Neat & Nifty

in these eight cases, designers and space specialists get things organized, from the kitchen to the garage

Case 1: An Empty-Nesters’ Refresher

By Megan Swoyer | Photographs by Justin Maconochie

The Goal

Often, getting organized includes creating a unifying, fresh, and clean look as well as adding storage solutions. One Rochester Hills couple needed all of the above, because they wanted to upgrade their home for their current lifestyle needs and tastes. With their children grown and moved out, their everyday routines changing, and a desire to stay in their home rather than move to another home or downsize, they called on designer Kristen Armstrong, of KCID LLC in Birmingham, “to make everything more efficient,” says homeowner Cindy Yearwood. “Our house is really fine as is,” adds the retired schoolteacher, who has a penchant for stylish living and a keen eye for décor, “but there were things my husband (Paul) and I wanted to do to make it more comfortable and updated for us, for our routines, for everyday things like storage, (and we also wanted) to display various items we’ve collected over the years but didn’t have a place for.” Overall, she wanted her home to be serene and hardworking. Yearwood especially needed organized space just off the garage leading into the home, “so I can quickly and easily store … Costco purchases upon returning home and coming in the side door,” she laughs. She also wanted her laundry room overhauled, with an accent on creating storage space for cleaning items, the ironing board, and more. In addition, Yearwood needed a central area in the kitchen for her notepads, calendars, and phone-charging (now in a lift-up cabinet in the buffet off the kitchen), and she wanted a spot to keep the toaster, coffeemaker, and other small appliances out of sight (also now hidden in a lift-up storage area on the counter). A breakfast-bar area was on the wish list, as well.

Getting to Work

While Armstrong created more organized-living solutions, she also brought to this makeover a strong sense of current style. “Their home is already gorgeous; what I did was to help them with some main spaces on the first floor — to open it up and bring a lighter, fresher feel to everything.” One of the jumping-off points was a painting the homeowners purchased in China during their travels. It had hung in the upstairs hallway, but Armstrong sensed it would be a great focal piece in the living room, above the fireplace. “The fireplace is very tall and had a mirror that didn’t reflect anything — I thought the painting would work perfectly there,” Armstrong explains. Armstrong then set her sights on a beautiful silk fabric from Designer’s Guild called Rosamund Birch, in grey and citrine, for pillows that complemented the colors in the painting; she had the sofa reupholstered in an Osborne & Little fabric called Peregrina. The room was painted (Birmingham-based Deighan Painters) with  Benjamin Moore White Dove (OC-17) trim and Pashmina (AF-100) walls (“a deep, warm stone color), all befitting the colorful painting. The designer also called on Beaver Stair Co. in Oxford to update a stairway railing. She had built-in shelving created (by Dan Murphy, a general contractor and finish carpenter) in the living room to showcase the couple’s art, books, and special objects. She chose a coffee-brown stain for 4-inch and 5-inch-wide oak plank floors, installed by Rob Oshea, which run throughout the spaces (tile, carpet, and faux wood were removed), unifying the look.

Armstrong also updated the powder room by removing the tile floor and the existing vanity, laying hardwood floors, installing a freestanding vanity in dark mahogany with a burano (leathered uba tuba) countertop, and adding two sconces on either side of a custom mirror. The new wallpaper is from Nina Campbell. Armstrong opened the dining room (she made the entryway wider), updated the existing dining room table/seating, and created a sitting area in the breakfast room. “Before, the kitchen was closed off to the main floor,” Armstrong says. “Now there’s an open feeling between the dining room and the kitchen, an area for sitting in the kitchen, and a beautiful buffet that anchors the kitchen wall seen through the dining room.” Yearwood loves that her family can now sit comfortably around the dining room table, and there’s space for chairs to move in and out from the table. New cabinetry with much-needed lift-ups for storage is by Kendal & Co., a cabinet showroom and supplier in Rochester Hills.

The Results

“It was great to work with clients who had an open mind about designating the spaces for different uses,” Armstrong says. “It’s a polished, tailored update.” Adds Yearwood: “Kristen made our home work better for us. At this point in our lives, it’s great to have everything more efficient and easily accessible — and (because) we have new space for our art pieces, we can see everything now.” kristencatto.com

 

Case 2: A Girl’s Stylin’ Space

By Megan Swoyer | Photographs by Jeff Garland

The Goal

Savvy interior designer Jennifer Asmar’s Bloomfield Township client wanted an inviting, organized, and inspiring bedroom for her 7-year-old daughter.

“The mother wanted a place where her daughter could create art and do homework, as well as a space with a lot of storage that would help her stay organized,” Asmar says. “We also wanted the design to be lasting — something she could easily use in later years, as she grows up.”

Asmar, owner of Troy-based Asmar Interiors, was working with a few givens, including the color. “They wanted purple,” she recalls, “and they wanted a window seat with storage.”

The room’s window had blinds, but no valance. The interior designer was also asked to work with the rug that was already in the room, and a Pottery Barn desk chair.

Before the redesign there was a table and two chairs which were great for a toddler or pre-schooler, but the homeowner realized it was now time for a “big-girl” set-up.

Getting to Work

Asmar added a built-in storage unit — including a desk area — on one side of the wall, and a cabinet with storage — including drawers for jewelry — on the other side of the same wall. “The storage unit with cubbies helps her organize her things,” Asmar says. “We kept the pieces neutral in color so, as she grows with it, it will continue to work for her.” Asmar had the rug cut to fit the new layout, and added moulding around the bookcase. “We also brought in an upholstered bulletin board, so she can hang things, and added three floating shelves.”

Finishing Touches

A custom sofa (to the trade, North Carolina) in a gray Pindler & Pindler fabric complements the purple in the space. A white table from Hickory White, with a gray finish on the base, and crystal-base lamps round out the look. The bench cushion was made by a local fabricator with a Kravet fabric. Two large pillows and a valance are also Pindler & Pindler. asmarinteriors.com


 

Case 3: A Boy’s Awesome Closet

By Tanya Zager Chisholm | Photograph by CJ Benninger

The Goal

California Closets, including design representative Erin Najor, partnered with builder Arteva Homes on the La Positano showhouse in Oakland Township to create organization solutions for a young boy that would be as cool as they are functional. California Closets’ Michigan headquarters is based in Commerce Township, with a showroom in Birmingham. “We’re the only franchise in Michigan, and we service the entire state,” Najor says.

Getting to Work

“This closet was inspired by an adjoining Red Wings-themed bedroom,” Najor explains. “We wanted to create a fun space for a growing boy that would be functional for him for many years to come. We also believe that closets for kids this age need to be easily accessible. Every system has the option for full adjustability of shelf and pole heights, which allows the space to function for any age group.”

The Results

This room scores with hockey-themed fun. Najor suggests that parents get kids involved with space design. Whether they love hoops, hockey, or baseball, fun themes that don’t go overboard and are still ultra-practical will inspire kids to keep their spaces neat, organized, and tidy. “It can be quite the adventure when a parent allows the child to have input into their closet design. Most of the time, kids like to provide input on things like color accents.” californiaclosets.com


 

Case 4: An Amazing Mudroom

By Tanya Zager Chisholm | Photograph by CJ Benninger

The Goal

“I wanted to give this frequently-used space functionality while still making it beautiful. (Creating) a place for everything while allowing ease of use for all family members was important,” says California Closets representative Erin Najor, who, along with her California Closets team, worked with builder Arteva Homes on the La Positano showhouse, located in Oakland Township.

Getting to Work

Najor’s plan to tame the clutter included “adding bins for easy visible storage, key hooks so that you won’t waste time looking for misplaced car keys, and dedicated shoe shelves and drawers for closed and divided storage of everyday items. Also, the countertop gives you a landing space for these items when you walk in the door.”

The Results

A super-organized, family-central space drew rave reviews from visitors at this showhome. Najor says all clients have different needs, and it’s her goal to accommodate those needs. “Life is simplified,” Najor says, “when everything has a place.” californiaclosets.com


 

Case 5: A Woman’s Dream Closet

By Tanya Zager Chisholm

The Goal

According to California Closets representative Erin Najor, all clients have different priorities for their closets. “Some people love shoes, some hang everything, (and) others want lots of drawers, making it easy to hide the clutter,” she explains. In this home, a woman’s top three storage concerns were where to put her shoes, handbags, and jewelry. “Whether or not you have expensive taste, everyone wants to feel like their items are worthy of a beautiful space,” Najor says.

Getting to Work

Using divided spaces provides individual display areas for handbags, shoes, and boots, while the jewelry drawer inserts help to keep possessions safe within a closed and lockable drawer.

The Results

“This style has been re-created in many homes,” Najor says. “Everyone loves it. This closet is a space where a woman is meant to feel pampered, (because it offers) a seamless blend of form and function, with a boutique-like feel, (so she can) display her prized possessions.” californiaclosets.com


 

Cases 6 & 7: A Pair Of Shipshape Garages

By Megan Swoyer/Honey Murray | Photographs by Marci Curtis

The Goal

After clearing out childhood trikes, wagons, and large toys from their garage, a Birmingham family with two teens wanted to update the space to accommodate the remaining hockey sticks, balls, bikes, helmets, gardening and lawn equipment, and trash and recycling containers — all with the orderly appeal that their front-facing, almost-always-opened garage required. (See the garage below with the white floor.)

The other family, who resides in West Bloomfield, also wanted to create a garage with easy-access storage features. “I wanted everything to be easily accessible,” says the homeowner, “not up in rafters where it would be forgotten and left for 10 years.” (See the garage below with the blue, black, gray, and white floor.)

“Getting organized was top of mind for both families,” recalls Educated Garage Systems’ Steve Bester, of Troy. “We typically have a consultation that includes me asking such lifestyle questions as: ‘Do you cut your own lawn and have lots of lawn equipment? How many and what types of cars do you have? Do you have young kids with lots of big toys, or are you an older couple with fewer or smaller items to store?’ ”Bester tailors garages to a client’s stage of life. In the Birmingham family’s case, the kids were big on pingpong, so Bester had to take into consideration a rolling pingpong table. “I’ve done garages for Red Wings players, guys with paddleboards and kayaks, heavy-duty gardeners — all with very specific needs for storage,” Bester explains.

Getting to Work

“Once you figure out how much you need to hang on the walls, you know what kind of slat space you’ll need to mount on the walls,” says Bester, who’s owned his company since 2002. He uses Gladiator products from Michigan-based Whirlpool. Bester says even a refrigerator can be added to a garage, but it needs to feature special heating elements in case the garage gets too cold (this is Michigan, after all). Flooring options range from snapped tile pieces (a composite that looks like rubber) to epoxy (which is easy to clean and cosmetically appealing).

The Results

The West Bloomfield family is extremely happy with the results. “The garage looked great after it was first done,” the homeowner says, “and, a year later, it still does — even after last year’s harsh winter. Instead of bins of overflowing equipment, each kid has their own locker. I wish we’d done it years ago!” The Birmingham garage is now visually appealing to both passersby and the owners, who say they especially like the countertop next to the door — which provides neat, underneath storage for refuse containers, bringing practicality to their garage. “The thing is,” Bester says, “people are taking more pride in their cars, their landscaping, their pastimes, et cetera. This is a trend that’s been going on for a good while. An organized garage addresses all of that. Often, a garage is the last thing people consider when renovating or building a home, and it should be one of the first things to think about. I’ve seen gorgeous homes with high-end everything, and in the garage there’s one light dangling from the ceiling, and everything is everywhere.” educatedgarage.com


 

Case 8: An Artist’s Nook

By Megan Swoyer | Photographs by Jeff Garland

The Goal

To create a space in an artist’s contemporary Birmingham townhome that could be transformed into a small jewelry studio and wouldn’t get in the way of the current layout.

Getting to Work

“The library has wonderful millwork and had been paneled and faux-finished, allowing for a custom hidden niche to be disguised in the corner,” explains interior designer Elisabeth Meda, of Elisabeth Meda Interior Design of Grosse Pointe. (Meda also designed interiors at the homeowner’s three previous homes in Birmingham and a second home in Canada.) Once the decision was made to turn the library into a workspace where Meda’s client, Suzanne White (shown at right), of Suzanne White Designs (suzannewhitedesigns.com), could tend to her jewelry, Meda and White determined that the interior should be designed as though it were an extension of the room itself. The niche was then paneled, faux-finished, and glazed to match the paneling in the room. Upholstered silk damask panels were added, to echo those that were already behind the bookcases. Above, is storage galore (also hidden behind panels) for the tools used for White’s artistry. For sentimental reasons, the wooden hand-carved stool, which was a gift to White and her husband when they were married, is tucked underneath the workspace.

The Results

“With the doors closed, one would never know that a workspace is incorporated into such a wonderful area; with them open, the homeowner is able to enjoy being in the room and working at the same time, rather than in a secondary space within the home,” Meda says. elisabethmedainteriors.com

 

Order in the House

Organized living doesn’t have to be a chore. These little homeowner helpers — for all over the house — make creating a tidy environment easy and fun.


Charles Viancin silicone drink markers, $7/six
. An organized party host makes for happy guests. Keep track of whose drink is whose with these just-in-time-for-spring washable winged beauties, kitchenkapers.com.
HangerJack, starts at $30. Get things up and off the floor with this 24-inch handy extender arm; it retracts flat against the wall when not in use, hangerjack.com.

Boot Butler, $70.
This new closet storage solution for five pairs of boots helps you find the pair you need easily and quickly, bootbutler.com.

Fodeez Frames, $4-9.
Keep kids’ artwork, photos, and to-do lists neat. Works on all smooth surfaces and can be reused several times, fodeez.com.

The Tower by The Art of Power, $99.
Provides easy access to power outlets and USB ports all in one spot, theartofpower.com.

PB Teen script monogram wall jewelry organizer, $149.
24 inches high, comes in a variety of colors, pbteen.com.

Kate Spade Saturday jewelry tree, $29.
Beads and bangles are easy to see on this stylish tree, in black, West Elm, Birmingham, westelm.com.

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