Living in Art
This breathtaking Bloomfield Hills manse blends organic appeal with the airy bliss of mid-century modern
Light shimmers from inside this handsome house, (featured on this year’s Michigan Design Center Home Tour), revealing the architectural bones of the massive entryway. The low-planted landscaping sets off the mica-flecked stone pillars and garden walls.
Photos by Beth Singer
Not too long ago, an outdated 1950s ranch home sat on a picturesque lot in Bloomfield Hills. Today the 1,500-square-foot, two-bedroom home is no more. In its place is a new-from-the-ground-up, 7,500-square-foot stunner that its architects, John and Donna VanBrouck, describe as “organic Prairie Modern — with clean horizontal lines, open spaces, and floor-to-ceiling glass.”
Or, as the thrilled homeowner and woman of the house says, “I’m living in a work of art!”
Set back from the road and surrounded by trees with an aerated pond behind, the home is a two-year collaborative tour de force between John and Donna’s architectural firm, VanBrouck & Associates Inc.; their partners, Bryan and Rachel Leith, of Luxe Homes Design + Build; and Oliver Max interior designers Ian Hartwell and Michelle Tor, all based under the same roof in Birmingham. “We had lots of long conversations and design meetings weekly,” John says. “She trusted us and let us design a creative house for her,” Donna adds.
The kitchen/dinette area looks out to an aerated pond and leafy woods. A scullery kitchen hides behind the main room to keep things near. The dining room, with its own lush views, is set off with a Murano glass chandelier
There’s a whole lot of wow factor in this project, starting with its 24-inch charcoal quartzite ledge stone piers, which extend from the exterior through to the interior’s floor-to-ceiling glass. Another sublime feature is the 48-foot-long reflecting pond, which intertwines with the front entry’s stone columns and runs the length of the covered walkway and entry hall. Stone courtyard walls extend the architectural lines into the landscape, including planters, walkways, and a private, Zen-like courtyard outside the master bath.
Inside, the team’s goal of creating a warm, modern-organic aesthetic was achieved with stone, glass, metal, wood, and traditional design elements that harmonize with the mellow views of the property. The reflecting pond is visible from many indoor vantage points, including the main-floor office, and the result is a feeling of quietude and contemplation. The covered entryway is grand, yet clean and minimalistic, with a champagne-colored metal-roof that has wide overhangs that exude a sheltering feeling of expansiveness. The bones of the house — massive, 12-foot ceilings fitted with dark wood beams — are revealed as one enters the home. Floor-to-ceiling glass creates an openness that unfolds as one proceeds down the main hallway past the staircase, to an office with a dining area on the other side, followed by the living room and kitchen, and ending at a glass wall that leads outdoors to the deck and woods beyond. The only room with a door is the office, which has a ceiling-high, sliding double-pocket door. The porcelain floor extends out to the upper deck. Indoors, the center hallway is inset with wide-plank dark oak.
ONE WITH NATURE
The master bath echoes the outdoor hues with wavy tiles from Ann Sacks. A deep tub and Zen courtyard say “relax.” In the bedroom, a chandelier with an Asian feel, lights a serene retreat.
Designers Hartwell and Tor chose grasscloth for the dining room wall, shiplap for others, and elegant Mid-century furnishings, cabinetry, trim, and lighting — including a stellar green Murano glass chandelier placed above the dining table. “It’s a color palette of neutrals, greens, and blues,” says Hartwell, who explains that the mood of the house changes from day to night, and seasonally, because of the light. “It was an awesome house to build,” says Luxe’s Leith. Adds John VanBrouck: “There are no interior walls (in the main living area); it flows all the way through. The only separation is a two-way fireplace. The house is an architectural achievement.” The fireplace, faced with limestone and adorned with an inset panel of reverse-painted art glass on the living room side, also warms the dining room.
— John VanBrouck
The kitchen features a Cambria quartz-topped island and Thermador appliances that are every cook’s dream: a six-burner stove with a griddle, a steam oven, a convection oven, and a fully integrated wood-faced refrigerator. A built-in area near the window has a stainless-steel pan that holds a fragrant herb garden. A scullery kitchen behind the main room hides the smaller appliances and pantry items, and an adjacent small office is used for computing and to store cookbooks.
The main-floor master suite — with its verdant views, shoji-screen closet doors, velvet chairs, heated slate-floor bath, exquisite Ann Sacks green and blue wavy glass mosaic tile, modern soaking tub, glass-walled shower, and courtyard with a meditation garden — embodies the meaning of sanctuary. Two main-floor powder rooms, one with a gorgeous onyx vessel sink and brushed-gold fixtures, are functional yet offer luxurious touches.
The office features built-ins to keep things uncluttered and has a door for privacy. there’s lots more living space in the lower level, plus a well-stocked wine cellar for entertaining.
Dark-wood casework, mouldings, shelving, and shiplap planks create horizontal and vertical lines that carry through the home. The motif is echoed in the fully furnished walkout lower level, where a glass-walled, temperature-controlled wine cellar, backlit bar area, another kitchen, and guest suites facilitate elegant entertaining.
The finished product is beautiful, spacious, solid, and serene — or, as the homeowner likes to say, it’s a work of art.