Color Courage

Two years ago, a young family with three active boys, plus a dog, transplanted from New Jersey. The businessman father had accepted a transfer and the whole crew settled into a sprawling, center-entrance Georgian-style red brick home in Bloomfield Hills.

Color Courage 1

Two years ago, a young family with three active boys, plus a dog, transplanted from New Jersey. The businessman father had accepted a transfer and the whole crew settled into a sprawling, center-entrance Georgian-style red brick home in Bloomfield Hills.

Set into the neighborhood’s traditional bucolic landscape of rolling green lawns and spread-out estates, the home, built in 1961, holds its own among the gorgeously classic architecture, but visitors are greeted by something just a little different. A vibrant teal gate — whose color required approval by the neighborhood association — and a bright blue front door suggest that there’s some fun to be had beyond the gate and inside the door.

“My husband has been really good about letting my freak flag fly, and trusting it,” says the wife and mother. “I’ve never been afraid of color — I just haven’t had a lot of it in my previous homes.”

Things have changed.

Color Courage - Collage
The beams on a classic Barbara Barry sunburst mirror reflect prisms of stunning color in the dining room. The “refugee” grandfather clock standing guard outside the dining room was rescued from Louisiana just before Hurricane Katrina hit.”When it rings, it’s just beautiful,” the homeowner says. “It makes the house feel like home.” The homeowner chose Nelly Custer Blue, by Fine Paints of Europe, for the dining room walls, then panicked and called designer Lisa Petrella. The designer opted to line the windows with linen draperies from Romo’s Rubani collection, inspired by 1930s archive designs, whose elegant florals gently unite the deep blue of these walls with the ruby red of the living room, as do the colors of the Alexei von Jawlensky print. A Bausman elliptical dining table is surrounded by chairs covered with Romo fabrics — chenille on the outside, and a silky silvery-blue on the inside.

“I really wanted to make this house feel like our house in New Jersey, which had been home for so long,” the wife and mother adds. “It was all pearly gray, really subtle, but we had one wall that was Rembrandt Red, which I loved.” The solution? She had a living room wall in her new home coated in the same painterly high-gloss hue by Fine Paints of Europe (see cover photo). Concerned about balancing the bright room with the other side of the delineated house, the homeowner contacted Fine Paints of Europe to see what they recommended for her dining room, directly across from the living room. An employee recommended Nelly Custer Blue. “So I called a specialist, because these really thick, high-gloss paints require specialists. He tore down the wallpaper, stripped the walls, and painted them while I was out of town. I came home, and I was like, ‘Oh! What have I done?’”

“The goal was to unite, without overwhelming. The bright walls shouldn’t be the focus, but they set the tone.”
— Lisa Petrella, designer

She immediately called designer Lisa Petrella, owner of Petrella Designs in Birmingham, who had been recommended by her realtor. “She was slightly panicked,” Petrella recalls. “We came in and saw these two really strong, highly lacquered colors, but everything on her Pinterest and Houzz pages was all clean and white. I asked her where these colors came from, and she let out a little shriek and said, ‘I don’t know!’”

Color Courage - Collage 2
Porcelain trophy heads from Tozai Home gleam against the F. Schumacher & Co. grasscloth on the family room’s walls. A wing chair beckons with fabric designed by Alessandra Branca for F. Schumacher & Co. A classic damask that has been colorblocked in red and Prussian blue, the pattern prvides a fresh take. Behind it, a Moroccan-inspired pattern repeats on the Kravet draperies. On the fireplace hearth, handpainted ginger pots bring more color to the room, while a wicker basket holding logs was scooped up at HomeGoods. “That’s a true family home,” says Petrella. “An inexpensive find can sit next to an heirloom-quality chair. Not everything has to come at a high-end price.” With a family of five and one big dog, the key to the family room, says Petrella, was to “maximize seating.” A bench-cushion sofa, a swivel chair, two wing chairs, and a pair of hair-on-hide cube ottomans give all a spot. Traditional elements mix with pops of graphic prints to keep things fresh. That includes chevron pillows, an orangey-red wing chair patterned with octagons, curtains with a Moroccan-inspired update of a trellis pattern, and Stark carpet, called Brix, which was cut to an area rug and bound with faux leather.

“Lisa said, ‘OK, we can do this,’ ” the homeowner says. “She even said she thought this would end up being my favorite room in the house. We went to her office, and she had these gorgeous fabrics and prints and colors on her inspiration board, and I started getting really excited.”

The homeowner, says Petrella, is very traditional in many ways. She already owned a lot of antiques — some heirlooms inherited from her mother, others purchased during her years on the East Coast. “And they chose to live in a somewhat traditional neighborhood, architecturally. She’s a fantastic mom; she’s extremely organized, which you have to be with three busy boys, but she wanted to bring some fun and energy into the home, which is also her personality — but she kept bringing us back to very modern elements. I think she really liked the idea of a home that feels like the comfort of grandma’s house, but doesn’t look like grandma’s house.”

Color Courage - Collage 3
“I loved working with Lisa,” the homeowner says of Lisa Petrella (pictured), owner of Petrella Designs in Birmingham. “She helps me see things I would never have imagined. And she’s not afraid of the collaborative process — she’s open to seeing things, too.” The front foyer is the center that divides the whole house: Petrella unified the two sides with a graphic black-and-white stripe Stark rug, which she repeated up the stairs. The console, which the homeowner had in the dining room of her previous home, displays a photo of her mother as a bride, her husband’s family, and a cow — an homage to her father-in-law, a gentleman farmer in upstate New York. For the powder room, Petrella selected a silver, gold, and black hand-printed paper designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard for F. Schumacher & Co. and inspired by a traditional Moroccan star pattern. The gold in the covering is repeated in the painted ceiling, which shimmers with a teardrop chandelier. “We wanted this to be like a cool little jewel box in the foyer, before you walk out to all the other colors in the house,” says Petrella.

Petrella began by layering around the teal dining-room wall. She found fabrics to tie together the teal-blue and the Rembrandt Red in the family room, while softening the thick gloss of the blue. “We were combining a lot of elements, like the bright colors she had chosen, and integrating some of the antique pieces that she loved, but also putting a fresh, light spin on everything,” Petrella says. “The goal was to unite, without overwhelming. The bright walls shouldn’t be the focus, but they set the tone. Once (the homeowner) began to trust us, she wasn’t afraid of going all-out.”

Early on in the design project, trouble arose when the basement flooded with sewage. Petrella and the homeowner turned the problem into an opportunity by deciding to create a “locker room” for the homeowners’ sons — like their father before them, serious hockey players who travel throughout the U.S. and even abroad. Petrella designed cubbies where each boy can store his gear, and when they get home from games or tournaments, their mom sends them directly to the locker room so they can take off their wet clothing, shower, change, and come upstairs all cleaned up.

Color Courage - Dining Area
Serving Up Style – In the kitchen’s dining area, a custom Bausman double pedestal table anchors a circle of commercial French bistro-style chairs with woven seats and backs. Host and hostess chairs are covered in an Alessandra Branca fabric. The same Kravet fabric used for curtains in the family room is repeated here, as curtains and as Roman shades. The elongated lantern-style chandelier adds drama without blocking views from the kitchen’s workspaces (not shown). “My mother loved it so much, she ordered one for her own house,” the homeowner says.

The homeowner was pleased with the results — she now has a home that is supremely usable for her family and their friends. “Every room had to have enough space for each member of the family, and then some, to sit comfortably, to play a game, or just hang out together,” Petrella says.

In the end, it was the idea of traditional family togetherness that drew the homeowners to this neighborhood and to this home. “I love it,” the wife and mother says. “And, yes, the dining room is now my favorite room in the house.”

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When the basement flooded midway through the design process, the homeowner and Petrella jumped at the opportunity to create special details there, too. A full bath, replete with a locker room-style urinal and an easy-wash subway tile backsplash, allow the three sons to clean up downstairs after playing hockey. The husband’s college hockey jersey is framed on the wall. The colorful front door, guarded by the family’s dog, Jersey Girl, and painted outside and in, was determined from the dining-room wall. A teal gate, a slightly deeper shade than the front door, leads to the pool; the gate color required approval from the neighborhood association, whose members ended up loving it.

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