Don’t let its minimalist looks fool you—this 1888 renovated Victorian home is full of life (and plenty of dog fur!). Ren and Caleb Lenhof, a busy couple who own a fully-fledged photography business alongside their hobbies and day jobs, moved to the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee in the Spring of 2016 with their two dogs, Vik and Kenzo, and two cats, Yoshi and Lamar. Ren and Caleb admit that they are completely outnumbered by their pets and their plants and that they wouldn’t have it any other way!
Most of their weekends are spent traveling and photographing weddings, while Ren photographs interiors, newborns, products, pets and pretty much everything in between, all while juggling their multiple blogs and websites. Aside from their busy photography schedule, Ren mentors aspiring photographers and plays goalie on a local co-ed hockey team and Caleb works as a sales engineer for an HVAC company during the week.
When it comes to the design on their home, everything is meticulously considered to fit into their preferred Scandi-minimalist aesthetic. Bare surfaces and whitewashed airy spaces are a welcome sight in the Lenhof home and take precedent over filling up spaces with objects of little value just for the sake it. While emptiness and minimalism doesn’t intimidate them, the space is not without those personal touches that makes this house feel like a home.
With a little help from Ashley Oberst, a Design Crew member at west elm Milwaukee, their blank slate has transformed into their ultimate oasis. See their full space below and hear from both Ren and Caleb on what their inspiration was for the space and what their favorite aspects are of the completed design.
Also don’t forget to check them out on Instagram!
“My name is Ren and I am originally from Annapolis, Maryland. I now live in Bay View, Milwaukee, Wisconsin with my husband in our incredible home. I own and operate a highly awarded + published photography company called Studio 29 (29 – was my dog Leo’s birthday, thus named after him). I also just recently started a lifestyle blog, where I share the in-and-outs of running our photography business, our love for interior design, plants and travel, while encouraging others to live their best life. My BFF + husband, Caleb, is a full-time sales engineer at an HVAC company during the week and a photographer on the weekends with me. He plays volleyball during the warmer months and has been on a bowling league as long as I have known him. Together, we love traveling, riding our bikes and motorcycles, going on walks, spending time with our doggies, doing renovations to our home, watching action movies, listening to true crime podcasts, and enjoying great food!”
Both Ren and Caleb consider themselves to be “agnostic minimalists,” preferring everything in the home to be a very natural color palette, while using furniture as accents and plants as art. “We love white surfaces, chrome accents, sleek furniture with simple legs, open spaces, and prefer everything to be multifunctional. It takes us far too long to make a single purchase, because we are very serious about taking up space. More often than not, we purchase the most attractive version of things so that they can be displayed beautifully”.
“We like to keep our counters bare and often joke about how if our home looks un-lived in then we are doing the right thing!”
The very personal touches scattered throughout the home add a sense of warmth and personality amidst the minimalist vibe. Ren says she couldn’t do without the memories and happy feelings these objects present to her on a daily basis. One example of this is the candy tray in the living room from Ren’s grandfather: “It was always filled with andes candies at his home and it was the first thing I rushed to every time I visited. He gifted it to me and now it resides in our living room filled with andes candies. (This is also why I was drawn to the Andes Sofa from west elm. The name just tugged on my heart strings!)”
Another personal touch are the photographs taken by Ren and Caleb that are front and center on many of the walls around the home. “They are all photos we have taken of ourselves when we were in Iceland. We love Iceland so much and have been there 3 times.”
“The Stuff You Should Know poster was from the live podcast viewing we went to at Turner Hall. This podcast viewing was exceptional, because Caleb got on stage at the end of the show and proposed to me. The smaller framed piece is our dinner menu from our engagement dinner. It is so incredible that they were two different events on two different evenings and yet they have the same color palette of navy, coral, and ivory.”
When asked what the major challenges in designing this space to be as inviting as possible with the least amount of “stuff,” Ren points to the rugs. “We struggled a bit with choosing rugs. We love our dark wood floors and I didn’t see the need to cover them. But, they do get very cold during the long winter months here in Wisconsin. We consulted our friend Ashley Oberst from the MKE West Elm and she helped us choose the Colca Rug for our living room to brighten and add texture the space.”
Caleb’s favorite aspect of the home is just how purposeful everything is. “Everything we’ve added or subtracted was carefully thought out. Things I’m specifically proud of is our hexagonal tile in the sun room, the island cooktop, our bed, the chandelier in the living room, and the pendant lights in the sun room. We took weeks researching before finally buying these items, because we wanted to get it right the first time (although that doesn’t always happen.) Another thing I love is our flexibility and ability to evolve as our own styles change. Our first bed we thought was so cool when we bought it. Now we look back and realize how much of a piece of garbage it actually was. Learning and growing our style I suppose is what I love the most about our house.”
Ren’s favorite aspect is their large-scale pocket door connecting the foyer to the living room: “I’ve always loved pocket doors and I really love how insanely large ours is. I also am in love with all the photos that I’ve taken in front it that door. When we brought Vík home I wanted to do a photo project with him to watch his growth, so once a week I take a photo of him with my Pentax in front of the door. I created a hashtag on instagram with all the photos: #watchvíkgrow .”