The exterior of this 1950s Bloomfield Hills ranch house is very unassuming, very plain Jane. You have to wait for the “WOW” factor when you step inside.
“With remodelings of this sort … what are you going to do,” explains Irving Tobocman, the architect in charge of the re-do. “Either you have to completely change the exterior or do almost nothing. This exterior was basic and simple. So we decided to keep the existing fieldstone, paint the front door and the shutters a shiny black and paint the red brick a taupe color. All we did was put a little lipstick and rouge on it. And it works.”
But the home’s interior is another story. “We took the house down to the studs,” homeowner Lenore Gorosh says. “And the floor plan was completely re-configured.” The original four bedrooms became two: one a guest room/den, the other a master suite. And the knockout living room/dining room (which now measures 18 by 36 feet and runs all the way from the front to the back of the house), was once two separate rooms: one a living room with a dining room in the shape of an L, the other a small, U-shaped kitchen.
Furthermore, Tobocman made all the standard 8-foot ceilings look taller (and the rooms more spacious) by replacing every door in the house with ones that reach to the ceiling and by replacing many of the standard single pane glass windows with doorwalls.
All of these structural changes serve to beautifully set the stage for the extraordinary furniture and art that populate the residence. “As a rep for an Israeli high-tech medical imaging equipment company, I traveled all over the United States for 20 years,” Gorosh says. “And when I had time between clients or planes, I would stop at antique stores, resale stores and art galleries just to see what was interesting and often purchased things along the way. I also bought things on pleasure trips overseas. Everybody seems to buy jewelry and fancy clothes when they’re traveling, but I buy art.”
So in the wonderfully eclectic living room, two Harvey Probber mid-century sofas, bought at an estate sale and recovered in a coffee-colored Donghia mohair fabric, flank a 6- by 6-foot travertine marble coffee table that was designed by Tobocman. Nearby, a two-tier glass and steel table rests beneath a painting by renowned Mexican artist Ruffin Tamayo that was bought on a trip to Mexico City. One tier of the table holds Gorosh’s collection of Lalique crystal that she has collected for more than 40 years; the other tier is chock-full of family photos, mostly in antique frames. A lithograph by Dutch artist Karl Appel graces one wall for now. (“I bought the Appel at Hudson’s art gallery in the ’60s,” she says. “I didn’t have enough money to buy it then and had to put it in layaway.”) And a colorful, painted wooden “Marriage Window,” purchased in Marrakesh, hangs adjacent to the foyer. But that might not always be the case. “When I get bored, I change pictures around. It makes the house look brand new,” she says.
A marble-topped teak credenza, also designed by Tobocman to coordinate with the teak dining room table, plus two very tall, black, wooden Charles Rennie Macintosh side chairs serve to divide the living room from the dining room. And the dining room table, once in a Fisher Body family home and bought at auction, is surrounded by Mies Van Der Rohe’s iconic “Brno” black leather and chrome cantilever chairs that were originally designed in 1929-30 for the bedroom of the Tugenat House in Brno, Czech Republic. Gorosh found the chairs online.
Then there is the kitchen, now located where the family room used to be. With its black Italian laminate cabinets, white oak trim, brushed aluminum backsplash and black granite countertops, the room seems as though it was completed just weeks ago. But in fact it dates to 1996. “The greatest compliment is when you can’t pinpoint when something was done,” Tobocman says. “Architecture is not fashion. It’s something that stays for a long time so you can’t be slavish to what’s new. And although materials might change through the years, proper proportions are one of the main tools of ageless architecture.”
The hand-painted, colorful ceramic plates displayed above the kitchen cabinets were purchased on a trip to Portugal. And the Picasso plate prints (above the built-in white oak buffet in the breakfast area) were purchased at a used bookstore in Royal Oak for only $12. “They had been placed in layaway and long forgotten, so I was able to buy them for a great price,” Gorosh says.
In the master bedroom, the built-in dresser, headboard and night tables (designed by the homeowner and constructed by John Morgan of Perspectives in Royal Oak) are all made out of birdseye maple. Three lovely art deco etchings, created by famous French art deco artist Louis Icart, grace the walls. And a nail-less greeny-black Cross Check armchair, designed for Knoll by iconic architect Frank Gehry and made out of wafer-thin strips of woven, bent and curled laminated maple, is very special because “it was a sample, and it’s the only one that was made in this color,” Gorosh says.
But perhaps the Bloomfield Hills resident gets the biggest kick out of the life-sized metal horse (painted Halloween orange) that grazes in her backyard. Gorosh had long been a fan of Deborah Butterfield’s horse sculptures, found in museums throughout the United States as well as at the Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids. But the sculptor’s work was “a little out of my price range,” Gorosh says. So she decided to commission Pontiac-based motorcycle builder and metal artist Ron Finch to create a Butterfield-style horse out of scrap metal from an old swing set, a car fender and a tailpipe that the two of them found at a local scrap yard. And it has turned out to be a showstopper that the whole neighborhood adores.