Purposeful design

JLD Designers’ Show House offers home remodeling ideas while raising money for families in need

By: K. Michelle Moran | C&G Newspapers | Published April 30, 2014

 The 2014 Junior League of Detroit Designers’ Show House at 1007 Bishop in Grosse Pointe Park was built in 1921 for prominent businessman Michael J. Murphy, who once ran the Murphy Chair Company in Detroit — one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the nation in the late 19th century.

The 2014 Junior League of Detroit Designers’ Show House at 1007 Bishop in Grosse Pointe Park was built in 1921 for prominent businessman Michael J. Murphy, who once ran the Murphy Chair Company in Detroit — one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the nation in the late 19th century.

Photos by Deb Jacques

Radiant orchid might be the 2014 Pantone Color of the Year, but you wouldn’t know it from the 2014 Junior League of Detroit Designers’ Show House.

Instead, softer and more classic colors prevail, from dove grays and delicate yellows to baby blues, with the occasional pop of black or coral to add drama. Touches of metallics add graceful shimmer throughout, as well.

Visitors will be able to see the historic structure — in its remarkable remade state — during tours May 3-18. Proceeds from the biennial show house will go toward the JLD’s new health and nutrition initiative, Project E.A.T., which will help Detroit children and their families enjoy nutritious meals.

The more than 9,000-square-foot house — with a Tudor exterior and a more colonial-styled interior — has leaded glass windows, eight fireplaces, five bedrooms and original wood paneling.

It was built in 1921, reportedly by architects Maul and Lentz, for prominent Detroit banker, manufacturer and civic leader Michael J. Murphy — owner of the Murphy Chair Company — when Murphy was 70 years old, because he wanted a place for his whole family to come together. He and his wife, Eliza, were the parents of three girls and four boys, and the dining room was designed to hold 22 seated guests at a main table and another 14 at an auxiliary table.

While the upstairs bedrooms are relatively small by today’s standards, there are much larger spaces on the main floor.

“He made the rooms on the first floor large gathering spaces for his children,” said Ann Baxter, of Grosse Pointe Park, who is one of this year’s house co-chairs, along with Grosse Pointe City residents Judy Lees and Patricia Kolojeski.

The large, tastefully decorated dining room — designed by Diane Woolsey, D.J. Kennedy and Ray Vuia, of Grosse Pointe Farms-based Diane Woolsey Interiors — features a long oval table with abundant seating, and is set off by warm, coral-colored walls that give the room a bright punch.

The loggia — a porch-like room that’s screened but not heated — features soft colors, cushioned indoor-outdoor wicker furniture and plants with a playful frog sculpture perched in their midst. Gail Urso, of Grosse Pointe Park-based Urso Designs Inc., said that when she first saw the room in the middle of winter, there were nearly two dozen cardinals in the backyard, which is visible from the many large windows.

“My feeling was this room had to be about the outside, so I’ve tried to make it as natural and comfortable as possible,” Urso said. “I call it ‘casually elegant.’”

Jeanine M. Haith, of Grosse Pointe City-based ShowHouse Interiors, gave the kitchen a wow factor with white wallpaper featuring what looks like writing in black, cursive-like letters. Black granite countertops and white cabinets with silver handles keep other elements simple to allow the wallpaper to be the standout. Haith said she wanted to create a cozy space that reflects on the home’s past.

“The premise is that today’s modern families live in their kitchens,” she said of the room, which features an island with seating. An adjoining room offers additional comfortable seating and a large-screen television that someone cooking could watch while preparing a meal.

Haith said home remodelers need to “be fearless.”

“Just put a great, dramatic paint color on the walls, and just accessorize,” she said.

Lighting is another way do-it-yourselfers can add flair. Haith noted that they installed some pendant light fixtures to replace the recessed canned lights — something almost anyone can do.

To showcase beautiful glasses and dishes, some cabinet fronts were outfitted with glass “windows,” while glass shelves replaced the former wooden ones. Lighting was added to these cabinets, and the back wall of the cabinets was painted in bright coral to make the glassware stand out even more.

Sherry Allor, of Detroit Custom Framing and Gallery in Grosse Pointe Woods, said she used “all Michigan art” by local artists for a back hallway that offers images of the Ambassador Bridge and Comerica Park, a historical caricature of Murphy done as a modern metal mosaic, and custom mirrors and shadowboxes that reflect the past and present. For one of the shadowboxes, Allor framed everyday items that speak to the home’s history — a small Hudson’s department store bag, a German book from the 1920s, a pipe, a black and white photo of a boy taken circa the 1920s, and old pens and eyeglasses. She also placed several older keys in a frame next to the back door.

“We’ve had a lot of fun (with the design),” Allor said.

Items from around the world decorate the spacious living room designed by Loretta Crenshaw, of Detroit-based Crenshaw & Associates. She said she created a number of seating areas for people to gather and converse, or where they can read a book by themselves.

“We wanted the room to have a fresh take on traditional,” Crenshaw said, pointing out a mid-century desk and a traditional sofa with modern art hanging on the wall above it. “We mixed some antiques, some modern (pieces) and some basic traditional things.”

Surfaces feature small grouped collections, a unifying trend anyone could do in their home by arranging like items together.

Baxter noted that the library — designed by Renea M. Lewis, of Troy-based Design by Choice LLC — has more than tomes on the bookshelves.

“Think about what goes on your shelves,” Baxter said. “They could be anything of importance to you — they don’t have to be books.”

Starburst mirrors can be found throughout the house, and pieces like an openwork room screen in one upstairs bedroom “makes you feel the room is bigger,” Baxter said.

Gordon Robinson, of Detroit-based Gordon Robinson Design LLC, used 9-foot ceilings to good effect in a bedroom and attached bathroom, using green and white toile fabric and warm wood tones throughout the bedroom, along with several large decorative accents. He said remodelers need to think three-dimensionally.

“Be confident in scale,” he said. “What you think is too big is (just) right.”

Repurposing is another designer trick that homeowners can try. For example, Kristin Ross, of Grosse Pointe City’s Finish by Red Décor, transformed a china cabinet into a girls’ wardrobe for a suite she designed for a pair of sisters. Ross gave an oversized stuffed giraffe in the room a girly upgrade, putting sunglasses, a pair of heeled shoes and several sparkly necklaces on the toy.

Ross also turned a china cabinet into a laundry cabinet in the laundry room, providing a convenient place to store towels and linens. And to create a surface on which to fold clothes, she placed a large table over the washer and dryer.

Those who want to take away more than decorating tips from their visit can shop in the large gift store in the basement, where they’ll find items for the home and garden, along with accessories — some embellished with local college logos — and other unique items.

Show house hours May 3-18 are 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25 at the door. On-street parking will not be permitted during the run of the show house, but the JLD will be operating free shuttles to and from the house. Visitors can leave their cars and pick up shuttles at Patterson Park, 16010 Essex in Grosse Pointe Park, on Lake St. Clair. For more information, call the JLD at (313) 881-0040 or visit www.jldetroit.org.