When Michael Talbot was approaching retirement from his position as chief judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals and Court of Claims, he looked around his condo near downtown Plymouth and decided his digs needed a change, too. While the condo is in a wonderful neighborhood and Talbot can walk everywhere, the interior needed work.
“I thought, I’ve got to freshen it up,” he recalls. “It was kind of stale, if you know what I mean.”
He contacted interior designer Kathleen McGovern at her eponymous Grosse Pointe Park studio and asked if she would come and take a look. “I didn’t know where to turn,” Talbot says, “but I knew her work and thought highly of it.” He also knew that he wanted something modern yet classic as he entered the next chapter of his life.
As they toured his 1,600-square-foot condo, built in the late 1970s, deciding what would stay and what had to go, Talbot remembers telling McGovern he liked this or that furnishing, “and there would be silence,” he says with a laugh. “I could hear her wheels turning, but I couldn’t read her.”
McGovern says the judge was a delight to work with, even though they were faced with many challenges — including transforming a dated palette of sunny yellow, gold, and red; popcorn ceilings; and some very last-century appointments. “He had worked with a designer and, in its day, the condo was very nice,” McGovern says. “But that was several decades ago.
“We did have to do a little negotiating,” she adds. “He acquiesced when it came to a total re-do of his kitchen; the dining room furnishings, which were bench-built in Canada; and his sleigh bed. But I gladly accepted two chinoiserie cabinets and a handful of Baker pieces.”
McGovern also happily worked with Talbot’s impressive collection of black-and-white etchings, and his alphabetized library filled with historical novels and books on architecture and Irish history.
One small hang-up, McGovern explains, involved the use of color. “The judge liked the jewel tones, especially amethyst and violet, and also burgundy, but he didn’t think he wanted blue. Try as I might, I couldn’t work any magic unless I could inject some blue.”
McGovern and her team made their case, and the judge made his final decision: Go blue. “They were very patient, explaining X, Y, and Z to me, so I was willing to trust her,” Talbot says.
“The living room had a strong blue influence, which transitioned into aquamarine in the dining room. But his trust in my team extended all the way to allowing us to paint the living room ceiling a soft blue-gray (Sherwin-Williams’ Network Gray),” the designer says. “And the kitchen looks great in blues, too — it’s beautifully bedecked with a luminous blue Seneca hand-molded tile with Pewabic’s famous decorative inserts placed strategically throughout the backsplash.
“She really made a handsome space,” Talbot says.
“The important backgrounds were all up for grabs,” McGovern adds. “We replaced all the original tile floors with 4.5-inch plank hardwood, replaced carpeted areas with comfortable wools, and selected beautiful handmade rugs for the kitchen, foyer, dining room, and bathrooms.”
McGovern’s team also updated the wall coverings and paint in every room, and “the luxury bath that was on his original list, along with the guest bath, were gutted and transformed into beautiful, functional rooms complete with heated floors, body sprays, and favorite pieces of art,” she says.
Talbot loves McGovern’s stunning changes: “She completely rethought the space. The primary bath floor and walls are all travertine, there’s marvelous cabinetry, and all new lighting.”
The den features another of Talbot’s original requests: “I always wanted an Eames chair,” he says. “Black leather with a cherry wood frame. I live in it.”
That choice gave McGovern the cues she needed for the rest of his furnishings —custom bookcases, a comfy sleep sofa for the occasional overnight guest, and updated lighting. “Those came easily to us because his criteria were that everything needed to be comfortable, approachable, and stylish,” the designer says. “His style is pretty transitional — updated classic, clean, and masculine.”
A total re-do of the window treatments was required to complete the den, and a mini office was created from the den’s walk-in closet, painted a brilliant green (“Just so it didn’t feel like a cave with no windows,” McGovern explains) with a sliding barn door to keep any mess out of sight.
McGovern says working in a multiple-unit building with common plumbing presented unique challenges. Making friends with the condo association’s building manager at the outset of the project helped to offset neighbors’ responses to frequent water shutoffs.
Because the home’s baths and kitchen were gutted and rebuilt, Talbot had to move out for a month to avoid all the dust, noise, and mess. He says it was well worth the inconvenience. And when he sees his neighbors he invites them in for a tour, to give them ideas of what could be done to their condos.
“I like coming home,” he says. “I’m proud of it.”
Kathleen McGovern, Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design, Grosse Pointe Park, kathleenmcgovernstudio.com
Pewabic Pottery, Accent Tiles, Pewabic Decos, Kitchen.
Located in Detroit, pewabic.org.
Virginia Tile Co., Backsplash, Hand-Molded 4-inch Tile, Blue Lagoon, Seneca Studio, Kitchen. Locations in Farmington Hills, Livonia and Troy, virginiatile.com.
Tennant & Associates, Wallpaper, Guest Bathroom, Romo, Jungle in Sisal Amethyst, Michigan Design Center, Troy. michigandesign.com.
Artwork – “Village Collection” Giclee
Cabinet – 36-inch Poplin Vanity, Kohler, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Troy
Countertop – Enameled Cast Iron Vanity Top and Basin, White, Kohler, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Troy
Faucet – DXV Faucet, Polished Nickel, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Troy
Flooring – 12×24 Faroe Porcelain, Seashell, Virginia Tile Co., Troy
Light, Vanity – Chinoiserie Double Light, Polished Nickel with Glass Shade, E.F. Chapman, Visual Comfort
Mirror – Custom, Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design, Grosse Pointe Park; 1/4-inch Clear Mirror with Bevels, St. Clair Glass & Mirror, Clinton Township
Shower, Door – Design, Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design, Grosse Pointe Park; 3/8-inch Clear Tempered Glass Custom Frameless Door and Panel Shower Enclosure, Polished Nickel Hardware, St. Clair Glass & Mirror, Clinton Township
Shower, Floor Tile – Honed Marble Basketweave Mosaic, Bianco Carrara with Mugwort Dot, Virginia Tile Co., Troy
Shower, Walls, Ceiling, Curb Tile – 3×12 Hand-Molded Subway Tile, Gray Gloss, Virginia Tile Co., Troy
Wallpaper – Romo, Jungle in Sisal Amethyst, Tennant & Associates, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Cabinetry – Design, Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design, Grosse Pointe Park; Fabrication, Maplewood Cabinetry, Plymouth
Countertop – Custom, Quartz, Maplewood Cabinetry, Plymouth
Flooring – 12×24 Vein-Cut Honed Travertine, Siena Silver, Virginia Tile Co., Troy
Light, Ceiling – Titus Semi Flush, Polished Nickel, Kichler, Ray Lighting Center, Sterling Heights; Shade, Steel Mesh Ironwork Shade
Sconces – Drunmore Single Sconce, Polished Nickel and Crystal with Linen Shade, Aerin, Visual Comfort
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Vanilla Milkshake
Armchair – Oval X Armchair, Barbara Barry for Baker Furniture; Fabric, Guild Velvet in Varello, Designers Guild, Rozmallin, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Chandelier – Calypso Chandelier, Vibrant Bronze, Crystorama, Ray Lighting Center, Sterling Heights
Rug – Lucent Area Rug, Ghiordes Knot, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Table – Barbara Barry for Baker Furniture
Wallpaper (Bottom) – Suwon Sisal, Sharkskin, Schumacher, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Wallpaper (Top) – Alexander, Metallic Silver, Thibaut
Backsplash – Hand-Molded 4-inch Tile, Blue Lagoon, Seneca Studio, Virginia Tile Co., Troy; Accent Tiles, Pewabic Decos, Pewabic Pottery, Detroit
Cabinetry (Lower), Paint – Benjamin Moore, Newburg Green
Cabinetry (Upper), Paint – Benjamin Moore, Seapearl
Wallpaper – Jindo Grasscloth, Navy, Thibaut
Armchair and Ottoman – Jules Swivel Chair and Ottoman, Hickory Chair; Fabric, Kravet, HC 4302-35 with Contrast Welt, Kravet | Lee Jofa | Brunschwig & Fils, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Chair, Wingback – Isaac Wing Chair, Leather Ashen, Hickory Chair
Drapery – Design, Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design, Grosse Pointe Park; Fabrication, Vantay Draperies, Madison Heights; Fabric, Kravet, 33224-511, Kravet | Lee Jofa | Brunschwig & Fils, Michigan Design Center, Troy; Trim, Samuel & Sons, Greek Fret, Porcelain, Tennant & Associates, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Floor Lamp (With Shelves) – Colonnade Tray Table Floor Lamp, Robert Abbey Fine Lighting, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Light, Ceiling – Exos Double, Soft Gold, Hubbardton Forge
Pillows, Sofa (Fabric) – Kravet, 33299-5, Kravet | Lee Jofa | Brunschwig & Fils, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Sofa – Kent Sofa, Hickory Chair
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Seapearl
Cabinetry – Hardware, 12-inch Ultima II, Oil-Rubbed Bronze, Omnia Industries; Paint Color, Sherwin-Williams, Serious Gray
Chair, Recliner and Ottoman – Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, Charles & Ray Eames for Herman Miller, Design Within Reach
Door, Barn – Design, Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design, Grosse Pointe Park; Maplewood Cabinetry, Plymouth; Paint Color, Sherwin-Williams, Gleeful
Fan – Torsion Fan, Dark Bronze, The Modern Fan Co., Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Troy
Lighting, Bookshelf – 30-inch Cabinet Maker’s Picture Light, Bronze, E.F. Chapman, Visual Comfort
Pillows, Accent (Fabric) – Jeil, Navy, Old World Weavers, Stark Carpet, Troy
Rug – Move Area Rug, Louis De Poortere, Ghiordes Knot, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Sconces – Architect’s Swing Arm Sconce, Bronze with Silk Shade, Studio VC, Visual Comfort
Sofa – Yucca Valley Boxed Back Twin Sleeper Sofa, Duralee Furniture
Table, Occasional – Bessemer Accent Table, Drexel Heritage Furniture
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Serious Gray; Accent, Sherwin-Williams, Gleeful
Window Shades – Graber Natural Shades, Saterra, Azure, Springs Window Fashions
Window Seat, Cushion, and Accent Pillows – Design, Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design, Grosse Pointe Park; Fabrication, Tom’s Custom Upholstery, Troy; Cushion Fabric, Jura in Blue with Contrast Welt, Jeil, Navy, Old World Weavers, Stark Carpet, Troy
ADDITIONAL PROJECT CONTRIBUTORS
Cabinet Painting and Refinishing – Maplewood Cabinetry, Plymouth
Custom Upholstery – Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design, Grosse Pointe Park; Tom’s Custom Upholstery, Troy
Custom Window Treatments – Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design, Grosse Pointe Park; Vantay Draperies, Madison Heights
Paint and Wallpaper Installation – David Bishop, St. Clair Shores
Window Shade Installation – Schattler Shades & Blinds, Rochester Hills