A Change of Scenery

Megan Swoyer
Portrait by Jean Lannen

An acquaintance recently shared something regarding interior design that really impressed me. He said that when his mother died, his father decided to move into a condominium, and rather than take all or many of his and his wife’s furnishings (mostly traditional) when he moved, he decided to start fresh. The couple had had a solid marriage, but the man had always loved clean lines and a more modern look. So he kept a few things and then purchased pieces that provided a wonderful Mid-century appeal. He completely started over in the design department and, in his 80s, he felt like a new man!

What made him feel refreshed? Was it that he was surrounded by new and different things, and his everyday scenery was significantly altered? Or was it that he was proud of the fact that he was able to make a drastic leap and listen to his inner voice? I’m betting it was all of the above.

Interior design alterations can be tough for me. I crave change, but I want things to stay the same. A new home with a fresh style sounds fantastic, but when I’m away from home, I really miss my bedroom, even though my husband and I purchased the furniture 30 years ago. (The thing about buying quality is that it lasts.) I also pine for the houses I grew up in and all their furnishings — yet when I lived there, I wanted to be at other people’s homes and was fascinated by different looks. (My friends, meanwhile, said they wanted to be at my home, and we’d talk about switching parents/homes and how fun that might be.)

That being said, I actually have my own solution to creating change — albeit subtle — when it comes to home design. Get a large plant, switch up a few elements, and complete some fix-it projects.

On Mother’s Day, for example, one of my sons gave me the most vivid blue hydrangea plant I’d ever seen. I planted it in a vibrant turquoise pot, placed it on our petite patio, and voila — the entire backyard took on a new look, as if we’d changed part of our landscaping. And it all boiled down to adding just one big plant.

Another change-up: I was leaving home the other day when I turned my head to take in a new painting my husband had hung on the wall, unbeknownst to me. Although it wasn’t actually a new piece, it seemed new because it had previously been upstairs in an unused bedroom. Again, I felt that sensation of something different, lively! And all it took was one surprise modification.

In the project department, it’s all about just picking up the tools and doing it. I love wrought iron, but it can get chippy over time, and not in a good way. With peeling black paint and rust aplenty, some aging side tables on the patio pushed me to my wit’s end. So I purchased a steel brush and black paint, and now I can sit outside and place my glass on a chip-free, smooth black table. I felt as if we’d purchased new patio furniture, but all it required was a little elbow grease.

For me, small shifts make a big impact — and maybe that’s all the change I need right now.

Like our widowed friend, the homeowners in this issue yearned for extensive changes and big effects.  Interior designer Dan Davis worked with homeowners in Royal Oak to turn a 1920s Craftsman-style home into a Mid-century dream. Meanwhile, Michael Talbot was approaching retirement from his position as chief judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals and Court of Claims. The verdict was in after he met with designer Kathleen McGovern at his Plymouth-area condo and said yes to making some design amendments. Then there’s designer Staci Meyers, who worked with homeowners whose previous homes had encompassed a variety of architectural styles, including soft contemporary and French Norman, but were intent on finding a Mid-century Modern house when they decided to downsize. Talk about change!

But keep in mind that change doesn’t always require a complete overhaul. Sometimes little edits can provide you with just the change of scenery you need.