When You Find the One
A young East English Village couple embarks on a home renovation journey
Emily Berger-Crawford loves to adorn her home with seasonal accents, including a wreath she made with natural elements. She and husband Chris refurbished the stunning fireplace and mantel in the living room.
Photos by Jacob Lewkow
In only nine months, homeowners Emily Berger-Crawford and her husband, Chris Crawford, have transformed their 1936 Tudor-style home from not-sogreat to so-great. Emily says some fine-tuning is still needed — as an example, she points out the original leaded-glass windows in the home’s front room that are in need of a touch-up but are nonetheless drop-dead gorgeous. Within the panes are colorful stained-glass dots — super unique and a standout accent, to be sure.
The newlyweds, who met while living and working in New York City, were renting a home in Hazel Park when they set out to purchase a home last year. They knew they wanted something in or near Detroit.
“I missed Detroit when I was in New York City. Detroit became the only place I could imagine living,” says Emily, a professional photographer who grew up in Holly.
Intricate carvings and classic archways are some of their favorite details.
The couple’s real estate agent told them about charming East English Village in Detroit and helped them find the right inspector and lender for buying in Detroit. “She thought we’d like it, as it was an established neighborhood with a lot of professionals living there, many who work for the city,” Emily says.
Indeed, she and Chris did find the quaint neighborhood and its charming homes appealing.
Their home, which features several classic Tudor-style appointments including arched doorways, a pitched roof, solid masonry, leaded glass, and an asymmetrical exterior appearance, is similar to several in the neighborhood. “Some are nearly clones,” says Emily, who plans to research her home’s architecture.
Another lovely touch is the cable — or ropework — moulding, which is carved to look like a twisted rope.
As enchanting as the home was when the couple first set eyes on it, it needed a lot of work.
“It was only livable,” recalls Chris, an audio engineer and musician. The couple rolled up their sleeves and jumped in, doing most of the decorative work — except the kitchen overhaul and bathroom plumbing — themselves.
“We painted every wall and ceiling in the home except the ceilings in the living room and dining room, which are in good shape,” Chris says. Adds Emily: “We were lucky that previous owners hadn’t gotten rid of anything original except some light fixtures, and none of the plaster was chipped or scratched.”
Original stand-outs include textured and carved plasterwork, arched entryways (a favorite element, the couple says), an intricately designed stair railing, the leaded-glass windows, historic door hardware, and an enchanting brick fence capped with unique carved stonework. The ceramic tile hearth pattern (the same tile is in the entryway) is beautiful, and the stone fireplace and mantel are also stunners — thanks to about six hours of self-taught repair, the couple says.
The duo opted for a color palette of blacks, grays, creams, and whites. “We wanted to go for neutrals so the architectural details would stand out. We just wanted the brightest, cleanest, whitest spaces,” Emily says.
The tile inside the archway is original. Many of the major kitchen products are from Ikea.
New decorative tile stars in the kitchen.
Part vintage, part boho, and mostly an Emily-and-Chris vernacular, the home’s interior design style is inviting due to its unusual accents, like a painting of a mysterious woman from Neil’s Disco & Furniture Co. in Holly. “I saw it on an Instagram post and called my mom and said, ‘Get me that painting!’ ” Emily laughs. Nearby is a spiritual painting of a woman, which was once owned by Emily’s grandmother. Above the sofa hangs a beautiful photo taken by Emily of Ireland’s countryside. A dining room wall features her collection of historic post-mortem photographs. When she was a student at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, a class in photography history enthralled her. “Years ago, when people didn’t have cameras or phones, funeral pictures were often all that one would have,” she explains. In the kitchen, the wood floor was refinished and stained. The upper cabinets, which showcase Emily’s highly edited black-andwhite dishware collection, are original to the home, while dark new Ikea products were installed for the lower cabinetry. The couple purchased hardware from a custom smith shop in England. A new apron-style sink and countertop from Ikea also were added.
As a professional food photographer,
Emily keeps a lot of cookbooks on hand.
Both she and Chris also love to entertain.
“We wanted to do a black grout on the tile, but there are so many imperfections in the existing tile that the contractor said they would stand out too much — and they’re probably right,” Emily says.
“The room was this weird silvery-gray color on the lower half, and the dirtiest kitchen I’ve ever seen,” Chris adds. “It was quite a chore (for the contractors) breaking up the old tile; the concrete chunks and wire mesh that it was set in were like four inches thick. It was a messy job.”
Upstairs, Terry Swafford, who is based in Detroit’s Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood and specializes in historic restoration, tore out shower flooring and put in a subfloor and floor tile in a perfect-for-the-era pink bathroom. In addition, a new toilet was installed.
Also upstairs is an inviting guest room; the master bedroom, replete with an intriguing reclaimed wood assemblage above the bed and created by friend Katie Bramlage of make.do. studio; and Emily’s office, where she spends time editing photos and planning her next photo shoot. The office’s walls, painted in Behr’s Battleship Gray, evoke a peaceful feel.
Outdoors, in front of the home, is an original brick fence.
“Half of it is falling, due to tree roots, and it needs to be repaired,” Chris says. “It’s another thing to add to the list.”
And that list? It’s truly a labor of love.
“I want to live here forever,” Emily says, “but you never know where life brings you.” Adds Chris: “We’ll live here for a long time, for sure.”
Original leaded glass windows, one with an arch, create enchantment in the master bedroom. Greenery adorns the first-floor bathroom. Chris and Emily — and dog Lilly — love their 1936 brick-and-stone beauty. A charming breakfast nook is just off the kitchen.