If there’s anyone who knows what she wants, it’s interior designer Ann Heath Templeton. That was especially true when it came to designing her latest home — the one in which she and her husband (and their dog, Roosevelt) now live, after an intense process of downsizing and then planning the house of their dreams.
Of course, Ann has put her creative stamp on various places she’s lived in her life, but this home truly conveys exactly what she wants and loves — it’s the very essence of the designer.
“I’ve been designing forever. It’s all in the brain, what works and what doesn’t,” she says of her longtime career as an interior designer at her company, Duncan Fuller Interiors (member of Forest Avenue Design management, FAD) of Birmingham. Her new home is all about what works perfectly.
About two years ago, she and her husband, Steve Templeton, of Templeton Building Co., found a spot in Birmingham that they sensed would be just right for the contemporary house they were about to design and build. “I knew the street was perfect for us,” she says, matter-of-factly.
“I wanted to live like we’re in a loft,” Ann continues. “I don’t like being closed up. I wanted light, trees, windows, and I didn’t want to look out street-level to cars, garbage cans, et cetera. Steve said, ‘I’ll build that.’ ”
And build it he did, keeping in mind his wife’s checklist (the main living space is on the airy and open second floor), but also his — and compromising a bit between his goals and hers. The couple also needed to make sure they had space for visiting children and grandchildren. They worked in collaboration with Kevin Shultis, AIA, of Detroit-based SmithGroupJJR, and Northville-based Joseph Mosey Architecture Inc.
The breath-of-fresh-air ambiance required following a step-by-step process. A big (and sometimes painful) part of the course of action in realizing the couple’s dream involved downsizing. Both had raised families, inherited family pieces and collections, and had lived with decorative accoutrement over the years.
“We sold most of our things,” Ann says, pausing as she thinks about the entire downsizing process. “I’ll cry if I start talking about it. I had a lot in storage and much of my family’s deceased, so it was like, ‘Ooh, I forgot about this.’ But building a new house was a good reason to say goodbye.” She admits she’s still whittling through a few things, including her father’s slides (“I’ve got them down to 1,000,” she says with a laugh).
The house is green, Ann explains, adding that Steve and his son, Ben, are both certified green builders. One way to conserve energy and also be able to see outdoors without passersby being able to see in is by using special blackout-style shades, which also keep the house cooler.
“It’s funny (how many) people stop and look at the house — there’s often a parade outside. I can see them taking photos, but they don’t know I’m looking at them,” she says, smiling. Another green element is the cistern, which collects water from the roof to water the gardens. The exterior walls are all packed with foam, and have another 2 inches of insulation on top of that. Solar panels on the roof convert sunlight into electricity.
In the entry level, a nifty and smart mechanical room — which is “every man’s favorite space,” Ann says — houses the “brains” of the home. “Steve’s over the moon about this system,” she adds. Here, wiring and more is showcased in a neat and tidy fashion. There’s an air-exchange system (energy recovery ventilation), so there’s fresh air in the house at all times, and there’s a hot water circulating line, which gives instant hot water. As all the floors are heated, the couple needed an extra water backup system. Ann points out that the home’s water is purified, “so we don’t have to use bottled water,” she says. “And Steve can check on things like his solar panels from anywhere, to see how much electricity we’re generating.” Air-conditioning and humidifier programs also are integrated in the “smart” room. All systems for the house are controlled by Savant and were installed by R.D. White Co.
Down the hall is Steve’s workshop and the heated garage (which is more like a basement, Ann says) in which he parks his electric car. A handy elevator is used whenever the couple returns home with a load of groceries. In the back of the house, a laundry room features sliding doors (“not because they’re a fad, but I wanted to conserve space and not have a swinging door,” Ann explains), while nearby, a stylish guestroom awaits visiting family. Across the hall is Steve’s exercise room, which houses a Murphy bed for when the couple has extra guests.
Upstairs, a stunningly serene interior is awash in a range of creams, grays, blacks, and whites. Bits of rusticity, intriguing art, and various metals bedeck the space like chicly edited finishing accessories for a classic designer outfit. “I don’t design houses like this for clients; people want more artwork and more stuff. They want stuff everywhere, and that’s beautiful and I love that, too, but this is a different house.”
She smiles as she recalls being on buying trips for clients, and purchasing things for herself. “Like a piece of Quimper French pottery, for example,” she says. “Or I’d have a leftover coffee table that a client didn’t want. I don’t think I ever had exactly what was me; it was a spattering of everyone.”
Now a definite reflection of the couple’s desire to live a simpler life, the house is a welcome retreat at day’s end. “When you’re working with all kinds of color all day, it’s nice to come home to a calm, more minimal space,” Ann says. In her case, it’s important to note that minimal doesn’t mean cool. Huge wood beams, for example, designed by Steve, add instant warmth. Heated floors, paintings with warm colors and traditional frames, a large wood table and armoire (housing Ann’s china collection) in the dining area, wooden kitchen stools and bookshelves, and quarter- and rift-sawn dark oak floors all create a feeling of coziness.
An inviting wood-burning fireplace and a handsome stack of wood also warm things up.
“Steve wanted a television in the main area, and I didn’t want to look at it when it’s not on, so we devised a space for a television right next to the fireplace, instead of above the fireplace, with a fireplace screen that slides over the television and fireplace when not in use,” she says. (See this issue’s This Season department. The screen, along with metal pantry doors and railings, were all handcrafted by Andy Owens of Detroit.)
In the living room, the couple can easily entertain large groups of people. “We just had 14 here and I was worried about the noise in this open loft style, but it was fabulous,” Ann recalls.
The walnut dining table (“a slice of a tree”), found in Pennsylvania and finished here, shares space with chairs on one side and a long bench on the other.
“Using all chairs would have blocked the view to the outside,” the designer/homeowner explains.
In the kitchen, the leathered, brushed-granite counters are “almost indestructible,” Ann says.
A huge island with large drawers for storage can accommodate buffet-style dinners, she adds, while a black-paned, seeded glass pantry door adds interest, “for more of a buffet look,” she say.
The refrigerator is actually in the pantry space, which has several shelves for storing large plates up high and everyday food at eye level. All kitchen cabinets and built-ins are by Rochester Hills-based Cole Wagner Cabinetry.
Down the hall in their office, Steve and Ann actually face each other when working. “I don’t mind it,” Ann laughs. “Steve chose the wood, and I like it.” One thing she didn’t allow in this space, however, was a television.
The couple’s master bedroom, which is located over the exercise room, looks out to the tops of trees. “My linen closet is a former wardrobe that we had, which works great. We have a very small closet for the two of us, but we love it.”
The modern exterior features neatly trimmed boxwood in the front, wood metal-clad Marvin window surrounds, and a solar-paneled roof.
Honed Canadian stone was used for the actual face of the house (called Eramosa limestone, it’s also found indoors on the entry-level floor). The stonework was designed by Benny Spielmann, of Ciot. “Each stone, which has grooves, is about 3.5 inches thick, so it was quite a project,” Ann says. The couple thought about sealing the exterior stone so it would take on a darker color, but Spielmann suggested the couple leave it as is. “I’m glad we did. Keeping it natural makes it looks completely different in the rain,” Ann says.
In the back, a small and lovely pool (installed by Gillette Brothers Pool & Spa), which Steve dips into almost nightly during the warm months, is surrounded by artificial grass as well as vegetable and perennial gardens that provide pretty pops of color and swathes of verdant greens.
It’s all of that — from green-conscious elements to thoughtful design — that gives peace of mind to this couple. But more than anything else, it’s those second-story views that can be admired from various rooms. “I love living upstairs,” Templeton says. “I love this concept.”