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Ellen Stone turned her tri-level home and surrounding landscape into a personal refuge that’s refreshingly unconventional. Her highly original style comes alive inside and out the ‘60s-era West Bloomfield abode she acquired in 1984, from her funky art-filled interiors to the whimsical garden that spans the expansive property.

Through the years, her artistic outdoor space has taken on a life of its own. “There was nothing here; it was like every house across the street. Now all the plants are growing and they’re giant and I feel like a dwarf,” she says.

After the hardscape and backscape were completed, she had well-known garden designer Judy Partridge do the plant beds, which was an ongoing effort on the almost one-acre lot. As Stone explains, “It’s not formal. Judy creates as she goes along, which really fit this project.”

Partridge also did most of the specimen trees, like the green arrow and tri-color beech varieties. As for ongoing maintenance, all that’s required at this time is the weeding and watering, which Stone handles herself. The lack of grass reduces the workload.

 Art from the heart

A variety of intriguing sculptures made from metal and stone can be found throughout the alluring garden, including works by Joseph Lamontagne and Kelly O’Neill.

Though a 10-foot-tall privacy screen made from recycled items by artist Ron Finch is no longer needed because of the trees that now surround the property, it remains in place.  

Figures are a frequent theme of the artwork found in and around the house. “I like people,” says Stone, who displays the unique pieces in creative ways. 

For a decorative head that once hung inside the home, Joseph Lamontagne found an antique bell to attach as the body. Now it’s become one more colorful character in the garden where Stone often places them in pairs. “I like my people to have mates,” she says.

Outdoor oasis

Ornamental benches that dot the property provide a variety of places to sit and reflect, while a dog-themed vignette with a big bone that says “Best Friend” is among the many attractions that catch your eye while meandering through the glorious garden via winding paver paths.

With a creative soul like Stone, change is constant. Among her tweaks are a pair of rustic chairs in the driveway that once stood at the end of the street where kids would sit to have their pictures taken, and a vintage cart that was inside the home before finding a spot outside. “I couldn’t part with it, so I just put it in the driveway,” she says of the area that is covered by a pergola.

An arresting array of colors, textures and shapes from the landscape and the garden art creates a one-of-a-kind environment. Even Stone’s beloved standard poodle, Zen, seems to appreciate her surroundings as she picks the perfect place to lounge on the grounds.

The garden has become the ultimate retreat for others as well. “I sit out here a lot,” says Stone, who often hosts small gatherings at her home. “People are constantly dropping by to hang out. It’s very informal. A lot of people bring their dogs, so Zen has her friends.”

Some of the garden art was made by Stone. Pieced together with junkyard finds, like car parts that a friend secures with nuts and bolts, her quirky sculptures include those she calls her “Muffler” series.  

One of her clever creations features an old propane tank as the base and miscellaneous parts for the face. Many of the scraps she has come from Haggerty Metals in Plymouth.

“A friend says I have a knack for putting things together. Sometimes they don’t fit and I put them together anyway,” she says. “I find pieces that don’t belong together and make it work. To me, it’s like Legos.”

Blank canvas

Stone, who works as a psychotherapist, also took up painting eight years ago. “I never had a lesson,” she says about her outsider art. “I had no expectations, so I would just start out and see how it goes.”

She has since sold a number of her primitive works, many of which are substantially larger than her petite frame. “I wasn’t successful at first, but my friends were encouraging and every now and then something sold,” says Stone who shows her paintings at Le Shoppe Too in Keego Harbor and That’s It! Gallery, a pop-up spot.

Her creative process takes place in her garage, which is currently filled with recent pieces including the intriguing portraits in her “We the Peoples” series. Stone also did most of the paintings inside her home with a few exceptions, like the works by Peter Max and  Joan Miró.

Throughout her interiors, a vivid mix of furnishings defines inviting seating areas that have been reconfigured a number of times. “There were so many renditions and there are relics that I don’t want to give up, so I find a place for them,” she says.

Works by ceramicist Kaiser Suidan line the walls, while ottomans from the Farber Soul Center in West Bloomfield for adults with special needs contribute to the eclectic setting. The intentional absence of window treatments lets the ample panes capture snapshots from the garden.

Recent renovations include the kitchen along with the wood walls in the great room and the greenish-gray paint  that brings nature indoors. Wire attached to some walls creates a unique backdrop. “I ran out of paint colors and textures,” says Stone. “I didn’t know what to do, but it was a good fix.”

Affordable finds from Home Goods can be found around the house while flexible pieces include the Lovesac sectional that can be arranged in different ways. A vintage Asian daybed near the entry offers a great place to recline. “I’m old. I have to lie down,” says Stone. “I like to stretch out and I want my guests to stretch out.”

Upstairs, two of the three bedrooms became one for more of a suite effect. “I’ve gotten rid of many of my closets,” she says. “Now I have to get rid of some clothes.”

After so many renditions, “I get what I like and it goes,” says Stone who believes a home is tied to our identity. “I think a personal space is really important. It increases your mental health. They say your body is a temple, so is the place you live.” 

As she explains, “Everybody should focus on their space. It doesn’t have to be expensive. People can incorporate their own projects into their living space.”

Stone has obviously found her happy place in the process. “I have privacy and it’s peaceful,” she says. “It’s my own world.”

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

 

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