Modern Makeover: A West Bloomfield Township Home Transformed

A 1980s West Bloomfield Township lake house is transformed into a home blending casual and sophisticated elements, capitalizing on the extensive views of the water and offering flexible space for entertaining // Photographs by Martin Vecchio
Because the living room has expansive lake vistas, furniture is low-profile and streamlined, yet strong enough to draw the eye back in from the view, architect Mark Johnson says. The main level of the home was designed to be suitable for sophisticated entertaining. Furnishings include a vintage late-1940s cocktail table in the style of Donald Deskey. Johnson had the owners’ bronze sea-turtle sculpture encased in a smoked-glass shadow-box. Upholstery includes green silk velvet and indoor-outdoor purple acrylic. // Photographs by Martin Vecchio

Lake houses have an inherently casual nature. They’re the sidekick to a large water playground and the launching point for swimming, boating, and barbecues.

So how to blend that purpose with more formal uses?

Architect Mark Johnson addressed that dual need when he helped a West Bloomfield Township couple update their lakeside home. The homeowners had considered a move away from the water and closer to their offices, but the “lure of the lake,” as Johnson puts it, won out.

Once the couple, who have college-age children, decided to remain in their two-story house with a basement walkout, they wanted to make it conducive for casual family parties while giving it a more sophisticated look for entertaining professionally.

It “needed some love,” Johnson says. “It was well-maintained but needed updating.” The project involved new windows and taking about 30 percent of the house down to the studs. Structural changes included taking over one bedroom to create a large master closet. To freshen the décor, Johnson gave all the yellowy oak millwork a gray finish to make it fade into the background.

Once the moldings and cabinetry were toned down, the furnishings could be “dialed up,” Johnson says. “I pushed it in terms of color. We were able to take a bold-pattern carpet and put it with bold color in the sunroom. We used a lot of blocks of color. Purple. Yellow.”

The décor plan itself is also “blocked” in that the main and second floors and lake level have different looks and uses.

All the furniture on the lower level is upholstered in Sunbrella fabrics, making the pieces durable for summer entertaining. Johnson treated the walkout basement as the home’s casual entertaining space with two televisions, a bar, and pool table.

“Upstairs [on the main floor], they can do holiday and business entertaining,” he says. The design challenge was how to work within a setting with so many windows and a sparkling blue horizon beyond. “We wanted the furnishings to have clean silhouettes with a low-profile, streamlined look,” Johnson says. “The strong architectural shapes draw your eye back in from the view.”

Color is nearly absent in the second-floor master suite, where, Johnson says, our goal was to have the furniture designed for a floating effect.” Custom furnishings include a “topless canopy” bed, a four-poster with a canopy frame. “We created a bit of a room within a room but didn’t interrupt the view,” Johnson says. “The bed does float. It doesn’t engage any walls.”

That airy setting puts a sunny top on a residential layer cake, of sorts, each floor with a different flavor that offers a taste of the good life at the end of a day’s commute.

“Should I stay or should I go”

As the 1980s lyrics popularly asked, could be a homeowner anthem. Today, TV calls the residential version of that debate Love It or List It.

Pleasant Ridge-based architect Mark Johnson suggests weighing these factors when considering that age-old domestic dilemma:

“Start with the fundamental elements: Do you have a livable floor plan? Is sunlight in the places you’re going to be in at the time of day you want to be there? Do you have a view, even of a yard? If the answers to those questions are yes, you should stay, Johnson says.

In dealing with various issues in your existing home, Johnson says, “There’s a world of minor and mid-range interventions.”

Mark Johnson & Associates, Pleasant Ridge; 248-543-5411,