Hearts of the Home

Their owners agree: The best part about autumn is spending more time in these five kitchens

Ranch Dressing

With art as a backsplash and cool marble effects, this kitchen renovation in a one-story Troy home gleams with refinement

By Judith Harris Solomon

BACKSTORY: Interior designer Rita O’Brien, owner of Rita O’Brien Design Group — a showroom and studio located in the Michigan Design Center that specializes in art by local artists, accessories, and lighting — totally remodeled the Troy ranch home that she and her husband, Tom, purchased in 2016. “It turned out to be a two-year ordeal because all the plumbing failed and we had to dig up the floors across the entire house,” she says.

PALATABLE PALETTE Rita O’Brien’s husband, a movie buff, considers the James Dean print, above, to be one of his favorite gifts. O’Brien decided to hang a lithograph, top, behind the range because its colors work so well there. The painting off the kitchen is by Tony Roko.

AT HOME BEHIND THE RANGE: “Because we consider the kitchen to be part and parcel of one big entertaining area, we didn’t want to install a standard tile backsplash on the wall just behind the range,” O’Brien says. Instead, she placed a decorative black-and-white lithograph there, because its colors echo the black-and-white color scheme of the entire house.

BAR TENDING: O’Brien says because she and her husband use the patio (located just beyond the kitchen’s two 8-foot-wide glass doors) from early spring until the first snowfall, they decided to install both a wine cooler and a small circular sink at the end of the island closest to the doors. A liquor cabinet and a wine glass storage cabinet were placed to the left of the range, so the bottles and wine glasses would be easily accessible to anyone on the patio.

FINISH LINES: “The use of two different finish colors for the kitchen hardware offers an unexpected yet cohesive feature in this kitchen design, and that’s always my goal as a designer,” O’Brien says. For the black island, she chose oil-rubbed bronze-finish pulls, while for the white wooden cabinets she chose deep black/brown pulls in order to highlight the kitchen’s strong use of black in both the crown moldings and the black-and-white granite countertops.

SPACING OUT: “By removing a sitting area,” O’Brien explains, “the kitchen, formerly a tiny 12- by 14-foot, U-shaped galley, now measures 20 by 15 feet.”

OPPOSITES ATTRACT: Here’s another wow factor of note: The stunning black-and-white marble (three slabs!) on the island’s surface was specifically designed and fabricated by Preferred Marble & Granite in Fraser to be more white than black, to better pair with the island’s black cabinetry. The marble for the rest of the counters is predominantly black, to highlight the white cabinetry in the rest of the kitchen. “A process called bookmarking was used to align the slabs and match the characteristics of each slab. Preferred spent hours to provide me with every design element that was important to me,” O’Brien recalls.

SITTING PRETTY: In order not to overuse the color black in this kitchen design, O’Brien says she chose swivel chairs, manufactured by TRICA, that have dark brown metal frames that pair beautifully with the dark brown metal frames of the island’s light fixtures. “These swivel chairs are heavy pieces that look more like cozy table chairs than island pieces,” she says. “This is important because the kitchen flows into the living room area, and downplaying the kitchen look was an important factor in this design. The intent was for the rooms to flow as one complete design,” she says.

GLEAMING GOURMET A 48-inch Viking range provides the focal point and was a priority in the Broom kitchen. Two-toned black and gray Shaker-style cabinetry and an antique mirrored backsplash “keep It interesting,” according to Broom.


Art Lovers’ Haven

A heart-of-Midtown loft has the perfect kitchen for this couple

By Khristi S. Zimmeth

BACKSTORY: Elliott Broom, vice president of museum operations for the DIA, was an original resident of Midtown’s Willys Overland Lofts (built in 1912 as a showroom for Willys-Overland vehicles) when the renovated space opened in 2008. He moved in in 2009 and later moved into a 2,600-square-foot, two-story loft in the building with his partner, Tim Sullivan, digital marketing manager for Ford Credit. “The former space was a long, narrow residence,” Broom explains.

RAW DEAL: The 13- by 18-foot space that became the kitchen is open to the loft’s art-filled living room, which the couple says was “beyond raw” when they moved in. The loft featured a standard builder’s kitchen, which Broom says wasn’t quite up to snuff. “We moved in on a Monday, and the next day Kastler Construction came and ripped it all out,” he says.

LOCATION, LOCATION: “We had no desire to live anywhere else in the city or suburbs,” Broom says. “We love the location, here in the heart of Midtown.”

BRAGGING RIGHTS: Highlights of the new space include over-island lights by Phillippe Starck for Flos, a copper bar sink, and a spacious 9- by 5-foot island loaded with storage. “There’s a lot of space, and it’s all filled,” Broom says.

STEAMY SECRET: “I like gadgets and had to have a steam oven,” Broom admits. “Don’t ask me why.” For Sullivan, it was important to have an oversized range top. (He’s also a fan of the pull-out spice shelving around the range.)

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: “Selden Standard is our go-to place,” Broom says. He and Sullivan are also fond of SheWolf Pastificio & Bar and Corktown’s Lady of the House.

FOCAL POINT: The nucleus of the kitchen is the commanding 48-inch Viking range at the center of the room. “Your eye goes right to it,” says Paul Kozicki, Kastler Construction’s vice president and the designer who worked with the couple on the space (along with Kastler President Rick Kastler and designer Sarah Corcoran of Visionary Cabinetry & Design).

ALL IN THE MIX: Broom wanted a mix of black and gray cabinets, “to keep it interesting.” Supplied by Visionary Cabinetry & Design (part of Kastler Construction), they feature Shaker-style doors and European frameless cabinetry. Broom is happy with the result, but admits the color scheme wasn’t his first choice. “Originally I wanted Kelly green,” he says. “Some days I still walk in here and wonder what that would have looked like.”

MIRROR, MIRROR: The backsplash is made of an antique mirror the couple saw at Kastler and Kozicki’s home and fell in love with. Nearby counters are Cambria Britannica quartz. “It gave us the look of stone with the durability of quartz,” Broom says.

PARTY PLACE: The room works well for two, or for when the couple entertains. “We can move around in it together, but it’s not cavernous,” Broom says. “When we have people over, everyone is in the kitchen.”

PROFESSIONAL POINTER: Kozicki recommends opting for full-access drawers, which have maximum storage space. He’s also a fan of the Blanco granite sink, which he claims “is totally scratch-proof.” kastlerconstruction.com

The big island Exposed brick, an oversized 20-foot island, and simple contemporary cabinetry lend an industrial feel to the Hanson kitchen in Detroit. Inspired by restaurant and commercial kitchens, the island seats 12.


Lofty Living

This kitchen in a 1906 Detroit building suits a restaurant industry professional and his family

By Khristi S. Zimmeth

BACKSTORY: The Renaissance Center casts a long shadow over Hans Hanson’s enviable loft, located in the up-and-coming Rivertown neighborhood. Hanson, managing director of CAM — Collaborative Advantage Marketing — shares the loft space with his wife, Kamila, and kids, and shares the building with Detroit Denim Co. It will be four years this fall since he bought the 22,000-square-foot 1906 building, once home to Donogan Electrical Supply.

NOW HE’S COOKIN’: Hanson is a classically trained chef who was raised in Colorado and has spent most of his time in Michigan. His company, CAM, works with private labels. “You know our stuff but you wouldn’t know us,” he says.

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT: Hanson worked with designer Elaine Lewenz, of Troy-based EuroAmerica Design, on the 30- by 28-foot kitchen, located at the heart of the antique-filled loft. A veteran of restaurant and hotel kitchen design, he’s a fan of industrial spaces and of parties to fill them. Besides a 20-foot-long, runway-size island, he has three dishwashers (a priority, he claims, because there’s “nothing worse than a lot of stuff in the sink”).

SPACE STATIONS: “My goal was for the kitchen to be comfortable for a few people or for a dinner party of 60,” he says (he also rents the space for events). Vehemently opposed to the kitchen triangle, Hanson set it up in stations and outfitted each with a mix of Berloni cabinets and Miele appliances. “Integrating exposed brick, reclaimed wood floors, glass, stainless steel, and modern flat cabinetry to create a warm, inviting kitchen” was important, Lewenz says.

MORE IS MORE: There are also four ovens, three warming drawers, two refrigerators, and a small freezer. Counters are a mix of stainless and butcher block salvaged from a 1940s bowling alley in Ferndale. The 12-seat island includes a built-in, pop-top trash bin.

TOP CHALLENGE: “The hardest thing for a loft project like this is finding people who can do the work,” Hanson says. He credits contractor Logan Merry of Deep End Studios, based in Detroit, who worked on other areas in the loft.

FAVE NEARBY HAUNT: The Rattlesnake Club. “That patio is the best-kept secret in Detroit,” Hanson says.

BEST-LAID PLANS: The original plan was to use the facility for office and warehouse space. “We never intended to live here,” Hanson says — but plans change. His 3,980-square-foot living space on the second floor (with a to-die-for 1,500-square-foot deck) is one of 13 condo units.

PRO’S TIP: “Design your kitchen to fit your lifestyle,” Lewenz says. “In Hans’ kitchen, we defined work stations to accommodate many chefs at the same time and a baking, cooking, grilling, and beverage bar. The owner had his vision. EuroAmerica Design (and others) made it happen.” euroamericadesign.com

PARTY TIME This expansive kitchen is the perfect spot for entertaining — and that’s entertaining with a capital E. Paula’s family (and later Paula) ran an Italian restaurant in Lincoln Park — Peppina’s — for 48 years, so they get cooking! Below, a professional pizza oven turns out pizze that’s deliziose.



This renovation involved creating a large, welcoming gathering spot for entertaining and preparing cherished Italian family recipes

By Megan Swoyer

BACKSTORY: When Randy Slof and Paula Deardorff Slof purchased their beautiful 1941 Colonial-style home in Franklin in 2006, they were just going to take down the wallpaper and add ceiling lights. But one thing led to the next and, before they knew it, they had gutted a large portion of the main level, including the kitchen. Today, it’s more of a French country-style home.

HEART OF THE HOME: “I love to entertain,” Paula says, “so that’s why we built a large, open kitchen. I can be part of everything. When we’re entertaining, (everybody’s) in here; people get involved, it’s fun.”

MUST-HAVES: “I wanted to have a functional kitchen that had my equipment exposed,” Paula says. “I didn’t want to hide anything.”

FLOORS WITH FINESSE: “The flooring is walnut. We had it hand-distressed here on the premises, and then stained,” Randy explains.

WHITE & BRIGHT: “I went with soft whites for the kitchen because I didn’t want to get tired of the colors. Ten years later, I still love it,” Paula says. One of their favorite cabinetry and design experts, John Morgan of Perspectives Cabinetry, played a starring role.

ISLAND OF HER DREAMS: “I needed an island big enough to accommodate my pans,” Paula says. Many are from a restaurant — Peppina’s — that her family owned. (“That’s why I had to have the double island,” Paula says.) Adds Randy, smiling: “When Paula entertains, the island is filled with food and serving pieces. I do the dishes.” The island top is a Calacatta gold marble. “It’s warmer with gold coloring, to go with the lighting and make the space softer,” Paula says.

PIZZA PIE: The couple installed a professional wood stone oven that turns out delicious pizzas. “It’s a restaurant-style bistro-size oven, and pizza is one of our specialties,” Paula says.

PER YOUR REQUEST: “I had certain needs. I wanted leaded glass and chicken wire in the door panels of the top cupboards, and a lot of other things. John Morgan knew just what to do,” Paula says.

OHHHHHH-KLAHOMA: Something to sing about is the pizza oven’s limestone surround, which uses the same stone found on the exterior of the home. “I found a quarry in Oklahoma that had this specific limestone, and when I called them they offered to come here to install it,” Paula says. “The crew came and did the home’s exterior and the oven surround. There’s a certain technique they do — a special wash that gives it an Old-World feel.”

TYPICAL DINNER PARTY FARE: Paula is a chef extraordinaire. If invited to her home, you could be served spedini; eggplant rollatini; salad with fresh fig vinaigrette and goat cheese; focaccia with onions, rosemary, and cheese; pasta pappardelle with Bolognese; fettuccine Alfredo; chicken marsala; roasted asparagus; homemade cherry Lambrusco sorbet; and Peppina’s signature Italian cake.

WHEN NOT COOKING: The couple spends their time running the business they launched in 2012, Paula & Chlo (Chlo is their beloved Australian shepherd dog), an online shopping site with unique apparel, accessories, and more for shoppers, gift-givers, corporate gift-buyers, and others. “Cashmere toppers are our biggest sellers,” Paula says, and trending now are bags from Spain and scarves from Italy. Every order arrives with signature packaging. paulaandchlo.com 

LIGHT SHOW The skylights allow the family to enjoy lightning displays, fall colors, and a good rain or snowstorm right from their dinner table. Below, a wall of reclaimed brick features a simple vignette of pretty shelves that hold eclectic art and dishware.


Light of Day

A 1980s kitchen enjoys an eclectic face-lift that makes the most of its good bones

By Judith Harris Solomon

BACKSTORY: Homeowner Erin Shafritz, a former photo stylist, has an innate talent for putting a room together. That ability is clearly evident in the stunning kitchen of Shafritz’s Huntington Woods home, originally constructed in 1940, which she and her husband purchased and remodeled two and a half years ago. “My boys (Benny, 14, and Riley, 10, at the time) were so enamored with the ‘glass roof,’ ” Shafritz says. A grouping of skylights enables the family to enjoy lightning displays, fall colors, a good rainstorm, and the magic of snow falling — right from their dinner table. “It’s so cool watching it rain,” she says.

FROM FORMICA TO FABULOUS: Shafritz says the kitchen (located in a space that was originally a breezeway between the house and the garage, and was made into a kitchen in the 1980s) “had great bones,” including a fabulous 25-foot-long garage wall made out of reclaimed brick as well as a grouping of eight glass skylights, framed with thick teak, at the far end of the room. “Otherwise it was a typical all-white 1980s Formica kitchen,” she notes.

CABINET GURU: Made out of red oak, and featuring a black stain and clear coat, all of the room’s cabinets were constructed by Ed Starkey of ECS Cabinetry in Walled Lake. “I told him what I wanted and he did it. He’s super talented,” Shafritz says.

METALS MATTER: “When it comes to hardware, I love to mix metals by utilizing different colors and finishes, such as matte black and all kinds of silvers and satins,” Shafritz says. “Now, I’d replace anything brass with black, because brass has become too common.”

A NOD TO THE PAST: Shafritz says she kept three copper pans that had belonged to the previous homeowner and hung them just beneath the black metal hood, “because I love them and because she was an inspiration to me.”

SHELF LIFE: Shafritz hung just a couple of shelves on the brick wall, to allow it to play a starring role and be the room’s dominant architectural element.

FLIP OUT: A large and colorful elephant (not shown) made out of flip-flops stands proudly on a narrow wooden table that sits in front of the kitchen’s streetside window. “We purchased him in New York a while ago; the proceeds from the sale went to a tribe in Africa,” Shafritz says.

COME ON OVER: “My husband and I love to entertain and the kitchen has a homey, comfy feel rather than (being a typical) stark, white kitchen,” Shafritz says. “It’s a beautiful, cozy, warm place to have friends over for dinner. And really, doing anything in the kitchen is fun; you don’t feel closed in.”