Welcome to the Neighborhood
Residents of a new-urban development in Beverly Hills open their doors — and garden gates — for a first-ever tour
Clockwise from top left — Basil joins begonias and alternanthera to create a stunning splash of color. The Grinnan patio is an ideal spot for outdoor summer entertaining. Tour-goers will see plants like coleus and lysmachia (creeping Jenny) growing together, as well as Swiss chard and basil — which is an excellent combination for a kitchen garden.
Toni and Joe Grinnan had lived in several different types of homes — including a condo and a large, suburban home with a sprawling garden — before moving to their current location. Now, with their daughters grown, they've settled in to another type of home, located in Beverly Hills' Westwood Common neighborhood.
"It's one of the first 'new-urban' neighborhoods in Michigan," says Toni, who, along with her husband, is an attorney. "The neighborhood is sort of 1920s-era, with a Midwest vernacular."
Designed by David Jensen in the 1990s, the 20 neo-traditional-style homes (plus three pre-existing homes that were "folded in," Toni says) and their manicured surroundings feature a community aspect. Front porches, the upper Viillage Green, and a lower park-style gathering space delight homeowners, most of whom have young children. "The commons areas are like parks," Toni says. "Looking out to the green, I'll see people in a game of croquet, dogs playing off-leash, kids camping out in tents." In the lower "park," an elaborate play structure, Adirondack chairs, a large pond, and a pretty path winding along the Rouge River beckon residents.
The Grinnan abode isjust one of the homes on the neighborhood’s first-ever tour. Plenty of pots provide visitors with ideas for creating intriguing plant combinations.
Jensen, whose development was rated a "Best Place to Live" in metro Detroit by the American Institute of Architects, was inspired after a visit to the town of Seaside, Fla., and its cluster of community-style homes.
Driving along Westwood Common's Riverbank Drive, one gets almost an Old Key West, Fla., feeling. The Village Green, along with the scale of the neighborhood, are also reminiscent of some of the iconic streets and squares of Charleston and Savannah.
"Cars pull up all the time to look at the houses; curious drivers ask questions," Toni notes. On June 29, those drivers and others will have an opportunity to enjoy the Westwood Common Homeowners Association's first home and garden tour.
At the Grinnans, visitors can take in the longtime plant lovers' beautiful container gardens, which embellish their porches and patios, as well as bright perennials and garden adornments (don't miss the charming sundial, kept company by swathes of yellow blanket flower). A kitchen garden includes rosemary, basil, and Swiss chard. Crazy for coleus, Toni says her multihued plants are "creative bursts of my favorite color palette — lime green, maroons, and golds." Toni picks up most plants at Goldner Walsh in Pontiac, Telly's (three locations), and farmers' markets (for more on these green thumb havens, refer to "Bulletin Board " — page 20). Indoors, the Grinnans' book collection ("we had a lot of shelves custom-made for Joe's books," Toni laughs) intrigues, as does Toni's quaint butler's pantry, and the couple's collection of canes, walking sticks, antique swords, and copper kitchen accoutrement.
Left: The Wulfmeier home. Right: A sundial in the Grinnans’ gardens shares space with yellow blanket flower.
Just steps away, Marcie and Lee Wulfmeier will roll out their welcome mat to visitors to show their art-filled home. "Marcie's front porch is always adorable," says Toni, chair of the home tour. "She has an eye for color and some great wicker and art." Nearby, visitors can tour a young family's home, which features "beautiful wood furniture on the porch as well as pretty hanging baskets."
"Living here has been really nice," Toni says. "People get each other's mail, water plants when their neighbors are gone, and even let dogs out if, say, you're delayed at work. There's a community spirit."
About the Home Tour
What: Westwood Common Home Tour
When: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Sun., June 29
Where: Lahser and 13 Mile roads, Beverly Hills
Details: Enjoy spectacular homes in this friendly community of front porches, sidewalks, and shared common parks where old-fashioned neighborhood traditions abound.
Tickets: $20 pre-sale; $25 day of tour. Sold on the day of the tour on the Upper Common on Riverbank Drive. To pre-order tickets, send a check payable to Westwood Common Homeowners’ Association and a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Antonia Grinnan, 2 Riverbank Drive, Beverly Hills, MI 48025. Please include your telephone number.
For more information, call (248) 646-5427.