“I’m an old soul,” says Elizabeth Peret, an interior designer who moved to Romania in her early 20s and stayed for nearly 10 years. Her parents are Romanian refugees who moved to Detroit, where Peret was born. “I wanted a Romanian experience with old-world charm, so [I] went there right after I graduated from Wayne State University.”
The owner of Elizabeth Helen Design lived in Oradea and worked at her family’s companies. “It’s slow there. You see people sitting on terraces in the middle of the afternoon enjoying coffee, meeting a friend, and you wonder, ‘Do they work?’ But they do — they just take the time to socialize.”
Upon her return to metro Detroit in 2020, she became reacquainted with what she calls the “American hustle.”
“Here, driving an hour to work is the norm. You live to work. While in Romania, you work to live,” she says.
Peret couldn’t wait to overhaul her new Troy townhome by installing new floors, fixtures, and millwork, while bringing her cherished, slower Romanian lifestyle into the picture.
“When I first stepped inside, I saw touches of European charm … and lots of natural light,” she says. “I also noticed wood shutters on the windows. They’re accordion-style and very nostalgic looking.”
Some of Peret’s slow-life philosophies were passed down from her parents. “If you have friends or family stopping over, you offer coffee, sweets, cheeses, or meats. My mother always has to have something on hand to serve when people randomly drop by.”
Hospitality means plenty of conversation, so relaxed gathering areas are key, she says. “Creating these types of spaces is helpful in fostering relationships and communication. I’m not looking at a phone or watching TV when people are here.” In fact, she doesn’t own a television.
Her chosen design style complements her unhurried attitude. Called Japandi, it’s a blend of modern Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics that’s rooted in minimalist design.
“Part of the Japandi lifestyle is thrifting,” she says. “My dining room table and chairs are secondhand. I sanded and stained the table, and then spray-painted the chairs a matte black. What I like about the table is that it shows its imperfections.”
She says that goes with Japandi’s wabi-sabi philosophy: acknowledging how beauty is found in the unusual or imperfect and viewing things and places as perfectly imperfect.
The walls feature a millwork pattern, providing a “subtle but dynamic texture,” she says. “It gives a midcentury look, but it’s also Japandi. The green wall color comes from nature. It’s calming.”
No doubt, a perfect spot for enjoying a cup of coffee and a sweet treat with friends. Oh, and that coffee? It’s French pressed, of course. Says Peret: “That method slows the process.”