Modern Farmhouse

An expansive Ann Arbor property becomes the perfect backdrop for an exquisite new-build // Photography by Justin Maconochie
DIVE IN A swimming pool aligns with the center of the modern-rustic design for a beautiful view, inside and out.

It took some effort for Lisa O’Connell to convince her husband, Mike, to check out the 100-acre estate they would eventually call home. In fact, it would be months before he agreed, because the photos didn’t show its full potential. Among the property’s wheat fields stood more than a dozen farm structures in various forms of disarray and decay (some are still standing, including the silos and the original house), and Mike wasn’t impressed.

Finally, Mike agreed to visit the site. All it took was one look and he was sold. “The property spoke to me,” he says.

Shades of blue unify the music lounge and the great room. The home features an expansive, open floor plan.

A half-mile-long winding driveway with a natural transition to the landscape leads the way to the O’Connells’ new, 4,000-square-foot home. The couple shares the property with miniature goats, domestic rabbits, and rescued barn cats (from the Humane Society of Huron Valley). They say they still find treasures — ranging from old canning jars and antique farming equipment to a sign for eggs sold by the side of the road — on the farmland, which was originally owned by Henry and Hilda Wessel.

Clean lines define the features and furnishings in the great room, which connects to the kitchen and the dining room.

“We built this home ourselves,” says Lisa, who volunteers for SCORE, a small-business mentoring organization. Mike, a licensed builder who owns Smart Energy Insulation (a construction company that does commercial and industrial insulation and energy appraisal), applied his favorite concepts to their peaceful retreat. Tradespeople expanded upon the project with their own unique contributions. One of those was architect Todd Hallett, president of TK Design & Associates in South Lyon, who valued his clients’ vision for a California wine ranch feel that fit the spectacular setting. “The use of rustic materials in a contemporary framework blends with the gorgeous vistas,” Hallett says.

Because Lisa and Mike have strong opinions, they empowered their designer, Jane Hughes, ASID, LLC, to be the tiebreaker. Lisa says Hughes, who had worked with the couple before, prevented them from falling into what she calls “multiple decorating disorder.”

“We had a track record, so I was tickled when they called me to do this home,” Hughes says. “They’re both delightful and had a good vision, so I could just run interference. We all made suggestions and figured out what would work. It’s an extraordinarily well-designed home.”

The interiors may have a clean, contemporary look, but the rustic features on the outside include a metal roof, cut limestone, and cedar. Patrick Adamic, of Fine Line Custom Painting, LLC, in New Hudson, turned to his friend, Larry Tunesi, of International Coatings in Milford, to help with the interiors, while he applied the cedar exterior stain. “It’s a very upscale home and they were great people to work with,” Adamic says.

Inside, the main floor master suite is downright dreamy, with soothing shades of gray and blue. “It has a contemporary feel, but it’s more casual and warm,” Lisa says. Wallpaper with a cloud motif suits the exceptional setting. “It’s a nod to the unique environment. The wallpaper gives the space a natural feel, with the neutrals and the dramatic clouds inside and out,” Hughes adds. River stone accents continue the organic feel in the master bathroom, which features heated floors and a curvy tub. “It’s a claw-foot shape, but still edgy,” Mike says.

In the master bedroom and bath, cloud wallpaper and river rock details blur the lines between inside and out.

With five grown children and a recent engagement, ample seating was essential inside and out to accommodate the couple’s expanding family. An outdoor lanai and a pool that lines up perfectly with the center of the home are ideal for al fresco gatherings. Inside, a custom dining table joins upholstered chairs, while the waterfall island covered in quartz means there’s room for guests in the kitchen, where cherry cabinets with a mocha finish warm the space.

In the spacious great room, furnishings that surround the linear fireplace with porcelain tiles and floating built-ins on either side have character and comfort, Mike says. People say the chairs feel like a hug. Pops of blue appear on the textured velvet sofa and wall covering, along with a section of the ceiling where a swirly pendant accentuates the unique rectangular feature inspired by a Florida hotel.

In the music room off the foyer, which includes an heirloom piano, indigo walls with applied box molding designed by Mike create a cool vibe for happy hour. “The artwork looks like it was cut from the squares,” Lisa says. The lower level is set to become an expansive lounge and karaoke bar with a stage.

It took a lot of effort to create what they consider their labor of love — not to mention endless brainstorming sessions on the property, where a local farmer still maintains the wheat fields. The natural landscaping includes coneflowers, grasses, rocks, and limestone outcropping formations. “We would sit in camp chairs sharing pizza and drinking wine from Dixie cups,” Lisa says. Despite all the intricate details and design decisions, Mike says, “The experience definitely brought us closer together.” Lisa agrees. “We’re a great team,” she says.

Modern elements like an upholstered headboard pair with warm materials like the wood floors to create the perfect blend throughout the highly customized home, situated on a 100-acre property. Texture plays a major role, too, in the bedding and the bathroom accents.


Lisa and Mike O’Connell

Bathtub – Jacuzzi, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Troy
Bench – AllModern
Flooring – Level Pebble, Virginia Tile Co., Farmington Hills
Shower Tile – Level Pebble, Virginia Tile Co., Farmington Hills
Table, Side – AllModern
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Reflection 7661

Future plans for the expansive farmland include a vineyard and the potential for going organic.

Armchair – Gorman’s Furniture, Novi
Bedding – Hotel Collection, Macy’s
Bedframe – Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Chests – Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Doors – TruStile, Fingerle Lumber Co., Ann Arbor
Dresser – Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Fan – Minka Group, Gross Electric Inc., Ann Arbor
Flooring – Viking Hearth Collection, Floor Source Design Studio, Farmington Hills
Lighting, Bedside – Lexi 3, Feiss, Gross Electric Inc., Ann Arbor
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Reflection 7661
Wall Treatment – Nuvolette, Cole & Son, Kravet/Lee Jofa/Brunschwig & Fils, Michigan Design Center, Troy

Artwork – Opal IV, Joshua Sickler
Buffet Chest – Woodcraft
Chairs, Dining – Woodcraft
Chandelier – Hubbardton Forge, Gross Electric Inc., Ann Arbor
Curtains – Norbar Fabrics, Deluxe Drapery, Ann Arbor
Sculpture and Decorative Boxes –AllModern
Table – Woodcraft

Armchairs – Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Artwork – Soft Blue Cubes, Elisabeth Fredriksson, AllModern
Chandelier – Corbett Lighting, Gross Electric Inc., Ann Arbor
Chest, Display – Gorman’s Furniture, Novi
Chests, Fireside – Dura Supreme Cabinetry – KSI Kitchen & Bath, Ann Arbor
Fireplace – Xtrordinair, Brighton Stone & Fireplace Inc., Brighton
Flooring – Viking Hearth Collection, Floor Source Wholesale & Supply, Farmington Hills
Ottoman – Restoration Hardware, Troy
Rug –  Merkel Furniture & Carpet One, Ann Arbor
Sofa – Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Table, Coffee – Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Table, End – Restoration Hardware, Troy
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Monorail Silver 7663
Wall Treatment (fireplace) – Lavia Silk “Infinity,” Kravet/Lee Jofa/Brunschwig & Fils, Michigan Design Center, Troy

Appliances – KitchenAid; Whirlpool
Backsplash – A&E Tile and Stone, Virginia Tile Co., Farmington Hills
Bar Stools – AllModern
Cabinetry – Dura Supreme Cabinetry, KSI Kitchen & Bath, Ann Arbor
Countertop – Cambria
Faucet – Franke, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, Troy
Flowerpot – MNM, Amazon
Lighting, Bar – Gyro, Access Lighting, Gross Electric Inc., Ann Arbor
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Monorail Silver 7663

Artwork – Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Flooring – Viking Hearth Collection, Floor Source Design Studio, Farmington Hills
Guitar – Fender Telecaster, Guitar Center, Southfield
Piano and Bench – Janssen Piano Co.
Table, Display – Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Indigo 6531

Rustic and modern details on the exterior of the new-construction home include metal, limestone, and cedar that complement the glorious property, which is surrounded by wheat fields.

Brick and Stone – Fond du Lac in Cambrian Blend, Buechel Stone Corp.
Landscape Design – Lauren Yelen, Lotus Gardenscapes, Dexter
Paint Color – Stucco Systems, Sto Corp.
Roofing – Firestone Una Clad in Charcoal Gray Kynar 500
Water Feature Design – Brian Kerschbaum, WaterScape, South Lyon
Windows – Marvin Windows, Marvin Design Gallery by Laurence Smith, Bloomfield Township

Architect – Todd Hallett, TK Design & Associates, South Lyon
Brick and Tile – Exterior Brick, Interior Tile (except backsplash), Fountain Vessel,
Ryan Lange, Brick Craft Masonry & Tile Services, LLC, Livonia
Builder – Michael O’Connell, Custom Home Collection, Ann Arbor
Interior Design –Jane Hughes, Jane Hughes ASID, LLC, Farmington Hills
Painting, Exterior – Patrick Adamic, Fine Line Custom Painting, LLC, New Hudson
Painting, Interior – Larry Tunesi, International Coatings, Milford