Bloomfield Hills couple bring Tudor into 21st century

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

When you love your lot and your location, it makes sense to update rather than relocate, especially if your house has great proportions and potential. After living in their Bloomfield Hills home for 30 years, Thomas and Mary Verhelle were due for some demolition.

So, the couple joined forces with Faith McMillen, interior designer and owner of WinWay Ltd. in Lyon Township, for a major renovation. "When you put a lot of thought into it and you do it right, you don't have to move 14 times," McMillen says. "We brought everything up to the 21st century."

Thomas helped with the original design of the 4,750-square-foot modified Tudor. "We had a few different houses that had flaws," he says. "This one was all about flow and storage space."

Now the interiors are "traditional with an edge, which is what people are looking for today," says McMillen whose philosophy is: refresh, renew, reinvent, redo.

The kitchen was the top priority. "It was a necessity," says McMillen. "The appliances were getting old and the space just didn't work."

"Our lifestyles have changed in the kitchen," the designer says. "There's no longer a triangle. Now there are more work spaces for baking and prepping and the refrigerator is close to the eating area. Otherwise you're running all the time."

A graciously curved island softens the space while granite countertops and walnut cabinets with a black glaze bring a richness to the room. "It has an old-world influence. We just mixed it up," McMillen says.

Double dishwashers come in handy for the couple that often hosts their children and six grandchildren. A continuous tumbled stone backsplash on the walls with no window casings keeps it fluid, the designer says.

The stunning dry-stack stone hood was a first for McMillen and her installer. "I'm always stretching myself and my contractors," she says.

Her clients were enthusiastic and collaborative from the start. Thomas is considered the nuts and bolts of the operation. He has a genuine interest in the process and he understands design concepts, while Mary has a knack for the finishing touches, such as color selections and collections from their travels.

Mary loves to collect. "That's my hobby," she says with a smile. Beautiful pieces of blue pottery fill the custom baker's rack in the kitchen.

Thomas, a doctor, is an accomplished pianist and an avid photographer. His nature-inspired photos are displayed throughout the house.

There was still much to be done after the kitchen was finished. As McMillen says, "You do one room and the next goes, 'What about me?'"

The adjacent dining room features window treatments – done by Karen Rea Designs in Northville throughout – that resemble red-carpet-ready couture creations. The bay window inspired wraparound draperies with hand-sewn beads.

"I didn't want to cover the whole wall, so this was a new thought process," McMillen says. "This is not your average dining room. All of the details are different, like the chandelier that's oval instead of round and the wallpaper with a metallic background."

The great room also went through a major transformation. "The dark heavy beams and paneling had to go. Everything changed. We went down to the studs," McMillen says. A dry-stack stone fireplace with a quartz mantel and hearth became a lovely focal point for the room.

Earthy brown walls hug the family room where existing sofas were reupholstered and given new pillows. Oak cabinets were painted an espresso brown and soft LED lights were installed to highlight the couple's collections.

"What I love is that they had such collectible pieces that really pull the space together," McMillen says.

For instance, the tortoiseshell boxes on the coffee table came from Cabo. "They have such a good eye. Every time they travel, they buy something that just fits," the designer says. "Every time they look at the pieces, they have a memory of their time there."

The neutral environment was intentional. "There's a story to everything you see here," the designer says. "We didn't want the background to take away from their meaningful collections."

A sizable rug from Hagopian was custom-made to fit the space and the original draperies were recut and hung on smaller rods. "This lets them really showcase the backyard," McMillen says. The TV is tucked out of the way on one of the walls.

Mary's favorite room is the ultra-luxurious master bath and it's easy to see why. "We flipped everything around," McMillen says. The stone tiles are from Virginia Tile and heated floors provide a special treat.

Onyx bowl sinks are like jewelry for the room where an ottoman and an upholstered vanity chair spice up the mix with shades of terracotta. Mary loves a little bling, delivered here by a pretty light fixture. A half column adds a striking detail, as does a bronze lion's head in the shower.

The glass partition between the shower and bathtub lightens up the space. Accent tiles in a harlequin pattern have borders of copper and glass. Marble countertops contribute to the understated elegance of the master bath and beyond.

A series of nearby guestrooms were updated with paint, draperies and custom bedding.

It was essential that the interiors remain family-friendly. "There are 12 of us. The grandkids can come over and jump on the furniture," Mary says. "It's a place where people can come and still have fun."

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