Zen Modern

A serene, airy Japanese aesthetic — inside and out — was the goal in renovating a 1960s-era Birmingham home


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From the outside, there was little to recommend the 1960s-era two-story house with pink brick and a homely mansard roof, says architect Michael Poris. “It was bad French style and dated overall,” he remembers. “But it also had a great lot, a location near downtown Birmingham, and a lot of possibilities.”

Grosse Pointe-based interior designer Gayle Shaw Camden had already been working with the homeowner — an advertising executive — on the interiors when Poris was brought in to help with what was supposed to be a small, 400-square-foot addition on the front of the house. “Gayle knew I had lived in Japan and understood the Japanese aesthetic, which the owner also really liked,” Poris says. “The plan was to redo the master bedroom and bath, but the project grew from there.” 

Poris recommended tearing off the mansard roof, adding a Shoji-inspired garage door, and building out over the one-story garage, creating enough room for a new large master bath and a spacious second-floor porch. He re-clad most of the exterior brick with horizontal Western red cedar and added a zinc-coated aluminum roof for a new look that’s somewhere between a Japanese tea house and a classic boathouse — both homeowner interests, says Camden, who was adamant that the renovation reflect the homeowner’s personality in architecture and interiors. “I want it to be about the client,” Camden says. “I’m a facilitator.”

Camden worked closely with the homeowner, Poris, kitchen designer Janice Steinhardt, builder Chris Juneau, and landscape designer Joseph Nieradka on every detail, including the backyard, which features a renovated deck overlooking the Rouge River ravine and a Zen-inspired garden.

Inside, first-floor walls were removed, doorways widened, and windows replaced to create greater openness. Beams and columns were added to unite the reconfigured spaces. Furnishings include one-of-a-kind items hand-picked by the designer, crafted by an artist, or collected by the homeowner. Among the accents are vintage and new art pottery, textiles from a Tibetan monastery, even repurposed hall-closet doors mined from a whiskey distillery in the South. On the second floor, the reworked master bedroom features a custom bed, an industrial side table, and a ceiling lined with reclaimed barn wood. When the color didn’t seem quite right, the homeowner carted the vintage wood to his home up north, where he left it outside to weather until the patina was more to his liking.

“The homeowner is in a creative business, so he was someone who understood the birthing,” Camden says, adding that incorporating the homeowner’s personality and bringing the right creative team together to express it was the key to the home’s success. “We were all coming from the same place,” she says. “You can see the passion and warmth. There’s soul in this house.”

Visible from the street, the second-story porch gives the home a new outlook. Large shutters provide privacy when needed. “When you’re up there at night, it feels like you are somewhere else,” Poris says. “The house has real presence now.”

 

RESOURCES

// Gayle Shaw Camden, ASID, GSC Design Associates; 313-885-0767.

// Michael Poris, McIntosh Poris Associates; 248-258-9346.

// Joseph Nieradka, Urbanscapes Detroit; 248-670-0357

// Chris Juneau, Juno Built; 248-506-4387

// Janice Steinhardt, MDG Design; 248-594-8269.

// Floors by Property Care Inc. Hardwood Floors, Bloomfield Hills; 248-332-5336.

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