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Versatile Family Home

A Detroit-area designer keeps things real with a fine balance of classic taste and modern glamour

Written by Ethne Clarke
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  • Gordon Beall

    Casual Home

    “When someone asks you where you’re from, you say Detroit, not Bloomfield Hills or Birmingham,” explains interior designer Joseph Keenan. “We all belong to this city.”

    A native son, Keenan has watched the city’s fortunes wax and wane. And right now he reckons they’re about to wax, if not quite lyrical, at least enough to give Detroit’s citizens good reason to be confident. “All around town, people are investing in their homes, inside and out, or building new with an attention to detail that hasn’t been seen since the Arts and Crafts period.”

    Coming from a designer whose background includes landscape and architecture, his observations speak volumes about what’s important to the area’s residents: “We take great pride in our neighborhoods and respect the continuity they represent. We’re passionate about the upkeep of our homes—interior and exterior. Any change we make is not going to be trendy. We opt for timeless designs, for a look that has longevity.”

    Only a short distance from downtown Detroit, Peter Rosenfeld’s home has a casual, country look. The interior, however, is a sophisticated blend of formal and informal. 

    Photography: Gordon Beall
    Produced by Sandra L. Mohmann

    Design: Joseph A. Keenan, 1400 Pembroke Dr., Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304; 248/645-5163

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    Peter and Sons

    Homeowner Peter Rosenfeld, who came from Chicago to the Detroit area some 20 years ago, has, during that time, worked with Keenan to bring out the best in each of the three houses he’s called home. Thus, Peter was certain Keenan would be ready to design the interiors of this home (the third), built in 1922 and located on three acres in Bloomfield, one of Detroit’s satellite communities and an easy commute to downtown.

    “The whole experience was stress-free,” says Peter, reflecting on Keenan’s contributions over the years. “Working with him was certainly not what I expected after hearing about the renovation difficulties friends had experienced with their designers.”

    Put the question to the designer about client relationships and the answer is similar: “Working with Peter has always been a partnership,” Keenan says. “My goal is to give clients what they want. And if they don’t have the confidence of their vision, or even know what they want, I believe it’s my job to help them find it.”

    With two sons, Peter knew he needed a family home with space for growth, so durability and a sense of warmth were first requisites for his latest remodeling project. As a prominent member of the Detroit business scene, he also needed a con- genial space for sophisticated entertaining. “In winter, I’ve had strolling, buffet dinners for up to 150 people,” says Peter, “and I’ve even converted the lower level to a dance floor.”

    This versatility is due largely to the home’s multi-level floor plan that revolves around a central staircase, with each room opening off its neighbor. “The flow is basically circular,” explains Keenan, “so people can move easily from room to room and never feel crowded, which makes it terrific for parties.”

    Homeowner Peter Rosenfeld and sons Adam, 15, and Elliot, 13.

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    Clever Kitchen

    A cupboard next to the kitchen fireplace conceals the TV. “The boys,” claims their father, “are sports fanatics, and they flip around to various games while I cook. With a fire going and family and friends gathered there, the kitchen has a special feeling.”

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    Kitchen

    Knotty pine cabinets rule the kitchen. The backsplash from Virginia Tile Co. and granite countertops were kept simple. 

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    Dining Room

    Cool geometry shapes the decorative theme. For example, the dining room wallpaper carries bold, broad stripes horizontally around the room in a design move that Keenan especially loves. “Monster stripes are the best! They put an unexpected twist on any room and make it seem larger.” But he cautions that the stripes have to be at least four inches wide to be really successful: “Any narrower is just too busy, and only makes the walls look out of focus.”

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    Dining Room Details

    Peter brought just a few things with him from his previous home, including the Biedermeier-style dining room set and an art collection built on the work of Soviet impressionists and dating from the mid-1900s.

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    Lounge

    Asked about his inspiration, Keenan says, “I love the work of Albert Hadley. He’s the king of mixing things up, the arbiter of surprise. Studying his work, I learned that what matters is not individual items, but the overall look, and whether it succeeds or fails depends upon scale and proportion and how colors interact. That’s what gives a room its rhythm and pattern, its yin and its yang.” And, he might add, keeps a glamorous interior like this from ever seeming pretentious.

    The lounge is a most seductive space, where wood-paneled walls and a coffered ceiling envelop the room in a warm, inviting glow. 

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    Lounge Chairs

    A demilune side table laden with crystal decanters and tumblers anchors an oversize mirror that leans against the wall, making a welcoming vignette. The mirror also plays a visual joke; in its reflection, the table is turned into a full circle. 

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    Living Room

    The living room, with cream walls and ivory textiles, gains substance from the dark wood of the furniture. Contrasts continue with the sturdy brocade of twin armchairs played against the delicate fabric of the drapery.

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    Living Room Sitting Area

    In contrast to the lounge, the southwest-facing living room has a light-filled, airy mood.

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