Designer Allison George remembers the first time the team at Fowler Interiors talked with Hardy Emery about his twenty-year-old home behind The Chandler School off Augusta Road: it was November of 2019.
“So, it’s been in the works for a while,” George says. The pandemic may have delayed the renovation for a year, but the project wrapped in 2022.
Emery had a vision in mind—the Shinola Hotel in Detroit, the city of his youth. The antique factory was upfit with modern sensibilities but retained its architectural detail. The only problem was his home had few of the features he admired at the hotel.
“We took the concepts he liked from The Shinola and asked ourselves, how can we build that into the home?” says George.
Nearly every window needed to be replaced and the plantation shutters went out the door with them. George didn’t want to block an abundance of natural light but added sheer panels for some privacy at the front of the house and kept the coloring neutral throughout. A palette of beige, warm browns, key pieces in black, and lots of metal finishes—gold, brass, and iron—emerged to add handsome comfort to the rooms.
“We took note that the furnishings in the hotel were warm, walnut, and midcentury modern. They were upholstered but solid pieces with unique lines,” says George. “We could add a lot of the touches from the hotel into the Emery home with artwork, fixtures, and furniture. And by moving a few walls.”
Emery wanted a more open floorplan but also a place centered on shared history. “Every wall has family or personal history,” he says. “From the original Brandon Mills architecture floorplan—my family owned that building in the 1980s—to my first bass guitar and the baseball collection that my father and I collected together.”
Motor City Dining Room and Kitchen
An iron beam installed overhead facilitated opening the dining room to much of the first floor. A reeded wall feature was installed by M&M Woodworks and painted black (Sherwin Williams Iron Ore). Sconces by Visual Comfort are notable for their curved metallic face.
An extra closet in the primary bedroom was swiped to make space for a built-in bar in the dining room, adding significant visual interest. George points out the commercial glass-cleaning station set in the countertop and push-out shelving for liquor storage, backed by antiqued mirror.
Cabinetry was reconfigured to open the kitchen and den. Brass hardware was added, and brass legs were custom-ordered through Palmer Metal Industries for a large island. “We didn’t want to do the basic white kitchen,” says George. The cabinets are painted Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter.
A unique hood was sourced through The Cook’s Station; it’s a ventilation system by Best Cirrus, with frosted glass. Emery was nervous about the veined countertop ordered for the island and the bold pendants that would hang over it, but once installed, he loved them both. George says they add contrast to the traditional finishes, making the kitchen feel elevated.
The home has three distinct living spaces: the open-concept den, a living room, and an upstairs bonus room. There’s a large TV here, along with a turntable and several guitars around a back credenza. There’s also installed counter space—for when a little work is necessary—and bench seating for Emery’s two dogs, Guinness and Barley. The living room boasts an extra-large area rug that’s 100% wool, a tip from the designer who says wool is easy to clean and wears well, without sacrificing design.
The den includes three pieces of art by Keemo, a longtime friend of Emery’s, and George added a Joseph Bradley goldfinch painting to the mix over the couch. The splurge of the project was purchased for this room: two Eames lounge chairs with ottomans by Herman Miller. “I always loved these chairs,” says Emery. “Also, a connection to my Michigan roots.”
Every bathroom was gutted for a fresh start, and new elements custom built. Floating vanities, designed by Fowler, were created by M&M. Tile floors, sourced through Clayton Tile, run under cabinets and are heated; there’s under-cabinet lighting too. In the primary bath, bespoke wood-veneer wallpaper by Philip Jeffries adds warmth and a pair of mirrors are ingeniously hung.
“The way I’m wired, I like a lot of things symmetrical, and the homeowner appreciates that as well,” says George.