Surround yourself with what you love. Plenty of us have heard that phrase at one time or another. And the truth is, if we only keep those items that we truly care about when we’re de-cluttering, redecorating, or moving, it’s more likely that we’ll feel right at home in our own home.
Kathleen Chisholm McInerney has been living out the concept of being surrounded by what she loves since she moved to her Birmingham home 22 years ago. The minute you walk into her 1950s Poppleton Park colonial, you know you’re in a house where meaningful design and significant adornments abound.
In the foyer, bright blooms of yellows and golds enchant. They’re not in a vase, though — they’re stars in an Osborne & Little wallpaper that continues up the stairs. On a wall near the front door, there’s a painting of two young girls in red and green dresses. Amid roses, they look as though they’re about to start dancing. “It’s a favorite painting,” says McInerney, an artist who painted this particular piece. “It’s a bit Degas-inspired and it reminds me of my sister and me, sort of dancing through life, which we did.”
To the right is a small living room with a recurring theme of angels, Jesus and his mother, Mary, and other sacred imagery. The space is the homeowner’s quiet place for restoration and contemplation. “This is where I feel most centered. I reflect, quiet down, and I receive encouragement.” Talk about surrounding yourself with items with meaning.
Looking out through the back of the home, one sees a rather Moroccan-ish,cozy gathering spot with an outdoor fireplace (complete with a mantel), white pillars, wrought-iron chaises with comfortable white cushions and puffy pillows, shiny white garden stools, and a variety of lighting elements.
“I would say our home is kind of eclectic,” McInerney says. “It’s traditional … there are French and English antiques mixed in … a little of everything.” The homeowner’s cherished sister, Donna Chisholm, who passed away less than a year ago, was a talented interior designer who helped with selecting light fixtures, drapery, wallpaper, and antiques. “We worked with a lot of blue. I do love blue,” McInerney says. “It’s always been my favorite color — calming, classic, and timeless.”
Speaking of color, this homeowner certainly knows of its powers, as she’s been a painter since she was a young child, and studied art in college. Once out of school, McInerney was an art director for a golf publication, but she always kept painting. These days, she creates several paintings for nonprofit organizations as well as on commission for homeowners and interior designers. Most recently, several of her paintings hung in the entrance area of St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Pontiac. When asked what subject she’s most passionate about, McInerney doesn’t even have to pause to think. “Florals,” she says, “although I do paint angels and such.” Behind her, there’s a large, 4- by 6-foot canvas depicting magnolias in a Chinese vase that pops from a periwinkle backdrop. Still in the works, this piece will eventually hang in a Bloomfield Hills dining room.
McInerney also wrote and illustrated the children’s book Timothy’s Glove, which was endorsed by Cal Ripken Jr. and won a Young Voices Foundation Award (a Virginia-based foundation that honors books that inspire, mentor, and educate young people and their families).
Over the years, she and her husband, Jack, who works in the automotive field at George Matick Chevrolet in Redford Township, opted to renovate the kitchen and add a great room, side entryway, new garage, and the aforementioned covered fireplace out back. With three active boys (the youngest is now 18) and an energetic dog, the decision to enlarge was a no-brainer.
“I love that the kitchen is open to the great room. I never feel closed off, plus I can see the fireplace outdoors. That space outside actually feels like an extension of our home. We all gather out there quite a bit, light the fire, and get caught up,” McInerney says. “We go out when it’s cold, too, with cozy blankets, and make s’mores.” These days, Camp, a frisky, young yellow lab, also loves to head out back to frolic about the patio and through the surrounding greenery.
McInerney says that even the home itself is surrounded by things she loves. “The house was love at first sight, particularly because it’s in a lovely neighborhood where all the homes are different, and it’s right off a park, so we knew the kids would love that. In addition, downtown Birmingham is super close; we can walk into town for dinner or a movie.”
McInerney paints in her formal dining room, just off the kitchen through white French doors. Here, amid calming blue-painted walls, blue-and-white drapery, and a pretty, sparkling crystal chandelier, her French impressionism bent comes to life. When working, McInerney loads her brushes with sumptuous dollops of vibrant paint.
“I love color, texture, and depth, so I lay it on thick,” the artist explains. About four days per week, she loses herself in the magic of stems, stamens, leaves, petals, and the occasional angel wing. “When I’m painting, I’m entranced. I’m part of the energy of the painting and the color.” Hanging in the dining room-studio is an impressionistic painting of a girl in a field by water that was created by the artist’s mother, Carol LeDuc Chisholm. It’s a reminder about where McInerney received a lot of her artistic abilities. “My mom gave me the love of art and painting,” she says.
And apparently the artistic line continues to flow down to at least one of the McInerney children. Near the hallway entrance to the dining room, a 4-foot-tall ceramic working fountain made by son John includes charming moveable adornments ranging from little frogs to snails.
“I’ve always painted here,” she says, looking around the dining room-studio. “I always wanted to be close to the kids and accessible; I like to be near them when working.” No doubt, surrounded by what she loves.