The public will be able to tour actor Hill Harper’s home, located at 670 W. Boston Blvd. in Detroit, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 7. As the Junior League of Detroit Designers’ Show House, 39 designers took part in designing rooms in the 18,000-square-foot home. Pictured, Julia Buckingham, of Chicago-based Buckingham Interiors & Design, describes her take on the dining room as “Motown Rhapsody in Blue.”

The public will be able to tour actor Hill Harper’s home, located at 670 W. Boston Blvd. in Detroit, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 7. As the Junior League of Detroit Designers’ Show House, 39 designers took part in designing rooms in the 18,000-square-foot home. Pictured, Julia Buckingham, of Chicago-based Buckingham Interiors & Design, describes her take on the dining room as “Motown Rhapsody in Blue.”

Photo by Deb Jacques


Designers mix vintage, modern in historic Detroit mansion

By: K. Michelle Moran | C&G Newspapers | Published September 12, 2018

Featured Gallery (Click to view)

DETROIT — From hand-carved woodwork and moldings to a built-in pipe organ, the Charles T. Fisher Mansion in Detroit’s Boston Edison District is an example of the gracious homes once occupied by the city’s auto barons.

Selected as the nonprofit Junior League of Detroit’s 22nd biennial Designers’ Show House, it will be open to tours from Sept. 15 to Oct. 7 so visitors can see how national interior designers have re-envisioned the 18,000-square-foot mansion.

Get a first look during the Sept. 14 opening gala, which will feature an auction, a strolling dinner, music by the Motor City Horns with Thornetta Davis, and a live art installation by artist Felle in conjunction with Design Core Detroit.

Designers worked independently, but common threads — including luxe materials such as velvet, leather and marble — abound in the three-story, 1922 English Tudor, which has 14 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, a gymnasium, a pub, a private chapel, a carriage house and a Prohibition-era liquor vault. It was purchased by author, actor and philanthropist Hill Harper — star of the TV drama “The Good Doctor” — as his personal residence. Harper, who launched the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation to help underserved youth to succeed through scholarship, mentorship and grant programs, is also the owner of Roasting Plant Coffee in Detroit.

This is the largest house the JLD has ever tackled and the first in Detroit. Liana Dabir, of Grosse Pointe Farms, one of this year’s show house co-chairs with Sabine Iafrate and Cynthia Menna, both of Grosse Pointe Park, said they have more designers — 39 — than ever, and they expect total attendance to be in the range of 12,000 to 15,000, well over the typical average of 8,000 to 10,000. They also have their first national media sponsor, Aspire Design and Home magazine.

“We’ve never had this national reach before,” Dabir said.

Funds raised from this event — made possible by thousands of volunteers — will support JLD programs for the next two years, including Project EAT, which, according to the JLD, “connects education, access and tools to promote healthy eating.”

“We’re super excited to be in Detroit,” Dabir said. “All of our money raised over 40 years has gone back into the community.”

Julia Buckingham, of Chicago-based Buckingham Interiors & Design, gave the dining room a “Motown Rhapsody in Blue” take. She used deep matte blue and gold, and a mix of modern art and fixtures alongside older pieces, such as reupholstered vintage French love seats. Twenty-four carat gold gilding was redone, and classic vinyl Motown records adorn one wall. 

“I thought the records were a fun play on the medallion theme in the room,” Buckingham said.

Several rooms have bar areas.

“That seems to be a popular theme this year — entertaining, having a good time,” Iafrate said.

Corey-Damen Jenkins, of Birmingham-based Corey-Damen Jenkins & Associates LLC, is giving the living room a vibrant palette of white, navy blue, apple green and gold.

“Hill Harper wanted this space architecturally preserved, but he also likes light, bright colors,” Jenkins said. “We have a very traditional backdrop, and we are going to juxtapose that with modern art. I call this ‘trad-nouveau.’”

The second floor will become a private apartment within the home for Harper, his 2-year-old son and the boy’s nanny. Harper’s living space was vaulted to the third-floor, Dabir said.

Tiffany Cobb, of Atlanta-based Tiffany René Interior Design LLC, used only Detroit artists and vendors for the third floor alcove.

“I grew up in this (area) and I had an opportunity to pass by these houses and dream of designing them,” said Cobb, who played in the Fisher Building halls as a child. “I feel honored and blessed to be a part of this show house.”

Annette Sanks-Green, a partner with Stacy Evans in Detroit-based Savvy Interior Designs LLC, converted a third-floor bedroom into a lounge with aviation chairs, plush pillows and no window treatments to maximize natural light. 

Even the basement is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, complete with original marble flooring and a glass wall to showcase the organ pipes. Sam Sobh, of Grosse Pointe Park-based Design Du Jour, gives its former billiard room a playful yet elegant makeover with blue velvet wallpaper and a large painting of Prince, by Desiree Kelly, over the marble fireplace.

Homeowners might not be able to replicate the Fisher Mansion’s opulence, but they can get ideas for their own homes. Angie Lane, of Tecumseh-based A. Lane Architecture PLLC, united a guest suite with deep turquoise paint on parts of the walls in all three small rooms; used vintage accents such as a multicolored, hand-knitted afghan and an old deck of cards; and turned a mirrored, star-shaped ceiling light fixture into a wall sconce — tricks anyone could try.

Show House tickets cost $35 until Sept. 14, or $40 after that date or at the door. The house is located at 670 W. Boston Blvd. in Detroit. For advance tickets, gala tickets or more details, visit aspiremetro.com/fishermansionevents or www.jldetroit.org.