Past Presence

Fresh from Brooklyn, a Michigan-born developer embraces city life, both personally and professionally, in her renovated Brush Park condo. // Photos by Marta Xochilt Perez
Kristi Bernick and Arty
Homeowner Kristi Bernick and her Maltese-poodle mix, Arty, are ready for the holidays.

Across the street from Kristi Bernick’s 19th century Brush Park condo, hard hats and construction dust herald the impending rise of City Modern, a forward-thinking development that, when finished, will integrate historic and modern, and include 20 new buildings and 410 contemporary residential units.

Inside Bernick’s condo, however, Detroit’s past is ever present. Bernick, who lives in one of four renovated condominiums carved from the former Frederick Butler house, has the largest of the 1882 home’s four units — a luxe 2,267-square-foot space with high ceilings, original pocket doors, and a bay window that frames the downtown skyline. The 30-something president of Kristi Bernick Enterprises (KBE), a real estate and development business with an emphasis on luxury design, shares the light and airy space with Arty, aka “Sir Arthur,” her 1-year-old Maltese-poodle mix.

Bernick Living Room
The living room features an animal bust from an antiques shop in Grand Rapids, a credenza from Anthropologie, and a teal sofa from Joybird.

Bernick was involved with high-end development in Manhattan, a skill she has successfully shifted to Detroit. “There wasn’t really a luxury market downtown until recently, which is exciting,” she says.

She says she experienced “the Brooklyn boom” firsthand, and is seriously interested in being part of the dramatic changes in Detroit. “I’m still trying to get DTN (her family’s residential management company, based in Lansing) interested in doing something downtown,” she says.

Until then, she enjoys doing her own thing, which has included rehabbing and flipping houses and historic preservation projects. She’s currently working on The Murray, a multifamily site in southwest Detroit.

Bernick Dining Room
Bernick’s dining room is a favorite spot for hosting friends. Notable elements include a Feiss sputnik chandelier; a live-edge round dining table with a glass insert, custom-made by Andre Sandifer; 11-inch decorative crown molding; and herringbone, large-scale oak plank flooring.

Bernick says she’s especially proud of her Brush Park condo, housed in an 8,400-square-foot French Renaissance Second Empire-style mansion with
a mansard roof. One of the neighborhood’s stalwart survivors, it’s a remnant of a post-Civil War Detroit boom that saw the area emerge as one of the city’s most elite enclaves.

Bernick’s renovation, achieved with the help of  Kastler Construction, undoes some of the more misguided efforts of a circa-2005 restoration, which Bernick sums up as “builder grade.” “It was a different market then,” she explains. “The finishes were of different quality, the layout was a little awkward, and almost every room had different flooring, which made it feel choppy.”

To remedy that, she covered the original flooring in the living and dining room with large-scale herringbone solid-oak planks, added the 11-inch crown molding, and painted the original pocket doors. “I would have loved to redo the doors, but it’s super expensive,” she says.

Bernick Kitchen
In the kitchen, Bernick selected Hudson Valley pendant lights that complement the cabinetry, which extends to the ceiling. The inventive homeowner added a “coffee bar” along the exposed brick wall, with shelves “that still show off the original brick” for plates, bowls, mugs, and glasses. She also added a quartz fascia to the shelves, to create contrast with the cabinetry but match the countertops and backsplash. A wine refrigerator and microwave drawer round out the elements.

She also redid the living room’s hearth, showcasing the marble fireplace with a dark gray paint. She’s unclear whether the room’s focal point is original to the home or if  it was added somewhere along the way. She painted the nearby dining room a deep blue, filling it with a custom-made, 60-inch-round table by Andre Sandifer and West Elm chairs.

The home feels much larger than a one-bedroom, one-bath residence, in part because of the ceilings, which range from the standard 9 to a soaring 15 feet in some places. She decorated the home with local art, items from her travels, and favorite furnishings.

Bernick Bed
A West Elm bed and dresser, and Anthropologie nightstands, adorn Bernick’s bedroom. The mirror is from the Brooklyn Flea and features reclaimed tin ceiling pieces from old New York City interiors. A spacious closet is a new addition.

Holiday decorations include a tree tucked into the living room’s bay window. “I’m half Jewish and half Catholic,” Bernick says, “so I have a little bit of both. I’ve always wanted a Christmas tree, and I thought this house deserved one.”

The redone kitchen features an exposed brick wall, quartz countertops, and whitewashed cabinets. Behind the kitchen is the master bedroom, which Bernick uses as a home office; she relocated her bedroom and master bath to the lower level and added a huge closet/dressing room.

Bernick Bedroom

Like most developers and real estate professionals, Bernick keeps her eyes on the market. She’s excited about the changes in Brush Park, and says the condo has increased in value since she purchased it three years ago. After moving so much, she’s thinking about putting down more permanent roots, perhaps with a larger house in the city. “This is my grown-up life,” she says. “I have a dog, I have furniture.”

Will a family house be next? Maybe. Bernick is always on the lookout for a new challenge. “I don’t really know what I want to do next,” she says. “One thing at a time. But I did just buy land in Indian Village, so who knows?”

Bernick Office
In the office, behind the kitchen, a map that has traveled with Bernick to “everywhere I’ve lived” hangs on a palm-print wallcovering. Bernick, sitting in an Acme executive chair, is working at her Gittens writing desk by Safavieh. In the living room, the portrait is by local artist Michelle Tanguay, while the pencil drawing is by Bernick, who also designed and built the chair. Done in maple with a soap finish, the chair has a natural leather seat; belts underneath can be used to tighten the seat over time.


General contractor, Kastler Construction, Kitchen cabinets, Visionary Cabinetry. Living room sofa, Joybird, Tryptic artist, Ellen Rutt, Dining room painting artist, Cristina Camacho, Art consulting, Playground Detroit, Dining table woodworker, Andre Sandifer, Decorating assistant, Julia Eisenberg.