On Top of the World

Stunning views and vibrant hues set the stage for entertaining in a new downtown home

The sitting room of Laurel and Steve Brown's downtown residence. SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THE BROWNS' HOME IN THE SLIDESHOW BELOW.

The sitting room of Laurel and Steve Brown's downtown residence. SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THE BROWNS' HOME IN THE SLIDESHOW BELOW.

For Laurel and Steve Brown and their year-old Havanese, Roxy, home is a traditional English Tudor in the Fitchburg countryside.

Even so, when Steve’s company, Steve Brown Apartments, began developing the Lucky apartment complex in downtown Madison, the couple saw an opportunity for a second home. “We thought it would be fun to keep a unit,” Laurel says.

The Browns chose a four-bedroom apartment on the building’s top floor and converted it into an open-plan one-bedroom unit. They envisioned staying there after nights on the town or when they wanted to be closer to their downtown offices. And they knew it would be an ideal spot for entertaining.

Laurel, who owns Brownhouse, an architecture and interior design firm, used these criteria as a springboard for a bold design scheme—one that resonated with them but was a departure from the style of their primary residence. She coined it “contemporary classic.”

“We thought, let’s make this much more urban, make it feel like a penthouse,” she says.

The couple started with a base of high-end finishes: rich timborana floors from South America, cherry cabinetry, granite countertops and travertine accents. But chartreuse pops of color in the furniture, vibrant artwork and glamorous accessories take the condo to a new, decidedly fun level. Laurel wanted the space to be high-impact, much more so than in their main home. “I took more risks here,” she says. “I thought, why not?”

While the décor is certainly eye-catching, nothing can compete with the incredible views offered by two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. Downtown Madison reveals itself, from Bascom Hill to Lake Mendota to the Capitol to Lake Monona. “Obviously it’s the million-dollar view,” she says.

Together, the downtown atmosphere and contemporary furniture make the condo feel like a true getaway for the Browns. “It’s just fabulous,” Laurel says. “It’s kind of like a mini vacation.” But it’s better than a hotel because it has all the comforts of home—toiletries in the bathroom, groceries in the fridge—in a style that’s completely their own.

“It’s a glorified hotel for me,” she says. “But it’s still home.”

Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

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