When designing and building a custom luxury home, ideally homeowners are heavily involved in each step of the process to ensure the finished product is a unique reflection of the owners’ lifestyle and personality. Ideally the home should also reflect the uniqueness of its geographic location, tapping into the region’s history, culture and natural characteristics of the environment. Incorporating locally sourced materials into your custom built dream home is the perfect way to blend family and regional heritage with the harmony of the environment in a personal way.

Southeastern Wisconsin boasts an abundant supply of natural resources for luxury custom home builders and their highly skilled artisans to work with, ranging from locally sourced brick, river stone, reclaimed barn wood, quarried stone and native hardwoods. Many of these materials have a history in and of themselves, such as Milwaukee cream city brick.

Milwaukee was dubbed the “cream city” well over a century ago, and many assumed this was because of the dairy industry. However, this nickname traces back to the locally produced, distinctive cream colored brick that was used to construct many prominent buildings in the city during the 19th century. Using locally sourced red clay from the western banks of Lake Michigan, cream city brick turns a very unique and appealing light golden yellow upon firing. The brick-building boom in the mid to late 19th century created quite a demand, not only for its color, but its desirable traits of strength and durability. This distinctive brick was manufactured in and around Milwaukee through the early 1900s until the brick industry gave way to Chicago brick producers.

More recent building trends using locally resourced and reclaimed materials has seen a renewed interest and demand for the original cream city bricks. Unlike the limited supply of these reclaimed bricks, the skilled masons working alongside custom home builders in Southeastern Wisconsin have no shortage of other locally sourced stones and rock to incorporate into luxury home projects. Local quarries produce some of the finest limestone, quartzite and granite, and using locally sourced stones in building projects significantly reduces transportation costs as well, thus shrinking a project’s carbon footprint. Properties and colors of extracted stone vary by quarry, and the design opportunities are endless to incorporate into all elements of the project, from patios and fireplaces to countertops and floors.

Wisconsin river rock is also a beautiful source for masonry work, with a wide palate of burgundies, charcoals and multi-tones that reflect the natural granite rock of the northern Midwest. Natural river rock masonry has provided a unique design element to many custom home projects, and is a great accent in conjunction with polished, manufactured traditional stonework. Its use in landscape design and retaining walls can be a seamless transition from the natural foliage and property features. Interior accents such as tiling and fireplace hearths may also create a distinct personality and sense of natural harmony to the chosen living space.

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