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Family-Friendly Detroit Home
Lisa Schrenk Bouchard was convinced that her friends and family would gravitate to her home, if only she would build something inviting
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New Home Exterior
Gasping radiators, cobbled wiring, and a raw, spooky basement convinced Lisa Schrenk Bouchard that her 1930s rambler in Birmingham, Michigan, no longer was conducive to raising two small boys. The challenges she faced as a newly single mom were enough without old-house aches and breaks heaping on more stress. Her pragmatic solution? Move, and re-craft the new house to make it even better for her young family’s needs.
“I had the ‘if you build it they will come’ mentality,” recalls the licensed CPA and former owner of an accounting, financial, and IT contract-staffing firm. Lisa, now a full-time mom, wears her optimism like an amulet against turning hard-bitten. “I had always harbored the dream of having my home full of people I love, laughing and talking while I serve up big plates of their favorite foods,” she says. Her recently constructed home, left partially unfinished by its previous owners, was a chance to bring that dream to life.
Lisa replaced columns of mixed style with one consistent favorite on the exterior of her Detroit-area home. All-new landscaping completes the exterior’s warm and inviting good looks.
Photography: Gordon Beall
Produced by Sandra L. Mohlmann
Interior design: Ann Heath, Duncan-Fuller Interiors, 748 Forest Ave., Birmingham, MI 48009; 248/647-3133
Contractor/builder: Steve Templeton, Templeton Building Company, 2513 Leach Rd., Rochester Hills, MI 48309; 248/853-5709
Working with interior designer Ann Heath, Lisa wasted no time finishing both the basement and the room above the garage as family hangouts. She also transformed the kitchen into a crowd-worthy hub, converted a screened porch to an all-season sunroom, and warmed up the living room with a fireplace. “Above all, I wanted to make the house more suitable for a casual, kid-friendly lifestyle,” Lisa explains.
A sisal rug, neutral walls, and white sofas allow homeowner Lisa Schrenk Bouchard’s collections of blue-and-white Chinese export plates and delftware vases and urns maximum attention in the living room. Lisa trimmed her new fireplace with delft tiles.
Entrance and Living Room
Lisa also wanted her home to be an accurate gauge of her own stylistic temperature, which is more cottage-warm than contemporary-cool. “I loved the open floor plan and natural light, but I wanted to traditionalize the house,” she reports. So she straightened out modern curved walls, replaced window sashes to include traditional mullions, chose classic columns for the exterior, and landscaped. “My goal was a comfortable gathering place where we could hang out over casual dinners pool parties, and movie-night pizza parties.”
Perched on a gilded bracket, an antique Staffordshire dog guards the front door. In making what was a contemporary home more traditional, Lisa encased the archway in paneling and added a fireplace in the living room.
Collections on Display
Be careful what you wish for. Not long after moving, Lisa met and married Jeff Bouchard, president of an entertainment production company and father of four boys. “When I started working on the house, I was hoping to give my kids a larger sense of family, and oh boy, it’s happened,” Lisa laughs. “Together we have six boys ranging from nine to 24 years old. On any given night, we can have 15 to 20 gathered around the table.”
While the house may not be the primary reason for Lisa’s fulfilled dream, it certainly posed no obstacle. Its pretty palette and compelling collections present hard-to-resist bait for happiness. “A shell hue on the walls created a neutral backdrop for Lisa’s collections,” Heath says, explaining the soft design. “Then we added beautiful fabrics with the greens, pinks, and blues she loves, all of which work well with her collections.”
On an antique sideboard in the back hallway, she displays a pair of majolica plates, and above the antique green bench, Lisa presents part of her collection of old blue-and-white Staffordshire transferware plates.
The collections––especially Lisa’s majolica, Quimper, and blue-and-white porcelain––“drove the design,” notes the decorator. “I wanted a background that would enhance them without overpowering them,” says Lisa. “In spite of having so many pieces, I didn’t want off-putting museum formality. I wanted the house to feel like a warm hug every time you walk through the door.”
As Lisa’s longtime friend, Heath, who has designed in the Detroit area more than 30 years, instantly got it. “I strongly believe collections should be contained,” she says, not so much converting to Lisa’s design philosophy as declaring herself a true believer. “Clutter is controlled and collections have more impact when displayed together,” the designer adds.
The collections deserve their preeminence in the design hierarchy. From the delft urns and vases on the living room mantel to the kitchen’s cabinetful of Quimper, they give the house soul. “I started collecting in my early 20s with only one rule––buy what you love,” says Lisa. “Unless I truly love a piece, I walk away. I don’t believe in just filling a space with ‘stuff.’ ”
Quimper––cheery antique French faience pottery, one of Lisa’s favorite collections––fills a china cabinet in the breakfast area.
That philosophy has led to a proliferation of organically acquired collections. “I had no idea that someday I would have ‘collections,’" insists Lisa. “I just bought things I thought were beautiful, that grabbed my heart.” Relying on dealers in London, Atlanta, and New York, plus a favorite Detroit-area shop (Dede and Jim Taylor Antiques), she has diversified. Staffordshire pottery, delftware, tortoiseshell tea caddies, Chinese export porcelain, and antique botanical prints are now on her must-look-for list.
She approaches fixtures and furniture with the same “only-if-I-love-it” attitude, favoring antiques and dressmaker detailing. Many pieces, like antique chandeliers in the dining room and kitchen, traveled from old house to new. “We spent a year searching for other antiques and fabrics,” says Heath, “reviewing our progress on Fridays. When it came to tassels and trim, there was no discipline. We used miles of it.”
Lisa brought an antique French chandelier from her previous home to illuminate the kitchen.
The results go the distance, too. “This house reflects my love of antiques, gardens, and cooking,” Lisa says, “and it has fulfilled my dream of laughter, talking, and food in abundance.”
An antique crystal chandelier and full bells-and-whistles decorative trim on the draperies and chair upholstery bring a feminine air to the dining room. Merian botanical prints hang above a new custom-painted sideboard.
As part of the redo, a screened porch became a light-bathed sunroom. Lisa’s love of gardening is reflected in the floral fabrics covering the chairs. The chandelier is an antique.