Ferndale stone house: Artistry in motion

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

The only constant about Evan Derian and Tamela Ekstrom-Derian’s funky stone house in Ferndale is that the eclectic decor keeps changing.

Tamela, owner of Haven Real Estate + Design, is always changing it up – from moving paintings to different rooms to rearranging furniture.

Scanning the living room, “this room is already under mental re-design,” says Derian, a graphic designer and comic book artist, referring to his wife.

Their 1928 eclectic three-bedroom house oozes style. From Tamela’s hand-painted pixelated art on the walls to the vintage comic book pages from Evan’s collection, their home meshes both their styles, while creating a style all its own.

And where the decor really stands out is in the details.

Tamela has a knack for styling, creating unique vignettes in nearly every room – from the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera dolls in a tiny glass bowl in the living room to a small framed drawing of Evan’s comic book pseudonym for his wife, Ginger Goldvine (her first pet’s name plus the first street she lived on).

“I like to balance things,” says Tamela. “And I usually pick certain colors. I’ll get tired of something after awhile. I always do a neutral backdrop, but with a pop of color.”

Evan, meanwhile, has learned to embrace his spouse’s constantly changing style. He says he was more of a vintage, Gothic person before he and Tamela married in 2013, but now she’s helped him learn to appreciate other styles, especially mid-century modern.

“I’ve actually kind of fallen in love with that,” says Evan. “We like to mix things and to play with it.”

Tamela, meanwhile, says it was important to her to incorporate Derian’s style and work throughout the decor of their 1,425-square-foot three-bedroom house (there’s another 1,000 square feet in the finished basement, where the couple stays when they rent the first floor on Airbnb).

Framed vintage Spider-Man comic book covers add a touch of color and pop art to the dining room. A rack of Evan’s comic book series, “Miserable Americans,” stands in the library.

“That was a really important thing to me” to bring in Evan’s style, says Tamela.

Evan and Tamela grew up 10 houses away from each other in Farmington Hills. They sat by each other in middle school drafting class. But after graduation, Evan stayed in Metro Detroit and Tamela moved all over the country.

She lived in San Francisco, Dallas and Tulsa, working in real estate for 21 years and property management. A self-taught designer, she often decorated model units. In the back of her mind, though, was always Detroit.

“I thought, ‘Detroit is a cool place, I’ll probably go back there one day.’ I kept thinking about it and then I’d get another job somewhere,” she says.

She was living in Kansas City when Evan reached out to her through Facebook. They talked for six weeks nonstop and soon Tamela decided it was time to move back to Michigan.

“We started dating and got married two years ago,” says Tamela.

Searching for their first house together in 2011, the couple originally wanted a duplex. But when Tamela saw the listing for a stone house in Ferndale, she immediately jumped on it.

The moment she saw it, she thought “I have to live here,” she says.

Evan remembers getting an email from Tamela. “It said ‘I don’t know what your plans are, but I’m planning on living here,’” he recalls with a laugh. Within a day, they made an offer.

The house is one of two stone houses in Ferndale, both built by a local lawyer. The other, two blocks north, was built in 1921. Horse-drawn buggies hauled fieldstone from the Pontiac River for the exterior and fireplace.

But the house needed work. The couple opened up a few doorways to create a more open concept and raised the ceiling in several rooms. Nearly every room was originally painted dark brown.

“It was a study in brown,” jokes Evan.

Now, it’s anything but brown and boring. Each element tells a story.

“I try to buy things from wherever I travel to,” says Tamela. “...I have these little treasures that I’ve collected or we’ve collected on trips and you may not even know it, but they’re little memories of going places.”

The fieldstone fireplace is the focal point in the living room, but a sunburst mirror and “Detroit” marquee letters give it a more modern, hip vibe. Mongolian fur throw pillows add a textured look to the sectional sofa from Macy’s. Nearby, an iron head planter with a marble base stands on a vintage dresser.

“I always switch it up. If it’s Christmas, I put a bow tie on it,” says Tamela. “I have fun with it. At our wedding, these heads were centerpieces on the all the tables with plants in them.”

Art figures prominently throughout the couple’s decor.

In the dining room is a pixelated drawing of a friend hand-painted by Tamela. And in the library is another painting of Tamela’s mother, inspired by a picture from 1965. In the spare bedroom, framed images of Evan’s “Miserable Americans” hangs on the wall.

One of the coolest pieces of art is actually a photograph taken by Tamela’s brother, Lee Ekstrom. Converted into custom wallpaper by Ferndale-based Detroit Wallpaper Co., the close-up image of coffee stirrers now covers two walls in the spare bedroom.

“I picked this because I like the black and white,” says Tamela. “I knew I wanted to blow up one of my brother’s photos.”

For a house that keeps changing, it makes sense that Tamela is already rethinking its name.

“I think I’m going to start calling it the Rock House instead of the Stone House,” she says.


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