Sabel breathes new life into home
By Eric Mathes
Sabel Builders helped John and Cindy Hartmann construct a dream home with creative ideas that utilized new space. Passed down through the family, the home was originally used as a cheese factory in the early 1900s.

Many home owners dream of the opportunity to recreate an old space into something fresh and new.

With the help of Sabel Builders, John and Cindy Hartmann were able to turn a weathered building into their dream home.

West of Kiel lies a house with a stone foundation on the southeast corner, at the intersection of CTH J and CTH HH.

This was once the location of Hillside Dairy, run by Cindy’s grandparents Lester and Edna Wordell.

“I have an undated photo of my grandparents in the basement,” Cindy said. “They look very young. I don’t know how old it is, but I have my grandmother’s cheese making license which is dated in 1940.”

From her grandparent’s cheese factory, to the home of her parents Ernie and Alice Illig, the weathered building will continue to serve another generation of Cindy’s family.

Making a house a home

While the couple lived in New Holstein, ideas for a makeover on the old home started to take shape.

Cindy said, “We had a lot of ideas of how we could remodel the existing space and started to look at our options. We wanted to get rid of a few walls and create a more open space.”

Even though John was used to tackling most their renovating projects, ideas of a bigger makeover would lead to a few conversations with Tom Sabel, owner of Sabel Builders.

Sabel helped the couple evaluate the space in the beginning while new ideas started to come together.

“We had a desire to think outside the box with this project and never really had set plans,” Cindy said. “As new ideas came up, Tom helped us bring them to life.”

Without a true blueprint, Sabel’s crew began gutting the interior down to the bare bones.

The most time consuming part of the project was resurfacing and leveling out the existing floor.

“From one side to the other, we were over five and a half inches off level,” Sabel said. “That was the part that we spent a lot of time getting right because everything else depends on it.”

Freedom to create

Starting over inside the existing structure allowed the freedom to create the open space that John and Cindy wanted.

Once the floor was completed, the interior concept was to turn the old two bedroom home into a one bedroom with the kitchen, living room, and dining room flowing into one open space.

“There’s nothing wrong with the norm, but we knew we wanted something different,” Cindy said. “We only had so much space to work with, so we wanted to make everything count.”

John and Cindy were eager to bring their own creative touch to the project while allowing the renovation to still reflect the age of the structure.

After some interior walls were knocked down, living room windows were moved to let more light in.

The existing ceiling was knocked out revealing more of the attic space which is where the first big idea came into play.

With more available space above, Sabel worked to design a small loft above the living room.

“This was a great idea and it adds a lot of character to the house,” Cindy said. “It’s turned into our grandkid’s space when they come to visit.”

Instead of stairs, Sabel helped create a rolling ladder on a horizontal bar, similar to a library ladder. The idea served a functional purpose of accessing the loft while conserving on space in a creative way.

Cindy had also come across a few old doors at rummage sales and auctions that would replace bathroom and closet doors.

Restored barn wood was also used to create a new sliding door for the couple’s bedroom.

“The new colors with the old wood gives the new rooms a lot of life,” Cindy said. Thanks to some research on the internet, the couple found many ways to incorporate old materials into the new space.

The old attic door used to climb through the ceiling was turned into a backsplash on the wall for hanging coats near the door.

Everything is a favorite

Deciding on a favorite addition to the new home is difficult for Cindy after putting so much effort into the design process.

“To pick apart all the unique things that created our new home to find a favorite is difficult. I can’t choose,” she said. “It’s like a puzzle of a bunch of really unique ideas that brings everything together now that it’s all complete.”

Throughout the remodel process, Sabel Builders made it easy for John and Cindy when they came up with new ideas.

“Tom and his crew were so easy to work with throughout the project,” John said. “We spent a lot of time talking about new ideas through every step.”

Even with the constant brainstorming with the space, the ball kept rolling until completion.

“I remember thinking how nice it would look with a couple barn beams running across the ceiling,” John said. “We talked about the idea with Tom and over the weekend he came across the materials we needed. Things just seemed to work out and all of our ideas really came together.”

A few months after moving everything into their remodeled home, John and Cindy pulled in the driveway together.

As she walked through the door she paused and looked around at the home where her grandparents once slung cans of cream to make cheese. It was where

Eric Mathes photo her parents turned the small factory into a home to raise their family. And now it is a place that John and Cindy poured their own ideas into, make it there own. With a breath of satisfaction, Cindy said, “I love our home.” She looked at John who replied, “I do too.”