A Practically Modern Dream Home in Fitchburg

A couple’s ranch utilizes straight lines, natural light and open layouts

The couple built the kitchen to accommodate their love of cooking and entertaining. See more photos of the home in the slideshow below.

The couple built the kitchen to accommodate their love of cooking and entertaining. See more photos of the home in the slideshow below.

PHOTO BY BETH SKOGEN

Jill Muenich and Laura Webster took their time building their dream home, a unique modern Prairie ranch in Fitchburg’s Oak Meadow community.

“We spent two and a half years [after purchasing the lot] walking through in our heads each and every one of these spaces,” says Webster, a senior manager at Oscar Mayer. “We challenged a lot of standard assumptions to say, ‘This is how we want to live.’ We’re going to put things exactly where we want them to be.”

Muenich and Webster had a strong, shared vision: A modern home comprised entirely of straight lines, with a Southern exposure to provide filtered light in all seasons. 

“Lighting is very important to us,” Muenich adds. A vice president of marketing at an insurance company, Muenich had built two houses before. She understood that creating a custom home was labor intensive but allowed for special touches she valued such as hands-on involvement in each and every detail.

From energy-efficient, hydronic heating to indoor/outdoor living, right down to selecting the height of each electrical outlet, the couple detailed to Acker Builders and various subcontractors exactly how they wanted their new home—nicknamed the Stir-Stick Ranch for their love of cocktail entertaining—to look and feel.

The open-plan living room and kitchen is a centerpiece of the home. It features a thirteen-foot wall of windows opposite contemporary design statements such as a gas fireplace built entirely inside a wall. Another eye-catching feature is the room’s gigantic industrial-style fan. With its eight-foot wingspan, it meets the couple’s dual emphasis on function and form, keeping heat recirculating throughout the room even on the coldest winter days.

A similar custom fan is found on the back porch. While elegant, it also prevents mosquitos from flying in on hot summer days. Muenich and Webster’s aesthetic is evident—modern beauty with a practical edge.

An additional highlight of the home is the master bath. Split into two sides, the bathroom is an oasis for bathing on the left and high-concept showering on the right. “The Japanese-style soaking tub is very efficient, very effective,” comments Muenich. “It brought an Asian-modern style to the house but had a lot of usability. It’s nice because [when you bathe], you aren’t floating cold.”

The vertical structure of the bath also takes up less of a footprint. The wide, open shower to the right has two side-by-side showerheads and a window that lets in more of that valued natural light. The couple also added personal touches, like towel hooks purchased from their favorite Milwaukee hotel, the Iron Horse.  And for added luxury, a wall-mounted TV and more of the hydronic heated flooring.

“I love starting my day off in that bathroom,” Muenich says. “I’m a high-energy person. I try to carry that throughout my day and that’s a great way to start.” 

Another favorite spot is the kitchen. The couple had it built wider, more to industrial standards, to allow for multiple “cooks in the kitchen” and lots of entertaining with friends. 

“There’s something about the lighting in this kitchen and the different elements of the metal and the glass. It’s like everything I’ve ever wanted,” Webster says. “It’s a perfect melding of all the elements I’m really drawn to.”

With the house now complete, this creative couple has plenty of time for entertaining with friends and to focus on their next big project: Building a scaled-down replica of the home … in Legos. 

Laura Jones is a Madison-based writer.

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