Madison Magazine

Couple creates eclectic home on the Rock River

Robert and Tricia Nelson's Prairie-style home,...

When Robert and Tricia Nelson lie down in their master bedroom, they look out and see nothing but water. Their Prairie-style home, nicknamed Kingfisher, features wide floor-to-ceiling windows outside of which the Rock River rushes down a 170-year-old dam. In the late afternoon, the sunlight reflects off the water and bounces off the ceiling. “In winter,” Tricia says, “the view is pretty dramatic. There’s at least a dozen eagles a day. Last year, I saw a coyote on the ice, and mink and otter.”

As with most Prairie-inspired dwellings, there’s the element of “bringing the outside in.” But Kingfisher is more than just the sleek, horizontal lines and open space so valued by Frank Lloyd Wright and the architects he inspired. The Nelsons brought their own intimate touches to the design and structure of their Beloit-area house. Eclectic art from around the world hangs on each wall, and sculptures like totems are tucked into each corner. There are Japanese-style prints alongside a mural painted by a Mexican artist. A small New Guinean bat sculpture hangs over the living room, surveying the view. Tricia, owner of her own landscaping business, loves plants, so greenery is artfully strewn among the artwork, too.

The Nelsons made other stylized choices. The kitchen island, for instance, is covered in copper, because of Tricia’s interest in mineralogy. She also installed an ornate wrought iron divider between the entryway and kitchen that disappears seamlessly into the wall. “The wrought iron was very important to me. I like the exoticism of it and the way it throws patterns with light. I felt it feminized the linear, hard edges,” she says.

Robert points out the Latin American influence in the gated property, which opens into what feels like an interior courtyard. “In most Latin American countries, the side of the house closest to the street is just a wall. When you open the door, it’s just amazing. That’s the feeling I wanted to give. You can’t really see the river that well from the road, but you open the front door, and there’s the river.”

Other special features of the home include a second-floor art studio, where Tricia paints sometimes as long as eight hours a day. The studio is an artists’ dream, flanked again by large windows and a small outdoor patio, with views that stretch into the distance following the ribbon of the river. Downstairs are three bedrooms, the master to the right, and two others on the left for son Wyatt and friend Sam. It’s a perfect setup, Tricia says, to ensure privacy to both sides. Outside, the family enjoys two hundred feet of waterfront, and their own saltwater pool, complete with a pool house.

Most couples feel sentimental about property they buy together, but Robert and Tricia loved this land independently, long before they ever met. “I would drive by once a month, looking for a for sale sign,” Robert says.

“When he told me about it, I was trying to figure out where it was,” Tricia remembers, “Then I said, ‘Oh! I stalk that place!’” 

When the property finally came on the market, the Nelsons purchased the land, tore down the existing older structure and employed architect Stephen Bruns to design the home and John Sveum of Yahara Builders to build it. The result is open, airy and filled with light—the best of Prairie design—but with the unique fingerprint of the family that lives there.

Robert comments, “In this house, there’s just reflections of reflections. Sometimes you aren’t even sure what’s real. I love to open the bedroom door in the morning. You never know what the light is going to be like or what it’s going to be doing. The whole place just continues to astonish us both. I like that feeling, that sense of astonishment.” 


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