, is a perfect example of how raw materials are finely shaped by the hands of craftsman.  Rich treatments are everywhere-from the textured barrel ceiling in the dramatic two-story foyer to the well placed faux stone columns defining the dining room.  There is also Barenz Builders’ signature fireplace in the great room, which is faced with stone and is cleverly adorned with an original painting of a Tuscan landscape.


The 3,600-square-foot, open floor plan of this Floridian styled ranch established an easy flow from one delightful area of the home to the next.  Once inside the great room, a large gourmet kitchen can be seen with its built-in coffee bar, walk-in pantry and wine cooler.  Soft light spills into the kitchen from a stunning sunroom and a great view of the fairway stretching into the distance.


A master suite is nestled away from all the excitement and boasts a relaxing sunken whirlpool tub and oversized tiled shower with multiple body sprays.  On the other side of the house there is a guest suite that incorporates the concept of “universal design,” which means it has wider hallways, a shower seat, hand-held showerhead, and other features that are handicapped accessible without looking institutional.


**Featured in: Wisconsin Homes Today Summer 2004

View Article - Well_Crafted_Partnership.pdf
View Article - Well_Crafted_Partnership__Cover.pdf

Builders remain married to work and each other

Facing the ups and downs of working with a spouse has been daily fare for Ron and Cheryl Barenz since they established Barenz Builders inc. 21 years ago.

            Their work can be seen in the Prestige Parc model home featured in the 1998 Metropolitan Builders’ Parade of Homes.

            “We have our specific duties’” Cheryl explained.  “I handle the financial decisions and he handles the construction.  We give each other input but we don’t step on each other’s toes.

            “It helps that we have such similar tastes.  I think the real secret is to know your boundaries.  You have to offer insights without making demands.”

            Both of them have been involved in home building since childhood.  Cheryl’s father was a carpenter and Ron’s a cabinet maker.

            The couple met when Ron came to work for Cheryl’s father as part of a work-study program.

            The Barenzes believe that working as a husband and wife team is a “distinct advantage” for a customer.

            “We each bring to the table a wealth of diversified knowledge and life experiences,” Cheryl said, adding that their individual strengths make for a well-balanced team.

            “You share your love and passion for building as well as your disappointments.  There is no middle ground.  You are either totally committed to each other, or the business as well as the relationship, suffers.”

            With two children – Renea, 16, and Ronny, 19 – keeping business at the office and home life at home becomes an important challenge.

            “You have to make a conscious effort to limit the business discussions and enjoy the personal time together,” Cheryl said.


**Featured in: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel September 1998

View Article - Builders_Remain_Married.pdf

Distinctive Delafield home captures fancy

The people’s choice among five models at the recent Parade of Homes Delafield site, Barenz Builders’ Prestige II, offers more than 4,400 square feet of grandeur.

            High ceilings and two-story windows capitalize on views of a lake and woods at the Waukesha County site.  Detailed woodwork, unusual ceiling treatments, and decorative marble create an interior of warmth and distinction.

            The home features four bedrooms, three baths, a three-car garage, 13-course basement, and two natural fireplaces.  The open foyer is trimmed in marble.  In the living room – Barenz calls it the “family center” – fluted columns flank a two-story cherry and marble fireplace.  Columns also frame the entry to a tiled sunroom with an entertainment bar.  The gourmet kitchen has white-painted birch cabinets, an island counter, and built-in stereo and TV cabinet.

            Up a cherry staircase are the four bedrooms.  The master suite has a textured, vaulted ceiling and a large whirlpool tub surrounded by marble.

            The base price of the Prestige II is $343,000. 

            The Parade of Homes model will be open today and next Saturday and Sunday.  It is in the Arbors subdivision in Delafield.  Take Interstate 94 west to the Highway SS exit, follow Golf Road west 2.3 miles to Highway E, and turn right on E for about one-third of a mile to the subdivision entrance. 


            Parade of Homes’ favorites selected

            Visitors to the 1992 Parade of Homes chose the Ashley, by Opportunity Homes, and Barenz Builders’ Prestige II as their favorites at the two parade sites.  More than 45,000 people toured the 21 homes in the 47th annual parade, sponsored by Metropolitan Builders Association of Greater Milwaukee.

            Judges chosen by the builders named winners in several other categories earlier.


**Featured in: The Milwaukee Journal

View Article - Delafield_Home.pdf
View Article - Delafield_Home_2.pdf

Home recalls earlier days

Mequon – Home builder Ron Barenz believes that it takes more than a billboard and strings of fluttering plastic flags to set his houses apart from the competition.  He wants you to recognize his work the moment you walk through the front door – and not by reading his name off the top of some brochure, either.

            Instead, Barenz wants you to think of him when you see what he considers the two major trademarks of his homes: towering fireplaces and the unsparing use of carved oak trim.

            Both are evident in his latest model home, a Tudor style number in the Mequon subdivision of River Trail Estates that includes 4,200 square feet, 4 bedrooms and 3 ½ bathrooms.  The $489,900 price tag includes the half-acre lot.

            As your car coasts down the hill toward the multiple peaks and gables of the cedar-shake roof covering the Barenz home, you pass houses that sell for between $300,000 and $500,000.

            The Barenz house stands on a corner lot.  A semi-circular driveway and a brick walkway lead to the turret entrance and front door.  The lower story is faced with brick that is a mottled gray and brown.  Heavy Lannon stone blocks arch around the perimeter of the rounded front door and some of the windows.  The plaster-and-board second story mimics the half-timber construction techniques of the Old World.

            The outside of the house, with the exception of a large deck off the back, is undeniably traditional and would fit nicely on one of those large wooded lots that overlook Lake Michigan along the North Shore.

            Inside, Barenz has tried to stick with the traditional look wherever possible.  Too often, he says, builders put up homes that are warm and traditional on the outside but flip-flop to a sterile contemporary style inside.

            “We tried to do the downstairs in as close to traditional Tudor style as possible,” Barenz says.  “If you’re going to do it right, do it right all the way through.”

            The extensive use of carved and raised-panel woodwork is evident in the foyer and continues throughout the house.  Smooth strips of carved oak curve around the arched doorways.  Lengths of thick crown molding trace the perimeters of ceilings, and heavy oak frames surround the windows.  An open stairway with thick handrails, turned spindles, and wide, raised-panel posts rises to the second floor.

            Stepping past, you look up through the slanting rows of spindles to see more oak trim around the upstairs doorways and the thick, carved beams that span the ceiling of the master bedroom.

            Taken together, all of the wood – the trim, panels, the cabinetry, the built-in shelves, the boxed windows and window benches – constitutes the kind of attention to fine woodwork that has helped Barenz make his mark on the Milwaukee building industry and among customers.

            Some of the customers who tour Barenz’s homes live in older house along the North Shore and have grown accustomed to the sort of woodwork that was expected when those fine houses were built years ago.  That’s the kind of woodwork Barenz strives to reproduce, and it is the kind of woodwork he says customers tell him they can’t find in other new homes.

            “They can always get that standard house and that standard oak,” he says of customers.  “But they’re looking for something more unique.”

            Although Barenz’s Mequon Tudor sticks to its traditional look throughout the downstairs, there are some modern touches beyond the obvious concessions that have to be made for today’s kitchen appliances and fixtures.  For instance, there are skylights over the dining area in the kitchen; a high, sloping ceiling in the living room; and recessed lights here and there.

            The second of Barenz’s trademarks, the fireplace, scales the living room’s highest wall.  From floor to ceiling it rises 18 ½ feet and from a distance looks like an immense panel of brick and oak.  The brick is the same mottled brown and gray used on the exterior of the home, and the heavy oak beams and center panel are stained the same honey tone as the rest of the oak in the house.

            The fireplace brings together the most attractive elements of the interior and exterior: finely polished woodwork and the coarse texture and substantial appearance of a brick wall.

            A large built-in bookcase stands next to the fireplace.  An alcove in another part of the living room houses a wet bar with leaded-glass cupboards.  A double set of swinging patio doors leads onto the back deck.

            One of the home’s most attractive rooms, the den, is just off the living room.  There, bookcases, shelves and raised panel sections of oak wrap around the walls, interrupted only by several windows and a marble fireplace.  Thick, carved oak beams outline the angles of the ceiling.

            Upstairs, the large master bedroom suite has an enormous walk-in closet that could double as a nursery.  The bathroom has the usual amenities you expect in a house of this scale: a platform whirlpool tub and separate shower; plenty of counter space and mirrors.

            But the bathroom also has uncommon touches, like the geometric design baked into the top course of blue-gray ceramic tiles that decorate the tub platform.  The design is reproduced in an enlarged form in a stained-glass panel on the door of the ceramic-tile shower stall.

            One of the other bedrooms also has a private bath, which is far more Spartan than the master bath.  Barenz says that room probably would serve as a guest room.  The two other bedrooms share a bath, and there is a half-bath downstairs.

            Barenz recognizes that this house isn’t for everybody.  After all, if you could scrape together a 10% down payment of about $50,000, you’d still be looking at a monthly payment of $3,800 before taxes on a 30 year fixed-rate mortgage at 9.5%.

            For that reason, Barenz hopes to come out soon with a model just as rich in woodwork but selling for roughly half the price of the Mequon Tudor.  The house would have about 2,600 square feet and sell for about $250,000, including the lot.

            “I want to show that you can do the same thing in a smaller home,” Barenz says.

            Not to mention within a smaller monthly payment: a mere $1,900 a month.  Before taxes.  With $25,000 down.


**Featured in: The Milwaukee Journal

View Article - Home_Recalls_Earlier_Days.pdf
View Article - Home_Recalls_Earlier_Days_2.pdf

This project has homey feel

West Bend – As business partners, Cheryl and Ron Barenz have built about 250 upscale homes since they formed Barenz Builders almost 25 years ago, two weeks after marriage.

            But they’ve only built one house for themselves, a large but homey Tudor on Big Cedar Lake.  They moved in 9 ½ years ago, after spending a year planning and designing the home and another year building and landscaping.  And they haven’t altered the house since.

            Maybe that’s because it couldn’t better express their mutual interests in homes and meticulous, loving craftsmanship.

            She is the daughter of a carpenter-contractor; he is the son of a cabinetmaker.  While he was still in high school he worked part time as a carpenter for her father; when they were dating, they liked to drive through subdivisions and look at houses.  Now is he president and she is vice president of their building firm.

            Ron helped build their 6,400-square-foot, four-bedroom home after literally re-building the steep slope from the main floor down to the lake.  He used outcropping rock to create terraced levels (one has a waterfall) and built a winding walkway from the screened porch on the lower level down to the water.  The home is an exposed ranch with both levels nestled into the hill, providing views of the lake through windows on three sides.  There is 125 feet of lake frontage and the lot is 1 ¼ acres.

            Despite the 16-foot ceilings in the entry and great room, the homey quality is created by an ample share of beautifully carved and detailed woodwork and adept attention to proportion.  Wood trim suits the ceiling height; baseboards, for example, are 10 ½ inches deep and the mantel is 6 feet high, but seems lower.  And while the dimensions of the great room are 32 b y 21 feet, furniture placement divides it into two distinct conversation areas.

            The couple share the home with their two children: Ronny, 22, a student at the University of WisconsinMilwaukee, and Renea, 19, a student at the University of WisconsinWashington County.  The Barenzes visited recently with Entrée reporter Joy Krause.

Q. Why did you choose your building site and architectural style?

            Cheryl: Ron loves to hunt and fish, but we both work really hard – we’re really hands-on.  So we knew that for Ron to have any leisure time at all (for fishing) we needed to be on a lake.  And for me, I like to just look out at the water and listen to it.  It calms me.  When you have a high-stress job, you need an outlet.

            Ron: We chose the English Tudor style because we both appreciate the carving of the woodwork and the old-world craftsmanship, but with today’s technology and luxuries in mind.  We designed it so the interior has different styles in different areas.

            The great room is English Tudor and the kitchen-dinette is sophisticated country.  The main theme on the upper level is cherry (in the great room), hickory (in the kitchen-dinette) and maple in the dining room with cherry inlays.  Downstairs is more casual (North Woods Style) with (hand-chopped) ash, oak, and elm.

Q. What was your biggest challenge?

            Ron: Fitting this size home on the property and maintaining the contours of the grades without changing the neighbors’ yards and retaining walls.

            Cheryl: Since my husband enjoys hunting and fishing, my challenge was incorporating those motifs with a more sophisticated theme in decorating.

Q. How did you describe your decorating style?

            Cheryl: I like to decorate eclectically.  I want to see things that are not English Tudor and Old World.  So I’ve incorporated things I like – some of the things are a little fun and whimsical.  I’ve also used a lot of natural materials like pinecones, twigs, pods, and greenery.  (Among her collections, arranged tastefully throughout the home, are handcrafted santas, teddy bears, candles, hats, family items, and purchases made while traveling).

Q. What is your color scheme and how did you determine it?

            Cheryl: I chose earthy colors and neutrals with jewel-tone accents.  That combination seems more European, to go with the house.

Q. What area of the home best reflects you?

            Ron: the lower level for me.  I’m a flannel-shirt kind of guy – I like to roll up my sleeves and be outdoors.

            Cheryl: I feel really comfortable in the kitchen-dinette.  That’s the place for family time, conversations around the table.  It’s the place where the family congregates – that’s really important to me because we’re all so busy.

Q. What is your best-kept secret for buying furnishing and accessories?

            Cheryl: Now I’m at a place in my life where I look for artwork at antique shops.  I like the older, carved frames.  We’re still not done decorating.  I don’t just buy things to have things on the wall.  If I see something I really like, I buy it.

Q. What might you be changing in the future?

            Cheryl: The master bathroom.  We have a white tile floor.  When we built the house they didn’t have tile that looked like stone.  Now, that’s what we want.

            Ron: And new countertops.

Q. How has your decorating style changed over the years?

            Cheryl: I was very contemporary in my taste when we got married.  I’ve totally evolved, I think because I appreciate craftsmanship.

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