Ambassador Magazine – A Touch of History (August 2015)

photos: Brad Ziegler

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Most interior designers have at least one meet-and-greet before signing on to a project, but Byron Foster, a corporate executive, and his wife, Celia, were living in Germany while planning their return to the United States.

Though they already had a builder on board for their home in Ann Arbor, they needed help with the interiors. An online search led them to Corey Damen Jenkins on and the impressive roster of projects on his website.

The principal of Corey Damen Jenkins & Associates in Birmingham, Jenkins was thrilled to discuss the couple’s new residence, which sits on a golf course. The former ranch on the property was removed with the exception of a wing that housed the former master bedroom. While abroad, the couple emailed the designer to go over the scope of the project. They retained Jenkins to make their traditional Old World vision a reality in a relatively short period of time.

“Fortunately with technology and communication tools, there was no problem going over the process and discussing their needs while living in two different countries,” Jenkins says. “By the time they arrived home, we were able to hit the ground running. It was a very smooth process, considering the initial footwork was done outside the U.S. I had never been hired sight unseen. It was a great honor for them to trust my work.”

Though the remaining wing of the original ’50s-style ranch would be reconfigured for the children, the house had a flat roof that didn’t suit their style.“It was about tearing down 75 percent and building up 75 percent, and resurfacing the old wing to match the new house,” Jenkins explains.“The new roof makes it a much taller house, but it is still a ranch

with a lower-level walkout.”
The living room fireplace in the roughly 6,000-square-foot

residence also remained intact. Everything else is custom.“That’s the beauty of new construction. You get to create what you want,” he says. “Their goal was to have a home that is warm, comfortable and spacious, but still feels somewhat intimate. They wanted to entertain in a house where you can have a large party and still feel cozy when everyone goes home.”

That’s no easy feat with 15-foot ceilings.“The color scheme really comes into play. It’s a very traditional mix of dark coral, terracotta, cream, chocolate and a little bit of olive mixed in,”Jenkins says.“Celia loves warm earth tones. In the winter because of the golf course it’s surrounded by snow, so we wanted to make sure that it still felt warm and cozy. We looked at Tuscany and the Old World Italian lifestyle inspired by their travels.”

Conversation nooks covered in tufted, glazed linen in the great room let people sit side by side to have their own separate talks or be a part of the main conversation.“There was a lot of negative space. We could have put bookshelves there, but they needed extra seating,”Jenkins says. The designer had done the same concept for HGTV’s Showhouse Showdown and his clients liked what they saw.

A lantern chandelier in the great room was one of first pieces they purchased.“We needed a bold fixture that made a great statement. It really set the tone,”he says.“It doesn’t give off a lot of light, but there are recessed lights, lamps and sconces in the room.”

Skylights accent the back of the home in the great room, kitchen and breakfast nook. Celia, a trained landscape architect, has an amazing

green thumb, Jenkins says.“She wanted to bring elements of the exterior inside,”he adds.“She has a lot of plants in the house.”

A wrought-iron console that the couple already owned holds some of her greenery near the windows. Custom pieces blend effortlessly with existing belongings.“Some of the best designs happen when people have what they love. That’s fun for me to take their furniture and art and make it play a new role,”Jenkins says.

The sofa and chairs in the great room are among the furnishings designed by Jenkins and custom-made by his manufacturer.“They really do have something no one else has. I have complete joy in doing that,”he says, noting a rug that belonged to the couple informed his fabric selections.

A mirror on the mantel is layered with art and other objects. Some of the items they already had, and it was a matter of mixing and matching old and new, like the candlesticks on the table.“She has great taste,”Jenkins says.

The decorative columns on the fireplace are antique along with the doors throughout the home that were salvaged from old buildings.“They give the house a historical feel,”he adds.

The antique doors at the entry are from an old church.“We restored them and added some glass. It was a lot of work, but they made a great impact,” Jenkins says. Porcelain tile floors in the foyer join salvaged beams and lantern sconces. A series of pillars and arches frame the entrance to the great room.

Even though the kitchen is new, they wanted it to feel like it had been there forever. This was done with distressed hardwood plank floors and custom cabinets in a mix of cream, black and dark walnut.“Not only are the colors different, but also the profile of the cabinet doors and the hardware,” Jenkins says.“It makes it feel as if the house was cobbled together over time.”

The cabinets were hand-scraped and distressed to appear aged, like the antique door to the pantry. Faux finishes, like the textured walls in the kitchen, were done by Barbara Johnson from The Walls of Virtue in Southfield. Velvet barstools surround the bar area that features a pair of stationary lamps in an unlikely location.

“Light plays a huge role in any project.You can bring it to a more intimate eye level with the placement,”Jenkins says.“The lamps were wired and stationed on the counter, and we ran the electrical into the cabinets. It brings that living-room feel and makes it feel like less of a utility space to produce food.”

In the breakfast nook, the window treatments from the great room continue with the pleated valance in the same fabric as the conversation nooks. Here, existing chairs are paired with a new table.“The fabric on the chairs led to the window treatments. It all came together in a very seamless way,”Jenkins says.

This view of the double-sided fireplace features built-in bookcases and a seating area. An elegant chandelier hangs from a colorful dome in the cozy spot to watch TV or have a cup of tea. The intimate dining room blends the homeowners’ furniture with new lighting and art. Color comes from the plants and the faux-painted walls, while salvaged beams add charm.

“When they entertain for the holidays, they utilize the entire house,”says Jenkins, who enjoyed the experience as much as the outcome. “It was fun having the chance to bond with the couple and to create a home in a style that’s normally found in another part of the world. To have distance between you and to see it come together so seamlessly is a real joy.” — Jeanine Matlow


Jeanie Matlow. “A Touch of History.” Ambassador Magazine. 1 August 2015: 62-63. Print.