Loren Weiner says her passion for everything Mid-century Modern began when her in-laws gifted her with an Eames lounge chair in 2005. Charles and Ray Eames designed the iconic modern version of an English club chair, made out of plywood and leather, in 1956, bestowing it with what they called “the warm look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.”
By 2014, when a classic Mid-century tri-level in Bloomfield Hills went on the market, Weiner and her husband, Matthew, jumped at the chance to purchase it. “I had gone from being just a fan of the style to (becoming) a purist,” Weiner says, “and when I walked through that front door the first time, I fell in love immediately and knew I was home.”
The residence was designed for Anne and Mike Rosenthal in 1958 by renowned local architect James Conn, who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin and Eero Saarinen at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he was on the team of architects who designed the St. Louis Arch. Because Rosenthal owned National Lumber, a lumberyard, the home features an abundance of beautiful woodwork, including the bentwood and chrome banisters by the stairs that lead to the upper and lower levels, the walnut living room and den wall panels, the teak and grasscloth sliding room divider between the living room and the foyer, the Brazilian walnut powder room doors, and the 12-foot-long teak and chrome built-in buffet in the dining room, whose mosaic top was designed by Ruth Adler Schnee and assembled, piece by piece, by Schnee and Betty Conn, James Conn’s wife. (Schnee, incidentally, now 94 and living in Southfield, was an important figure in bringing the Mid-century Modernist movement to Michigan.)
“We did very little work to the house because it’s very important to me to honor the original vision of both the architect and the homeowners,” Weiner says. “So, for example, in the kitchen we kept the Formica counters, the teak kitchen cabinets, and the five-burner Electrolux Frigidaire range. I didn’t want to mess with what the Rosenthals originally had.”
An interesting architectural feature is the triangular atrium, complete with glass walls and a glass ceiling. It dominates the foyer and is filled with green plants, including some that belonged to the Rosenthals.
In the living room, the Eames chair holds a place of honor, along with a Wurlitzer grand piano that originally belonged to the Rosenthals. A wooden magazine table, designed by John Keal for Brown & Saltman in the 1960s, sits in front of a Tuxedo-style sofa that’s “just a placeholder until I find the right piece,” Weiner says. Two side tables, designed by British-born architect and furniture designer T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings for Widdicomb, rest on either side of the sofa.
“I had gone from being just a fan of the style to (becoming) a purist, and when I walked through that front door the first time, I fell in love immediately and knew I was home.” — Loren Weiner
In the dining area, adjacent to the living room, Paul McCobb Shovel chairs surround the Tulip table. Made out of maple wood and black wrought iron, they were designed in the 1950s. A show-stopping brass starburst Sputnik chandelier, handcrafted by Weiner, hangs from the ceiling.
“I’m very good at sourcing things on eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, estate sales, and garage sales,” Weiner says. “As a result of finding so many great vintage pieces for my home, I decided to open a store called ModMart Detroit in Clawson at the end of 2015.”
In a fitting twist, Weiner’s business partners are actually the great-nephews of Italian modern furniture sculptor Harry Bertoia, whose chairs have been consistently produced by Knoll furniture ever since 1952. Many Bertoia pieces are available at ModMart Detroit, which specializes in refinishing, buying, selling, and customizing vintage furniture.