Huntington Woods couple calls in reinforcements

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Joanne Leider of Huntington Woods went through countless sofas, throw pillows and accessories before it finally hit her. She had no idea what she was doing.

When it came to creating just the right look in her family’s adorable 1940s English cottage-style home, Leider, a registered nurse, was out of her element. She remembers a conversation with her nephew a few years ago when he asked about the family’s master bathroom after it had been completely redone by interior designers Tanya and Jeff Woods of Xstyles Bath + More in Bloomfield Hills.

“He said, ‘Aunt Joanne, this bathroom is sweet. Don’t you wish the rest of the house looked like this?’” remembers Joanne.

Today, with the Woods’ help, it does. The entire house is a sleek, sophisticated mix of art and texture, and yet very welcoming. Woods rearranged furniture, introduced colors, and mixed scale and size with artwork, including a custom made painting by Detroit street artist Malt that hangs over a fireplace mantel.

Every room of the 3,100-square-foot house, which will be featured on Sunday’s Huntington Woods home tour (see box for details), feels open and inviting, perfect for a busy family of four.

Joanne says when it came to creating a specific look, more than anything, she asked Tanya Woods “to get rid of the chaos.”

Before Xstyles, “nothing really matched,” says Joanne. “It was too cluttered. I kept putting decorations out, trying to make a theme. And I wanted it to function. I wanted a place where we could live, where people are welcome. Dogs can come in here, kids can come in here. There’s nothing in this house that could be broken that I’d be worried about.”

Working with Woods in 2013, Joanne and her husband, Jeff, a pediatric otolaryngologist, changed nearly everything – paint colors, furniture, rugs and light fixtures – but the footprint stayed the same.

“I didn’t want to” change the footprint, says Joanne. “I know anyone else would’ve come in here and blown this all out, but we really like the intimacy.”

Joanne and Jeff bought their house 19 years ago. Running by it regularly for years, Joanne said there was something about it she just loved. So when she heard it might be going on the market, she knocked on the door and asked the previous owner to contact her when, and if, it was listed.

“I thought I’d never hear from her, but (six months later) she called us back and said ‘I have six couples interested, I’m not doing a bidding war. You’ll have one chance to look at it and one chance to bid,’” remembers Joanne.

Joanne and Jeff saw it once and took a chance: They bid $6,000 over the asking price. It worked.

But within months of making the house their own, Joanne says they destroyed it – with their decorating and junk.

“There were hockey bags everywhere, junk,” says Joanne. “And then it was Target, IKEA, Pottery Barn. All of my favorite places in one big explosion. I kept redecorating and redecorating. I probably spent thousands on stuff I just gave away.”

Finally, after the flood hit Huntington Woods in 2013, Joanne called for reinforcements: Tanya Woods. To create a family-friendly house but rein in Joanne’s eclectic style, Woods made some specific, concrete changes. She painted the trim and doors to bring them to life. She converted what was once the dining room at the center of the house into an office and sitting room for Joanne.

“That room was just a hodge podge of stuff,” said Woods. “It was a catch-all – it was the hub of the house but it was never used. They never sat in there. I said ‘Wouldn’t you really like to use this space?’”

Now, the sitting room is a focal point of the house and one of the first things visitors see when they arrive. The sitting room’s abstract polka-dot rug dictated the color palette and Woods painted the built-in shelves in the room dark brown “to bring them to life.”

“They just needed to have some prominence,” Woods says.

To make the long, narrow family room more functional, Woods pulled the leather sectional sofa – a gift from Joanne’s mom 25 years ago – away from the wall and divided the room into vignettes. There’s a TV viewing area and a bar high table with four chairs that’s now a favorite spot for everyone. “We use that table all the time,” says Joanne.

Furniture doesn’t have to be flush against a wall, says Woods.

“A lot of people put things all against the wall,” says Woods. “I’ll come in and shift a desk. I’ll bring it (out) from the wall. You get a completely different look.”

Personal artwork is displayed throughout the Leiders’ decor. A large painting of a horse hangs on one wall in the family, a piece that Joanne, who loves horses, insisted stay put. In the living room is a small framed portrait of Joanne, who voluteers at the Heidelberg Project, by Heidelberg founder Tyree Guyton. His nickname for Joanne is “Rocket.”

Natural elements, inspired by sconces in the living room, also are woven throughout the decor. A twig-inspired light fixture by Troy Lighting hangs prominently above the staircase landing. On the wall is Virginia Tile’s Quartzite.

“She made it look really, really pretty where it didn’t before,” Joanne says.

Looking back on her design journey, Joanne says her only regret is that she didn’t bring in a professional interior designer sooner.

“I wish I would’ve done it from the beginning,” says Joanne, who also has Four Seasons handle her landscaping. “... It’s so worth it because you think that you’re saving money but you’re buying stuff that doesn’t work and you’re changing it and ruining it. Now I drive up and I smile.”

(313) 223-4686

24th annual Huntington Woods Home Tour

■1-5 p.m. Sunday.

■ Tickets are $20 in advance at or $25 on the day of the event, available at the Huntington Woods Library or the city’s recreation center, 26235 Scotia.

■Proceeds go to local charities supporting education, women and children’s causes.