Young family gives 100-year-old Indian Village home a modern, fresh look

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Plotting out the decor for her family's new home in Detroit's beloved Indian Village, interior designer Erica Harrison knew what she didn't want: a house chock-full of period-appropriate antiques.

Yes, the family's new home was a century old but Harrison, the principal designer of Hudson & Sterling, a firm named after her two young sons, wanted to create a space that was fun, modern and reflective of their style. She and her husband, Travis, love antiques but they wanted them artfully blended into the decor.

"When you buy these old homes the antiquity kind of takes over everything," said Harrison. "And I wanted to be able to modernize antiquity and make it feel modern and relevant and young. That was really important to my husband and I that the house felt young and it felt like us."

And the family's home, which will be featured on this year's Historic Indian Village Home and Garden Tour June 8-9 (see below for details), does feel young. It's also fun and sophisticated at the same time.

There's a surfboard perched above 7-month-old Sterling's crib -- a real longboard that Travis, a Texan who also lived for a bit in California, used. The master bedroom is painted a moody purple hue. And the first floor solarium begs you to sit down and have a cocktail with its super fun botanical wallpaper from House of Hackney. 

Botanicals and birds -- Erica loves both -- actually are woven throughout the decor. There's even a taxidermy falcon perched in the butler's pantry and an owl in the first floor powder room. And the solarium has an antique French bird cage that Erica restored and painted. 

"It just has a very whimsical feeling," said Harrison.

The solarium in Erica and Travis Harrison's home in Detroit's Indian Village neighborhood features a sophisticated botanical wallpaper from House of Hackney. The trim is painted a custom shade of green created by Benjamin Moore, taken from a paint chip from an old building in Detroit that Erica fell in love with.

Throughout the 4,500-square-foot house, Erica’s background in fashion — she has an art degree from Parsons in New York and worked for both Ralph Lauren and J. Crew — shines through. For Ralph Lauren, she did concept design, creating entire interior spaces that would be used as inspiration for a collection. 

That’s influenced how she designs now. 

“I start with a story because I want to give you a specific feel, a hominess,” says Erica, who grew up in Grosse Pointe Woods but lived in New York for 15 years before a new job for Travis at Shinola brought the couple to Detroit. “...It’s all about the environment, and texture and making it a story.”

Aside from embracing texture throughout her designs, Harrison also doesn't shy away from color. The living room is painted Behr's Iron Mountain. And the dining room is painted a bold blue hue, from ceiling to trim.

"I found this beautiful old picture of this English countryside home and it had a massive wall of velvet that was this color and I became obsessed with it," said Harrison.   "...I just wanted to encase it in blue." 

Where Harrison’s design acumen also really shines is in her sons’ bedrooms. Both have a cool, modern feel with layered rugs, unique art and vintage textiles. Aside from the surfboard perched in Sterling’s room, which also doubles as a play room with a small slide in the corner, it’s surrounded by a colorful mix of art.

In 2-year-old Hudson’s room is a teepee, a massive collection of books and original art and lithographs.

“I just wanted to make sure he was surrounded by art because art is so important,” said Erica.

And while they didn't want the house filled with antiques, she and Travis didn't shy away from them either. Erica loves combing antique markets -- her favorites are Brimfield Antique Market in Massachusetts and the Round Top Antiques Fair in Texas. She also scours websites like eBay and for unique finds. She even scored the solarium's bamboo chairs at a garage sale.

"They had bright yellow fabric with rainbows," said Erica. "We refinished them with this black glossy paint and recovered them."

Design is about creating an entire environment in your home, says Erica.

“A room should be a conversation,” she said.

Historic Indian Village Home & Garden Tour

Six homes built between 1895 and 1920 will be on this year's tour, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 8 and 12:30-5:30 p.m. June 9. Tickets are $22.50 in advance or $25 the day of the tour. Go to or call (313) 922-1736.

Twitter: @mfeighan