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Ralph Lauren aesthetic inspires town house redo

Judith Harris Solomon
Special to The Detroit News

With its narrow width, three-story height and charming little entry garden, you might expect to find Ven Johnson’s fabulous detached town house located somewhere in either Manhattan or Brooklyn. But actually it sits pretty on a residential street in Birmingham, just a few blocks from the downtown area.

Johnson bought the spec home in 2000. And because all its walls were white and almost all of its cabinetry was white laminate, and also because he wasn’t particularly happy with a lot of the furniture that had already been purchased, the prominent attorney soon decided he needed the services of a good interior designer. And, as luck would have it, design help was literally right next door, where Jeffrey King of Jeffrey King Interiors just happens to reside.

“Ven specifically asked me to create a Ralph Lauren-kind of ambiance for his home,” King says. “He’s a modern classic man who likes everything the RL brand stands for…the color palette, the furniture, the fabrics and the textures. And I was happy to do it because Ralph Lauren’s furniture is of such high quality and so classic. It gives you a feeling of pure luxury and I truly believe his pieces will end up becoming tomorrow’s treasured antiques.”

Several things contributed to the home’s transformation from mundane to marvelous. “On the first floor, we gutted almost everything and took it down to the studs,” King says. “Then we added some windows to the kitchen and family room, moved a few walls to open up the floor plan and installed Brazilian cherry floors throughout.

John Morgan of Perspectives Custom Cabinetry in Royal Oak was hired to replace the existing cabinetry in the kitchen, the master bedroom walk-in closet and both the lower level and the first floor built-in bars. So now, instead of white laminate, the kitchen’s cabinets are made out of cherry wood and their doors feature stunning inserts made out of textured grid-patterned glass. And the kitchen’s countertops now sport Calcutta gold marble.

That same marble was used for the fireplace surround in the adjoining family room where a burled cherry RL coffee table with polished nickel legs (“A very classic RL piece that’s been around for a long, long time,” King says) sits in front of a Henredon sofa, upholstered in a combination of taupe wool tweed and espresso-colored distressed leather that Johnson already owned before Jeffrey King came on board.

In the dining room, a beautiful glossy RL wooden table, placed on an angle, is surrounded by RL fabric-covered chairs and a multipurpose RL credenza includes a drop-down ledge for serving food or drinks. And the built-in hallway bar, easily accessible from the kitchen, family room or dining room, is fully stocked with, you guessed it, a wide assortment of elegant RL glassware.

To further the Ralph Lauren feel, King also decided to use a typical RL color palette… burnt orange, espresso, caramel and taupe… for all of the walls and all the fabrics found throughout the home. “In a multilevel home, the consistency of colors creates a really solid flow,” King explains.

Outstanding metalwork is also evident throughout. Handcrafted by Tom Meyers of Gallery Steel in Waterford, it includes an all-steel fireplace mantel, surround and hearth on the lower level, a three story-high handrail along one side of the suspended staircase, a sliding metal door in the third floor office loft, an intricately patterned entrance gate, designed by Cathy Rosenhaus of Goldner Walsh Garden & Home, and a fence in the front of the house that features an upside down “Z” shape motif at the top. “When I was a kid I loved to doodle and often drew that very same shape. I was always intrigued by it,” Johnson says. “And years later I was amazed to discover that the Gianni Versace Italian fashion house incorporated that same shape into their logo. So I asked Tom Meyers and Cathy Rosenhaus to include it in the fence design.”

Johnson says his favorite place to be is the back patio. “I love to sit at the picnic table, listen to music, do a little barbecue and chill. It’s my Zen zone,” he says. And another favorite place is his lower level “man cave” complete with a pool table (with ping pong attachment) and framed sports figures’ jerseys along the walls. “I’m a big sports guy and often buy the jerseys and other sports memorabilia at charity events,” he says.

The piece de resistance is the massive RL king-size bed whose headboard and footboard are wrapped with highly polished wood, then lined with very thick taupe-colored leather. Surely Ralph Lauren designed it with very sweet dreams in mind.

judybham@aol.com