Erica Harrison is Home Again

A Grosse Pointe native who cut her teeth with Ralph Lauren brings her magic touch back to Michigan.
Photograph by Joe Tiano

You can go home again. Just ask Erica Harrison. Harrison grew up in Grosse Pointe Woods and headed for New York City in 2002. There, she attended the Parsons School of Design to study photography. Halfway through, she got a job offer with Melet Mercantile, a private vintage clothing showroom founded by Bob Melet, the designer who had co-created the vintage department at Ralph Lauren.

“I realized I didn’t want to be a photographer,” Harrison explains. She worked for Melet for three years, eventually moving to J. Crew, where she stayed from 2005 to 2009, serving as a stylist in the men’s and children’s departments. “I dressed the Obama girls,” she remembers. She traveled frequently and would pick up souvenirs for her home and herself around the world. “Everywhere we would go, I’d buy things,” she says, adding, “I figured I wouldn’t be back.”

In 2009, she left to work with Ralph Lauren, describing her job as “Ralph’s storyteller.” Part of the position consisted of purchasing antiques and clothing and creating “stories” and environments to inspire the designer’s new collections. Concepts included “The Marais in the 1920s” and what she called “worlds” designed to spark ideas.

“It was like walking into a movie set,” she explains of the displays they would create. “It was a dream job.”

She remembers her years working with the designer fondly. “He was such a kind man,” she says. “He was a real person and made people want to work hard for him.”

She did so until 2016, when her husband, Travis, a former Texan whom she met at Ralph Lauren, got a job with Detroit-based Shinola. “It was a marriage made in Ralph Lauren,” she jokes.

The designer even custom-made her wedding shoes. The couple moved to Detroit’s Indian Village, renovating a 1917 French revival home on Burns and adding two boys, Hudson and Sterling, to the family as well as a growing design firm named after them. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the couple decided “to take the kids and live in the woods,” Harrison explains, and moved Up North to wait it out.

While there, she took on her first large design project — a vintage 1910 hunting lodge that the owners wanted completely renovated within a year. She redid the entire house with a rustic, Ralph Lauren vibe, honoring and integrating the homeowner’s memories and past in the design. The house is featured in the February/March issue of Country Living magazine.

“[The homeowner] was raised there, and the property was everything to her,” Harrison explains. “My job was to elevate each building and bring them back to the grandeur of what it was.” She repurposed what she could, including a lot of antiques and family keepsakes. “She wanted her family’s story told,” she explains, adding, “We really made it sing.”

In 2022, she had her third boy, Banks, and the family decided to move to Grosse Pointe Park, where they purchased a classic 1916 colonial.

“The life of a designer is that you’re always doing other people’s houses,” she says with a laugh, adding that she has plans to redo the bathrooms and eventually the kitchen and return the home to its former glory.

Harrison credits her years creating worlds for Ralph Lauren with her approach to interior design. “I’ll create anyone’s dream home for them,” she says. “Homes are a conversation and a way to tell someone’s story.”

She doesn’t believe in trends and uses the same approach in her own home. “I want my home to feel cool, relevant, and timeless,” she says, adding that she’s going for “updated refinement.” She embraces a bold palette and is currently overhauling a guest bedroom with a pink ceiling and walls and a blue floor. “I’m not afraid of color,” she says. “I also love the pattern-on-pattern look.”

She is constantly on the hunt for conversation pieces for herself and her clients. “I don’t care if it’s from Marshalls or T.J. Maxx,” she says, adding that she “embraces the highs and lows to keep things interesting.” She and her husband are collectors, she says, especially of Native American pieces. They have been known to take their kids antiquing. “We call it treasure hunting,” she explains.

Now that the kids are getting older (Hudson is 7, Sterling is 5, Banks is 1), she’s committed to growing the fledgling company. “No more stops and starts,” she says. Projects have ranged from an apartment in Chicago’s Gold Coast to a Bloomfield Hills residence and a location in North Carolina.

“A lot of nights I’ll work until 1 or 2 a.m.,” she says. Juggling everything is a lot of work, she admits, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love what I do. I like making pretty things. If I love it, I know my clients will, too.”

Future plans include a possible brick-and-mortar store in Grosse Pointe. “I want to make it like John Derian in New York,” she says. “Approachable luxury, that’s what I want. Grosse Pointe doesn’t have that.”

She is looking forward to making that dream a reality. “I want to feel a bit of magic when you walk in,” she says of her future store, which she plans to also name Hudson & Sterling. “It’s the same goal I have when designing homes.”

She still “misses New York every day” but says there are wonderful things about being home, including seeing her boys so happy and being near her family. “I’ve found my niche,” she says. “Working on interiors has made me feel more settled. Design nourishes my creative soul.”

This story is from the March 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.