The owner of Ancora creates modern and comfortable spaces at home and in her cafes


For Tori Gerding, an ideal space is clean and modern, but with a welcoming, lived-in vibe.

It’s a blend she’s perfected, both at her Maple Bluff home and at her three Ancora cafes. Its design combines backdrops of white and neutral tones with light wood, subway tiles, clean-lined but comfortable furniture, lots of plants, and — its signature — pops of wallpaper.

“It’s no secret among my friends and clients that I love wallpaper,” says Gerding. “I just think it’s a fun way to add color, pattern and depth to a space, and it’s definitely a conversation starter. It’s the first thing I choose when I start to design a new cafe, and from there we can derive colors and corresponding textures and patterns.

Gerding started doing marketing and accounting for Ancora when she first moved to Madison after college. In 2013, she bought the cafes (one on King Street, one on University Avenue, both since relocated to the same streets) from the owners, who are retiring. Little by little, it refreshes the brand and the cafes.

Photo by Hillary Shave

Avenue de l’Université was the first to undergo a facelift. The second was the King Street outpost, a few doors down from the Majestic Theatre, which her husband, Matt, opened in 2007. And more recently, she opened a location on North Sherman Avenue in the former Manna Bakery & Coffee. The latter boutique’s sage green walls, white oak tables, sleek white chairs, abundance of plants and botanical wallpaper accents came together to create what Gerding considers the most faithful representation of the vision. she had from her coffees.

And it’s similar to the aesthetic she’s perfected at home.

Charm and good bones drew the Gerdings to their home, but when they bought it in 2016, they knew they’d want to make some changes. The kitchen and powder room have been transformed into spaces that respect the history of the house – which was built in 1924 – while adapting to their modern tastes.

The kitchen now features white quartz countertops, a white subway tile backsplash, and gray cabinetry with glass fronts and handles that Gerding sourced from Etsy, opting for a lower-gloss oil-rubbed bronze finish than traditional brass. The highlights of the small bathroom are a white tile floor and a floating wooden vanity with a sleek white sink.

bathroom insider his house

Photo by Hillary Shave

Renovations slowed when their daughter Evie, now 4, was born. But when Gerding was three months pregnant with Rhea, who is now 2 years old, the desire for further improvements arose. So she contacted Aro Eberle Architects and Carlson Construction, who had both helped redesign Ancora.

“We basically emptied everything except the kitchen,” she says.

Thankfully, the extensive construction work was completed just before the pandemic hit, providing the family with a cool and comfortable space to spend so much time at home.

The demolition of a detached garage allowed the Gerdings to build an addition to the side of the house, and moving the main staircase opened up the living room considerably. Now this airy living space opens up to the dining room and kitchen, creating a true heart of the home.

Behind a tan leather sofa, a built-in unit holds the couple’s record collection and many of the girls’ toys. The rest of the living room is outfitted with a charcoal section, plush chair and rug. Nearby, a wooden dining table is surrounded by a bench and four blue velvet chairs.

family room with staircase

Photo by Hillary Shave

But the most eye-catching feature on the ground floor is the staircase wall, covered in gold and white botanical print wallpaper. Gerding discovered designer Aliz Arteta’s print on Etsy and was able to customize the color on digital printing company Spoonflower.

The staircase itself is also stunning, with a wrought iron banister and risers covered in patterned cement tiles, which Gerding has also incorporated into the floor of the new mudroom.

Upstairs are a laundry room and the children’s bedrooms, bathroom and games room. The master bedroom is a serene scene, except for one more wallpaper shot – golden bees on a deep teal background by York Wallcoverings. A small patio ideal for sipping wine on a summer evening and a bright dressing room complete the space, as well as the bathroom.

The space features calacatta gold marble hexagonal tiles on the floor, white subway tiles on the walls, and a white tub inside a large shower. Gerding relishes the time spent here.

“It’s my favorite room in the house,” she says. “I love taking baths and it’s a good place to get away from it all.”

Katie Vaughn is a Madison-based writer on arts, family, home, and travel.



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