Tours de Inspiration

t’s time to fess up. When you drive past a grand new house, walk by a hidden garden or see a glistening high-rise in mid-construction, you wonder what’s inside. You want to know what furniture the homeowners picked, the colors and materials they chose, how all these elements look together—and what it would be like to live there.

You have three chances to do that this month in a trio of special—and vastly different—home tours. See how downtown condo dwellers meld art with architecture. Visit lakefront-living neighbors with a penchant for gardening. And don’t miss the ultimate in home inspiration, the annual Parade of Homes.

Here’s a rundown of where to go, what to expect and what you absolutely shouldn’t miss. Happy peeking!

Organizer: The Madison Area Builders’ Association

When: June 7–22. Monday–Friday 3–8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

Where: The tour winds its way through twenty-eight houses in four neighborhoods: Blackhawk in Madison, Bristol Gardens in Bristol, Scenic Ridge in Verona and the Southbridge Blue Ridge Addition in Waunakee. The first two neighborhoods have been part of past Parades; the latter two are tour newcomers this year.

What you’ll find: The newest and best in upscale—and some moderately priced—homes by Acker Builders, Cornett Homes, Craftsman Construction, Design Shelters, Duren Custom Builders, Eberle Custom Homes, Encore Construction, Hart deNoble Builders, Hauden & Scholl Custom Homes, Hensen Builders, Holmes Custom Construction, Liebl Building & Design, Madison Homes, Midwest Homes, NorthPointe Construction, Norwood Custom Homes, Premier Builders, Princeton Custom Homes, Pulvermacher Construction, Schwingle Builders, T.C.D. Builders, Temple Construction, Timberlane Builders and Vintage Homes.

Look for: The theme of this year’s parade is “Inspiring Your Home.” Says communications director Kaya Freiman, “You’ll get ideas at all price points.” Trends to take note of include screened porches, hearths in kitchens, zoned climate control, two-story great rooms and foyers, built-in shelving and niches, and special—coffered, vaulted and barrel-vaulted—ceilings.

Don’t miss: A NorthPointe Construction home gym with a regulation basketball hoop, a Princeton Custom Homes utility room with a pet shower and a Temple Construction house with a wine cellar, full bar, custom theater and hidden kids’ playroom.

Tickets: $12 adults, $6 seniors 65+ and children ages 3–12, free for children under 3

For more information: 288-1136 or

Organizer: The Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

When: June 1 at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., with a patron tour and party at 4 p.m.

Where: The one-day tour centers this year on downtown Madison’s Nolen Shore Condominiums.

What you’ll find: Docents lead visitors through six condos, highlighting the art collections and architectural details found in each.

Look for: How homeowners convey their personal styles. “Historically, the people who have attended have enjoyed seeing how the owners have utilized similar spaces in vastly different ways,” says Alicia Nordness, chair of the Art League’s Art & Architecture committee.

Don’t miss: Artwork in a wide variety of styles and media displayed in a number of different floor plans. And don’t forget to check out the views from this downtown high-rise.

Tickets: $50 for tour; $125 for tour and reception

For more information: 257-0158 x231 or

Organizer: Attic Angel Association

When: June 23, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.

Where: This fundraising tour, now in its fifty-fifth year, features six lakeside homes on Monona’s Tonyawatha Trail, as well as the historic Dean House on Monona Drive.

What you’ll find: Attic Angel chose “Monona Magic—Past and Present” as the theme of this year’s tour to reflect the wide variety of styles and ages of the featured homes. The Victorian-style Dean House, built in 1856, is furnished with antiques. Meanwhile, the houses on Tonyawatha Trail are architecturally diverse, says tour committee chair Sally Lorenz, “yet each has dramatic and unique views of Lake Monona and the Capitol.”

Look for: Innovative and beautiful ways of enjoying the outdoors, whether through meticulously cultivated gardens and landscaping or expansive decks and balconies. Great rooms and dining rooms for entertaining are qualities in many of the homes, as is the incorporation of fine materials such as stone and wood.

Don’t miss: A Japanese-style home designed in 1952 by a Prairie architect, an eight-thousand-square-foot Mediterranean house and a “retro” Arts & Crafts house complete with traditional architectural details. And an angular, contemporary glass and steel home is completely one-of-a-kind.

Tickets: $16 advance, $18 at door 

For more information:

Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.