A Clarkston Designer Embraces Simplicity with a Small Herd of Horses

Award-winning interior designer Gretchen Diver has created a sacred space on 10 acres of land for her family

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It’s a brisk morning in March and Gretchen Diver’s horses are happily munching hay in their pasture, their winter coats still fuzzy despite the promise of spring in the air. Diver stands at the fence, lovingly looking out at her small herd. “It’s a great view,” she says. “It’s a great life.”

Diver, an interior designer who lives in Clarkston with her husband, Britt, and three sons, Mac, 19, Luke, 17, and Copeland, 14, didn’t always anticipate a life with horses. She grew up in Alma, a rural town where many of her friends lived on horse farms, but she didn’t have a horse of her own until her family moved in 1983 to Bradenton, Florida.

“I shared ownership of a horse down in Florida,” she says. “But when I talk about owning a horse, down there it was super casual. I never even put a saddle on the horse. I rode bareback, and we rode in the causeways [of nearby Anna Maria Island] and took them swimming.”

Swimming with that horse was an unforgettable experience for Diver, an incredible, ethereal memory that stayed with her through the years, long after she had moved back to Michigan in 1990, married her husband, and started her own family.

As her boys grew, Diver started to crave a different lifestyle for them. “I need acreage, I need to get them outside,” she told herself. So, five years ago the family sold their house on Cranberry Lake Road in Clarkston and moved to the home they now lovingly call Cupola View Farms. 

But it wasn’t love at first sight. “When I told the boys we were buying this house, they cried,” Diver says. “But then when I took them back to the barn and they were climbing trees, it was instant that this is what they love. At that point, I knew I was going to get horses to put in this barn.”

Her husband and sons had a different idea — all three boys play hockey, and they wanted to install an indoor hockey rink in the barn. While the family renovated every inch of their new house, turning it into a gorgeous farmhouse-style home that has won five Detroit Home Design Awards, Diver didn’t give up on her dream of a barn filled with horses. “[The hockey rink] was their vote for a long time, and I just kept pushing subtly for about a year,” she says. “And then we went and looked at our first horse.” 

His name was Roscoe, and the entire family fell in love with him. “I think that’s the joke with dogs or horses or any animals — if you go look at one, you’re going to get it,” Diver says with a smile.

A year later, the family added two more horses to the family, Dakota, a blonde palomino, and Mack, a black Tennessee walking horse. Diver’s Clarkston-based riding trainer, dressage specialist Lisa Patersak, soon moved her own horse, a pony named Higgins, to the family’s stable, and the herd felt complete.

“We love horses, but I wouldn’t call us ‘equestrian’ … Basically, I feel like we have this 10-acre backyard with these amazing animals in it.”
— Gretchen Diver

Diver says she and her family were heartbroken when Roscoe passed away suddenly in 2017. “That was hard for everyone because he was our guy that got us into all of this. I think Britt would have been fine with Mack and Dakota, who came to us within a week of each other, and they are inseparable, they are best friends. … But of course, I wasn’t fine with that. I just saw the empty stall.” Diver filled that stall with Ace, a black-and-white pinto she lovingly says is “the cutest thing ever. He is super laidback. The easiest, easiest guy.”

While the horses (and other animals — Diver also has goats, rabbits, dogs, and cats) are an important part of their lives, Diver says she and her family aren’t your typical horse owners. “We love horses,” she says, “but I wouldn’t call us ‘equestrian.’ … Basically, I feel like we have this 10-acre backyard with these amazing animals in it.”

Of course, that backyard comes with plenty of hard work, something the entire family does together. Diver says the boys help with the horses every day — they clean their stalls, bring them in from the pasture, and feed them at night. “We don’t get to ride every week,” she says, “but we are caring for them and loving them as part of our family on a daily basis. We just love them.”

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Three’s Company: Gretchen Diver’s sons (from left) Mac, Luke, and Copeland ride on the family’s property.

Each of her sons has “his” horse, and Diver says watching her teenage boys care for the animals is one of the greatest joys of having them. “We get to see our kids be responsible every day. They make all the mistakes that other kids make, but they have to go take care of these animals.” 

Taking care of the horses is such a priority for Diver that the family is planning to move again, this time to a 14-acre property with 500 feet of frontage on a private lake. The horses will have a larger pasture with more room to run and graze, but the best part is the lake. With a twinkle in her eye, Diver says, “I get to take the horses swimming again.”  

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