A Slice of France

There is a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to classic European homes — be it the quiet grandeur, the rich history, or the allure of the perfectly aged architecture.
A Slice of France - Exterior
The Pero home features reclaimed brick and limestone trim, which evokes European charm. The natural gas lanterns are from New Orleans. “They (the lanterns) really give it that French look and the feel of an older home,” says architect Glenda Meads. “Our house has a nice, warm, and cozy feel to it, and I love that,” adds homeowner Therese Pero.

There is a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to classic European homes — be it the quiet grandeur, the rich history, or the allure of the perfectly aged architecture. These were homes built to live in and use — for generations. Homes built for growing families, like that of Chris and Therese Pero. So when it came to renovating their standard 1959 two-story, the Peros, wanting to create their own Old World beauty, set out to capture the enchantment and inviting ambiance that’s the signature to the styles seen in England and France. Purchased in 2005, today the manor-like home — a stop on this year’s Birmingham Home Tour Sept. 22 — is in stark contrast to its former self.

“We had young kids and we wanted to get into this (Birmingham) neighborhood,” Chris says. “We bought it with the understanding that although it wasn’t exactly what we wanted, a few years down the road we (would be able to make) the changes we wanted to.”

The original façade was a combination of white aluminum siding and brick. “I could see the potential,” Therese says. She explains that she could envision how the mid-century Colonial-style home could take on a more sophisticated look.

Chris and Therese Pero, Richard Ross
Chris and Therese Pero with interior designer Richard Ross.

In 2012, the dramatic redesign began. The Peros enlisted the help of longtime friend and interior designer Richard Ross, of Birmingham-based Richard Ross Designs, who had worked with the family on several previous homes.

“We did the first phase just to paint it, change carpets, and make things look pretty,” Ross says. When the family decided to begin the major renovations, Ross suggested they work with Glenda Meads of Glenda Meads Architects in Birmingham.

A top priority during the home’s overhaul was to evoke the charm and splendor of the idyllic, older homes Therese cherished in her native England and in Europe — both on the exterior and inside. Among the inspirations for the front’s striking transformation was an image Meads had shown Therese of a courtyard in Paris.

To give the standard two-story house its French finish, Meads says “we had to bring the ground floor out flush with the second floor.” Expanding the main level forward by about 1 foot, while no easy feat, made it possible to add brick where the siding once hung. Therese had also requested that reclaimed brick be used, to achieve the older look she loved. Locating the reclaimed brick to match the existing brick, however, posed a challenge.

“The original brick on the house was already reclaimed,” Meads says. That made it even more difficult to create a seamless blend.

“I didn’t want to compromise because I think brick totally changes the feel,” Therese says. “Then finally we found it, and it’s perfect for the look I was going for.”

Adding limestone quoins to the windows, door surround, corners, and at the dormers was integral in recreating the stately charm the homeowners were looking for. The steep, hip roof — an impressive architectural addition — offered an even more authentic European feel to the home.  Also true to the aesthetic: natural gas lanterns, as well as a sizable front door complete with a center-placed door knob straight from England.

“The door is influenced by doors Therese had seen in Europe, so I designed it to mimic those and had them custom-made by Hardwood Door and Bevel (in Auburn Hills),” Ross says.

A Slice of France - Family Room 1

A Slice of France - Family Room 2
“With three busy kids, you have to try and keep it peaceful,” says homeowner Therese Pero. That tranquil feeling cascades into the luxe yet laid-back family room at the rear of the home. A favorite area to unwind, the true genius of the room is that it transports you to the quaint and captivating estates of England and France. European coffered ceilings are architectural details with rich historical roots, as they were used in ancient times to relieve the weight from heavy stone ceilings. “When I do something like this,” says designer Richard Ross, “I want it to look like it’s supposed to be there, that it is structural and it’s there because it has to be there.”

The classic-yet-contemporary updates continued indoors.

Of special note are the arches: “It was something that Therese showed us,” Ross says, “and we made it happen. It gives character and some interesting architecture. You can see how beautiful the door looks at the end of the hall. We built it to mimic the arches, so it would tunnel right through.”

“It just gives the home this cozy feel,” Therese adds. It’s a feeling that’s carried effortlessly throughout the home with soft, subdued tones; stained oak floors; calming white-noise machines; and dark frames on the newly updated and lengthened windows — a design element Therese suggested during the renovations.

“It really adds dimension and that feeling of old metal windows,” Ross says. In addition, “all of the casings and base mouldings are new throughout the house, so it really feels like a new house all the way through, because everything has been changed to flow.”

A Slice of France - Kitchen
Objets d’Art – The kitchen features an oversize island that provides a true joie de vivre, while the white marble top is a veritable objet d’art, beckoning family and friends to convene and converse around its dramatic design. “We put a curved window, above right, in the kitchen area to add architectural interest and space,” designer Ross says. He wanted to emphasize the window, thus the curved banquette. One of the Peros’ favorite artists is Michigan-based Bowen, whose artwork hangs above the bar.

[caption id="attachment_30428" align="aligncenter" width="762"] The DiMaggios’ breakfast room basks in wonderful natural light.[/caption]Deadlines can yield miracles. Just ask Meg Corley, founder and principal designer of  Meg Corley Premier Interiors in Birmingham, who was put to the test with a 9,300-square-foot home remodel in Rochester that needed to be finished in time for the backyard wedding of her clients’ son. “We had pretty much demolished the entire home, and then the lockdown started,” Corley says. “The initial wedding date was moved to early September, and luckily my clients weren’t living (in the home).[caption id="attachment_30449" align="alignright" width="195"] Designer Meg Corley is in her element.[/caption]“We wanted to save the amazing bones and other details, like the molding that was already in place,” Corley continues, describing the Moceri custom home which was built in 1999. (Mario Moceri, one of the owners of Moceri Custom Homes, had lived in the home.)The property made quite the impression on Steven and Anne DiMaggio, who have four grown children. “It has an amazing backyard. They fell in love with the pond, four waterfalls, and the bridge, and they wanted to love the inside just as much,” Corley says.Classic updates make a statement right from the start, with a series of intaglio prints above a smoky gray velvet sofa in the great room, near the entrance. “It’s very dramatic,” Corley says. She explains that she considers the new look more current, with a relaxed traditional aesthetic.The existing millwork got a makeover, including the oak details in the library. “We used a really dark gel stain that made them sing a little more, and added wallcovering to the back of the bookshelves,” she says. “We took the bones of the house and made them better.”[caption id="attachment_30416" align="alignnone" width="1000"] The great room’s art features an intaglio technique.[/caption]A cozy kitchen nook features a custom banquette with a tapestry back and an easy-to-clean vinyl seat. The wallcovering and ceiling beams draw the eye up, while the view to the terrace that overlooks the pool and pond is captivating.More eye candy can be found in the master bathroom, where grasscloth covers the paneling. “It gives some warmth and texture,” Corley says. Wool carpet and a crystal chandelier join nightstands with a two-tone effect that add contrast to the more streamlined background. “It’s more traditional, so I wanted to marry the two to flow together, making it seem a little more timeless,” the designer explains.Embroidered floral draperies inspired the peaceful palette, which features warm neutrals on a wider spectrum that includes grays, coppers, and green at the forefront.[caption id="attachment_30419" align="alignnone" width="1000"] The entertainment room has a nice mix of patterns and decorative accents. A Schumacher fabric with a feline pattern is fun.[/caption]The master bath was demolished to open up the space. “It had a lot of angles and they wanted a larger shower, so we had to square things up to get that great shower and a freestanding tub,” Corley says. A tile runway sets the tone as you walk through the double doors. “It gives a really great ground for the tub,” she says.The lower level, meanwhile, was completely redone. “They wanted a lower level that felt like an extension of the rest of the home, not a basement,” Corley says. A TV built-in joins a custom coffee table that’s edged in leather and is a multifunctional piece. The lower-level dining area, where a new archway echoes the built-in, makes it easy to seat 20 for Thanksgiving dinner.A new powder room with feather wallpaper speaks to Anne’s fondness for whimsical motifs. “A little pattern pulls her heartstrings, and it plays well against the black-and-white hex marble,” Corley says. “A powder room should be like a jewelry box.”Corley, who was still installing two days before the wedding, deserves praise for her efforts, but she’s hesitant to take the spotlight. Instead, she credits her clients and colleagues for the project’s success. “They were so easygoing, and I couldn’t have done it without my staff and all the trades. It’s a team effort. I want to give them kudos.”Steven gives it right back: “Meg was very professional and she GC’d (general contracted) the project,” he says.Guests say they feel like they’re at a resort, and when the wedding planner posted photos of the big day, people said: “I want to book my wedding there!”Heirloom Treasures Library Legends: The DiMaggio library, above, tells many stories, and not necessarily just in its books. First, there’s the family crest that hangs on one wall. Then there’s the pottery crafted by the couple’s children, and a sentimental stamp collection Anne DiMaggio received from her father.  “It’s a wonderful place to go and sit, surrounded by family mementoes and memories,” homeowner Steven DiMaggio says. DiMaggio, who’s also passionate about baseball history, keeps a picture of his grandfather above the family crest to remind him of that. And how does Grandpa DiMaggio relate to baseball? Well, it’s in the name. Legendary center fielder Joe DiMaggio was Steven’s grandfather’s cousin. — JM[caption id="attachment_30425" align="alignnone" width="1000"] The master bedroom, master bath, and powder room all feature top-notch elements, from lighting and linens to drapery and wall treatments.[/caption] BUYER’S GUIDE INTERIOR DESIGNER Meg Corley, Meg Corley Premier Interiors, Birmingham, megcorley.comBATHROOM, MASTER Artwork – By the Pond II, Paragon Bathtub – Jacuzzi Soaking Tub, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Troy Cabinet – Omega Cabinets, Acorn Kitchen & Bath, Pontiac Countertop – Crystallo, PMP Marble and Granite, Troy Floor Tile (decorative) – Verona Blend Polished Herringbone, Beaver Tile & Stone, Michigan Design Center, Troy Flooring – Anatolia Mayfair, Virginia Tile, Michigan Design Center, Troy Sconces – Oxford Sconce, Visual Comfort Shower Accent Tile – Pixel Décor Mix in Glacial, Virginia Tile, Michigan Design Center, Troy Shower Tile – Anatolia Mayfair, Virginia Tile, Michigan Design Center, Troy Stool – Custom, Meg Corley Private Label, Birmingham; Fabric, Sarong Weave, Schumacher, Michigan Design Center, Troy Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Big Chill Window Shades – Custom; Border, Samuel & Sons, Fabrics, Lange Glazed, Schumacher, Michigan Design Center, TroyBATHROOM, POWDER ROOM Flooring – Hex A Peel, Mission Stone Tile Lighting – Open Work Sconce, Visual Comfort Sink – Archer, Kohler, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Troy Wallpaper – Quill Gold, Designers Guild, Rozmallin, Michigan Design Center, TroyBEDROOM, MASTER Bed Frame – Burbank, Century Furniture; Fabric, Finn, Schumacher, Michigan Design Center, Troy Bedding – Serena and Lily Chandelier – Milazzo Waterfall, Visual Comfort Chests, Bedside – Tribeca nightstand, Century Furniture Drapery – Japonica, Romo, Tennant & Associates, Michigan Design Center, Troy Flooring – Whitfield Natural Textiles Lamps, Table – Contemporary Balustrade, Visual Comfort Sofa – Custom, Meg Corley Private Label, Birmingham; Fabric, Kravet/Lee Jofa/Brunschwig & Fils Table, Coffee – Paragon Club, Century Furniture Wall Insets – Haruki Sisal, Schumacher, Michigan Design Center, Troy Wall Paint, Trim – Sherwin-Williams, Passive Window Shades – Hartmann&Forbes, Tennant & Associates, Michigan Design Center, TroyBREAKFAST NOOK Ceiling Treatment – Custom, Meg Corley Private Label, Birmingham Bench, Dining – Custom, Meg Corley Private Label, Birmingham; Fabric, Walden, Cowtan & Tout Chairs, Dining – Matter Vinyl Seats, Kravet/Lee Jofa/Brunschwig & Fils, Michigan Design Center, Troy Drapery – Lange Glazed Linen/Arches Embroidered Tape, Schumacher, Michigan Design Center, Troy Table, Dining – Custom, Century Furniture Wallpaper – Regatta Raffia, Thibaut, Rozmallin, Michigan Design Center, TroyDINING ROOM Artwork – LeftBank ART Chairs –  Meg Corley Private Label Lamps – Visual Comfort Table and Buffet –  Alfonso MarinaDINING ROOM (lower level) Chandelier – Farlane, Visual Comfort Chairs, Dining – Streamline Side Chair, Caracole Drapery Fabric – Feline, Schumacher, Michigan Design Center, Troy Flooring – Whitfield Natural Textiles Sconces – Edie Baluster, Visual Comfort Table, Dining – Open Invitation Table, Caracole Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Mindful GrayENTERTAINMENT ROOM Cabinet, Entertainment – Custom, Meg Corley Private Label, Birmingham Ceiling Treatment – Easy Elegance Ceiling Tiles, Armstrong Drapery – Fabric, Feline, Schumacher, Michigan Design Center, Troy Flooring – Whitfield Natural Textiles Pillows, Accent – Feline/Rocky/Arlo, Schumacher, Michigan Design Center, Troy Sofa – Meg Corley Private Label, Birmingham; Fabric, Alistair, Schumacher, Michigan Design Center, Troy Table, Coffee – Redford Ottoman, Century Furniture Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Mindful GrayGREAT ROOM Artwork – Mint Wood Home, Intaglios Flooring – Aria, Prestige Mills Lamps, Table – Ponte Chap, The Natural Light Pillows, Accent – Yves/Xanadu, Kravet/Lee Jofa/Brunschwig & Fils, Michigan Design Center, Troy Sofa – Meg Corley Private Label, Birmingham Table, Coffee – Louviers Cocktail Table, Alfonso Marina Table, End – Bridgeton, Century Furniture Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Mindful GrayKITCHEN Backsplash – Virginia Tile Countertop – Victoria Falls, PMP Marble & Granite, Troy Drapery – Schumacher Stools –  Meg Corley Private Label , BirminghamLIBRARY Armchairs – Meg Corley Private Label, Birmingham; Fabric, Louis, Kravet/Lee Jofa/Brunschwig & Fils, Michigan Design Center, Troy Ceiling Treatment – Cork Metallic, Thibaut, Rozmallin, Michigan Design Center, Troy Light, Ceiling – Basil, Visual Comfort Pillows, Accent – Tomato, Romo, Tennant & Associates, Michigan Design Center, Troy Rug – Stark Carpet, Troy Sofa – Meg Corley Private Label, Birmingham; Fabric, Hue, Kirby Table, Coffee – Long Shelf Life, Caracole Wallpaper –Sisal, York Wall coverings, Rozmallin, Michigan Design Center, TroyADDITIONAL PROJECT CONTRIBUTOR Design Assistant – Calynn Berry, Meg Corley Premier Interiors, Birmingham

The Peros say the juxtaposition of new and old elements adds to the splendor of the home. The ambience can truly be felt in the family room, located at the rear of the home. Previously, the space was a smaller, step-down-style room. It was lifted, and today it offers plenty of seating for entertaining, a honed marble fireplace the busy family of five uses year-round, a built-in bookshelf, 8-inch coffered ceilings, a reading nook favored by the family’s petite pup, Tilley, and a mix of artwork including a set of photographs Ross commissioned Boswell Creative to take of the fashionable streets of Paris.

The entire back wall was pushed out 10 feet, allowing for this expansion, the addition of a vestibule, and the complete redo of the kitchen and eating area — something that was among the family’s top priorities.

Ross took the former kitchen and reworked it into a user-friendly pantry, mud hall, and powder room. For the new kitchen, he chose a “dressy and subdued” style, with hidden appliances and custom two-tone cabinetry by EuroCraft. Grainy white marble “that feels very European” to Therese tops an oversized island made to look like a grand piece of furniture. To add to the Old World allure, Therese suggested a drip edge be added along the marble — a feature Ross says was once standard in older homes.

The eating area includes a round Hickory Chair dining table and banquette seating suggested by Ross “that the kids love” Therese says. “We’re in the kitchen all the time, whether I’m cooking or not. And that’s what Chris and I wanted.”

The first level addition allowed for an overhaul upstairs. On the second floor, Ross reconfigured the main bathroom with a new layout. While the update meant the loss of a window, adding a skylight kept things airy and light.

The main agenda upstairs was to create a gorgeous master suite. The addition over the garage and the repurposing of a fourth bedroom resulted in a laundry room, large closet, and a luxurious bathroom complete with an air tub, marble counters, and a double-door shower, as well as a foyer leading to the suite.

“That’s another thing I find really important in a house: a foyer to a master (suite). I like walking into the bedroom,” Ross says. “It gives it more separation.”

Therese and Chris agree: “It feels like you’re in a hotel,” they say.

A Slice of France - Master Suite
Enjoy Your Stay – The master suite is an intimate sanctuary that has the charm and warmth of a 5-star hotel right off Paris’ Champs-Elysees, thanks to details like calming shades of gray, rich textures, and a luxe master bathroom fit for kings and queens.

The master suite, a favorite family hangout, includes a polished marble fireplace, large windows, and a dramatic ceiling that reaches nearly 13 feet. With the master suite located over the new construction of the kitchen, “it permitted us to do a higher ceiling that could extend up into the roofline,” Meads says.

“A lot of designers or people don’t know where to stop, and that’s when a project gets heavy,” Ross adds. “We kept it clean.” Ross gave the children’s rooms subtle updates such as the addition of a vanity in daughter Olivia’s en suite bathroom — formerly a Jack and Jill in the old master bedroom. Therese encouraged her children to choose the art in their rooms. The couple’s eldest son, Evan, now 11, selected stunning photos at the Birmingham Art Fair of items that depict Detroit. “I was surprised,” Therese says. “He was about 9 when he chose them. It was sophisticated but age-appropriate at the same time.”

Throughout the home, Therese’s array of sculptures and artwork adds refined European appeal. Two works by artist Bowen are favorites. “He’s kind of quirky and weird-looking,” Therese says of one of the painting’s subjects. “It doesn’t all have to be so pretty.” There’s also a gallery wall of prints depicting scenes in Provence, a surreal image of the Michigan Central Station, a third Boswell work of an architectural detail in Paris, and statues and images of horses. “I don’t know what it is, but I’m so drawn to horses. They’re calming to me,” Therese says.

While the design of the home reflects Therese’s heritage and love of Europe, it was the warm and inviting setting she and Ross created that stands out. “I think every house has a feel, and this house had such a warm feel,” she says. “From what I heard from the neighbors, the man who owned this house before us really loved this house, and you can feel it.”

Birmingham Home Tour Lowdown

The annual Community House Home Tour, presented by Hall & Hunter Realtors, runs 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sept. 22. It will feature seven unique homes — including that of Therese and Chris Pero. The featured homes range in style from traditional to contemporary. Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 the day of the tour. Lunch will be served at The Community House from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ($55 in advance/$60 day of, including lunch and the tour). For reservations, contact The Community House, 380 S. Bates St., Birmingham, 248-644-5832 or visit tchserves.org. Proceeds go toward various Community House programs.