Written by Juno DeMelo
Photography by Beth Singer
If you live in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and you want to “get away from it all,” you drive four hours north to Bay Harbor or Walloon. Or you build your own oasis on a hidden gem of a lot within city limits.
In 2017, two empty-nesters set out to do just that. They had recently purchased a 1930s home on a 2.75-acre piece of property backing up to the Rouge River. After tearing the structure down, they planned to replace it with a shingle-style home that invoked the architecture of Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cape Cod, which they had fallen in love with when one of their three children worked there for a summer.
“They had already retained the architect, Alexander Bogaerts, who does a beautiful job with that style, so they came to me with the plans, and we just talked about lifestyle and how they wanted to live,” says designer Marianne Jones, who lives in nearby Birmingham. “The way the client talked about traveling to Wimbledon and Ireland, her family and her kids—her aesthetic was clear to me.”
As Jones describes it, that aesthetic was “not at all ostentatious; they’re very humble and down to earth. They wanted everything to feel very casual and inviting. This is their primary home, but they wanted to feel like they’re away.”
In addition to being reminiscent of a northern Michigan retreat, the home also had to be practical. This meant flexible spaces that could accommodate the couple’s kids as well as their huge extended Irish-Catholic family—including their parents, aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews—and materials durable enough to stand up to spilled drinks and wet footprints.
Jones also has a big family—and a shared love for Nantucket. “I first went there as an adult, and we ended up taking our kids back every year,” she says. “I fell in love with the architecture and the inherent coziness. The clients felt comfortable that I got what they were looking for.”
“This is a very utilitarian home, so nothing feels precious. There’s a dog wash in the garage, and when you come in the back door, you see a beautiful limestone Ann Sacks Pierre Noir floor tile, which is a natural stone because we wanted something very forgiving,” says Jones. That tile continues into the mud bath, where Ann Sacks Tiempo Linea Hex tiles line the walls, and the laundry room, where Jones used a white Ann Sacks Lava Calda tile with black grout for a bricklike look that’s set off by whimsical black-and-white wallpaper.
In the kitchen, Jones used Ann Sacks Nottingham Diamond Tundra tile for the backsplash “to create true interest against the backdrop of the porcelain countertops,” she says. “It’s a white-neutral, but it’s a relief, so you see the sand color of the actual tile coming through the glaze, and I thought that was interesting.” In the pantry off the kitchen, which has an awning-covered window that opens to the outdoor seating area, gas grill, and pizza oven, Jones used a clean white Ann Sacks Context tile on the walls.
Upstairs, Jones repeated the Context tile in one of the home’s 10 bathrooms, this time in gray-blue Spa. “It’s clean, easy to use, and impervious to stains, which was really important to the clients. But what you get in that tile is movement. It’s painterly, it’s not just a flat blue. You get tonality and interest, like a wash. I love quiet texture and quiet color,” she says.
Jones also used Ann Sacks tile in three other bathrooms and around the fireplace in the study. “We were able to use a lot of Ann Sacks, and I just love their product, because you get some beautiful handmade artisan tile, like the encaustic tile in the cabana,” she says, referring to the blue-green Ann Sacks Eastern Promise Majorelle tile there that complements the blue tennis courts. (The husband is a big Duke University—and tennis—fan.)
“We were using materials that worked for the family. It was really fun to pick the materials and
let the rooms evolve from there,” says Jones. “I really tried to elevate the aesthetic and still keep it forgiving.”
Which is a good thing, because when Covid came, all three of the couple’s adult children moved back in. And more recently, her mom and dad moved in to the in-law suite. “Plus, they have rotating a door of company: They’re always having people over for holidays and to play tennis, play pickle ball, and go swimming,” says Jones.
“The thing I like about this house so much is you pull into this courtyard, with lots of room for
people and parking, and then you’ve got this home layered with the tennis courts and the pool, and it’s very surprising how much they did with the lot. It’s all about family and entertaining.”
For designer Philip Thomas Vanderford, Studio Thomas James, the third time really was a charm in creating a dream home for his long term clients.