Paradise Restored

New owners breathed renewed life into a neglected 1920s bungalow-style home with a rather casual exterior that belies an inner elegance.
Before the makeover, overgrown landscaping concealed the conservatory from view. Now it’s a highlight of the home. Various trees, including Japanese dogwood, provide screening. Photographs by Justin Maconochie

In Pleasant Ridge, merely going for a walk can end in a real-estate deal.

Just one safe block away from their “June Cleaver” colonial, Robert Campbell and Don Daniels had their hearts stolen by a neglected 1920s home dubbed by locals as the “mushroom house” for its distinctive roofline.

“Actually, I’d always admired the house next door [to the mushroom house],” Daniels admits. “This one was in such deteriorated condition.”

But when they heard through the grapevine that the mushroom house was available, they investigated, and their curiosity was rewarded. Behind a tangle of mulberries on one side of the house, they found a lovely conservatory that wasn’t visible from the sidewalk.

Residents in the tiny suburb of just 1,100 homes are known for house hopping. “Many of the people we know are on their second or third [Pleasant Ridge] home,” Daniels says. Campbell counted and found that, indeed, 15 of the 30 homeowners on their block have lived in at least one other Pleasant Ridge home; some are on their third.

In Campbell and Daniels’ case, the move from Poplar Park to Oakland Park put them on a decade-long home-restoration odyssey that, among other things, included a highly detailed, true-to-the-original roof replacement. Through research, they found a Florida-based company that knew how to do a wave-course cedar shingle pattern. “They worked on this roof for seven weeks,” says Daniels, a choral-music director. “We could have bought some rental property for what it cost.”

The distinctive roof earned the home its “mushroom house” nickname.

The painstaking restoration also included adding a master bath (the only actual addition to the original structure). Every window in the house was heat-gun stripped, and the basement was turned into living space with a catering kitchen and Arts and Crafts-style fireplace surround.

“It’s been evolutionary,” Daniels says. “We both wanted to be stewards of the house.” As part of that effort, they gleaned what they could about the home’s history. The original owner built it in the 1920s for his bride, they learned. And the architect was Frederick D. Madison, who designed many public buildings. Interior-designer friends Arturo Sanchez and Barry Harrison (of Art-Harrison Interior Design in Royal Oak) provided a bit of guidance along the way — particularly in the living room.

“There’s a graciousness about the house,” Sanchez says. “It’s so cottage-y outside and so formal inside.”

The exterior appearance — a mix of Arts and Crafts bungalow with hints of Tudor — was aided by a new landscape that emphasized perennials and trees. Campbell, the only male in the Pleasant Ridge garden club, is also a real-estate agent (with Century 21 Town & Country in Birmingham), which makes it appropriate that he helped add curb appeal.

Campbell says they selected the tree varieties they planted based on types once popular in metro Detroit’s older neighborhoods. “If you walk around Boston-Edison and Palmer Woods, there are wonderful beech specimens,” he says. Mostly, Daniels and Campbell based their interior and exterior design choices on what suited their own pleasure, a recipe that has stood the test of time.

“In my profession I’m in so many homes,” Campbell says. “And I always come home feeling good about where I live.