Chic Retreat

Historic home in Royal Oak gets a reinvigorating touch of glam // Photography by Kristopher Ilich
STAY AWHILE An adept use of color and materials in the living room creates sheer beauty. The off-center fireplace now becomes a key element.

After purchasing a 1920s Tudor- style house with highly desirable original details like a bay window, herringbone wood floors, plaster ceilings, and stained glass doors, the owners were already well on their way to having an extra-special home base. But they wanted more. They wanted to enhance what they had and maximize the potential for everyday usage, regular entertaining, and celebrating special occasions.

Enter Rachel Nelson, principal and CEO of RL Concetti in Detroit and her design team, who were tasked with working their magic and updating the contents of the historic home so it would meet their clients’ needs and dreams. The sophisticated revamp included the living room, dining room, foyer, and a loft off the master bedroom.


A SENSE OF SPACE A substantial sofa anchors the living room, along with a coffee table and accent rug. The drapery fabric features a look reminiscent of watercolors, keeping the space airy and light.

As Nelson explains, the living room had a large footprint and a fireplace that was off-center. Her clients wanted to better utilize the space and the adjacent dining room. “The rooms had great bones, but we needed to make the two spaces connect,” she says.

A substantial sofa upholstered in a charcoal gray velvet anchors the living room, along with a coffee table and accent rug. “We played around with multiple floor plans. With such a big space, we could divide it or match the grandness of it with a really (special) sofa,” Nelson explains. A series of mirrors above reflects the fireplace, and floor lamps stand on each side. “They create some solid symmetry,” she says.

The window treatments evoke a watercolor painting. “The fabric looks like paintbrush strokes,” Nelson says. Original details include a medallion ceiling and a classic archway. “We modernized it with sconces on either side that look like cherry blossoms. They echo the Chinoiserie mural (in the dining room) in a really subtle way,” she notes.


IN THE DETAILS The crystal and iron chandelier in the dining room is original to the house. The space’s Chinoiserie mural wallcovering features Japanese cherry blossoms and sets the color palette for the home. A painting’s colors pair well with the fireplace vignette. Cozy niches warm the living room. Original flooring in the foyer is eye-catching amid the new design elements.

A modern wingback chair in blue chenille creates a cozy spot for sitting and enjoying the newly imagined space. “It’s a really sculptural piece with gorgeous nailheads that help accentuate the shape,” she says. “The polka dot pillow is just a little playful.”

The design team wanted to create an intimate nook by the fireplace based on the needs of the family. “We figure out the desired usage of a space and really zero in on who uses it and how they use it, and when they entertain and when it’s just ‘you and a friend,’ ” Nelson explains. “They don’t just have a beautiful space; they have a beautiful space that enhances their life and makes it easier.”

“We don’t always get a home that has this much heart and history to it.” — Rachel Nelson

Swivel chairs in a blush pink fabric offer flexibility, while the artwork was intentionally set off-center. Touches of teal and blush pink echo the Chinoiserie mural wallcovering in the dining room that was inspired by an image the wife found.


HAVE A SEAT The loft attached to the master bedroom is a welcoming respite. A dining room chair detail.

A dome ceiling enhances the dining room, where woven side chairs join velvet end chairs at the custom quartz tabletop with its double-pedestal base. The expansive seating area in the elegant space, which incorporates a black buffet the couple already had, perfectly suits their entertaining needs.

The crystal and iron chandelier may be original to the house, but the new Chinoiserie mural wallcovering that features Japanese cherry blossoms sets the color palette — and the tone — for the home. “There’s an elevated sense of whimsy with bird statues (in the living room) and a porcupine quill mirror,” Nelson says.

“There’s an elevated sense of whimsy with bird statues and a porcupine quill mirror.” — Rachel Nelson

DELICIOUS SPACE The dining room design ingredients combine to create a perfect recipe for beauty.

As for the aesthetic, “We call it ‘Chinoiserie Chic,’ ” she says. “Naming our projects helps to identify every client’s individual style. Overall, this home embodies a sophisticated yet warm vibe, with a little whimsy.”

That comfortable environment extends to a loft off the master bedroom featuring repurposed and repositioned items like the slipcovered chairs that were previously in the living room, and a gold mirror that came from the dining room. “We embrace pieces clients have that they don’t know how to use,” Nelson says. “Reimagining them can (make a huge difference.)”

Nelson says she embraced this project, which she thoroughly enjoyed. “We don’t always get a home that has this much heart and history to it,” she explains. “It’s especially rewarding to work with a client who gave us inspiration and freedom. She was an incredible collaborator. The Chinoiserie wall (in the dining room) spirals into these incredible, whimsical spaces.”


IN THE STARS A sitting area off the master suite exudes pure serenity and comfort. Note the celestial-themed ceiling treatment.

Winter Haven

When asked about her favorite retreat, the wife shared her thoughts with Rachel Nelson, principal and CEO of RL Concetti. “The loft (sitting room) off the master bedroom is my favorite winter retreat,” she says. “I don’t use it much in the summer, as life gets so busy. I love the rug that Jackie (senior designer) helped me select, as well as the lamp and table. It’s the perfect reading spot on dark winter evenings.” A star motif that was already on the ceiling contributes to the dreamy retreat, with its leaded glass windows. Slipcovered chairs and an ottoman offer perfect spots to perch. — JM

Buyer’s Guide

Rachel Nelson, RL Concetti, Detroit,

Centerpiece – John-Richard
Chairs, Dining – Designmaster, RJ Thomas Ltd., Michigan Design Center, Troy
Lamps – Visual Comfort
Mirror, Sun – Janice Minor
Mural – Caitlin Wilson Design
Table, Dining – Custom, Rypen
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, White Winged Dove

Bench – Custom, Clark’s Fabrication and Design, Madison Heights
Lamp, Beaded Floor – John-Richard

Armchair and Ottoman – Century Furniture, RJ Thomas Ltd., Michigan Design Center, Troy
Armchairs, Swivel – Bernhardt, RJ Thomas Ltd., Michigan Design Center, Troy
Cabinet, Metallic Storage – Palecek, RJ Thomas Ltd., Michigan Design Center, Troy
Chair, Wingback – Bernhardt, RJ Thomas Ltd., Michigan Design Center, Troy
Drapery – Transitions Drapery, Sterling Heights
Lamps, Floor – Arteriors
Mirrors – John-Richard
Pillows, Accent – Custom, Foam N’ More, Clawson
Pillows, Armchair – RJ Thomas Ltd., Michigan Design Center, Troy
Rug – Surya
Sconces, Cherry Blossom – Regina Andrew, Riverview
Sconces, Storage Cabinet – Rejuvenation
Sofa – Lillian August, RJ Thomas Ltd., Michigan Design Center, Troy
Table, Coffee – Vanguard Furniture, RJ Thomas Ltd., Michigan Design Center, Troy
Table, Gold Accent – Regina Andrew, Riverview
Tables, End – Arteriors
Trim, Casing, Ceiling Paint – Benjamin Moore, Chantilly Lace
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Nimbus
Window Niche Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Vanderburg Blue

Lamp – Arteriors
Pillows, Accent – Surya
Rug – Stark Carpet, Troy
Table, End – Bernhardt, RJ Thomas Ltd., Michigan Design Center, Troy