Homeowner renovating downtown Farmington charmer
Christina Clark is a woman on a mission. Though it’s been only a few years since she found the perfect house in downtown Farmington, the interior designer has already tackled more home improvement projects than most people do in a lifetime and she’s done much of the work herself.
“I fell in love with my house the first moment I saw it,” says Clark about the 1,150-square-foot Colonial Revival built in 1941. “I love the character of it; I love the creaky floors and the solid wood doors with the original glass knobs.”
With her projects, such as the dining room and bathroom remodels that look like they could have been there originally, she honors the history of the house while also looking ahead. “The kitchen has a more transitional look with the classic subway tile pattern with a more updated feel of the larger tiles, and the more modern look of the open shelves,” she says.
The curb appeal is apparent with a quintessential white picket fence that was made and painted by the talented and determined homeowner who also built the deck out back, painted the detached garage and made a raised garden bed enclosure to protect her vegetables.
Full speed ahead
Clark's house is proof of what she can do. In the kitchen, Clark removed the upper cabinets and painted the remaining units black. She also made the shelves and installed them along with the subway tile. The marble countertop installation is the only part she didn’t do herself.
In the dining room, Clark installed the board and batten walls, a challenging task that came with a tight deadline. “I started it a week before my son’s high school graduation party, but I did it,” she says. “It was a very labor-intensive project.”
Her sweat equity creates a classic backdrop for the other elements in the space, like an old drafting table from Lawrence Tech in Southfield that has character from years of wear and tear. A vintage metal cart that once held office equipment for the Sisters of Mercy in Farmington Hills became a bar cart. It even has a slide-out tray.
The green paint Clark chose for the upper portion of the dining room walls is slightly lighter than the living room. “Green is my favorite color,” she says. “I was born in May and emerald is my birthstone.”
In the living room, some of the pumpkins on the mantel were made by her mom who lives nearby, while a few others were made by Clark, who lives with her son, a college student. Here, Clark hosts a potluck-style monthly art group for fun projects like drilling rocks from Lake Michigan to make pendants.
The vintage Squirt soda crate was purchased from a vendor at the Farmington Farmers Market by Clark, who grew up in Farmington Hills and knew where she wanted to live: “I love the small community feel of Downtown Farmington. I love that I can walk into town for the farmers market and other community events.” She also makes an effort to support the local restaurants and retailers.
The living room also sports black-and-white striped drapes that pack a visual punch along the green walls. When Clark couldn’t find the right fabric, she had her mom sew two together for a striking look with a graphic quality.
In addition to her work as an interior designer, Clark does freelance graphic design on the side. In fact, she earned four degrees from Oakland Community College, including interior design and graphic design, and she also became a certified event planner through Schoolcraft College.
Michelle Pergeau-Dudgeon, interior design faculty and interior design program coordinator for Oakland Community College isn’t surprised by Clark’s motivation and success. “When you love what you do, you make it happen,” she says.
“Good design has to be right and left brain. It can’t just be creative,” adds Pergeau-Dudgeon. “Christina is very good at looking at a situation objectively and she is very professional. I was lucky to have her as a student and we’re blessed to have her as a representative of the program.”
Hard at work
Recently, Clark renovated the only bathroom in the house, which was completed in two weeks. Now it sports a new floor, subway tile, sink, vanity and lighting. She says the teal shade on the walls is the most flattering color for all skin tones.
She also painted three IKEA dressers in the master bedroom and added some bling with rhinestone hardware from Amazon. “This is the most girly bedroom I’ve ever had,” says Clark, who chose a soft pink paint for the walls. “I wanted it to feel light and airy.”
The upholstered headboard, which is flanked by bedside lights from Restoration Hardware, is another one of her creations. Clark gets her DIY skills from her creative family and from being self-taught. “I read a lot and research,” she says.
Recycled damask wallpaper from a staircase in her previous home now hangs in her master bedroom closet for an unexpected touch. “I’m a saver and I’m thrifty,” says Clark, who scored the vintage waterfall veneer bed that likely dates to the 1940s for $8 at the Governor Warner Mansion Flea Market Fundraiser during the Founders Festival in Farmington.
In the guestroom, on the nightstand from Home Goods that she spray-painted blue, sit paperweights Clark made at Dearborn’s Glass Academy along with decorative homes from Lithuania that speak to her heritage found at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago.
It seems that Clark and her freshly renovated residence were meant to be together. As she recalls, in 2015 she had already seen around 20 homes when she had to take a break. “I was getting ready to go to Europe with my son, so there was no point in looking at houses and falling for one,” she says. When her mom sent her this listing, Clark thought she had already seen it because the street name was similar to another property. Realizing she hadn’t been there, she had to act fast.
“We literally stood in the driveway and I knew that I would buy this home before seeing the inside,” she says. “It’s the stereotypical house that a 7-year-old would draw; a square house with a door in the middle. I said, ‘That is the home,’ and now I have my white picket fence.”
Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.