Floral artist Patrice Procopio says she’s spent the greater portion of her life in the pursuit of garden flowers and wildflowers across the Midwest, and that she’s drawn to the outdoors.
Why, then, one might ask, does she live in a condo in the Third Ward overlooking a sea of buildings and the lake?
“The condo is sort of a winter home. I spend my summers at my home in Door County, where I photograph flowers all summer. When the weather changes and I can’t do that anymore, I come here and paint.
“Winter gives me a lot of time to paint. This place is nice because it’s up high and I can see everything around me. It feels a little like the farm in Iowa where I grew up. I can stretch out and nobody is near me,” she said.
Procopio, who specializes in oil paintings showing florals, landscapes and gardens, will open her two-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Warehouse 525 in the Third Ward to the public in this year’s Spaces & Traces tour on May 7. The tour is being held in the Third Ward as well as the downtown, Westown and Yankee Hill neighborhoods.
Even though her condo is on the top of her building on the sixth floor, she’s found ways to fill it with flowers, both real and on canvas.
“I have two decks. One wraps around the great room; the second one is off the master bathroom. I have big pots out there, and when the weather is warmer I plant lettuce, tomatoes and basil, and I plant flowers so I still get my hands in the soil, which is near and dear to my heart. I like to get dirt under my fingers,” she said.
Her paintings grace all the walls in her home, giving it a bright and cheerful look.
Procopio said she had to make few changes when she bought her condo 12 years ago, as it was fairly new.
All she did then was repaint her new space, replace sinks in both bathrooms, put new carpeting in both bedrooms, and replace a kitchen backsplash.
“The former owner had done an incredibly hideous job painting it. The kitchen was a grape purple, and the bedroom had rose colored walls. It was a pretty intense color of rose. She also had the master bathroom done in a pink. It was a Pepto Bismol pink,” Procopio said.
Because she wanted a neutral backdrop for her artwork and furnishings, she used three tones of a light gray/green color throughout the house. She only deviated when she picked a color for the hallway.
“I have one wall in the hallway that’s a deep, rich red. It’s a long space and I wanted to define it. Now it looks pretty smart.”
She said she updated the sink in her guest bathroom, too, because she didn’t like the style.
“It was a clear bowl and then you could see the pipes below. I also added a new cabinet. The new bowl looks like a piece of art. It’s just beautiful. It’s the single most expensive thing I did at this condo, and it’s one of my favorite things. I got it at a high-end store. The bowl is red and gold and sort of a bronze color.
“I changed the two sinks in the master bathroom because they were just boring. The new sinks are big and round and thick and heavy.”
In the kitchen she installed a glass backsplash in tan and brown as a way to define that space, she said.
In addition to Procopio’s striking decor, the condo is notable for its commanding views and abundant natural light in nearly every room.
“I have floor-to-ceiling windows in the great room, and there are four doors in there that slide open and have screens that access the deck. Two of the doors face north and two face west.
“There’s another large section of windows with a patio door off the master bathroom that faces north. That patio is deeper; it’s about the width of the bathroom, and I have a little wrought iron table and chair set out there and my pots of flowers. It’s a nice little place for breakfast and to look over at the lake and to see the boats,” she said.
A good portion of the wall in her master bedroom is also made up of windows.
Because the view is so important to her, she added no window treatments, and positioned her furnishings so she could see outside.
She even put the bed in the master bedroom close to the windows.
“When I wake up I can see outside. I wake up looking at the clouds in the morning,” she said.
The view even influenced her color selections in furnishings and accent pieces.
“There’s a lot of red brick, creamy colors, and browns. It’s colorful out there, and I wanted to have those same colors in my living area so it would make the room feel bigger.
“In the kitchen I have a red toaster, a red mixer, a red pot with red utensils, a red tray, and a red teapot. … In the great room, there’s a cushy red leather chair, red leather chairs at the dining room table, and an oversized oriental-style rug with red in the center,” she said.
The furnishings she added were both old and new and give her home an eclectic look.
“I have a lot of vintage pieces. Some were given to me by my great-aunt Gertie. I also have some pieces that are modern. It’s a real blend.
“In my bedroom, there’s a cedar chest my aunt gave to me in her will. … She knew I would take care of it. I put family history pieces inside it. It’s simple and very pretty, and it means a whole lot to me.
“I also have a tall desk in the bedroom that’s old. It’s not a favorite piece, but it works as I need it to. I needed a place to hold my collection of ceramics,” she said.
Other favorite pieces include a dressing table in the master bedroom that she bought at an antiques store; an Eastlake settee in the hallway from an antiques store in Vermont; and an antique cabinet in the hallway she bought in Cedarburg that she keeps family pieces in.
“One of my favorite things that was given to me is in my studio space, which is off the great room. It’s a large and heavy easel that was given to me in 1973 by a Dr. Weir. He was a friend of my kindergarten teacher. Art was a hobby for him, and he knew I was interested in art. He also gave me oils and brushes, some of which I still have. It was the best gift ever. It has his name and the date he gave it to me written on it.”
When she furnished her spare bedroom, Procopio had Murphy beds installed for when family members visit and added two chairs that she can read in, one vintage and one contemporary.
“I have three children, including one new grandson. My son is in Colorado, and he has a girl and a boy, then my second daughter lives in Europe. Right now she’s in England. My youngest daughter just had a baby boy. She lives near the Twin Cities.
“The library converts into a bedroom when I pull down the Murphy beds. There are also a lot of shelves. I have a rolling ladder so I can get to the tops for my books. The shelves are filled mostly with books on sewing and knitting. I also have a lot of books about special gardens and flowers,” she said.
She recently talked about the tour and how much she enjoys the condo she shares with her cats Lioness and Bella.
“Lioness is a big 20-pounder. She is the sweetest cat. She greets me at the door and she talks. Bella is a shy and retiring cat,” she said.
Question: Is all the artwork in your home yours?
Answer: Most of it. I also have some pieces my children did.
Q: Where do you sell your art?
A: In galleries in Door County and Milwaukee. I also sell at my home here and in Door County by appointment. People can contact me through my website, patriceprocopio.com. In addition to the paintings, I have also designed some clothing with flowers. I’ve done dresses and blouses and palazzo pants. I’ve also made shoes, and I do things like shower curtains that are fun.
Q: Do you have any flowers that are favorites to paint?
A: Poppies. My label on the clothing I make is the poppy, and it’s on my website. They just burst out. They don’t last long, but they are beautiful.
Q: How many condo units are on your floor?
A: Just two. There’s an enclosed hallway between the units. I hung some of my artwork on the walls there.
Q: What areas of the city do you see when you look out your windows?
A: Most of the windows look out over downtown. But I can also see the lakefront from here. When I look at the water, it always tells me what the weather will be like. I also look at which way the flags are moving, so then I know which way the wind will be coming from. I can also see the Allen-Bradley clock tower from here. It’s fun living down here.
Q: Do you have a view from your master bathroom?
A: Yes. I can sit in my hot tub and enjoy myself with a glass of wine.
Q: What kind of windows are in the spare bedroom?
A: That room has transom windows, but it still gets lots of light.
Q: How high are your ceilings?
A:. They’re 14 feet.
Q: Do you spend much time on the balcony?
A: On sunny days when weather is better, I will read outside. I don’t do artwork out there.
Q: Do you grow any indoor plants?
A: Yes. I have a large grouping near the patio door in my bathroom year round.
Q: Can you describe the headboard in your master bedroom?
A: I bought a headboard for the bed that looks like a screen or divider. It’s very architectural. It looks like a screen in the middle of the room.
Q: Can you describe your kitchen?
A: It has an angled island with a black marble countertop and a stainless-steel sink. The cabinets are very contemporary; the top
s are painted a cream color, and the bottom cabinets are done in a natural-wood look. They have square knobs. There is also a built-in pantry and stainless-steel appliances.
Q: How would you describe your work space?
A: It’s partitioned off. I have a computer there on one side, and on the right is where my easel is. I have great light there all day long. It’s wonderful.
Q: What do you store in the collection of baskets that partially surrounds your work space?
A: I store fabrics and other things for sewing in them, and also things for my other projects.
Q: Did you sew and/or re-cover any pieces in your home?
A: I made the cover duvet and the shams in my bedroom. The design is from one of my original paintings, and I had it printed on the cloth. I also re-covered a number of the pieces in my home, like the small settee in the master bedroom.
Q: Do you use your dining room table much?
A. I do have sit-down meals, so I do use it. It’s in the great room. The top is a chunk of quartz. The chairs are covered in red leather.
Q: Do you entertain much?
A: Not that much anymore, but I like to entertain here on July 4 for the fireworks.
Q: Can you tell me about the collage in the lobby of your building?
A: It’s a piece of artwork I made that shows the history of the building. There are bits and pieces of the kinds of things that would have been found in this building. I found most of the pieces online from places in Wisconsin. When this building was first built in 1916, there were only three stories and it was used for printing. Then two more floors were added, and it continued to be used for printing. They added the sixth floor when the building was rehabbed and turned into condos 16 years ago.
Q: Is this your first time on a home tour?
A: Yes, but I have had so many people visit my studio over the years because of my art. I’m pretty used to having people around.
Q. Why did you decide to participate in this tour?
A: It’s a fun space, and I want to let people see it as well as my art. I would also like to see more seniors moving into this area. Now there are a lot of younger people moving in. It’s a wonderful area.
Q: What style is your Door County home?
A: It reminds me of a house in Nantucket. It’s very contemporary. We like to spend time up there around New Year’s and Christmas. It’s three stories. It’s white and blue with yellow accents. It’s about 36 years old and is on Whitefish Dunes beach.
Q: What do your gardens in Door County look like?
A. I have two boats I put plants in. One is a larger boat, and one is a canoe. Those are my planters. I don’t do heavy gardening anymore. I do have a lot of flowers up north, some that my parents bought me. I have some family treasures up there. I have a yellow day lily, a pink peony, rhubarb and a fernleaf peony. … I really love the plants. That’s how my floral artwork came about.
Do you, or does someone you know, have a cool, funky or exquisite living space that you’d like to see featured in At Home? Contact Joanne Kempinger Demski at [email protected]
If you go:
What: Spaces & Traces 2022: Organized by Historic Milwaukee. Guided tours of restored and newly constructed apartments, condos, hotels, commercial spaces
Where: In Milwaukee’s downtown, Westown, Yankee Hill and Third Ward neighborhoods.
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 7.
Tickets: $20 for members of Historic Milwaukee, $25 for no-members, $10 for volunteers.
Other events: Three virtual lectures are included in the ticket price: Historian John Gurda will talk about neighborhoods on the tour at 6 p.m. May 2; Lafayette Crump, Milwaukee commissioner of city development, will discuss efforts to update the downtown plan at 5:30 p.m. May 4; developer Juli Kaufmann and architect Patrick Jones will discuss the Dubbel Dutch hotel renovation at 6 p.m. May 9.
For tickets and more information: See historicmilwaukee.org or call (414) 277-7795.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Spaces & Traces 2022 tour condo is packed with art, great views