Updated and Delightful

Two older homes with traditional features spring to life with unique renovations // Photography by Martin Vecchio
Refreshing Style
Designer Lauren Tolles mastered the mix of materials in this Bloomfield Township home. Here in the kitchen, it’s about practical elements mixing with stylish appointments. Hints of holiday brighten the season.

A 1960s Bloomfield Georgian Gets a Face-Lift

Mariam and Alex Chapman can’t get over how much they love the kitchen and bar in their Bloomfield Township home. “I’m huge on functional spaces, and these just are so practical but just so beautiful. I’m constantly happy in this space,” Mariam says. The couple, who purchased a 1969 Neoclassical-style home in February 2020, renovated pretty much the entire house, and then moved in in September 2020.

They hired Lauren Tolles, owner of Maison Birmingham, to oversee their kitchen/bar renovation. “Lauren was amazing to work with from the get-go,” Mariam says. “It was like we were saying yes, yes, yes! to (everything she) proposed. And she listened to us so well. Lauren also knew about my apprehension of colors.”

Like a forest sprinkled with freshly fallen snow, the kitchen is especially pretty during the holidays. With white-as-snow quartzite countertops and cabinetry, and deep-green accent colors for the island and part of the breakfast-nook cabinetry amid solid walnut accents, it’s classic and contemporary at once.

“I’m not a color person,” Mariam reiterates. “I’m black and gray and white. I was so nervous, but Lauren convinced me that the green island would be a nice neutral and would add a nice design element. It did!” Adds Tolles: “I like having something dark to ground the space.”

Green Scene
Part of the breakfast-nook cabinetry features the same green as the island.

When the Birmingham-based designer first met with the couple about the project, she knew that Mariam preferred a modern look and Alex liked a more traditional feel. “I knew that if we put super modern into what is a traditional design, it wouldn’t work. So our design walks the line of  historic, but it’s modern and more transitional,” Tolles explains. “They were very much focused on function and durability.”

Restained floors, light, custom-stained white oak cabinetry, brass pulls, and quartzite counters (“a natural stone featuring less maintenance than other popular materials, like marble,” Tolles says) round out the look. “The quartzite was also carried up beneath the hood, to keep things simple and easy to clean,” the designer says. One of Mariam’s favorite elements is the open shelveing near the stove. “You can change out decorative items with the seasons, and it’s fun to rearrange them,” the homeowner says.

Art of the Mix
A Crue faucet by Kohler adds elegance.

The stacked refrigerator and freezer feature white oak paneling, and to the left is an identical door that leads to the mudroom. “I really love that cool hidden design element,” Alex says. A covered patio’s space, meanwhile, was turned into a pantry. “The patio’s cement slab naturally keeps the space cool, which helps store food better and is more energy-efficient,” Tolles adds.

The homeowners’ artwork in the bar provides a splash of modern.

Regarding the bar, there was a dated entertainment center right off the kitchen that was transformed into a neat little beverage spot with plenty of style. “I said, you like to entertain and don’t really need an actual space to store wine, but a place to make drinks would be great,” Tolles recalls. So they decided to go a little more modern with this area, but used walnut for the cabinetry. “Walnut is an historic material, but with the porcelain counter and backsplash, along with a ledge (for artwork), it’s got a more contemporary edge,” she explains.

The bar features walnut, a classic “historic material,” designer Lauren Tolles says.

Also designed into the mix is a wine refrigerator, trash area, and storage. “The door panels have clean lines and we used hardware that’s modern but has texture,” the designer says. In addition, she says knurled satin brass knobs and handles don’t show fingerprints — and that’s a nice touch for those who entertain a lot or have young children. “I really like the built-in walnut-paneled bar refrigerator,” Alex says. “The whole bar is stunning.”

Everything came together so easily, the couple agrees. “We used Lauren’s contacts for the installs. Everything was executed perfectly. The trades respect her; she has a great reputation in the design industry,” Mariam says. Adds Alex: “Lauren went above and beyond our expectations.”

The homeowners, with two young girls ages 5 and 7, love to entertain. In fact, they’re looking forward to hosting Christmas Eve at their home. In the breakfast nook, the kids enjoy using the lower drawer, which is stocked with juice boxes and water that’s just for them. They also have their own drawer for arts and crafts items, conveniently located right next to the dining table.

“We entertain a ton,” Alex says. “And, of course, everyone always circles into the kitchen.” Adds his wife: “The kitchen is always beautiful. It’s like looking at art.”

Triple Duty
A large custom high-gloss navy and glass cabinet provides both display and storage, as well as an additional serving area hidden behind the center doors.

A Fresh Spin on Classic English Design

Lauren Tolles also had the pleasure of updating a traditional kitchen, breakfast nook, and scullery in Grosse Pointe. The moment she stepped into the 1920s Tudor-style home, she was overwhelmed by its beauty. “It was really grand and ornate, and had beautiful, vaulted ceilings with an impressive scale,” Tolles recalls. When she first set eyes on the kitchen, however, she was surprised to discover low ceilings and a more nondescript look.

“It’s the way these areas in the old homes were,” the designer says. “It was more for servants; this one even had a little back stair in the kitchen that led to the servants’ bedrooms.”

Creating a mood
Because of the low ceiling height, designer Lauren Tolles chose flush-mount lighting, which features a diffused light and looks historic.

Working with interior designer Victoria Strickler, Tolles says the homeowners’ biggest concerns were function and creating a more open feel. “The rest of the home was a little more transitional than traditional. I remember the homeowner saying it’s unfortunate we’re in this room (the kitchen) so much, and it doesn’t feel like the rest of our house.”

Without removing walls or raising ceilings, the team decided to gut the space. “We had to get creative with the layout and finishes to make it feel taller,” Tolles says.

Brass Tacks
The homeowners installed unlacquered brass window screens so they could open and use the original push-out casement-style windows. The over-the-sink lighting complements the look perfectly.

As for color, the house is an English-style Tudor, so Tolles wanted to try to embrace its English roots with lots of brass and keep the original steel windows. “The homeowners installed new unlacquered brass window screens so they could actually open and use the original push-out, casement-style windows.”

Because the ceilings are so low, Tolles went with a white oak for the flooring. “We chose a herringbone pattern, in keeping with the rest of the house, but wanted it a bit lighter.” To stay true to the home, she added darker navy and walnut to provide some contrast. The cupboards store all kinds of elements including bread, mixers, and more. There’s also a warming drawer that comes in handy for entertaining or keeping meals warm when the kids are at sports practice late.

Tile Style
Lauren Tolles chose hand-painted marble tile for the scullery after she learned the homeowners wanted a unique look in this space. “He (the homeowner) loves marble,” she says. Also shown: a perspective of the cabinets, showing their storage capabilities.

Although the man of the house was thinking marble countertops, his wife was more practical, Tolles says. “She didn’t want a lot of maintenance or stress, so we went with porcelain with an onyx pattern. It’s got subtle movement to it, but it’s an engineered material so it’s easy to wipe down and clean.” The hood and niches also are wrapped in or lined with the porcelain.

As for lighting, Tolles says that again, because of the ceiling height, it wasn’t possible to have pendant lighting. “I chose huge flush-mounts. They feature a diffused light, and they look historic,” she explains. Task lighting was added over the sink. “It would be difficult to add recessed lighting because the house is so old,” the designer says.

The bottom line is that the homeowners didn’t want to get into construction. “We thought, we’ll embrace it and work with the walls and ceiling, and just make it feel airier,” Tolles says.

One of the ways to do that was to feature subway tiles. “This tile style is more classic, and it wraps around all four walls to bounce light and reflection around the space so it feels larger and airier,” Tolles says. “Cladding the walls in subway tile also is a nod to the home’s architectural history.”

he designer had a radiator cover made for the Grosse Pointe kitchen to match the cabinetry, with coordinating mesh grilles.

A family that loves to entertain and host parties during the holidays, these homeowners were all about durability. “That was a big deal to them,” Tolles shares.

A dining table is located six feet from the end of the island. The nook features a large custom, high-gloss navy and glass cabinet that provides both display and storage space, and there’s an additional serving area hidden behind the center doors. It stores everything from placemats to files and paperwork, as the homeowner often uses the nearby table as her home office.

Tolles and her team also added a part-mudroom/part-pantry/part-coffee-bar space (also known as the scullery). “Here, they make juice drinks and coffee, change their shoes, and keep their dog leashes,” Tolles says. “The homeowners wanted somewhat of a trendy tile, so I found some hand-painted marble tiles. He loves marble and these have a pop to them.”

In the Bloomfield kitchen, the dark island grounds the space.

The designer wanted to keep a lot of the original features in these spaces, including a 1920s swinging door. “That oak is beautiful and original. I didn’t want to change it.” She also had a radiator cover custom-made to match the cabinetry, with coordinating unlacquered mesh grilles. She  carried the same grilles into the scullery, and lined the interior of the radiator spaces with stainless steel to protect the cabinets (and their contents) from the radiator’s heat.

“It’s fun working in older homes. You’ve got parameters, and I like that challenge,” Tolles says. “Also, everything we did had to relate to the rest of the house.”


Lauren Tolles, Maison Birmingham, Birmingham, maisonbirmingham.com

KITCHEN (Bloomfield Township)
Artwork – Kayla Gale
Cabinets – Maison Birmingham, Birmingham
Candleholders – Emmett Antique Brass Candleholders, Crate & Barrel, Novi
Ceramicware – Williams-Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, Novi
Chairs, Dining – Lawnie Dining Chair, Lulu & Georgia
Faucet – Crue. Kohler, Kohler, Birmingham
Flooring – Refinished Oak
Fruit Bowl – Crate & Barrel, Novi
Hood – Maison Birmingham, Birmingham
Lighting, Island – Kelly Werstler/Visual Comfort, City Lights Detroit, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Refrigerator, Tan – Thermador, Witbeck Home Appliance Mart, Orchard Lake
Sconces – Kelly Werstler/Visual Comfort, City Lights Detroit, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Shelves, Floating – White Oak, Maison Birmingham, Birmingham
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Alabaster

Artwork (large) – Jordan Nickel, Library Street Collective, Detroit
Artwork (small) – Alfred Leslie, Special Edition 1961
Cabinet – Maison Birmingham, Birmingham
Countertop – Nero Tunisi Porcelain, Leonardo’s Marble & Granite, Wixom
Drink Mixing Tools – CB2
Faucet – Crue. Kohler, Kohler, Birmingham
Flooring – Refinished Oak
Lights, Ceiling – Visual Comfort, City Lights Detroit, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Mirror – Rench Antiqued Mirror, Reid Glass, Southfield
Tray – West Elm, Birmingham
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Alabaster

Bar Stools – Michael Coyne Design, Troy
Cabinets – Maison Birmingham, Birmingham
Cabinet, Display – Maison Birmingham, Birmingham
Cabinets, Storage – Maison Birmingham, Birmingham
Countertop – Walnut Top by Grothouse, Maison Birmingham, Birmingham
Faucet and Mini Bar Sink – Kallista, Wittock Kitchen and Bath, Birmingham
Faucet, Gold Sink – Waterstone, Wittock Kitchen and Bath, Birmingham
Flooring – Herringbone White Oak, Sullivan Building Co., Grosse Pointe Farms
Lighting, Gold Sink – Visual Comfort, Cloth & Kind, Ann Arbor
Hood – Vent-A-Hood, Witbeck Home Appliance Mart, Orchard Lake; Fabricator, Leonardo’s Marble & Granite, Wixom; Shell, Custom, Sapienstone Porcelain, Ciot, Troy
Light, Ceiling – Sullivan-Strickler Design, Visual Comfort, City Lights Detroit, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Lighting, Island – Ralph Lauren, Visual Comfort, Cloth & Kind, Ann Arbor
Light, Mini Bar Sink – Visual Comfort, Cloth & Kind, Ann Arbor
Sconces – Visual Comfort, Cloth & Kind, Ann Arbor
Stove – Ilve 48” Majestic Range, Maison Birmingham, Birmingham
Table and Chairs, Dining – Sullivan-Strickler Design, Poltrona Frau, Arkitektura, Birmingham
Wall Treatment – Crossville Handwritten Field Tile, Virginia Tile, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Wall Treatment, Patterned – Painted Marble Tile, Virginia Tile, Michigan Design Center, Troy

Builder – Sullivan Building Co., Grosse Pointe Farms
Interior Designer – Victoria Strickler, Sullivan-Strickler Design, Grosse Pointe