Solutions: Design troubles may just follow you around

Jeanine Matlow

Moving to a new home doesn’t always mean leaving your design woes behind. No matter how many points your current house scores, you still need to make it your own.

That held true for Tracie Chene, who lives in Farmington Hills with her husband, Steve, and their two children. After outgrowing their previous residence, they found a home that was a better fit for their family.

In their last house, where they stayed for 14 years, they waited far too long to redo the pink bathroom. They finally tackled that project, only to end up moving soon afterward. The irony that there was another pink bathroom waiting for them in their new digs led them to gut it right away.

Their mudroom would undergo some major changes, too, with the help of Tracie’s father. He’s an engineer with a knack for home improvement; she finds ideas on Pinterest and does the painting. Together they make a great team.

Though they removed the old cabinets that took up too much room, the doors leading to the garage and the house still made the mudroom a tight squeeze for a family of four.

“The kids need space to come in and put their stuff,” Tracie says. Open shelving and smaller storage pieces solved the problem.

A pocket door was an afterthought for the new wood-and-glass style that lets in more light. Tracie’s father was afraid the glass might break if someone swung it open too quickly.

This would require him to cut through the wall that Tracie had just sanded and painted. “We had done everything. It was a lot of work,” she says. He also had to cut the ceiling, leaving an unsightly seam.

So, Tracie bought some recycled floor boards from a Habitat for Humanity ReStore to install above. “Now my favorite part is the ceiling, and that was not the plan,” she says.

A recessed light opens up the space overhead. “It’s definitely more functional than it was before,” Tracie says of the mudroom, where a map on the wall provides a visual reminder of her goal to see all 50 states before she turns 50.

The home is filled with estate sale finds, family heirlooms and other unique pieces like the wine corks that were cut and glued to a stair riser where carpet was removed.

Tin tiles adorn the dining room ceiling where three pieces of molding mimic one thick strip. “My father is a master caulker,” Tracie says.

An old dresser from the former homeowner received a major facelift with a glass top, new hardware and paint. Now it serves as a stylish buffet and bar area in the wine-themed space.

Her grandmother’s wingback chairs that grace the living room wear slipcovers for an affordable update.

Next up is a powder room redo that could include the color red and a shapely chaise in the living room that will be updated in some way. If it turns out anything like the newly upholstered heirloom chair that sits nearby, it’s sure to become another design success story.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at