More is more: 1963 California modern in Southfield has groovy, retro style
More is more in Kelly and Dean Elliott's 1963 California modern home in Southfield that oozes a 1970s charm that was ahead of its time.
That means layered kiln rugs in the sunken living room, a splitstone fireplace facade that stretches to the ceiling in the family room, and a kitchen with original Formica countertops and built-in banquette that looks like it's right out the "Brady Bunch" neighborhood. The couple is only the third owners of the house and many of its original details are intact.
"We call it the 'Clockwork Orange' Brady Bunch house," says Kelly.
In some ways, the Elliotts -- who also have a 3-year-old son, Mick, along with two dogs and two cats -- were destined for their future home. Kelly, 44, is in a Led Zepplin tribute band. And Dean, 52, co-owned the punk club in Hamtramck in 90s while he was in law school.
Today, the couple co-owns Bowlero Lanes & Lounge in Royal Oak, the 1950s bowling alley that they've given a complete makeover in a similar retro style. Kelly says their house was good practice for Bowlero's big renovation.
"When you have your own home, doing decor is a process that can happen over time," said Kelly. "For me, whenever I've had a design challenge here I'll try different things. I'll get new art and that'll inspire me to change things. Sometimes when I have a challenge, I'll wake up in the morning and a solution will come in a dream. That's happened also with Bowlero."
Kelly's love of 70s chic dates back to her childhood. She remembers going to garage sales, auctions and estate sales with her mom. She loved the homes of friends with the bright 70s colors and retro kitchens.
"I loved it," said Kelly, who worked for years as a school psychologist. "I felt like it looked it was almost more for kids. I loved the mid-century color blocking. It just appealed to me. It was something I was drawn to. I remember friends' homes that had stuff like this and I was like, 'I want to hang out there."
No wonder the couple, who previously lived in Ferndale, started looking for a home that they wanted a mid-century house with some original details in place.
But when they first saw their future home in 2007, as much as they loved it, they had reservations. In Ferndale, they rode their bikes all the time to restaurants and bars downtown. They worried about losing that in Southfield.
Kelly said it wasn't until a trip to Italy when she saw travertine floors -- which her home also has -- that she realized they needed to make a move on the house. She worried someone else would try to wipe away the house's cool original features.
"I was like, 'That house has travertine marble,'" she remembers. "Something in my mind just clicked."
Ahead of its time
The house was constructed in 1963 by a developer who built it for his own family. And many of its features were quite modern for the times and unusual for the Midwest.
Bone walls -- or light-diffusing walls made of plastic by artist Richard Harvey -- in the living room allow light to pass through the house. Kelly says the walls aren't uncommon for a place like Palm Springs or Spain.
"The idea is you're diffusing the sunlight and you're also creating a way for the breeze to come through," said Kelly.
The dining room, meanwhile, has original grasscloth wallpaper. And the kitchen is nearly identical to how it was originally with a groovy built-in banquette and retro stove.
The couple's decor, meanwhile, brings the house to another level. Much of the furniture is from estate sales. In the living room, which also acts as a music room, there are two drum sets (one is for Mick) and a piano where the family sometimes hosts jam sessions with friends.
In fact, some of the only new furniture in the house is in the living room, a bold orange Ligne Roset Togo sofa and chair, which blends perfectly with the house's retro vibe.
One of the house's standout features is a mirrored wall just off the foyer covered with hundreds of mirrors by artist John Leslie. It stretches from floor-to-ceiling with an intricate pattern. The mirrors are on an aluminum band and the circular mirrors are at different angles.
Kelly and Dean hire a specialist to clean the mirrors because there are so many.
"He will come and spend a whole afternoon doing just this," said Kelly.
Aside from the funky furniture, much of which came from antique stores and estate sales, the couple's art really stands out.
Some of it is from friends. Some is from art shows. There are several small drink posters that they got from famed Detroit weatherman Sonny Eliot's estate sale.
And Kelly is constantly changing things up. Her decor isn't permanent. She moves it around, changing things, adding some seasonal touches.
"I always say to people, 'When you come over this time,...' There are a few pieces that I don't move. But the little stuff around it I change it to keep it fresh. And it forces me to clean."
And Kelly often stops by some of her favorite antique stores -- Knightsbridge in Farmington, Oddfellows in Berkley and Vogue Vintage in Ferndale -- just to check in and see what she'll fine.
Kelly was talking to a friend recently, also a mid-century modern fan, about a movement to keep original details in place in homes. She said there's something timeless about keeping the original aesthetic.
"It's true to the design," said Kelly. "I like things with more character. I like things that are older, even if there's a little damage. I feel like that's patina."
Brunch at Bowlero
The Detroit Art Deco Society will hold "Brunch at Bowlero" from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sunday where Kelly Elliott will share her and Dean's journey to restore, transform and decorate this iconic bowling facility at the alley itself, 4209 Coolidge in Royal Oak. Tickets are $30. Go to https://www.facebook.com/DetroitDeco/ and click on "Events."