before and after

Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel

by Annie Werbler

The nature of older homes is such that every historic property comes with its own set of projects. Megan Brakefield, her husband Cleve, their nine-year-old daughter Abby, and Archie the rescue terrier-mix relocated from San Francisco not quite one year ago to a 2,700-square-foot 1927 Tudor in Whitefish Bay, WI. Neither Megan nor Cleve had ever lived in — or even visited — the Midwest before, but a job opportunity called, and after spending the last 20 years in both San Francisco and Manhattan, they decided to jump into a new adventure headfirst. Megan is starting a design business after spending a career in leadership positions with home furnishing and fashion apparel brands, and Cleve is an architect who develops retail spaces. When they found their home, like most Tudors, it was beautiful on the outside but dreary inside. With dark wood and textured walls throughout, the family sought to redesign for a lighter, brighter way of living. They also added a mudroom (which they learned is a necessity in midwestern winters), expanded the master bathroom, and brought the kitchen up-to-date. With the help of contractor Dave LaBonte of LaBonte Construction, Megan began developing plans, Cleve did the drawings, and demo started just before Memorial Day.

The homeowners favor modern design, but also wanted to preserve the positive, original attributes of the home. Good old-fashioned elbow grease brought porcelain and glass doorknobs back to life. Whatever the pair couldn’t refurbish, Megan sourced online and in vintage shops. For her, deciding on a design direction was overwhelming when local sources were lacking, and without opportunities to see items under consideration in person. She did instinctively know, however, that the house had lots of oak trim that made rooms feel shorter, so it all got painted a pure white to open up those spaces. She and Cleve also whitewashed the stair risers and stringer to lighten up the entry and stairwell (while taking some heat from traditionalists, but they still feel good about the decision). Pale paint colors in a matte finish dilute the highs and lows of textured wall surfaces. These two changes combined had a transformative impact.

The small-but-busy family wanted their home to function seamlessly, and as design lovers, to satisfy on an aesthetic level. The whole place needed to lighten up — literally — and every decision was made through that lens (save for the dramatic powder room where duskiness is emphasized in the patterned wallpaper and painted ceiling). The Brakefields set out to create a residence that would accommodate their modern family, but at the same time, respect tradition. This personal juxtaposition of timeworn architectural elements and new decorative details is what makes it all their own. —Annie

Photography by Hayley McCormick

Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
In Megan and Cleve Brakefield's Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin Tudor home, all rooms were brightened up upon their arrival, save for the powder room beneath the stairs which received a deep, jewelbox wallpaper treatment in the Scenic Woodland pattern by York.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
The formerly-dreary powder room underwent a cosmetic facelift with architectural trim, a wall-mounted sink, and whimsical wallcovering with a motif that honors the new location.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
The old kitchen was "pinched" by the closet, deep fridge, and cabinets at the back corners. A new counter-depth refrigerator took the place of a closet, and simple white subway tiled walls with dark grout adds visual interest, allowing the other finishes to remain simple and clean.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
Moving the refrigerator to the opposite wall created counter space and additional drawer storage in the kitchen, which the homeowners prefer to cabinets.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
The banquette remains from the original kitchen, painted grey to match the other lower cabinetry. To the left of the refrigerator, a pull-out pantry provides plenty of storage in contrast to the corner cabinets in the former layout.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
The Brakefields closed off the passageway to the dining room and built a much-needed mudroom.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
The small mudroom functions as a landing spot when coming indoors from the garage, which is the family's typical entryway to the house. Even the family dog has cabinet space for all his now-necessary outdoor gear.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
On the opposite side of the mudroom, carpenter-built shelving takes the place of a former passageway.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
In the master bedroom, the far wall was brought forward into the room 14" in order to expand the bathroom and rebuild a closet with sliding doors in the bedroom entry just beyond.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
The previously tiny master bathroom had no storage and only a small shower. A new custom vanity was inspired by mid-century dressers, and a full bathtub was fit into the space.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
A limited-edition sconce from Cedar and Moss illuminates gold hardware, while matte-finished tiles hide water spots and add a vintage vibe.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
Black hex floor tiles conceal electrical in-floor heating for cold Wisconsin mornings.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
A pocket door allowed for more breathing room in the bathroom, and is finished with vintage hardware sourced on Etsy.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
In the front door entry, the powder room previously butted up against the a coat closet door, which was removed to accommodate a better kitchen layout. Cosmetic details were refined and simplified in a black-and-white color palette.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
Looking through the foyer toward the kitchen beyond, with lightbox artwork by Bay Area artist Jim Campbell.
Before & After: A Light and Bright Tudor Remodel, on Design*Sponge
The 1927 Tudor home, nestled into a corner lot in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. The family loves the architectural character of the home, but updated the interior to work better for their needs and also give it a modern sensibility.

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  • Oh, I just love this. We recently bought a 150-year old house and creating a style that feels both right to us and in line with the style of the house is definitely one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects. I love seeing what other people do with similar homes. And that powder room! Just about as good as it gets.

    • Hi Beth
      I’m so glad you like it! The color on the lower cabinets is “Black Pepper” by Benjamin Moore. We used a satin finish.

      The stair runner is carpet from my local Carpetland store. It’s called Caress by Shaw Floors. The style name is “Surface Impressions” # CCS32 and the color is “Stone” # 00510. We added a surged edge detail.
      Thanks again!

    • Hi Jessi
      Thank you so much for your comments. The Wallpaper was purchased on Wayfair. It’s by York Wallcoverings Silhouettes Tapestry Toile Wallpaper – we used the Black/Taupe color.
      Thanks again!

  • Megan,

    Your space turned out so well. We want to thank you for letting LaBonte Construction bring your vision to life. We look forward to working together again soon!



  • Hi Valerie
    Thank you so much! The table is from Room and Board. It’s the “Madison” table in walnut finish.

  • Hi there, wondering if you have a source on the pocket door hardware–is there a specific etsy store? Love your new design!

  • Beautiful! I would have a hard time deciding to paint all that wood, but it looks so great. I’m inspired by all the clever design decisions here!

  • This is a beautiful and thoughtful renovation. Especially love what was done in the master bedroom to increase the function without losing much space. The only thing that made me a little sad was the loss of the arched upper glass-front cabinet in the kitchen in favor of open shelving. Just a personal preference, but I thought the curved top echoed some of the curved doorways in the home and also kept the edges in the kitchen from being too hard and cold.

    • Thanks Alexis
      Very valid feedback. Getting rid of the cabinet was one of the more difficult decisions – if it makes you feel any better it wasn’t original to the house :)

  • Megan,
    I grew up in Whitefish Bay and for a few years lived in one of its many charming tudors. Amazing job on this house and best wishes for happiness “in the Bay”.

  • Beautiful work, Megan! My husband and I also live in WFB and recently remodeled (still working on) our Tudor. It’s nice to see someone else’s vision. Enjoy your home and good luck with your new business!

  • What beautiful home! I especially like the thoughtful use of paper in the bathroom, with its sympathetic eye to history, while at the same time asserting the whole space into the here and now. Love!

  • Hi there–I’m very fond of the powder room beneath the stairs; I saved it on a Pinterest board. I’m looking at tile for my own bathroom now, and I’m wondering if you know what that black hex tile is? Thanks!

  • I love the bathroom pocket door and just what I’d imagined for my bathroom makeover. Would you be able to share the source of the door?

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