Mid-century style fits couple’s design vision

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

It was the look Arlene and Eddie Dimaguila were after that would lead them to a mid-century style house in the heart of Farmington Hills. Since then, they’ve taken on some major renovations, such as a state-of-the-art kitchen and a cozy home theater that’s become a popular spot for entertaining.

Both husband and wife are design savvy, taking on much of the work themselves while adding personal touches along the way. The striking results speak volumes about the thoroughly modern, warm and inviting interiors of the 3,000-square-foot home they share with their children and Arlene’s father.

Although the unique multilevel residence was built in 1969, it has a distinct mid-century modern feel, nestled in a neighborhood known for that architectural style. “We wanted a mid-century home and our children wanted to stay in Farmington Hills,” says Arlene.

Following an extensive search, everyone got their wish with this prime find.

Arlene, an occupational therapist, and Eddie, an operations director for a research company, are in sync with every home improvement project they tackle. “It helps that we both have the same vision,” she says.

“I know what I like and what I don’t like,” adds Eddie. “We’re very definite with our tastes.”

One of the perks of their surroundings is the natural light that floods the interiors, as seen in the open and airy living room devoted to music where family members play instruments and listen to albums on a vintage turntable.

A sculptural piece from Home Goods on the wall above the stereo cabinet has a mid-century feel echoed by an accent piece below that was made by Arlene.

“We wanted a more comfortable feeling,” she says. “We’ve been choosing pieces based on our taste and interests.”

Nearby, a Heywood-Wakefield table joins a pair of vintage Mies van der Rohe chairs found on Craigslist. A painting by Australian artist Sarah Brooke hangs above a leather sofa from IKEA while an Arco floor lamp contributes to the modern vibe.

There’s more to the aesthetically pleasing interiors than meets the eye. Many of the pieces made by family members have a story to tell, like the small painting by Arlene’s brother, Julius deChavez, that was a gift to Eddie, who is a big fan of abstract expressionist Mark Rothko.

A graphic designer and artist, deChavez, who graduated from the College for Creative Studies, also did the intriguing self-portrait on display above a reproduction George Nelson bench in the foyer.

Artistic vacation photos taken by Arlene hang on the main floor near a vibrant series of vertical stripes painted and framed by Eddie with some contributions from one of their children. Featuring the favorite colors of various family members, the widest stripe in the center represents Arlene’s late mother’s penchant for red.

The unique piece that makes a personal statement above a buffet from IKEA really pops at night, Eddie says. A George Nelson lamp from YLighting accentuates the Saarinen table and chairs from Design Within Reach while soft gray walls create a soothing backdrop for the modern space.

There’s no sign of the original galley kitchen that was gutted and reconfigured within the existing footprint. The freshly renovated space boasts a sizable island and a built-in side-by-side refrigerator.

Rosewood cabinets from LaPrairie Wood Works in Ferndale that reach the ceiling join Quartz countertops and a slate backsplash in the family-friendly space.

“It was so closed off,” says Eddie of the former layout of the kitchen. “We demoed everything, redid the wall, took the ceiling out and added LED lights that are aligned with specific areas like the table, instead of all in a row.”

Eddie did much of the demo work himself, while a plumber was hired for the island sink and the pot filler above the stove.

“It’s a great space,” he says. “Everyone likes open concept, but we want separate rooms where multiple groups of people can have different conversations.”

Works by pop artist Romero Britto flank a George Nelson clock in the kitchen where the adjacent sitting area with leather seating from IKEA and reproduction LCW chairs remains a work in progress.

Here, a special edition Matisse print is one of many carefully selected works of art in the home. As Arlene explains, she originally majored in art administration and art history before switching to her current field. “I have an appreciation for it and Eddie has an eye for it,” she says.

Their oldest child has a knack for art, creating several paintings shown on the lower level that features a wet bar with IKEA cabinets, which were custom cut and installed by Eddie.

Arlene does all of the painting in the home, like the neutral walls done in Mink by Sherwin-Williams on the lower level where the sitting area by her craft station combines a table from West Elm with retro style chairs from YLiving.

When Arlene decided on black doors for the lower level, she came up with a fun twist for the one in her craft area, covering it with chalkboard paint.

Sconces from Room & Board mark the entry to the home theater that boasts a handsome bar designed and built by Eddie along with movie posters of their favorite films, from “Finding Nemo” to “Crimson Tide.”

Pillows with a movie ticket motif adorn the leather chairs in the acoustically soundproof room that’s a big hit with all ages.

Inside and out, the house has a youthful spirit which may come from the fact that the homeowners, who have been together for 30 years, are young at heart.

They also took on the landscaping themselves, winning a beautification award from the neighborhood for their efforts.

Everyone feels at ease in the newly rejuvenated surroundings that have been updated one step at a time. “We wanted a home that was comfortable, stylish and relaxing. The longer we live in the house, its character kind of reveals itself,” says Arlene, who gets a lot of positive feedback. “Even kids come to us and say, ‘It’s like a spa in here. It’s so relaxing.’”

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.