Birmingham House Tour: Tudor time

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

There’s a sedate, soothing quality to the decor in Birmingham interior designer Kevin Serba’s beautifully decorated 1936 Tudor.

The moment you step inside, you’re greeted by tranquil grays and neutral tones. That was done intentionally, says Serba.

“In my business, I work with a lot of color so at home I want it more neutral with punches of colors,” says Serba of Serba Interiors.

But sedate certainly doesn’t mean boring. Serba uses art, accents and window treatments to give each room in his 3,400-square-foot house a pop of color. And when you have art by masters such as Picasso, Paul Cezanne, Joan Miro and Marc Chagall, you don’t make it compete for attention.

The beautifully redone four-bedroom, 31/2-bath house is a sophisticated mix of textures and materials. Bought three years ago by Serba, it’s one of seven houses on the popular Birmingham House Tour, presented by the Community House (see box for details) on Thursday.

To put his own touch on the house, Serba completely redid the kitchen, an upstairs bathroom, and the laundry room. Every room looks like it belongs in the pages of Elle Decor.

Serba was splitting his time between Ann Arbor and Bloomfield Hills when he decided to move back to Birmingham three years ago to be closer to his business on Cole Street. He’d never lived in a Tudor before.

“I loved the bones of it,” he says. “And I love the size of it. When my family comes to visit, they have a place to stay.”

Character abounds the moment you step in the front foyer, where Serba, who spent eight months on renovations, removed grasscloth wallpaper and redid the plaster to make it look like stucco. He replaced moldings on the first floor and doors to match the original house upstairs.

“I changed all the paintable doors to solid oak doors, changed all the trim to what might’ve been originally,” says Serba.

Just off the foyer, natural light flows into the living room from two large windows. He painted the window trim charcoal gray to match all the original windows on the house. The linen sofa is from Hickory Chair, custom made to a certain length and height. The rug is a Turkish wool with some mohair.

“I wanted to create a clean, classic look with a little more of a contemporary feel,” says Serba.

Serba’s extensive art collection — Serba has been collecting art his entire life — adds color to each room.

Throughout each room, Serba mixed textures and materials. The dining room, which overlooks the lush green backyard, has blueish-green grasscloth wallpaper and new window treatments.

“I love the color,” says Serba.

The biggest renovations on the first floor were in the kitchen. Serba gutted the kitchen and redid the configuration. He added stainless cabinets and quartz counters. Just off the dining room is a built in buffet with glass doors.

The kitchen flows into the family room where Serba also made several significant changes.

He installed a new custom-made limestone fireplace and the walls faux-painted by a decorative painter to look like limestone. A striking 17th century English wood beam in the ceiling adds a lovely rustic touch.

“What was neat is they actually cut it (the beam) in half and kind of hollowed it out so they could bolt it up there to make it look like it’s part of the structure,” says John Rattray, an interior designer at Serba Interiors and Serba’s design assistant.

The beam adds texture to the family room, says Serba.

“It looked very contemporary in here before and I wanted to take it back to what the house would’ve been,” says Serba.

Upstairs, the other biggest changes came in what was once an office, which Serba converted into a Jack and Jill bathroom for two guest bedrooms. He had the ceiling raised and a window installed with a custom window to match one off the staircase. The counters are Carrara marble. And the walls are covered in tongue-in-groove painted wood.

The three upstairs bedrooms are decorated in a way that feels true to the 1936 home’s age, but not too dated.

“You do it with more interesting fabrics and textures,” says Serba. “I do have antiques but it’s a matter of using updated patterns.”

Serba refers to one guest room as the Fern Room. His starting point were antique pressed fern art, now framed and hanging on the wall above two custom-made twin beds. Quaint built-in desks are on both sides of the beds.

Outside, Serba installed a cement fountain in the front, around which he added stones and boxwoods to create a square.

“I found the fountain on my travels,” says Serba. “I wanted a water feature. With the landscaping, I added some new things because it was kind of dated before.”

He also replaced the glass French-style door with a custom-made solid wood door. The original door “just didn’t look right for the house,” says Serba.

In the back, he tore down most of an existing trellis but kept one wall of it, which now flanks his patio space. Ivy crawls its way up one side of the house. The house is great for entertaining.

“I have outdoor speakers out here so it’s really nice,” says Serba.

So after a busy day of creating welcoming spaces for his clients, at home, Serba has created his own oasis.

“I was drawn to the character of the house because the last several homes I did I had to create the character,” says Serba.

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Birmingham House Tour

Seven homes will open their doors for the 28th annual Birmingham House Tour on Thursday. Hosted by the Community House in Birmingham, proceeds from the tour, which 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., will fund the Community House’s outreach programs. Tickets are $40 in advance or $45 on Thursday. Advance reservations are recommended; tickets are limited and the event does sell out. The Community House is located at 380 South Bates Street in Birmingham. Call (248) 644-5832 or go to