Wisconsin designer Jordan Gottsacker had a pretty good idea about what her clients wanted in their forever home. After all, she’s known them her entire life.

By Kelly Ryan Kegans
Updated December 23, 2020
| Credit: Mike Huibregtse

Jordan Gottsacker had barely shed her training wheels when her parents set her career in motion. Brian and Rose Gottsacker were building the house Jordan would ultimately grow up in, and the family took frequent drives around Sheboygan, Wisconsin, looking at homes and visiting the nearby Kohler Design Center showroom for kitchen and bath inspiration. “That was a huge part of my childhood,” says Jordan, who sparked to both architecture and interior design.

A couple of decades later (including five years working at Kohler), Jordan now owns a design studio and boutique in downtown Sheboygan. And she recently took on her parents’ “new” new home, a tired 1970s split-level on 12 acres of farmland in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Although hiring Jordan was a no-brainer, says Brian, figuring out how to remake the house that came with the land was anything but. “It was a hodgepodge with six different levels,” he explains. “We had walked away from it once. But then we started bouncing ideas around, and soon, we had a vision.”

Jordan Gottsacker with her parents, Brian and Rose Gottsacker
| Credit: Mike Huibregtse

Rose adds, “We really took our time with Jordan, trying to decide how we were going to use the house and what we wanted to see when we looked out the windows. That became the deciding factor in moving the kitchen upstairs.” Yes, you read that correctly. The Gottsackers put a literal spin on the notion of flipping a house, moving the bedrooms downstairs and the gathering spaces up. When visitors enter the home, they climb a staircase to an open-plan loop of living room, dining room and kitchen, with intimate seating areas tucked in every nook. Windows of all sizes wrap the house in nature.

Living room
| Credit: Mike Huibregtse

The Gottsackers reimagined their split-level, shifting the living room upstairs for prime views (and choosing low-set furniture to avoid obstructing the windows). Carpet tiles are the perfect solution for a narrow, l-shape space.

Nook near kitchen
| Credit: Mike Huibregtse

A modern-meets-country gingham armchair and wingback chaise soak up the sun by the kitchen. "I wind up here pretty much every evening with a glass of wine and a book," Rose Gottsacker says.

The beauty outside guided Jordan’s choices inside. “The views on the property are insanely picturesque, so we wanted to keep everything else inside fairly simple in terms of finishes,” she says. White shiplap, muted gray walls and industrial touches modernize the dated architecture. Pale, wide-plank maple floors bounce light. “But it isn’t ultrasleek,” Jordan clarifies. “We added some quirks through color and some vintage items.”

You’d be hard-pressed to put a name to the overall aesthetic. It’s a little bit of farmhouse, industrial, mid-mod, Scandinavian … and a whole lot of whimsy. Vibrant lamps and ceramics bloom against the neutral surfaces like crocuses popping in the snow. Patterns hopscotch across cushions, blankets and even furniture. Barnyard animals peep from photos, and the living room’s carpet tiles echo cowhide, farmy details Jordan included to make her mom smile. Few items match, per se, but midcentury silhouettes thread through every space. For a home that was almost entirely newly furnished (except for the old pine dining table, where many a dance recital costume took shape), it has a sense of spontaneity and authenticity that can come only from knowing your client really well. “Everywhere I look,” Rose says, “I see something that makes me feel happy.” Mission accomplished.

| Credit: Mike Huibregtse

Not-quite-50 shades of gray—veined granite surfaces, metal light fixtures, painted ceiling beams—add tone and depth to the largely white kitchen. Rather than a stainless hood to match the range, Jordan opted for a honey-color wood version to soften the room's cool hues.

| Credit: Mike Huibregtse

Jordan Gottsacker guesses her parents spend 80 percent of their time in the kitchen she designed for them. “You can see what’s important for my mom,” she says, pointing out the roomy island and shelves crammed with cookbooks. “And there are lots of places for my dad to relax doing a crossword." Mismatched stools and galvanized light fixtures evoke an old farmhouse; speckled wallpaper adds pep inside glass-front cabinets.

| Credit: Mike Huibregtse

An open foyer provides a roomy front-door drop zone. The staircase, decked out with reclaimed wood treads and a sleek industrial-style railing, leads to the living areas on the second level.

| Credit: Mike Huibregtse

Even the birds get in on the bright hues.

A Shop Heaven

Jordan Gottsacker opened Honey and Ace a year ago in downtown Sheboygan, combining her interior design studio with a boutique, art gallery and performance space for live music. “This past year has been a roller coaster,” she admits. “There were slower times, but I feel so fortunate for how the community has received this, and how things picked up again.” Here are a few favorite Midwest artists she showcases.

The Habitat Shoppe “From kitschy-cutesy to twisted and real, Kate Kaminski’s ceramics bring a whole new energy to my walls,” Jordan says. thehabitatshoppe.etsy.com

Cire’ Alexandria This southern Wisconsin jeweler crafts delicate earrings and necklaces of metal and stone. “She has a fun sensibility marrying minimalism and nature.” cirealexandria.com

Tapio Designs Hans Gottsacker, Jordan’s second cousin, hews wood furniture on Michigan’s UP. She carries his undulating wood veneer light fixtures. tapiodesigns.com

Erica Jane Huntzinger Jordan loves this Sheboygan painter, who defines her abstract oils as “internal landscapes.” ericajane-huntzinger.squarespace.com

Cedarwell “This is a Sheboygan-based trio of genuine people,” Jordan says fondly. “Their darkly twisted acoustic music is embedded in nature’s rhythms.” cedarwell.bandcamp.com

Honey and Ace
| Credit: Mike Huibregtse

Honey and Ace fills two floors of an 1857 limestone building. Jordan painted the trim mint green as a nod to Plenco, a Sheboygan manufacturing icon whose memorable exterior color also shows up on several public buildings.

Honey and Ace Sheboygan
| Credit: Mike Huibregtse

The name Honey and Ace “is about my support system,” Jordan says. Honey refers to her “honey bear” dog, Mable; Ace is the winning card she drew with boyfriend Charlie O’Connell.

When In Sheboygan

Jordan, who grew up in Wisconsin, dishes on her hometown faves.

TELLEN WOODLAND SCULPTURE GARDEN This park preserves the intriguing work of artist James A. Tellen. “Follow it with a hike at Kohler-Andrae State Park,” Jordan adds. kohlerfoundation.org

3 SHEEPS BREWING COMPANY “A great taproom experience.” (And their colorful limited edition cans make great gifts.) 3sheepsbrewing.com

CHARCOAL INN “The authentic Sheboygan, charcoal-grilled brat patty experience.” charcoalinn.com

LAKE MICHIGAN “When the wind is blowing just right, I love to walk along the lakeshore and watch the surfers.”