September 5, 2014 at 1:00 am

Cover story

Couple finds just the right home - and it makes Birmingham tour

Anyone who has been on the hunt for a home knows it often takes time before the right one comes along. After a two-year search, Scott and Anastasia Minor decided it was best to stay put and remodel instead. In fact, they had much of the renovation team ready to go. That’s when they found everything they wanted and more in another home.

The enchanting country French facade leads the way to more transitional interiors. “It’s traditional to transitional. It’s a real mix,” says Rita O’Brien of Rita O’Brien Design Group in Birmingham, who helped the homeowners make it their own.

She and her husband, Tom O’Brien, a Realtor with Hall & Hunter Realtors in Birmingham who sold the Minors the property, are co-chairs for the Birmingham House Tour, which features a variety of styles. “It can be a bungalow or a mansion, as long as there are items of interest that intrigue people,” she says.

This particular house fit the bill for the Minor family. “They looked for a long time. When they walked in, they knew,” she adds. With a few exceptions, the existing features in the nearly 5,000-square-foot house that was built in 1998 and later updated were left intact, from wood floors to wall colors and window treatments.

Besides the undeniable curb appeal, the exceptional architectural elements, such as the arched doorways, custom millwork and barrel-vaulted ceilings, were major selling points.

The elegant foyer sets the sophisticated tone for the warm and inviting home with a well-rounded mix of family heirlooms and new finds. Anastasia discovered the decorative chest that holds a female bust passed down for generations. The charming chair belonged to her mother. In the opposite corner, an ornamental mirror, scored online, complements an heirloom chair that is one of a pair.

Pieces from their previous home fill the nearby library that boasts a stately fireplace and exquisite built-ins that wrap around the room. The light fixture was a new purchase and the drawing above the mantel, on loan from O’Brien, was done by her husband Tom’s grandfather at the age of 15.

O’Brien assisted with much of the art and accessories in the dining room, which exudes drama with chocolate-colored walls. The table and chairs came from the homeowners, as did the antique cabinet. An existing light fixture and draperies remain.

The family room features new pieces that were purchased through O’Brien who repurposed granite that belonged to Anastasia’s mom. Two custom tables, designed by O’Brien and made by Tom Myers from Gallery Steel in Waterford Township, are covered with the granite slabs while a third topped with glass sits behind the sofa.

“Rita helped us with a lot of the fun touches,” Anastasia says. “It was a great idea to repurpose the granite from my mother’s old tables.”

The designer admires her clients. “They are good at making decisions, easy to work with and open to suggestions,” says O’Brien, who appreciates the fact that Anastasia is not afraid to work independently when she finds something she likes.

Some of Anastasia’s favorite online sources include Ballard Designs, Frontgate and Grandin Road. She also likes the selection at Michigan Design Center in Troy where O’Brien got some of the contents.

The success is in the mix. “It can’t all be from the same source,” O’Brien says. “It’s fun to have antiques and family heirlooms.”

It helps to have a stylish backdrop. “It’s a beautiful home,” says O’Brien, a former Realtor who dabbled in design for a long time before making it her main focus five years ago.

Her background lets her see the big picture. O’Brien often asks clients: “What is the long-term plan?” Their answer will determine whether she suggests renovating a whole kitchen or doing a soft upgrade instead.

The Minors were ready to go with their old house remodel in 2012 when they fell for this turnkey home that made them switch gears. “It met all of our needs and more, so we decided to take the leap,” Anastasia says.

“We really like the layout of the home,” she adds. “It had a lot of updates. (The seller) had very good taste we could work off and leverage. It had the space we wanted, high ceilings and architectural elements that we like. It had been well cared for.”

The fact that the former owner was an interior designer is evident in the distinctive details. “There are some things that I would not have naturally picked, but I love them, like the laundry room wallpaper,” Anastasia says. “There are some unique things that are fun to have. It helped me have an open mind.”

Perhaps the most significant changes they made involved the front and back patios. Zaremba & Company in Clarkston transformed these areas by removing brick pavers and installing New York bluestone.

The patios have become a gathering place. Though the neighborhood has narrow lots, “It’s hard to tell because the placement of the greenery makes it peaceful. It’s private and quiet,” Anastasia says.

Inside and out, this four-bedroom, six-bath home seems tailor-made for this family of five. “Our three children all have their own space. It worked out great,” Anastasia says. “This had more than what we were looking for, like the barrel vaulted ceiling in the master bedroom. That was a design element we wanted to add to our other house.”

Now they have everything on their list, like being able to walk to town, and a few extras, like the morning bar in the master bedroom that’s equipped for hot and cold beverages. “The morning bar is great and indulgent. The previous owner put this in and I really enjoy it. It’s something I wouldn't have thought of. We can have coffee while getting ready in the morning,” Anastasia says.

What a great way to start the day in their new dwelling.

Birmingham House Tour

The Community House will host its 27th annual Birmingham House Tour on Sept. 16. Proceeds from the House Tour are used to fund the Community House Outreach programs for at-risk youth.

The event, presented by Hall & Hunter Realtors, runs from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The cost per person is $40 in advance or $45 the day of the tour. Advance reservations are recommended as the event does sell out. This year’s tour presents five homes that showcase the best of Birmingham, Bloomfield and Beverly Hills. As a bonus, attendees will also have the opportunity to tour a four-acre, park-like garden in Bloomfield Hills.

In addition, a salad/soup buffet luncheon, sponsored by Level One Bank, will be offered from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on the Van Dusen Terrace of the Community House. Purchased in advance, the cost to attend the tour and luncheon is $55, $60 day of the tour.

Other sponsors for the event include Gorman’s and Ethan Allen.

The Community House is at 380 S. Bates in Birmingham. For ticket information, call (248) 644-5832 or purchase tickets online at

The Community House is a nonprofit that provides educational, cultural and wellness programs, and scholarships to improve people’s personal and professional lives.

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at

Built-in cabinets grace the main floor library, which is filled with furniture from the homeowners' former residence. The art above the fireplace is on loan from Rita O'Brien. / Max Ortiz / The Detroit News