Paul Feiten shares style on first MDC designers tour

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Bloomfield Hills interior designer Paul Feiten’s vast art collection spans styles and genres, but like all collections it had to start somewhere.

“I remember saving money up, and I think I was probably 14, and I bought what I thought was the coolest thing at Pier 1 Imports and I had it framed up,” says Feiten with a laugh. “I think I still have it.”

Today, Feiten’s collection inside his 4,500-square-foot French-style home includes everything from large prints from a Thailand antique store to a heavy iron horse from Baker Knapp & Tubbs at the Michigan Design Center.

It’s also very personal. On a bookshelf in his family room are a pair of riding boots from his partner Frank Coppola’s father, who was a jockey.

“My whole life I’ve been collecting things,” says Feiten.

And on Sept. 17, Feiten will show off those collections when he opens his home on the Michigan Design Center’s inaugural Designers’ Own Homes Home Tour.

The first of its kind, this self-guided tour will offer visitors a rare chance to peek inside the homes of five local interior designers who live in Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills. Along with Feiten, other featured homes – which range from a Colonial Revival to an East Coastal – will include Jeffrey King of Jeffrey King Interiors, Barry Harrison of Harrison Interiors, Michael Coyne of Michael Coyne Design and Joseph Keenan of Joseph A. Keenan & Associates. Proceeds from the tour will go to Pontiac-based Humble Design (see box for details).

Design center general manager Susan Todebush says she and her team have been working to put this unique tour together for two years and they hope to present a new one every year. She says when professionals design for clients, “the goal is to reflect the client’s taste and lifestyle.”

But “in their own homes, they are free to express their own tastes and display their own interests,” says Todebush in an email. “These five designers have homes that beautifully reflect their personal design aesthetic – and each home is different from the rest.”

And hopefully visitors will walk away with ideas for their own homes, says Todebush. The designers will be on site at each home on the tour, which doesn’t happen often at other tours.

Visitors “will come away with new ideas to customize areas in their own homes, and they will have the opportunity to ask the designers questions about why and how they designed their homes the way they did,” says Todebush.

From Feiten, people will see a mix of styles, colors and art – all in a five-bedroom, four-bath house Feiten actually wasn’t sure about when he first saw it more than 14 years ago. Previously a resident of Lathrup Village but looking for more room, Feiten says he was actually turned off by his future home with its mansard roof when he first saw it.

“I thought it was too big and pompous-looking because it was really Frenchy,” said Feiten, who’d been living in an English Tudor with Coppola but wanted more space. “It was too much. I was really turned off. I said no, no, no.”

But after looking at other houses, he came back to the Frenchy house. “Eventually it was the floor plan that got me,” he says.

Over the last decade, he and Coppola have made it their own, redoing nearly everything from moldings in every room to custom window treatments.

And it’s a perfect floor plan for entertaining, which Feiten and Coppola do all the time. The spacious, elegant foyer is flanked by a formal living room on one side and the dining room on the other. The living room entrance is marked by two columns that make a statement.

A remodeled bar area separates the formal living room from the family room and keeps guests from flocking to the kitchen during parties.

“People walk in, we bring them down to the bar and they’re kind of locked in here,” says Feiten. “Nobody stays in the kitchen.”

Feiten mixes styles and colors throughout his house. His dining room is a warm raisin brown, which contrasts beautifully with the white moldings.

When it comes to mixing art and decor, Feiten says, “Don’t buy to match it to your interior,” Feiten says. “It should provoke an emotion before anything.”

A large painting in his dining room, for example, is from a student at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies.

“That provokes,” he says.

And his art is constantly changing. One oil painting in his family room is from the estate of Monsignor E. J. Hickey, who collected art from emerging Detroit artists. And in the dining room are vintage organ pipes from deceased interior designer Brian Killian’s estate. Feiten mounted the pipes on a base.

Throughout his decor, Feiten’s style is all about taking chances and creating drama. In the dining room, the walls are covered in raisin-hued textured wallpaper.

The style “is strong, it’s not shy,” Feiten says. “It’s about confidence.”

The biggest changes Feiten made are upstairs off the master bedroom, where he and Cuppola converted a connected sunroom into a stunning master bathroom. It has a walk-in shower, tons of marble and a floating mirror that separates the vanity.

“Is that drama or what?” says Feiten, who had to hire an architect and install an I-beam to create the bathroom.

Outside, the drama continues. In a backyard that was once so overgrown that you couldn’t see the in-ground pool, it’s now another entertaining area with the pool; a folly, or special cabana, with a cedar-shake roof; outdoor sculptures; and perfectly manicured flower beds. The folly has columns that tie in with the columns in the living room.

When it comes to decorating your own home and finding a starting point, again, it’s about emotion, says Feiten.

“Grab anything that you’re attached to with emotion and build from there,” he says. Even if it’s a Pier 1 Imports painting.

(313) 223-4686

Designers’ Own Homes Tour

¦10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 17

¦ Presented by the Michigan Design Center, tickets are $35 for one or $60 for two. They can be purchased at the design center, 1700 Stutz Drive, Suite 25 in Troy. Or online by Sept. 6 at

¦ Proceeds benefit Pontiac’s Humble Design, which helps families transitioning out of homeless shelters or other transitional housing.

¦ Call (248) 649-4772.