This Brownstone Brings a Slice of NYC to the Heartland of Milwaukee

Designer Elizabeth Rees in her kitchen with her white dog.

Photo: Elizabeth Rees / Illustration: The Spruce

As the co-founder of wallpaper company Chasing Paper, it comes as no surprise that Elizabeth Rees knows exactly what she's doing when it comes to adorning her own walls. Now based in her hometown of Milwaukee after living in NYC, Rees took us on a virtual tour that's practically a masterclass in color.

With a mix of beautiful paints and stunning wallpaper prints in a house that's already full of character, Rees has created a space that's warm, inviting, and incredibly cheerful.

  • Owner: Elizabeth Rees, co-founder of Chasing Paper
  • Location: Milwaukee, WI

A Curated Mix of Clean Lines and Living History

Rees was in the process of relocating back to her hometown from NYC, and when she walked through her new home, it felt just like a Brooklyn brownstone.

"I’ve always loved the iconic brownstones that you can find throughout New York and felt so thrilled to find a little design slice of NYC in Milwaukee," she says.

Of her aesthetic, Rees notes that it is very transitional: not overly contemporary or traditional.

"I like my home to feel lived-in and interesting, but still have clean lines," she explains. "My home was built in the late 1800s and had so much original charm—the wide pine floors, the marble fireplace, the coved plaster trim. It is so well-maintained, and we are honored to be part of its history."

I like my home to feel lived-in and interesting but still have clean lines. It is so well-maintained, and we are honored to be part of its history.

Living room with blue built ins and vintage fireplace mantel.

Elizabeth Rees

Family-Friendly Spaces Inside and Out   

With 1100 square feet inside, Rees wanted to extend the living space into the backyard. But, she also knew the backyard of their Italianate-style home needed some major taming.

"When we bought it, the backyard was very overgrown," Rees says. "We did a massive overhaul to create a livable space for our little family."

Beautiful lush backyard with cobblestone pathway and outdoor sofa.

Elizabeth Rees

Stretching Out After NYC

While the home itself was reminiscent of New York, Rees was delighted to find there were plenty of perks of moving back home to the Heartland.

"The bathroom felt big coming from NYC," she says. "I was so used to tiny bathrooms, so this one felt especially spacious."

Spacious townhouse with large dining room table and open concept.

Elizabeth Rees

A Beautiful Kitchen with a Special Backsplash

"The kitchen was very well laid out and had beautiful big windows, so the natural light helps the space to feel bigger," Rees says. "We also painted the cabinets and added a faux terrazzo backsplash using Chasing Paper. This helped brighten the space as well."

The kitchen also boasts the best view in the house. "The kitchen window looks out onto our backyard and garage, which was designed to look like its own little house," Rees explains. "When it snows (which is often in Wisconsin), it looks so beautiful."

White kitchen with printed backsplash and patterned rug.

Elizabeth Rees

Bedrooms Perched Among the Treetops

"The home has massive windows, so it feels like being in a treehouse, all among the trees," Rees says. "Since it's such an old house, the size and shape (and lack of closets) were a design challenge in some ways, but overall, it felt fun."

Bedroom with settee and midcentury inspired look.

Elizabeth Rees

Tons of Natural Light

Rees adores all of the natural light that streams throughout her home. "All of the windows are 8-feet tall, and the front ones are rounded—it adds such an incredible architectural element," Rees says.

Black double doors that lead into the home's entryway.

Elizabeth Rees

A Cozy WFH Space

"There is a very tiny room that I use as an office," Rees says. "It's maybe 8'x10' with only a window. I painted it a dark blue, and it feels so cozy."

Office with dark wooden desk and dark blue walls.

Elizabeth Rees

Extra-Special Nursery Details

"The rocking chairs in my girls' rooms are so special," Rees shares. "I spend so much time there with my girls—rocking, reading books, and finding my way through motherhood."

Bright fun nursery with rattan pendant and green furniture.

Elizabeth Rees