Holiday Home, Detroit-Style

A Boston-Edison Historic District beauty gets fixed up and spruced up for the festive season and beyond // Photography by Ingrid Frankovics
Deck the Halls Designer Orna Fathers decks this Detroit home out for the holidays.

In the summer of 2020, when interior designer Orna Fathers first saw the Boston-Edison Historic District home that she would soon take on as a project, her initial thought was that she couldn’t wait to “pull the personality out of the house,” she shares, adding, “The thing I love about that area in Detroit is that each house has its own personality.” This particular Georgian-style home definitely oozed with a specific look and feel.

Her client, an investor who owns multiple Detroit properties, had purchased the home — which was operating at the time as a vacation rental — with the goal of renovating it and eventually leasing it for short- to long-term rentals. It could even be used for weddings and events, Fathers says.

The music room has nutcracker cheer.

After the designer and her team at Northville-based Grace This Space Interiors toured the historic home, there was no doubt in their minds that the structure, built in 1919, could be transformed into a beauty that exemplified warmth, character, and charm.

“We wanted it to be something like a space for big families to come into and enjoy spending time together in Detroit, to soak up the atmosphere,” Fathers says. She imagined that visiting families could spend Thanksgiving or Christmas there.

The living room, with and without holiday trim.

Various scenarios were possible, Fathers explains. “Our client had the idea that a family could stay here — like one that’s visiting grandparents in the area, but doesn’t want to stay at a hotel and can’t stay with their grandparents. Not everyone has a house that can host a large family, so folks could stay here and entertain here.”

Fathers’ client provided her with not only a renovation budget, but also one for seasonal décor. “That’s not common for these types of rentable spaces,” Fathers says, “but he wanted to create something inviting for families. The only design constraint was to stick to a budget.”

A third-floor hangout for youngsters.

Fathers’ design goal was to fashion various areas that were distinct in function, style, and personality, yet flowed. “The rooms each have an element of individuality, but the house (which can sleep up to 20) is still cohesive,” Fathers asserts. “We wanted it to stay true to its vintage.”

With that thought in mind, Fathers says she “hunted high and low for vintage items,” and was happy to find, for example, an Underwood typewriter at an antiques mall in Northville. “I spent hours scouring antiques malls and online vintage and antiques merchants like Cherish and Etsy.

The music room, with and without holiday trim.

“If you have a sense of what you’re looking for and a feel for the space, then when you’re at an antiques mall you’ll see a piece and you know that it belongs in a certain spot. It looks like it’s always been there.”

On the third floor, a kids’ retreat with a sports-oriented theme awaits. “I put vintage sports pieces there and games like vintage Monopoly board games that guests can play,” the designer says.  A bathroom and bunkroom are off this space.

Fathers calls the front room “the music room.” She explains: “I started calling it that once I sourced a baby grand piano (1900s Brambach). It just felt like a piano invoked a welcoming space that would have hosted many guests over the years. I styled it with a Detroit Motown feel. There’s Aretha Franklin album art on the wall, and an old record-turned-artwork. The piece, which has the Detroit skyline cut into it, was created by a local artist Fathers discovered at the Laurel Park Mall in Livonia. She also hung black-and-white portraits of musicians on the wall, including The Supremes, Martha Reeves, Bob Seger, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Eminem, and Kid Rock.

Fathers’ festive treats.

Old-fashioned Christmas tree ribbon with musical notes was purchased online and mixes well with the newer items, and the sheet music that sits on the piano has an old-time feel. “A non-functioning vintage record player doubles as a side table and a functional modern record player creates a great atmosphere to relax and enjoy good Detroit music. I wanted to create a feeling of coziness, of family time where people could gather to enjoy music.” Nutcrackers were strategically placed around the fireplace. “I imagined a family attending “The Nutcracker” on stage downtown, and returning to this room to enjoy the evening and carry on the outing’s theme.”

The front room and back living room are equally cozy. With rich velvet curtains in a burnt-orange color, the back room features complementary deep-blue walls. Fathers even had the ceiling painted blue, which perplexed her painters, who normally paint ceilings white — but it was so worth it, she says, given the comfortable feel the space evokes. More comfort comes with the undulating flooring, she says. “You get a bit of creakiness, and that adds character.”

The dining room’s Detroit-themed wallpaper puts the accent on history.

Meanwhile, the dining room was designed to have a warm feeling, like a place you’d want to sit in for hours, Fathers explains. Velvet curtains join upholstered gray seating  that surrounds a long wood table, while an old-time black-and-white Detroit wallcovering accents a couple of the walls. A brass chandelier with a simple-but-antiquated look lights the space.

Fathers says another room feels a bit Mid-century. “There were two Mid-century orange chairs already here, so I had  one refurbished and re-stained. The chair is what inspired the bedroom’s look. (My) client gave me a lot of creative leeway and he trusted my instincts. He gave me a general direction of what he’s trying to achieve with the house,” she shares.

Fathers says the biggest challenge the team faced occurred when COVID-19 hit. “We completed the project in December 2020, so navigating the unknown during COVID was really difficult, but doable.”

Fathers refers to this room as “Lush Tropical,” thanks to exotic wallpaper and the use of greens and greenery.

Other than that, the team didn’t experience many difficulties, and they were even able to keep the original floors. Many of the discoveries made during the course of the journey were downright joyful. “The home has some cool elements. We loved the built-in shelf pantry, for example,” Fathers says. In addition, built-in bookcases, antiqued, original mirrored doors to the bedroom closets, original hardware on the doors, detailed crown moldings, the fireplace, and mantel were all workable. The original molding and trim had weathered the years well, she adds. Fathers had both painted the same color as the walls, to create a monochromatic look.

The renovation involved overhauling two of the four bathrooms down to the studs. “There were so many issues with these old bathrooms.We managed to save two with minor refreshes, but the others had to be taken back to the studs. This stately home has what was considered large bathrooms, but by today’s standards they’re very small. I had to design them to increase the space, switching out tubs for larger showers, stealing space from neighboring closets, and making selections that would make the space feel bigger while staying true to the integrity of the home.”

Nautical and Mid-century Modern motifs greet visitors to these guest rooms.

From the sports-themed loft and the inviting dining room and its streets of Detroit wallcovering to the Motown music vibe in the front room, and with lots of holiday décor sprinkled in, Fathers’ designs certainly met her original goal: This home’s got personality, and then some.


Orna Fathers, Grace This Space Interiors, Northville,

Armchair – Pier 1
Bedding – Flax Linen Duvet, Pottery Barn
Bedframe – Aspen Upholstered Platform Bed, Jennifer Taylor Home
Blanket, Throw – Fjorn
Chests, Bedside – Safavieh
Drapery – Etsy
Lamps, Bedside – West Elm, Birmingham
Mirror – Etsy
Pillows, Accent – Etsy
Planters – Ikea and Etsy
Table, End (Armchair) – Rattan Side Table, Etsy
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Chantilly Lace
Wallpaper – LUSH, The Detroit Wallpaper Co., Ferndale

Artwork, Horses – Antique
Artwork, Scenery – Antique
Bedding – Restoration Hardware, Troy
Bedframes – Pottery Barn and Vintage, Charish
Blanket, Throw – Avah Striped Throw Blanket, Pottery Barn
Chest, Bedside – Antique
Chest, Wooden – Antique
Drapery – Pocket Blackout Curtain with Belgian Linen Rod, Pottery Barn
Lamp, Bedside – Emilie USB Bedside Lamp, Pottery Barn
Lighting, Ceiling – Conical Drum Semi Flush, Rejuvenation
Model Boat – Antique
Rug – Chenille Jute Basketweave Rug, Pottery Barn
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Newburyport Blue
Window Shades – Custom, Bali Cordless Blackout Shade, Pottery Barn

Artwork, Cactus – Etsy
Artwork, Circle – Woven Plate Set in Blue, Kazi, Bed Bath and Beyond
Bedding – European Flax Linen Duvet and Shams, West Elm, Birmingham
Bedframe – World Market
Blanket, Throw – Nordstrom, Troy
Chests, Bedside – West Elm, Birmingham
Drapery – Linen with Privacy Sheers, West Elm, Birmingham
Lamp, Bedside – West Elm, Birmingham
Mirror – Oval Metal Framed Mirror, Rejuvenation
Pillows, Accent – Custom, Etsy
Planter – Custom, Vietnamese Seagrass Belly Basket, Etsy
Rug – Genuine Cow Hide Rug, Pottery Barn
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, White Dove

Candleholders – Etsy
Chandelier – Quoizel
Chairs, Dining – Seth Tufted Side Chair, Lark Manor
Table, Dining – Custom, Shelby Holtzman and Dan Erickson, Long White Beard, Ferndale
Wallpaper – The Detroit Wallpaper Co., Ferndale

Bar Stools – Sanctuary Solid Wood Bar Stool, Charlton Home
Cabinet Paint – Benjamin Moore, Black Beauty
Countertop – Quartz
Light, Ceiling – Quoiziel
Shelf Paint – Benjamin Moore, Black Beauty
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Calm

Armchair (1) – Xena Slipcovered Swivel Accent Chair, Club Furniture
Armchair (2) – Peoria Wood, Target
Bar Cart – Bamboo Motif Bar Cart, Vintage
Chest, Display – Accent TV Stand, Threshold, Target
Christmas Tree – Classic Blue Spruce Artificial Christmas Tree, Balsam Hill
Drapery – Bellacor
Hanging Snowflakes – Etsy
Lamp, Floor – Martus Floor Lamp, Rejuvenation
Lighting, Ceiling – Canned Lighting
Pillows, Accent – Rejuvenation
Planter, White – Ikea, Canton
Rug – Brushed Flowers Rug, West Elm, Birmingham
Sofa – 70s Faux Leather Sleeper Sofa, Vintage
Table, Coffee – Industrial Storage Pop-up Coffee Table, West Elm, Birmingam
Table, Occasional – Marlow Matchstick Pedestal Table, Four Hands
Table, Tree Stump – Artistica Home
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Midnight Blue

Armchairs – Brandi Armchair in Green, Christopher Knight Home
Blanket, Throw – Highland Tartan Tweed Throw Blanket, Prince of Scots, Macy’s
Christmas Tree – Silverado Slim Artificial Christmas Tree, Balsam Hill
Drapery – Velvet Curtain in Regal Blue, West Elm
Garland – Custom, Grace This Space Interiors, Northville
Lamp, Table – Ballard Designs
Mirror – Antique
Nutcracker – Musical Nutcracker, Grandin Road
Piano – 1900s Baby Grand Piano, Brambach
Rug – Overstock
Sofa – Napa Sofa in Cognac Tan, Poly and Bark
Table, Console — Terrace Console, West Elm, Birmingham
Table, End (Radio – Record player) – Antique
Toy Train – 30-Piece Motorized Train Set, FAO Schwarz, Kohl’s
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Chantilly Lace

Chairs – Yokota Wide Polyester Slipper Chair, Highland Dunes
Christmas Tree (orange) – Aspen Estate Fir Artificial Christmas Tree, Balsam Hill
Christmas Tree (white/gold) – Arctic Fir Artificial Christmas Tree, Puleo International, Macy’s
Drapery – West Elm, Birmingham
Pillows – Rejuvenation
Shelf – Helix Walnut Bookcase, CB2
Sofa – Lenna Velvet Tufted Futon, EveryRoom, Bed Bath & Beyond
Table, Coffee – Amoeba Wild Walnut Wide Coffee Table, Article
Table, Display – Vintage
Table, Foosball – Table provided by the client; Custom decal, Grace This Space Interiors, Northville
Table, Occasional – Tripod Side Table, West Elm, Birmingham
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Chantilly Lace
Wall Decals – Custom, The Detroit Wallpaper Co., Ferndale

Door Paint Color – Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover Gloss Spray Paint, Dark Green
Landscaping – Grace This Space Interiors, Northville