Au Naturel

Creative spaces that bring the outdoors in
Dream space: The Elkay prep sink on the island in this Northville kitchen is like a piece of jewelry. The faucet is Artifacts by Kohler. Discover more inside this section.

Points of View

The heart of this home showcases nature’s beauty from various sitting areas

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger

BACKSTORY: After residing in a four-bedroom, Colonial-style home in Livonia for a number of years, Elaine and Don Kamen decided to purchase 10 wooded acres in Northville. They divided the property into different parcels and subsequently built their dream house on one of them. At the recommendation of Greg Labadie, owner of Midwest Cabinet & Counter Inc. in Madison Heights, the couple hired interior designer Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger, owner of Bloomfield Hills-based Iron Key Designs, to help them create a modern version of a Colonial with a kitchen that would epitomize the “elegant, transitional style” they were looking for. Interior selections were chosen to make the most of and complement nature’s beauty just outside the windows.

METAL MELANGE: Shellenbarger says the kitchen’s appliances, cabinetry hardware, plumbing fixtures, and lighting elements feature a blend of metals. “This mix of polished nickel and oil-rubbed bronzes brings a warmth and balance to the cool tones of the stainless steel,” she says.

Key Designs kitchen
During autumn, use colorful apples, pumpkins, and even fall-themed jelly beans to create cozy kitchen spaces, says interior designer Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger, seated. Having a large single-level island with a second sink enables Shellenbarger’s client to use it as a prep area. “The family can fill the sink with ice for drinks, or trim and prep flowers for arrangements,” she says. “The L-shaped seating (two stools not shown) at the island allows for good conversation flow,” she adds. Designing the prep sink to be close to the range allows for multi-person prepping and cooking without interrupting the seating area.

MAKING A SPLASH: The backsplashes include a variety of beige, gold, cream, gray, and black quartzite stones. “I wanted both warm and cool colors wherever I could,” the designer explains. To add interest in spite of the fact that the materials are the same, the stones above the main sink are laid in a subway pattern design, while those above the range in the kitchen and above the sink in the adjoining butler’s pantry are laid in a herringbone pattern.

ISLAND PARADISE: The island includes a second prep sink that’s made out of hammered polished nickel. “It looks like a piece of jewelry,” Shellenbarger says. “It’s stunning and also deep, so the owners can fill it with ice and utilize it as part of a bar when entertaining.”

THREE’S THE CHARM: “This kitchen provides three different ways to enjoy the space throughout the day,” Shellenbarger says. “In the morning you can sip coffee while sitting in one of the lounge chairs that overlooks the yard, then have breakfast while sitting at the kitchen island, and later have lunch or dinner while sitting at the kitchen table.”

— Judith Harris Solomon

Key Designs kitchen details


Interior design, Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger, Iron Key Designs, Bloomfield Hills, Cabinetry, Medallion Cabinetry, Midwest Cabinet & Counter Inc., Madison Heights, Island countertop, Corian quartz, Calcutta Natura, H.J. Oldenkamp, Perimeter and butler’s pantry, Caesarstone quartz, Pietra gray, Ciot, Troy, Backsplash, quartzite tile, Ciot, Troy, Hammered-nickel island sink, Elkay, Faucet, Kohler Artifacts, All plumbing, Infusion Kitchen & Bath Showrooms by Etna Supply, Wixom. Hardware, Top Knobs, Herald Wholesale, Troy,

Key Designs bathroom
Stay Awhile: Spa-like appointments throughout this bathroom make it a peaceful retreat. Materials and colors were chosen to complement outstanding views through the window. Here, nature is part of the artwork.

Divine Design

This well-appointed master bath has all the bells and whistles

BACKSTORY: For a new-construction home in Northville owned by husband-and-wife Realtors who are also empty-nesters, the goal was to make the master bath a luxurious spa-like retreat for the couple to enjoy now, and potentially be a selling point in the future. To get it right, homeowners Don and Elaine Kamen, of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, hired Bloomfield Hills-based interior designer Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger to help with material selections and project management.

POPULAR VOTE: “The way we approached the design was to appeal to the masses,” says Shellenbarger, owner of Iron Key Designs (she was referred to her clients by Midwest Cabinet & Counter Inc.). Shellenbarger describes the stylish space in the first-floor master suite as “classic transitional with elegant accents.”

PERFECT BLEND: The master bath features a winning combination of warm and cool tones in various shades of gray, brown, and gold — complementary colors to the outstanding vistas seen through the window. Sensible material selections include the porcelain tile, which provides the look of marble minus the maintenance.

SCENIC SOAK: A window overlooking the private backyard dictated the layout of the space, where the splendid freestanding tub was the intended focal point. “It’s the first thing you see and it’s a real show-stopper,” Shellenbarger says. “You can take a soak and look outside.”

Key Designs bathtub details

EXTRA, EXTRA: A two-person shower has a rainhead with body sprays that provide a spa-like treatment for sore muscles, while the flexible handheld shower features an adjustable slide bar. A private commode offers another deluxe touch. A his-and-hers closet is located en suite, off the bathroom.

CLASSIC ACCENTS: Beveled antique-style framed mirrors topped by fixtures with multiple lights play up his-and-hers vanities. Polished nickel hardware on the stained cherrywood cabinetry adds interest with its etched water-ripple design.

PRACTICAL MATTERS: As Shellenbarger explains, quartz countertops like the ones shown here have become more prevalent in bathroom settings because they can stand up to the acids found in popular products like face creams. “It’s better to use manmade materials so you have no rings or stains,” she says.

STANDING TALL: The designer’s clients appreciate the taller 36-inch counter height in the bathroom, which has risen to the kitchen standard. “It makes a difference when you’re washing your face or brushing your teeth. It’s a much more comfortable height,” she says.

HEAD START: Embarking on the material selection process in the blueprint stage and completing it before they dug any dirt helped ease the anxiety of all the decisions that come with a new build. “It also increased the confidence in the selections, because nothing was picked under the gun,” Shellenbarger says.

— Jeanine Matlow

Key Designs showerhead


Interior design, Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger, Iron Key Designs, Bloomfield Hills, Freestanding tub and plumbing, Infusion Kitchen & Bath Showrooms by Etna Supply, Wixom, Freestanding tub filler, Delta. Sink, faucets, and shower systems, Kohler, Cabinets, Midwest Cabinet & Counter, Madison Heights, Lighting, Herald Wholesale, Troy, Tile, Virginia Tile, Michigan Design Center, Troy, and Farmington Hills locations, Botanical art, Home Goods, Mirrors, Uttermost, Shower door, Reid Glass, Southfield,