Surprise and Delight

Unexpected elements take an updated property to new heights // Photography by Karl Moses
A 1920s Birmingham home underwent a remarkable face-lift by Ben Heller and Matt Mosher.

When the owners of a Birmingham Tudor on a lot that had enough space for another structure decided their existing garage was just too tight, a new detached two-car garage with a hangout for kids above got the ball rolling for a complete outdoor overhaul. “The concern was that it would feel crowded, but it made the space feel more open and interesting by extending the driveway and tying the landscape to the new building,” says Ben Heller, president of Heller & Associates in Pontiac, who worked on the addition.

A custom mahogany door sets the tone for the structure, which blends stucco with cedar accents and copper gutters. For the driveway and landscape, Heller brought in Matt Mosher, a landscape architect with Mosher Design Co. in Royal Oak.

Mosher worked with the homeowners to refresh the dated layout of the backyard. “They wanted to create a really fun but sophisticated area, incorporating the existing pool into a more refined look with usable space,” he says. “Our goals, based on theirs, were to understand how to make the space more functional and add interesting elements that were softer, so it felt warm. We also wanted to come up with a completely unique design that was unexpected.”

Inspiration came from several surprising elements inside the classic home, like furniture with clean lines. “We wanted to carry these outside for a modern combination that still respects the architecture,” Mosher says.

The refurbished pool and cabana join new bluestone that complements warm elements like a wood planting trough near the dining area, which provides a sense of enclosure. “We imagine the outside just like the inside of a house,” he says. “For proper flow, we break it up into rooms.”

A glorious hanging lounger (The Nest) provides a perfect perch near the new double-sided fireplace, where the updated cabana with an Asian-inspired roof features plant material that softens the space. The plantings include boxwood and spherical cedar, along with white hydrangea and miniature Russian sage. “It’s an edited palette of green, purple, and white, but it’s rich and warm,” Mosher says.

“Now the family’s out there more than they’re in their house,” he adds. “They like to entertain and have small dinner parties. It’s just a space that feels good to be in.”

The homeowners agree. “We have this old Tudor from the 1920s, which is a mixed space with elements that are streamlined and organic, and old and new. What Matt and Ben did so well was to incorporate the same feel from the inside to the outside,” the wife says. “One of the silver linings of the pandemic is to be able to utilize the outdoor space. There’s nothing better than taking a nap in The Nest.”

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