Colby Construction is a luxury custom home builder that balances traditional, timeless, exterior details with updated interiors. With hundreds of projects in our portfolio, we are proud to be new home builders. You are guaranteed a professional, efficient manner from conception to completion. Follow this blog to stay up to date with the latest designs, ideas, portfolios and more.
Residents in the Lake Country Area have a great appreciation for wetlands, in particular as it applies to lake access and properties. Lakefront properties offer residents enviable access to Southeastern Wisconsin’s precious natural resources, while generous boat launch slips offer non-lake residents equal rights to enjoy. While water activities are definitely a highlight for lake living in the summer months, healthy waterways are also the cornerstone of the abundant wildlife in Southeastern Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulates all waters of the state, which includes wetlands, lakes, rivers, streams and ponds.
Homeowners moving onto waterfront property are generally well educated on regulations/ restrictions attached to their home project as dictated by the DNR, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and other specific local ordinances. The presence of wetlands in the vicinity of waterfront properties is not always taken into consideration in the early development phases of projects and there are restrictions that may impede the project or present limitations to further projects. Often wetlands are difficult to define as many types are “wet” only part of the year and some never have standing water in them at all.
As found on the DNR website, wetlands in Wisconsin were defined by state legislature as “an area where water is at, near, or above the land surface long enough to be capable of supporting aquatic or hydrophytic (water-loving) vegetation and which has soils indicative of wet conditions.” There are many types of wetlands in Southeastern Wisconsin, ranging from forests and prairies to seasonal ponds, with their basic function varying along with type. The dynamic wetland ecosystems can support a variety of vegetation, provide critical habitats for many fish, birds and wildlife, offer flood protection, and serve as a filter to pollutants. Shoreline wetlands further act as an important barrier between the land and water, protecting from erosion.
It is estimated that more than half of Wisconsin’s wetlands have been destroyed by human intervention since the 1800s, and current regulations were put in place to protect the quality of our state’s waters. Regulations are imposed on many activities associated with a building project that proposes a wetlands impact including: filling, excavating, grading and mechanical clearing. As wetlands are not always obvious, it is important to identify likely areas on property currently or desired to own to understand limitations and plan accordingly.
The best course is to contact the DNR and ACOE early in the process to verify the presence of wetlands and understand the restrictions and necessary permits. Custom home builders are well versed on the application and permit process, and the DNR website provides a wealth of information regarding identification, restrictions and links to permit applications.
When embarking on a new custom home project, homeowners are not necessarily focused on incorporating element of architectural whimsy into their home. However, their building partners, the architects, builders and designers embrace the unusual or unexpected design element that makes the custom home truly unique. They provide an opportunity for creative expression for the artisans as well as the homeowners, a celebration of the true meaning of custom.
An architectural whimsy may be present in many forms and functions throughout a custom home, in both the interior and exterior. By definition, “whimsy” is not meant to be functional; the key function is to provide the unexpected, a design element that deviates from the regular contours and flow of the home. The purpose of the whimsy is to create an interesting diversion for the eye, add an unexpected punctuation mark to the décor theme, incorporate a personal piece of tradition or history, and/or infuse some personality, to make it truly one’s own.
An architectural whimsy can range from crooked chimneys or patterned roofs to gargoyles on the exterior. Some architectural additions, such as cupolas, are primarily incorporated to add interest and character, yet are also functional. Cupolas in particular have evolved artistically over the centuries and provide important ventilation to the home, preventing mold and mildew issues, rotting wood and peeling paint. Many custom lake homes today have borrowed this traditional architectural element commonly incorporated into coastal homes.
With the interior, staircases seem to be one of the most common architectural elements used to create a statement. The linear symmetry of stairs can lend the adaption of a sharp dramatic accent in contemporary homes with clean lines, in both the interior and exterior:
By contrast, the timeless and classic architectural style of traditional lake homes often incorporate sweeping central staircases, with bannisters winding upwards with the symmetry of a nautilus shell. The following two homes offer breathtaking examples of what an impact such staircases can make, and a fine opportunity to draw the eye to a unique focal point.
Incorporating elements of the original home (if one existed) is a meaningful way to add architectural whimsy to the home. The couple below achieved just that by building their new lake home around the original historic cottage on the property. The image below shows the hallway leading into the home’s entertaining space, which is the original exterior of the cottage.
Homeowners that wish to infuse some whimsical elements into their home but are hesitant to make too much of a statement may instead have more creative expression in outbuildings (garden sheds, guest cottages or boat houses) or within the gardens on the property. This blue boathouse and attached garage both offer lovely examples of classic and whimsical architectural touches.
In today’s world of busy families, the kitchen has often been reimagined as the household’s control center. In many cases, the kitchen’s former primary function, meal preparation and cooking, is less important or has taken a back seat to purposes relating to working or gathering as a family or with friends. This shift in function has naturally evolved with the space itself, as the modern family has redefined their priorities and how they choose to live.
As the classic kitchen has taken on so many proverbial hats in the family home, organizing and allocating space for each of its functions will both simplify and maximize its utility. When designing or re-imagining what the ideal kitchen would look like, for your family and lifestyle, the following questions are good starting points:
How do you use your kitchen now?
Starting with the basics, how much cooking is actually done in the home is the first question. Is there more warming up or quick meal preparation performed? If the major cooking is actually performed irregularly and there is no danger of that changing, then the priority should be aesthetics of the space.
What are its current limitations?
The following are all key considerations for the ideal kitchen: counters or work space, storage space, lighting, seating and sheer size. When designing the dream kitchen, prioritize such features based on actual experience in the current situation. Ponder the dislikes, limitations and frustrations in the current space, whether it is superficial or structural, and solve those issues first in the redesign.
How do you want to use your kitchen?
Will that change in 5-10 years? A common priority today, for families with young children, is to have workspace for homework and crafts. Families desiring this functionality would be better served making that space versatile and not too specific, as those needs will change as the functional needs will evolve along with the children. If actual cooking is a priority, then carefully consider the layout to maximize utility for cooking.
Do you want the option of privacy when cooking?
Many are eager to embrace open concept living and that open flow between main living spaces, often minimizing or even eliminating barriers in the form of walls. However, couples that frequently entertain may desire options for separating the meal preparation area from main gathering spaces.
A modern, spacious kitchen has become the top priority for custom home owners and home seekers. Today, more time (during waking hours) is spent in the kitchen over any other living space in the house. Clearly cooking only consumes a fraction of this time, as just about any other activity is now enjoyed in fresh, modern spaces. A bright, open kitchen is synonymous with the modern family lifestyle and is an investment that adds greatly to the home’s resale value.
Decorating waterfront homes with a nautical theme or incorporating nautical blues is a welcome Coastal living tradition that has been embraced by many lake homeowners in Southeastern Wisconsin. Blue and white is a timeless color combination, evoking the sea and a sky dotted with perfect clouds. It brings both comfort and a style that is cool, calm and collected. Coastal blues also help to infuse the look and feel of summer into the home year round, a particular bonus for Wisconsinites.
In its evocation of sky and sea, blue is considered to represent depth and stability. Among the qualities it symbolizes are trust, loyalty, confidence and intelligence. Additional qualities commonly assigned to blue, an obvious water reference, are associated with cleanliness and purity. Yet perhaps the most important quality of the color blue is its proven calming effect, and therefore considered extremely beneficial to both physical and mental health. It is said to bring down blood pressure and slow respiration and the heart rate.
Blue is known to have a calming effect when used as the main color in a room. The hues of the blues can change along with the complimentary colors incorporated into the decorating scheme, yet the real impact of blue’s beneficial effects will be more keenly felt if it is used in an active or neutral way (rather than passive). When wall color and hue for specific rooms, the general rule is light colors are expansive and airy, making rooms seem lighter and brighter, while dark colors are sophisticated and warm, lending a more intimate appearance.
Light and dark hues of blue have more specific associations, the darker hues representing power, knowledge and integrity, while the lighter and soft hues are associated with healing, understanding and tranquility. Lighter blue hues are popular in bedrooms, with sky blue considered the most calming shade, inspiring safety and serenity. Light blue is also linked to creativity. Warmer blue colors are encouraged for relaxation, particularly in social areas such as family and living rooms and large kitchens.
When incorporating blues into a custom lake home’s decorating scheme, many designers today warn about going “overboard” with nautical designs. Nautical themes are commonly used in lake and coastal homes, particularly when primarily used as weekend or vacation homes, executed in a variety of ways. However, overdone collections of shells or anchors (for example), or floor to ceiling blue and white stripes, can quickly overwhelm. The following rooms in local custom lake homes are perfect examples of tastefully incorporating coastal blues into various living spaces, creating the sought after calming effect.
Mother Natures seems to be regularly confusing our winter transition to spring this year in Wisconsin, with downright schizophrenic temperature swings. Multiple heavy snowfalls in April have not only presented driving and wardrobe challenges; they have compromised spring maintenance schedules. April is the critical spring clean-up month, readying properties and homes for the warmer months ahead, making inspections and any necessary repairs in advance of new shifts in weather conditions.
While waiting for the latest snowfall to melt, the following are a few items to consider and potential issues to be prepared for:
While Wisconsinites should always expect the unexpected weather-wise, most homeowners don’t expect to perform the same laborious tasks/inspections twice in the spring. If a thorough inspection of foundation, roofs, eaves, joints, seals, pipes, etc. was already performed to check for any cracks and leaks, it should be performed again after a few more freeze/thaw cycles. Additionally, check the septic system and make sure the drainfield area has not been too oversaturated; multiple spring thaws can wreak havoc on septic. Along those lines…
If lawns were already aerated this spring, it might help the ground absorb the excess water from the latest snowfall, minimizing flooding from the already saturated ground (from the last snowmelt). If the last 2 storms have created new snowpiles near the home, try to keep it from within 10 feet of the home’s foundation. An inch of snow over an acre of ground is the equivalent of 10,000 liters of water, which is a lot for an overly saturated lawn to absorb, and puts more pressure on any compromised areas of the home’s foundation.
An initial spring clean up was likely begun once the snow melted a month ago. The latest round of snowstorms have likely created new debris deposits which should immediately be cleaned out of gutters, downspouts and drains, which will ensure snowmelt is properly expelled away from the foundation. Additional debris removal will likely be needed around the property as well to promote healthy lawns and spring growth.
Protecting the Garden:
Believe it or not, spring snowfall can have an insulating effect on plants that have begun to emerge when the temperatures drop dramatically. Since the weather has been generally cool since the early March snow melt, most plantings in Southeastern Wisconsin have not been prompted to start growing. However, it is good to pay attention to evergreens and arborvitae, as this heavy wet snow can damage branches as they bend under the weight and potentially uproot. The biggest impact to our gardens is the resulting delay for working in them. It is best to let soil dry out before removing last year’s leaves and cutting out perennials.
While waiting for the blue ribbon days ahead, don the rose-colored glasses and take the necessary steps to keep your custom built home a fortress during any weather Wisconsin has in store.
A popular trend in custom home building today is creating a dream home in a smaller footprint. Discerning homeowners building a new home to suit their changing family needs are keen on incorporating key luxury features and details while significantly reducing the square-footage and the necessary up-keep associated with larger homes and underutilized space. The main goal is to simplify without compromising desired lifestyle.
For families coming from a large-scale luxury home, a more compact living space may take some adjustment, yet a simplified lifestyle is often a welcome change. Ultimately, a smaller space shouldn’t eliminate but rather emphasize luxury details, in terms of building materials, appliances and fixtures. With fewer rooms to manage, the details make a greater impact. And with less space to cover, the cost of investing in the highest quality materials and craftsmanship is much less as well.
While dreaming up the perfect scaled down luxury home, to simplify everyday life, the following are some additional features/ factors to consider during the planning process:
Significantly reducing the footprint requires eliminating a great deal of “stuff” that was part of the former home. This may not be an issue for new empty-nesters, with much of the “stuff” having been sent off with their adult children. However, for any size family choosing to significantly reduce the size of their living space, creative storage solutions are an important consideration. Half the house means half the amount of closets, less square footage of storage in basements and attics, and generally no bonus rooms that allow unnecessary collections to flourish.
While creative and extremely functional storage solutions are blessings in smaller spaces, it should not discourage homeowners from a likely overdue purge. Reducing clutter and starting fresh in a new, smaller streamlined space should encourage minimalism. The psychological benefits of minimalistic living are well documented, as “physical clutter begets mental clutter”. Minimalism emphasizes less consumption and less of the inessential.
The popularity of open-concept floor plans is a reflection of the more casual living style of the modern family. Traditional, formal dining rooms are on the decline, with new custom homeowners opting for more versatile and practical (everyday) utility of the space. An open flow, with minimum walls and barriers, between the kitchen, eating area and main living space, allows for maximum flow of movement and natural light. A bright, airy open concept flow adds the light and dimension that makes a smaller scale home look and feel much larger than it is.
Homeowners choosing to significantly downsize their living space often give up a few bonus (and maybe seldom used) private spaces. It is completely achievable, and quite a good idea, to plan for private retreats within a carefully thought out smaller home. Downsizing does require the homeowner to strip down to the bare basics; private quarters, reading nooks, a den or relaxation room and always a necessity in a luxury home of any size.
April showers bring the flowers for springtime, a promising time of year for residents of Wisconsin. Yet with the springtime rains and thaw from that last bit of winter ice comes the residual problems of dampness. The higher concentration of humidity and dampness in the air provides the perfect conditions for mold growth in the home. Mold in the home is not just a cleaning inconvenience; it can cause a host of health issues for homeowners. Once mold is present in a home, its microscopic spores can spread easily throughout the home, and immediate action is required to ensure healthy air quality and living conditions.
Tiny mold spores are all around us this time of year, and the only way to control their invasion of the home is to control the indoor moisture. While these spores need the right moisture, temperature and material to grow on, the easiest to control for indoor environments is the moisture. Whole house humidifiers are a year-round solution to moisture control issues for the home. In the winter, they protect the home from the ravages of cold, dry, winter air and their effect on the natural materials. However, when it comes to mold, added measures in the home are necessary to ensure air purification.
Air purifiers are an excellent solution to extracting air spores from the air before they can be breathed in. Depending on the systems, air purifiers should be placed in rooms where the most amount of time is spent, particularly bedrooms. HEPA filters are particularly effective at removing airborne spores because it is a dry, sterile environment.
During unusually damp seasons and high mold growth conditions, many people without diagnosed allergies feel the affect of their presence. Allergic reactions to molds are generally in the form of a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, rashes and other symptoms associated with colds or hay fever. Unusually high levels of mold spores will produce these same reactions, particularly with infants, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Additionally, some molds are potentially toxic, causing more severe health issues.
Since mold is a part of our natural environment, its removal in entirety is not possible. Regularly cleaning filters and disinfecting visible growth areas should be a regular practice. Any areas exposed to regular dampness, such as bathrooms and showers in particular, should be regularly disinfected to remove any signs of mold growth. Other areas susceptible to water damage, such as basements, kitchens and around windows should be regularly inspected. Musty odors in any rooms and in carpeting may also be a tell-tale sign.
While mold has a purpose in nature, its presence in your home is damaging. If the spores land on moist surfaces they will reproduce rapidly. Taking measures this spring to ensure mold does not have the right environment for growth will protect you and your home.
Lighting designers are an important part of the design equation when embarking on a new custom home project, making certain the home is lit in all the right places, for all seasons and all occasions. Lighting plans for interior spaces are generally included in the initial planning and building phase, to ensure proper wiring and access meets design needs. While it is not critical to think through desired exterior lighting needs as early in the building process, it should be an integral part of the overall landscaping plan, designed as a complement and extension to the home and the family’s lifestyle.
In the process of designing the exterior lighting plan, it is important to consider the following factors: desired aesthetics, areas of regular use and access, security and safety. Additionally, when lighting larger properties, homeowners should work closely with lighting experts to design a centrally located control center that allows for maximum versatility, adapting to changing needs depending on season and utility.
Types of exterior lighting to include in landscaping plans:
Lighting fixtures outside home entry points can be practically subdued, serving only a utilitarian purpose, or provide a decorative element tying into the architectural element of the home. As with interior fixtures, there is such a vast range of options to light the entryway with an infusion of personality, along with adjacent porches and seating areas. Decorative lighting also extends to landscape enhancement, to highlight features of the property “glowing” at night. Strategically placing ambient cans to uplight trees, decorative shrubs or other unique landscaping features at night adds a magical setting for the home.
Walkways and Paths:
Walkways to the home entrances, as well as any other frequented pathways on the property, should include lighting for practical safety reasons. Here again the options are limitless, from decorative fixtures to adorn the pathways to practical, recessed lighting that is nearly invisible by day. Solar powered lighting options are both common and practical today, automatically providing a soft glow at night without any additional energy costs. With walkways to entrances, or even long drives, decorative lanterns add character to the approach and offer an opportunity to tie into the home’s architecture and exterior light fixtures.
When it comes to security lighting, motion-detecting lighting is a practical solution, eliminating the need and cost for exterior entryway lights to be burning throughout the night. These can be installed by entrances to the home and garage, or on pathways leading to other parts of the property, providing safe passage for spontaneous late night walks, as well as providing additional security for residents entering a dark home at night, triggered only when needed. They have the dual-purpose lighting on command, after a late night of walking up from the lake, alerting residents to unexpected (or unwanted) guests on their property, even in the form of pesky deer looking to ravage a garden.
Check out some of the creative ways homeowners have added dimension to their landscaping with lighting, both decorative and utilitarian, in our Pinterest link:
After another unpredictable Wisconsin winter and the multiple freeze/ thaw cycles that characterize Midwestern winter weather, the freeze cycle will soon be behind us, and it’s time to prepare for the Spring preparations and damage assessment as a result of this relentless cycle. Both homes and properties have their unique challenges when enduring the winter’s punishing effects. The key to minimizing the impact is to assess and address any damage incurred in early Spring, knowing where to look and nipping potential problems in the proverbial “bud”.
The culprit behind the freeze/ thaw cycle is moisture, or water, which wreaks the most amount of havoc. Water and moisture are an issue year-round to homes in Southeastern Wisconsin, yet the winter months of freeze create unique challenges as the moisture seeping into masonry, foundations, roofs, joints and other building materials create the cracks and imperfections with the expansion of water in its frozen state. It compromises structures in many ways, indoors and out. Identifying the compromises in spring ensures your home and property is protected from inclement weather for the next few seasons of whatever nature brings.
Spring Thaw Alert: Care for your Custom Built Home
Areas around the home to monitor during the springtime thaw:
Snow Accumulation against Home foundation:
Heavy snowfalls resulting in accumulation/ drifts and snow piles against homes should always be minimized. As the spring thaw occurs, residual snow piles should be removed from home foundations because, as it melts, that’s where the water will pool. Oversaturated ground near the foundation will find a way in. Sewage systems are also affected, should flooding due to sudden melts after heavy snowfall affect the sewage drainage field.
Check for obstructions:
Keeping the flow of melting snow/ ice away from the home is important. Aside from shoveling snow away from the home and windows, there needs to be a clear path for the water to flow. This is also important with the roof and gutters; extenders for gutter downspouts are an excellent consideration, to keep the flow of water moving further away from the home. Also ensure any in-ground drains are removed from debris to facilitate the flow of water from the home or any areas on the property it can cause damage by pooling.
Scrub clean unwanted organic matter…
…that has accumulated on the exterior of the home: from cobwebs to mold, they find ways to penetrate the home if left untreated and provide a host of issues that can be dangerous to inhabitants. Look in nooks and crannies of these hosts before damp warmer weather in the spring months results in growing populations harder to eradicate that can compromise structures and introduce a residual health problems.
Inspect roofs and joints:
Snow accumulation, melt and freeze/ thaw, can easily compromise roof tiles, seals and result in multiple avenues for precipitation to invade the home during winter months. Tiny cracks easily get larger, allowing for more water to seep in, damaging walls and foundation, contributing to mold growth, and providing a pathway for insects seeking indoor refuge. Repairing promptly eliminates the worry of water seepage, pools of moisture and even floods that compromise interior woodwork and upholstery and molds and other allergens that cause health issues.
Windows and Doors:
Cracks and fissures in the molding and seals as a result of excess moisture invading these areas, paired with dry heat from indoor heating conditions. These can be identified by bubbling points of paint, drafts, any areas of seal, trim or molding that shows gaps. All of these are a sign for immediate repair or patching.
In the name of Safety:
Inspect any exterior masonry, walls, sidewalks and steps that may have been compromised. Loose stones and faltering steps can cause unnecessary accidents and are fairly easy to catch in the early phase of disrepair before they become a real hazard.
Many homeowners today embark on either new home projects or remodels with the intent of selling the home in the not too distant future. Building a custom home with an eye to sell is a particularly good mindset for homeowners planning for future life changes or considering their project an investment opportunity. And, while creativity and unique styles are still welcome infusions into any custom project, the experts have some recommendations on trends and styles, in terms of both design aesthetics and living spaces, which will maximize the home’s future salability.
One of the top building trends to emerge, for both commercial and residential projects, is building green. Sustainable building is achieved in many areas of the project including: investing in appliances and fixtures designated as “energy efficient by the EPA”; using reclaimed and recycled building materials; installing solar panels; and a tankless water heater.
Over the past few decades, family lifestyles have changed dramatically, from how we entertain to how we gather as a family, and floor plans in new homes have adapted accordingly. More open space and flow between living areas is generally preferred to having smaller rooms that are closed off from the rest of the home. Formal dining rooms have given way to more versatile spaces suitable to all forms of entertaining, whether cocktail hour or formal dinner. Kitchens are now even more-so a central focus for the main living space, as control central for the modern family, a place for cooking, meals, homework and gathering.
Modern Bathroom & Kitchen:
When it comes to remodels, kitchens and the bathrooms, particularly the master bath, should be one of the top priorities. Modern, energy-efficient appliances should be installed and will generally recoup more than 100% of the investment. Sinks, bathtubs and showers, with updated, neutral tiling and fixtures are also simple fixes that yield maximum effect. Lighting should also be a consideration, incorporating a balance of recessed and decorative fixtures to allocate for desired balance, along with versatility of mood and working needs.
Customizing a new home to match the homeowners’ and families’ lifestyle preferences is one of the great joys when embarking on a new home project. It is when design choices and aesthetics become too personal and specific that re-sale may become an issue. When embarking on a home project intended to be a “forever” family home, custom and unique features that reflect very specific taste and lifestyles infuse the home with personality. Yet a home with very unique or unusual design characteristics can be difficult to sell, as new home seekers may be detracted by the cost and effort required to neutralize the excessive personalization of the previous homeowner. More mainstream and neutral design aesthetics will appeal to a broader range of home buyers looking for a modernly-appointed home that is move-in ready, easy to update with their own personal touches and requiring minimum additional investment costs.
HVAC/ Central Vacuum:
A new, energy-efficient HVAC system is a standard feature of new custom homes. Improvements in technology over the past few decades have allowed for cleaner air with filtering systems and central-air humidifiers maintaining consistency humidity levels in the home. Improved air quality in the home significantly improves the health of the occupants as well as the home itself.
Consulting with Local Custom Home Builder:
Local professional custom home builders are the best source of information for what new homeowners are looking for in specific areas. Trends in architectural design and floorplans vary by community, and consulting a local expert prior to building or remodeling on the most desirable floorplans, layouts and design aesthetics will maximize the home’s buying potential. They will also offer the best advice on allocating resources, ranging from roofing, siding, floors, appliances, fixtures, etc., to yield the best return on investments.