Welcome Home

A British interior designer transforms her rented house — a Birmingham Home Tour highlight — into a chic oasis

Welcome Home“I love Michigan,” says British designer and recent expatriate Jill-Maria Ferrier. “I love the seasons, I love the little restaurants and cafes — and I love American style.”

So when her Scottish husband, Scott, was offered a design manager position (car interiors — seating) with Ford, she said, “Why not?” The couple had already lived in Paris, Cologne, London, and Melbourne, where Ferrier launched her design business, Xander & Ferrier Interior Design & Decoration. Her next stop: A Bloomfield Hills rental.

“Scotty came here before me, because he had to start work and I was finishing a project in Melbourne,” Ferrier says. “He sent me a photo of the house and I said, ‘I can’t live in that! We would have to paint at the very least.’ ” Her husband sent Ferrier’s website to the owner, with a note explaining that his wife is an interior designer and wanted to make some changes to the rental property. “He wrote back asking what suggestions I had,” Ferrier says, “and we had ourselves a deal.”

Welcome Home - Sofa
Linger & Lounge – “I’m partial to a cow,” says designer Jill-Maria Ferrier of her cowhide-covered ottoman edged with battered leather in the living room. The sofa is upholstered in chenille-style fabric from Zepel. She designed and crafted all of the home’s curtains herself. She created an inverted pleat on a dark-toned but sheer faux taffeta fabric that allows light to pour in but sets a moodier, ethereal quality when drawn at night.
Welcome Home - Dining Room
A Mix of Materials: The dining room features inverted-pleat curtains that puddle on the floor. “Curtaining is about quantity, not quality,” Ferrier says. The Restoration Hardware Sputnik chandelier bursts with light above the chamfer-edged dining table (designed by Ferrier) that’s topped with glass so “there’s no need for a tablecloth,” she says. Crocodile-embossed velvet covers the outside of the dining chairs, while stormy gray velvet fills their interior.

The couple signed a three-year lease that included the freedom to make over the 4,100-square-foot Tudor-style home — within reason. “Fortunately, the homeowner knew that this would be good for him when it’s time to rent again, or if he decides to sell or move back in himself,” Ferrier says. “A lot of people have a hard time imagining a home when it doesn’t have any furniture in it, and it had to appeal to many senses — so I imagined it for them.”

The dining room features inverted-pleat curtains that puddle on the floor. “Curtaining is about quantity, not quality,” Ferrier says. The Restoration Hardware Sputnik chandelier bursts with light above the chamfer-edged dining table (designed by Ferrier) that’s topped with glass so “there’s no need for a tablecloth,” she says. Crocodile-embossed velvet covers the outside of the dining chairs, while stormy gray velvet fills their interior.

Ferrier came for a quick visit to approve paint colors, tiles, and other critical details so that work could forge ahead (while Scott cloistered himself in the basement), then began ordering pieces online from Melbourne. When she arrived last March, it was time to put all the pieces of the puzzle into place.

Because the couple doesn’t own the home, they didn’t want to invest a fortune into its redo; however, Ferrier wanted to create a showpiece for the homeowner that could appeal to the palates of the masses, while also enabling her and her husband to feel at home.

Flooring, furniture, cabinetry, paint, drapery, and, of course, designer touches and vignettes throughout the house transformed the interior into a home Ferrier is proud to show off (the public can visit in September; see “Take a Tour” for details). More importantly, she is thrilled.

“Good design is about being astute and being a good businessperson, knowing where to spend a little more and where it’s not necessary,” Ferrier explains.

Welcome Home - Tea & SconesWelcome Home - Master Suite

Left: Tea-and-scones is an anticipated treat come afternoon. Of the wall clock, Ferrier says, “I love oversized things. And I love that this is a pocketwatch, but it’s so not a pocketwatch.” On the dining room’s console, the lock of an antique tantalus contains a trio of cut-glass Scottish decanters. Right: Details, Details:  In the master suite, curtains lined with blackout fabric add thickness and privacy. A diamond-patterned duvet cover is topped with layers of pillows. The shoes (Bally; found on sale in Melbourne), the Hermes Birkin bag, and the Burberry coat are prized for the spectacular details, just like the studded-cowhide and stainless ottoman they rest on. “I don’t care who they’re from,” Ferrier says. “It’s the details I love.”

Welcome Home - Powder RoomWelcome Home - Console

Left: A first-floor powder room has the same inexpensive square tiles on the floor, right up the walls to the ceiling, making  for a clean-lined, neutral statement. Right: The couple scooped up a pair of watercolor-on-wood fish portraits at a market in Paris. On the console, the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament is a keepsake from Ferrier’s husband’s first Rolls-Royce. For his 40th birthday, Ferrier surprised him with a trip to Africa. “He bought me the rhino money box as a gift and said to start saving up for our next trip back to Africa.”

Welcome Home - Portrait
Ferrier’s father, an art teacher, sketched this pen-and-ink portrait of family members.

In her case, working toward a contented medium between toeing the line for future shoppers and creating her own happy nest, Ferrier — who says paint can make the biggest difference for the least amount of money — began by subtly delineating the structure into three tones of neutral color, which helps to create an appealing flow and consistency while showing off each space’s versatility. “If you’re looking to rent or sell, you don’t want a green floral, then a blue stripe, then a yellow dot,” she says. “You need to have a running theme. And entries are crucial; they present the idea of the entire home.”

The foyer, as redone by Ferrier, is a mid-tone, which carries through to the great room. The dining room and living room — or, as Brits call it, the “formal lounge” — is painted in darker tones; richly hued drapes create a more dramatic and moody setting. Upstairs, the master bedroom and guest rooms are washed in lighter, airier tones.

“I don’t think people always realize the impact their surroundings have on how they feel,” she says. Although there are still a few details Ferrier is tweaking, she is passionate about her creation. “Is it exactly what I would choose if I had my way? No. But I do love it, and we are very happy here. And it serves the purpose of letting prospective buyers see the potential that the spaces have, even if it’s not their taste. It’s very homey, and everyone who visits loves it, which means I’ve done my job.”

Take A Tour:  Jill-Maria and Scott Ferrier’s Bloomfield Hills home will be one of several homes open to the public in the Annual Birmingham House Tour, hosted by The Community House, 9:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16. Tickets are $40 in advance, and $45 on tour day. For details and to purchase tickets, call 248-644-5832 or visit tchserves.org.


Welcome Home - Guest Room
Vintage Paris – In a guest room is a centuries-old bench from a former neighbor in Paris. “I love that it’s distressed,” Ferrier says. Above it, a favorite painting by American artist Craig Alan “has an unfinished look to it.”

Jill-Maria Ferrier loves to create groups of unique and textural displays on walls, but she realizes everyone might not have a huge art budget. “Most people would rather spend the money on a sofa, but you can’t have just the sofa and nothing on the walls, because that’s what makes the room whole,” she says.

When working with clients who have a limited budget, Ferrier will find any small piece of ephemera — museum cards, tourist postcards, old photographs, or new snapshots, valuable or not — and create a frame around it, transforming the piece into a work of art. Leather frames, fat frames, inset beading, double matting — Ferrier says don’t be afraid to make bold, substantial choices to create a mood.

“I love oversize everything, and creating layers of oversized frames with mattes around a small picture not only adds texture and sculpture to the walls, but it draws the viewer in to take a look at the picture, making it ultimately more intimate,” she says. She recommends asking for a sample of the matte board you’re considering, so you can check it at home.

The most important aspect, she adds, is scale. To get the proportions just right, bring the dimensions of the wall, along with any color swatches, to a framing shop and experiment with frames and mattes. — LK

Welcome Home - Postcards
Picture This – Ferrier framed a row of inexpensive tourist postcards from Italy. “Framing these pieces is all about scale,” she says. “The larger frames bring the focus in to look at the pictures.”