Grosse Pointe Farms interior designer mixes classic and contemporary in 1930s Colonial

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

The pink and green had to go. That was one of the first things interior designer Jeanine Haith remembers thinking when she saw the “very Lilly Pulitzer” living and dining room in the classic Grosse Pointe Farms Colonial that would become her home

“They were not my colors at all,” she says of the bright pink and Kelly green palette. She decided the 3,400-square-foot, four-bedroom home was the one despite the color scheme. “I knew the minute I walked in that the bones were great and it was something I could work with…it was everything we wanted.”

An antique piano adds a focal point to the inviting living room, which is situated at the front of the house and looks out over the street.

She and her husband, Ross, had been renovating an 1899 Indian Village home but were looking to downsize when they discovered the home in 2010. One of the things she loved about the 1932 house, besides its floor plan and possibilities, was that each of the bedrooms had a private bath.

 “I like classic and traditional, but I like to keep it fresh,” she explains. In fact, she describes her home as “classic, but with a modern flair.”

That becomes quickly apparent touring the center entrance Colonial decorated in neutrals with punches of the designer’s favorite colors – black, green and yellow – to add life. “I wanted timeless, ageless, rich and elegant,” she explains of her goal when decorating. An unabashed collector, she admits to a weakness for lamps, glass and boxes. “I’m constantly acquiring and adopting things and I wanted the spaces to be neutral enough to be able to add things and show things off.”

Her main weakness, she admits, is lamps. “Every room has a lamp,” she says with a laugh. “Even the bathroom and the kitchen. I like soft light, you won’t find a lot of overheads. Lamps tell a story and bring a level of personality and character to a space.” She also has a soft spot for jade, glass and fish motifs and a weakness for vintage posters and Pablo Picasso, all of which can be found in the house. “I have a little bit of everything and can’t resist anything that’s beautiful and classic,” she explains. “I love the thrill of the hunt.”

She displays her collections in deftly arranged vignettes. “I try to pair vintage things with eclectic and funky fabrics,” she further explains of her style, which also features an abundance of original art. “I like one-of-a-kind pieces,” she admits. A good example is the dramatic piece by Belgian painter Auguste Mambour featured in the library at the back of the house, which also features an original 1920s French advertising poster featuring Josephine Baker. “It was a gift from my husband,” she says.

Smaller examples can be found throughout.  The designer works with dealers in Indiana, Atlanta and Florida, she says. “I’m supposed to be buying for clients but always seem to buy for myself too,” she says with a laugh. “I have a great network of dealers I now call friends.”

The fact that the house had good bones meant the Haiths were able to renovate with minimal construction. They kept the kitchen’s footprint, updating the space with new cabinets and countertops. “The white cabinets are a safe bet but we wanted something that reflected me yet would still be marketable if we ever sold.” On the other hand, the raw silk shades and draperies were anything but safe. “My husband thought I was crazy,” she says of her choice.

Haith grew up in tradition-rich Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and met her husband at Ford, where she worked for 18 years in marketing. Long interested in interior design, people began asking her for advice and help with their houses, she says. She began taking classes at night and was encouraged by the architect who she worked with on the Indian Village house and a designer friend to strike out on her own. She took an executive buyout from Ford in 2007 and opened ShowHouse Interiors in 2008.

She operated a retail store in Grosse Pointe Woods until 2012. “I’ve always loved visiting show houses and always thought I’d love to buy the items from the show…the concept for the store was to create our own show house experience but make it a shopping destination. Our mission was to create room vignettes with one of a kind pieces.

“We created room themes two or four times a year. Every season we had a new show house unveiling. People loved the store and demand for one-on-one design services outpaced the retail traffic.” She decided to relocate to a design studio and the name stuck, she says, adding that her goal still is “to create livable spaces that people love to live in and be inspired by… a private show house for each to client to enjoy with their family and friends.” The studio has also participated in five Junior League show houses in the past decade.

Haith’s home, she says, has been built over time and is a true reflection of who she is. Before decorating, spend a little time getting to know yourself and your home, she counsels. “Take your time and find your voice, be practical in how you live but at the same time don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. Try to identify what you are passionate about it and use that to build your story and your home.”

Above all, “don’t chase what’s in the catalogs,” she says. “Figure out how you want to live and what you treasure. I like sophisticated versus flashy, refined versus trendy.”

Almost a decade after buying the house, Haith says she’s still not done with the decorating. “I’m constantly fussing and changing and moving things around,” she says. “My home is constantly evolving.”

Just call it an occupational hazard.

You can reach columnist Khristi Zimmeth @