A look into the home and life of Oprah’s former hairstylist, Andre Walker & partner David Simmons’ country estate.
By: Julie Morse
An oasis of comfort and beauty arises from a rolling expanse of cropland in bucolic East Troy, Wisconsin – a one-of-a-kind country home that reflects its owners’ deep love of both design and nature.
Originally created eighteen years ago as a restful escape from a high-octane life of international celebrity and glamour since one of the owners was Oprah Winfrey’s personal stylist for twenty-five years and both are internationally-known design experts — the fabulous 5,000 square foot custom home is now their primary residence. Amidst these beautiful surroundings, the two work and thrive as successful global businessmen and also local farm owners.d
“This land, this community, stole our hearts. The home is True North for us,” said Andrew Walker, whose work with Oprah won him 7 Emmy Awards for hairstyling, among other accolades in fashion and design.
Walker is now the owner and founder of the highly successful line of hair care products, which bears his name. (Andre Walker Hair products are available locally at Target and Sally’s Beauty Supply stores, among other locations worldwide.) . His partner, David Simmons, is a design and renovation expert with a background in the luxury hotelier business. Together, they have formed Walker Simmons Design, serving clients near and far. While the larger business operations are based in California, the two are usually able to telecommute locally from their favorite executive office – the one that looks out on the one-of-a-kind “farm” they have created on a sixty acres of Southeastern Wisconsin land.
“It was February when I first saw this property, raw farmland on a cold bleak day, but it immediately resonated with me for its terrain and its panoramic views of the countryside…Andrew was in California at the time, but he trusted my gut. We never looked back,” said David.
In fact, the two looked boldly forward, with a design vision equal to their deep appreciation to the land and its history.
Their sixty-acre homestead was once part of a much larger farm. The original weathered barn and vintage farmhouse still stand sentry to the north of the long, winding private drive that now leads through trees and fields to their inviting new home. Inspired by the serene historic beauty of the English Cotswold’s, and deftly meshed with more modern influences, the designer’s country house is simply stunning. Superbly sited on a gentle rise of rolling land with sweeping nature views, the ultra-private retreat is surrounded by old hardwood forest, meadows, an apple and peach orchard, flower beds, organic vegetable gardens, water elements and native perennial landscapes worthy of an arboretum. This heavenly homesite, encompassing about ten acres of grounds, is further encircled by about fifty acres of cropland, which the owners continue to farm for corn and soybeans.
From inside the house, grand tall-windowed views showcase the many awe-inspiring landscapes, hardscapes and garden areas that have been carefully crafted around the home. These in turn give way to the larger outdoor views of open countryside, forest and farmland.
The home itself, designed by noted Miami architect Peter Hawrylewicz, is an extraordinary as its surroundings. A bluestone walk leads up to the welcoming residence, its clean and classic architectural lines enhanced further by an open-air, pillared porch extraordinaire, offering panoramic views of natural vistas and sensational sunrises.
An artful richly-hued front door, handcrafted in solid wood, accented with slatted insets for natural light, opens to an inviting entrance. This area, in turn, gives way to a breath-taking two-story-high, rotunda-styled foyer, with inset wood floor and balconies above. Straight ahead is a long gallery of captivating artworks, which the owners have collected over many years, the space is further enhanced by towering ceilings and timeless detailing.
To the right of the foyer, is a living room worthy of Architectural Digest – superbly appointed and graciously furnished, with soaring ceilings, a large fireplace, custom millwork and floor-to-ceiling windows, framing engaging views of the great outdoors. Large enough to accommodate two distinct seating areas, the room embraces fine living and entertaining with deep-comfort seating options that define relaxation. Its clean-lined design reflects the owners’ own refined and intuitive senses of style, merging extraordinary fabrics and colorful accents with neutral foundations.
From the living room, one steps up to an unforgettable octagonal dining room, gleaming with high-lacquer walls in pure white. Floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors afford panoramic views or the private orchard, gardens, trees and open lands beyond, with access to outdoor patios as well. At night, landscape lighting further enhances the home’s ambience, inside and out.
Down the hall from the dining room is a grand, gourmet’s delight kitchen, rendered in light colored custom cabinetry with dark stone accents. Highlights include a massive center island with seating for many, a clever curved-wall preparation area and plentiful customized storage. Highest-end stainless appliances complete the perfection – along with a built-in, wood-fired pizza oven for restaurant-quality creations.
The kitchen is a favorite gathering place for parties – but there is even more beauty and comfort to be enjoyed around the corner. Here, all relish the recent addition of a sensational Great Room, with an expansive fireplace, custom built-ins and state-of-the-art audiovisuals. The fabulous space is extended further seasonally, when doors open to a huge beamed and comfortably-appointed screened porch with garden-inspired furnishings that blend in naturally with the surrounding gardens and landscapes. There is also outdoor access here, with paths leading to beautiful nature spaces in every direction.
Another first-floor highlight is the master wing, with its tall-ceilinged master bedroom and elegantly-appointed master bathroom – light, inviting and spacious. The bedroom, with glass door access to dedicated outdoor patio space, offers private views of the grounds and is the ultimate haven to retire to each day. Also, not to be missed on the first floor tour is the warmly-appointed library and home office, rendered in French White Oak with floor-to-ceiling handcrafted bookcases that hold an impressive collection of reading materials and awards. Here, executive business is transacted, amidst all the comforts and treasures of home, with amazing nature views to inspire.
When guests visit this special country home, they are lucky enough to be able to choose from three luxurious bedrooms upstairs, each designed with its own unique style, and all focused on great comfort inside, and wonderful nature views outside. The well-appointed guest bath, with its large soaking tub and rain shower, adds to the enjoyment.
But, for those visitors who want the ultimate get-away experience, there is also a “hidden” guesthouse and studio, with a vaulted ceiling great room, kitchenette, full bath and screened porch. It is nestled deep in the woods behind the house – a short hike away, down a long footpath through the forest. A campfire pit adds to the outdoor enjoyment of this special “neck of the woods” – so close, but yet seemingly so far.
According to Andre, “It’s our take on a Northwoods cabin, a true escape, without another building in sight.”
“Our guests love the cabin, but we do as well,” adds David. “It’s the perfect place for creative inspiration.”
Indeed, to this visitor, the duo’s entire homestead is an exceptional place for creative and inspired living, a country retreat which blends in seamlessly with the quiet beauty of the surrounding landscape. It truly is an oasis… a refreshing, unexpected find amidst the wide-open farm fields of historic Walworth County.