Rooms for Improvement

The kitchen and bath are the most important spaces in the house, and an updated look employing clean design and natural materials is the ideal. Two Realtors also weigh in with what potential home-buyers are looking for in these rooms
Photographs by Beth Singer

The owners of this new home requested a blend of Arts & Crafts and Asian influences. They also sought to bring the outdoors in and wanted to hide daily clutter. Designers used a simple door style in rustic alder to go with the metal, natural stone, and concrete. A panoramic window, which exposes the room to nature, was made to feel more expansive by eliminating cabinetry that would normally be next to the sink. Everyday appliance clutter is concealed behind pocket doors. Extraordinary Works by EW Kitchens, Troy; 248-649-0500, and Wixom; 248-669-1300,; James Douglas Interiors, Birmingham; 248-593-1630.

Photographs by Phoenix Photographic Studio

White lacquer custom cabinets and a tumbled travertine backsplash contribute to a timeless look that would suit a homeowner with traditional or contemporary sensibilities. “A white kitchen is never out of style. You can date it with things that you do, but if you keep it classic, it’s always in style,” the designer says. She used speckled granite partly because it never looks dirty. The sink island houses a double refrigerator and a wine cooler, making it function as a butler’s pantry. The second island contains additional storage. Janice Morse, Designs Unlimited, Birmingham; 248-258-3222,

Photograph by Rosh Sillars

This kitchen, which is under 200 square feet, had to provide ample working space, dining for six, and visual flow into adjoining rooms. The layout allowed for two sinks, two dishwashers, and commercial-grade appliances. Mahogany was used in horizontal paneling. A dark charcoal stone floor added drama and durability. The island was crafted from a solid mahogany chopping block with base cabinets in lacquered charcoal. A custom chandelier (designed by R.J. Laney and made by DS2) was crafted of steel, mahogany, and glass. Crate & Barrel counter-height chairs were reupholstered in crypton. The glass tile behind the range is “Mirage” Spectra Glass. Kevin Akey, AZD Associates, Bloomfield Hills; 248-540-6009,; R. J. Laney Design, Royal Oak; 248-549-8080,; DS2 Construction, Royal Oak; 313-231-4409.

Photograph by Gordon Beall

Traditional finishes and bright colors play off the lakefront location of this summer home in northern Lower Michigan. Lime-green cabinets contrast with Calcutta gold marble. And the multicolored glass-tile backsplash adds a contemporary edge. For island seating, the designer used Richard Mulligan “Mama Bear” bar stools. Robin Wilson & Associates, Pleasant Ridge; 248-546-8802,





Photographs by Jim Haefner

Pre-makeover, this kitchen was essentially a hallway with cabinets and appliances. The kitchen served as a main pathway into the home, as well as being a route to the basement. The stairway to the basement was relocated to the rear of a new addition. And a central “pod of space” is wrapped with counter and cabinetry. Exterior windows were split to flank the new range, which improved the distribution of natural light. Michael Klement, Architectural Resource, Ann Arbor; 734-769-9784,; Doug Selby, Meadowlark Builders, Ann Arbor; 734-332-1500,

Photographs by Justin Maconochie

In this 1922 home, which was a blend of Arts & Crafts and Tudor styles, the kitchen was gutted and redone with the owners’ desire to maintain the historic nature of the house. Motawi animal series and floral relief border tiles were used with hand-dipped, sepia-glaze field tiles for a backsplash that bridges the original character of the home and the new appliances and cabinetry. The countertops are Caesarstone (Jerusalem Sand). Colleen Crawley, Motawi Tile Works, Ann Arbor; 734-213-0017,; Meridith’s Fine Millwork (cabinetry), Terrell, Tex.; 972-563-6237; Arthur Nesser Studio (stained glass), Algonquin, Ill.;

Photograph by Jim Haefner

At 110 square feet, this bath is relatively small. But the space accommodates a soaking tub, two-person shower, alcove toilet compartment, and double sink. The compact tub is a Japanese Ufuro style, which is filled by a spigot in the ceiling. Overall, the look is organic, due in part to the floor, which is natural river-stone tile set in a continuous grout bed with an electrical heat mat below. The countertop and shower stall seat were made from pressed recycled paper. Michael Klement, Architectural Resource, Ann Arbor; 734-769-9784,; Doug Selby and Larry Maciag, Meadowlark Builders, Ann Arbor; 734-332-1500,



Photographs by Phoenix Photographic Studio

When a new master bedroom was added to this ’70s-era home, the former bedroom was converted to large master bath finished in carrera marble. The spa-like room included a separate toilet room with its own linen storage and storage dedicated to the owner’s travel products for easy packing. Other features include a refrigerator and fine Venetian mirrors paired with Home Depot sconces. A lack of color feels clean and allows for changing towel colors as the mood suits. Janice Morse, Designs Unlimited, Birmingham; 248-258-3222,

Photographs by Ed Doucet

A natural stone floor is highlighted by a polished mosaic “rug” insert. The custom vanity was designed and hand-made by a local woodworker who finished it with hand glazing to lend an antique look. The custom stone ledge on the vanity countertop is functional and decorative. Silver-leafed mirrors were specially sized and fabricated by a local art gallery to scale atop each vanity space. The designers used wallpaper to visually separate the main vanity area and tub niche. The green-stripe wallpaper is from Osborne & Little; the floral pinwheel is from Brunschwig & Fils. The plumbing, lighting, and hardware are all polished nickel. Dayna Flory and Michelle Mio, of Rariden, Schumacher & Mio Interior Design, Birmingham; 248-723-9160,; Hunter Roberts Homes, Bloomfield Hills; 248-644-4910,

Photograph by Jim Liska

This powder room in a 1928 Tudor home was challenging because it’s composed of three small areas. The same floor tile (Ann Sacks in cooper, light tan, and cream) was used to unite the areas and create a more cohesive look. The custom vanity is large enough to support a contemporary basin without protruding into the doorways. Each end of the vanity is tapered down to 2 feet to fit within the wall and door trim. A small custom console at the powder-room entry matches the vanity. Lisa Petrella, Birmingham; 248-738-3925.




Photograph by Beth Singer

Two intersecting barrel vaults for the ceiling make this tiny space dramatic. The wall and ceiling surfaces are offset by a vintage Baker demilune vanity and Iron Mountain vessel sink. The ceiling’s special effect comes from elephant-skin tissue paper with a thick paint. The bronze fixtures are from Curry & Co. Robert Clarke, architect, CBI Design Professionals, Bloomfield Hills; 248-645-2605,; Michael Coyne Design, Lathrup Village; 248-559-6828.






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