A Closer Look at a Midcentury-Modern Home in the Woods

The owner of Vogue Furniture and his wife ditched their Birmingham townhouse for a midcentury-modern house in Huntington Woods.
Renovated in a year: Built in 1950, this home underwent an extensive renovation while still maintaining its midcentury charm. // Photograph by Steve Kroodsma

When you know it, you know it. That’s how Greg Bartelt felt when he first laid eyes on the home in which he now lives.

Nearly three years ago, Bartelt saw a real estate listing for a midcentury-modern home in Huntington Woods. “It was a Friday; we looked at it Saturday and closed the deal Sunday night.” Bartelt fell in love with modern design many years ago when attending Whitman Junior High School in Livonia. “My school was a Minoru Yamasaki design,” he says. “I loved the lines, the glass atriums, the courtyards, the floor-to-ceiling brick. Pure Yamasaki.”

Bartelt and his wife, Sue, purchased the 1950 home from the original owners’ daughter. “We started renovating immediately and wanted to get it done in under a year,” says Bartelt, who had an insider’s perspective on what that year might look like.

Bartelt owns Royal Oak-based Vogue Furniture, which designs, fabricates, finishes, and installs high-end furniture and millwork. The couple continued to live in their Birmingham townhome during the renovations.

Bartelt says the move was somewhat inspired by the fact that his family has grown to include two young grandchildren. “We needed the space again,” the creative designer says.

The home’s renovation crew, including Bloomfield Township-based Lakes Development Group, removed drywall, flooring, windows, and more. Meanwhile, the floor plan was fine-tuned to include a large primary suite that would eliminate two bedrooms, consolidating those areas into one large space.

“There are no walls between the bathroom, the floating closet, and the bedroom,” Bartelt says. Another goal was to create a new kitchen layout. “It was closed in, so we tore down walls and opened a space, moving it to where the breakfast niche once was.”

They also removed a hearth and a built-in planter area and designed a new staircase that features handsome stone treads. They plan to build a bunk room in an unfinished attic for visiting grandkids.

The Bartelts worked with Warren-based Wolverine Stone Co. and John Yarema, who installed quarter-sawn white oak floors. Building teams to create beauty and solve problems along the way is Bartelt’s favorite part of his profession. “I love the building process, absorbing all the information and then creating a solution. You have to be able to defend every line you draw; each must have a purpose.

“Pretty much everything in the home we already had,” Bartelt continues. A lot of the elements, such as the coffee table and buffet, were fabricated by Bartelt and his crew. Naturally, all the furnishings are a nod to the midcentury era. A Saarinen-designed Tulip table and chairs, for example, evoke a modern vibe in the breakfast nook. The couple have been collecting artwork by local artists from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies and Cranbrook Academy of Art for years. “When I designed the floor plan, I had our furniture and artwork in mind regarding where to fit it.”

A long, Formica-topped desk in the loft area runs along one side of the space and features three separate work areas. “The original owners had three kids, and that was their desk,” Bartelt says. “It’s a 74-year-old desk! We restained its mahogany and left the top as is.” They’re also crazy about the 1950s and ’60s light fixtures throughout, many of which the couple discovered at 1st Dibs and Pamono — both online retailers offering new and vintage home décor.

One thing the Bartelts didn’t remove was the home’s design history, its “core tenets,” says Bartelt, who moved into the home in May 2022. Today, various original elements — like the clerestory, the balcony’s original railing (which Bartelt remilled), and leftover bricks from wall removals — adorn the home.

“We feel it’s important to respect the owners who came before us. The house was important to them, and we’re its caretakers.”

More Photos of the Home

This story is from the March 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition. And click here to see more metro Detroit interiors.