Aged Gracefully

A warm home that had weathered seven decades provided a cozy harbor for a family looking to settle into a comfortable Midwestern dwelling
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Seeking a cozy, older home, Patti and Randy Balhorn settled on a 1930s-era house near Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills. The cottage-style residence has a partially stone exterior and low interior ceilings, which create intimacy. Photographs by Joe Vaughn

Patti and Randy Balhorn have lived a life on the move. Randy’s career has taken them to Connecticut, Houston, Kansas, and England. Seven years ago, when it came time to pack up and move back across the Atlantic, Patti wanted an experience they hadn’t had in their residential adventures: a house that wasn’t new.

She had begun collecting antiques in her 30s. And her husband loved vintage grandfather clocks. So they already had the proper furnishings, just not the matching home.

“I’d always wanted to live in an old stone house,” Patti says. With that mindset, they began looking and found a house near Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills. “This is partly stone, and it has so much charm,” Patti says. “It’s very inviting and warm and cozy.”

When friends visit, they gravitate to the kitchen and tiny coffee bar. “People say all the time that it has such a warm feeling,” Patti says. “It doesn’t have high ceilings, and the antiques add to the warmth.”

One thing the couple did not want, however, was the often stuffy, dark, cluttered look that can go along with old and antique. When they bought their current home, they immediately stripped the wallpaper, which was in nearly every room. They left most main-floor windows bare, as well. And they painted the walls in a range of brown to cream tones.

Today, the home’s interior is as sleek as Patti’s runner’s physique, which is enviably lean, thanks to her habit of logging four to five miles daily. Although she says their huge stock of antiques, acquired during their almost four years abroad, could nearly furnish another home, their own interior is surprisingly uncluttered. “I keep a lot in storage, and then I change things around,” she says. “I don’t like too much out. I don’t think you have the appreciation when there’s so much.”

Patti does indulge in the restrained display of her collection of antique peppermills, which she began amassing 11 years ago. “I had gotten a magazine, The English Home, and read an article about a woman who collected them,” Patti says. “I saved the article and, when we moved to England, I thought it was something I could do.

“One of my favorites is a brass champagne bottle. I’m sure it was used as an advertising promotion. It’s from the 1920s or ’30s and is French.”
When Martha Stewart was in Birmingham for a book signing at Borders last December, Patti took a few samples to show to Stewart. Patti is now in touch with Martha Stewart Living collections director, Fritz Karch.

When shopping for her own collection, Patti likes Classic Country Antiques, DeDe and Jim Taylor, and Cleon Chase (all in Birmingham), Detroit Garden Works in Sylvan Lake, the Ann Arbor (Saline) Antiques Market, and Judy Frankel/Antiques Centre of Troy. Online, she scouts 1stdibs.com and rubylane.com.

She also shops European auctions online, though the shipping from France of her last peppermill purchase was a disaster she’d rather not discuss.

Things happen in transit, which may help explain why she’d rather not move again.

Clockwise from top left: In the family room, a grandfather clock, circa 1820s, was an 11th-hour purchase made literally as the family was packing up to leave England, where they lived for a while. Two of the three Balhorn daughters, Gina (standing) and Nicole. The coffee table was cut down from its original height and includes a sliding top that conceals storage beneath. A detail of the peppermill collection includes Patti’s favorite champagne-bottle shape. In the living room, built-in shelving flanking the entrance to the home office displays a collection of antique baskets, circa 1860-1880. Several baskets are leather-handled German and French that were originally used as purses. Randy Balhorn is pictured seated. A patio on the south side of the 1937 home was enclosed to make an airy office. Climbing, white-flowering hydrangea vines flourish on the property. French doors lead to original stone steps. The home has nine sets of French doors.

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