Couple lovingly care for historic 1890 Indian Village mansion
Kate Tenbrink grew up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Jared Tenbrink in Montague, Michigan, a tiny city with a population of 2,000. They met through eHarmony while both were living in Florida and soon after decided to move here because they felt Detroit was on the edge of a renaissance.
While residing in a West Village town house, the couple often took leisurely walks around nearby Indian Village, the historic area that consists of 350 homes built mostly between 1895 and the late 1920s. And then two years ago, when they discovered that a wonderful old stone house they had always admired was for sale at a great price, they decided to take the plunge.
Designed and built in 1890 by Walter S. Russel, a structural engineer who was the CEO of Russel Wheel and Foundry and owner of the KRIT automobile company, the approximately 6,000-square-foot home was originally at the corner of Jefferson and Joseph Campau. But by 1920 Russel thought Jefferson was becoming too commercial, so he arranged to have the house moved, stone by stone, to its present Burns Avenue location. That project took more than a year.
Because of Russel's foundry association, the residence is chock-full of interesting metal work, including several wheel-shaped door knobs, a lovely filigree arch over the front entrance and decorative basement window guards. And its woodwork, ranging from the den's beamed barrel ceiling to the curved dentil crown molding in the living room to the spectacular cantilevered staircase, is also superb. Three of the home's six fireplaces have original Pewabic tile hearths. And in the solarium, just off the dining room, a green Pewabic ceramic fish, hanging on the wall, sends water cascading to the shell-shaped Pewabic ceramic bowl mounted just below.
And even though the home's architecture is very traditional and old-school formal, Kate Tenbrink (who works for the DTE Insight app) has managed to add a delightful modern element through the use of a black, gray and white color scheme and several pieces of contemporary furniture. "Nothing I buy is fancy," she says. "I like to mix antiques with affordable furniture so if the kids (3-year-old son Liam and 3-month-old son Garrett) break something, I won't cry."
So, for example, in the eclectic living room, two upholstered wing chairs Kate inherited from her stepmother and a sofa she bought at IKEA sit on either side of an inexpensive sisal rug she purchased online. And the shiny silver-colored curtains that grace either end of the bay window came from J.C. Penney. At the far end of the room, an antique piano, purchased from the home's former owners, stands in front of built-in bookshelves where Jared, formerly a physics teacher at Southwestern High School in Detroit and now a science instructional coach for Wayne RESA (Regional Education Service Association), has placed his collection of antique scientific lab equipment.
It is interesting to note that the living room originally consisted of two different rooms: one a library, the other a parlor. "Victorian homes typically had small rooms," Kate says. "But when our house was moved from Jefferson, those two rooms were combined."
Adds Jared: "This house had a very open floor plan for the time. It's not the typical series of little rooms. And the 20-by-30-foot dining room is particularly big by Indian Village standards. That tells me that the Russels liked to entertain."
Kate bought the oval dining room table at a house sale in St. Clair Shores, then painted it black. The arm chairs were purchased in Holly, then re-upholstered. The handsome wooden buffet came from an old home in Escanaba where Jared's father once lived. And Kate's collection of white china plates and platters adds interest to the wall over the fireplace, which has been painted with Benjamin Moore's Chelsea Gray. "I've been collecting white plates, some old, some new, for a while," she says. "My thought was to take something traditional and make it into a more modern arrangement."
An old-fashioned butler's pantry separates the dining room from the long narrow kitchen, which has a butcher block island and an outer wall composed of the home's original brick. And although the floor-to-ceiling stained wooden cabinets with glass inserts date to the 1990s, they look as though they could have been original to the home.
"We've had to do a lot to the house, including plumbing, plastering and restoring the windows, to make them more energy efficient. And even though we got the house for a great price, we have had to put a great deal into it. But we've also more than doubled our investment," Jared says.
"Sometimes we just pinch ourselves because we live here … a teacher and a marketing person … living in a mansion," Kate Tenbrink says. "We'll probably never be able to live in a house like this again."
Village Home & Garden Tour
Date: June 6-7
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. June 6, 12 to 5 p.m. June 7
Price: Single day, on site purchase $25
Single day, advance purchase $22.50
Two day, onsite purchase: $45
Two day, advance purchase $40.50
Purchase tickets on tour day at:
Iroquois Avenue Christ Church, 2411 Iroquois
Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church, 8625 E. Jefferson
Nichols School, 3000 Burns
To buy advance tickets, go to historicindianvillage.org. For information, call (313) 922-1736.