Across the street from Kristi Bernick’s 19th century Brush Park condo, hard hats and construction dust herald the impending rise of City Modern, a forward-thinking development that, when finished, will integrate historic and modern, and include 20 new buildings and 410 contemporary residential units.
Inside Bernick’s condo, however, Detroit’s past is ever present. Bernick, who lives in one of four renovated condominiums carved from the former Frederick Butler house, has the largest of the 1882 home’s four units — a luxe 2,267-square-foot space with high ceilings, original pocket doors, and a bay window that frames the downtown skyline. The 30-something president of Kristi Bernick Enterprises (KBE), a real estate and development business with an emphasis on luxury design, shares the light and airy space with Arty, aka “Sir Arthur,” her 1-year-old Maltese-poodle mix.
Bernick was involved with high-end development in Manhattan, a skill she has successfully shifted to Detroit. “There wasn’t really a luxury market downtown until recently, which is exciting,” she says.
She says she experienced “the Brooklyn boom” firsthand, and is seriously interested in being part of the dramatic changes in Detroit. “I’m still trying to get DTN (her family’s residential management company, based in Lansing) interested in doing something downtown,” she says.
Until then, she enjoys doing her own thing, which has included rehabbing and flipping houses and historic preservation projects. She’s currently working on The Murray, a multifamily site in southwest Detroit.
Bernick says she’s especially proud of her Brush Park condo, housed in an 8,400-square-foot French Renaissance Second Empire-style mansion with
a mansard roof. One of the neighborhood’s stalwart survivors, it’s a remnant of a post-Civil War Detroit boom that saw the area emerge as one of the city’s most elite enclaves.
Bernick’s renovation, achieved with the help of Kastler Construction, undoes some of the more misguided efforts of a circa-2005 restoration, which Bernick sums up as “builder grade.” “It was a different market then,” she explains. “The finishes were of different quality, the layout was a little awkward, and almost every room had different flooring, which made it feel choppy.”
To remedy that, she covered the original flooring in the living and dining room with large-scale herringbone solid-oak planks, added the 11-inch crown molding, and painted the original pocket doors. “I would have loved to redo the doors, but it’s super expensive,” she says.
She also redid the living room’s hearth, showcasing the marble fireplace with a dark gray paint. She’s unclear whether the room’s focal point is original to the home or if it was added somewhere along the way. She painted the nearby dining room a deep blue, filling it with a custom-made, 60-inch-round table by Andre Sandifer and West Elm chairs.
The home feels much larger than a one-bedroom, one-bath residence, in part because of the ceilings, which range from the standard 9 to a soaring 15 feet in some places. She decorated the home with local art, items from her travels, and favorite furnishings.
Holiday decorations include a tree tucked into the living room’s bay window. “I’m half Jewish and half Catholic,” Bernick says, “so I have a little bit of both. I’ve always wanted a Christmas tree, and I thought this house deserved one.”
The redone kitchen features an exposed brick wall, quartz countertops, and whitewashed cabinets. Behind the kitchen is the master bedroom, which Bernick uses as a home office; she relocated her bedroom and master bath to the lower level and added a huge closet/dressing room.
Like most developers and real estate professionals, Bernick keeps her eyes on the market. She’s excited about the changes in Brush Park, and says the condo has increased in value since she purchased it three years ago. After moving so much, she’s thinking about putting down more permanent roots, perhaps with a larger house in the city. “This is my grown-up life,” she says. “I have a dog, I have furniture.”
Will a family house be next? Maybe. Bernick is always on the lookout for a new challenge. “I don’t really know what I want to do next,” she says. “One thing at a time. But I did just buy land in Indian Village, so who knows?”
IN THE DETAILS: RESOURCE GUIDE
General contractor, Kastler Construction, kastlerconstruction.com. Kitchen cabinets, Visionary Cabinetry. Living room sofa, Joybird, joybird.com. Tryptic artist, Ellen Rutt, ellenrutt.com. Dining room painting artist, Cristina Camacho, cristinacamacho.com. Art consulting, Playground Detroit, playgrounddetroit.com. Dining table woodworker, Andre Sandifer, alisandifer.com. Decorating assistant, Julia Eisenberg.