My aunt and uncle have this stately 1920s brick home in Plymouth, Michigan, where I grew up. It’s not only stop-your-car-to-get-a-better-look stunning from the outside, it’s every bit as good, or better, from the inside.
My Aunt Patty, whose got style for days, is a major decorating inspiration for me, along with my mom. I’ve been to her home many times and always discover something new: a row of colored glass violins in a sunny window, her collection of miniature Statues of Liberty, a grouping of vintage bird prints on a bathroom wall. Maybe that’s because Patty is always adding new things to her house. And when I say “new” I actually mean old. She doesn’t particularly like anything new. She and my uncle are a major historic preservation force in the city of Plymouth. They own another, much older home in Plymouth (built in 1834, it may be the oldest home in town) where my grandmother lives. They also recently bought the old Plymouth post office. Plus, they own a charming and airy 1880s “cottage” in the idyllic northern Michigan town of Harbor Springs.
Patty’s style is a little “your crazy aunt” in the best possible way. It’s colorful, fun, vintage, classy, wonderfully creative, and so very, very interesting. On a recent trip home to Michigan, Patty let me take photos of her house, and talked to me a little about her home decorating philosophy.
So, what is your home decorating philosophy? It’s not done until its overdone!
How has your design style changed over the years? I was a little more country [in the 1980s and 1990s] and now I’m a little more Rock ‘n Roll.
Colors or neutrals? Color!!! I get so bored when things aren’t colorful. I’m attracted to colorful clothes and colorful rooms. I have to have something besides black and white – to me that’s not liveable.
Any design rules you always follow? Not really. Like I’m not that into symmetry, but I know you’re supposed to make things symmetrical. But I do tend to stick to odd numbers of objects for groupings, like three, five, and seven. Also, for my ceilings the paint color is always 90% white mixed with 10% of the paint color used on the walls in that room. It’s less stark than having a plain white ceiling.
What is it about vintage and antique objects and furniture that you like so much? I have always loved old things and no doubt that’s because my mom and her interest in antiques. There’s so much more charm in old things. I have a hard time buying anything new. I feel like everyone could get it. I never get attached to anything new. Only old.
Why are you so interested in preserving old buildings? I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t love old. As a little girl, I visited a friend and she lived in an old house and I was so excited. I still remember every detail of that house, and I could not have been more than five or six! The loss of Eloise, [a huge historic complex in Wayne, Michigan, that was at different times a “poor house,” hospital, and psychiatric hospital, but has since been almost entirely razed] most of the historic downtown of my birthplace of Wayne, Michigan, my childhood home, cottage, and just about everything else I loved made me realize it was time to fight to keep these old buildings around. (Patty’s an active member of the Plymouth Preservation Network, a nonprofit which works to save historic buildings and structures in Plymouth).
Advice for novice home decorators who are trying to create a space they love? Start with a collection. When my daughters were young, I used to drag then to estate sales and antique stores. To make it more fun for them, I said they could both start a collection. One started collecting teapots, and the other books. Also, try to get a color you love in the room. And use something you love – a rug, a painting – as inspiration for the whole room. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a theme – for instance I have a masculine English-themed guest bedroom.
To old things,
The Dame in Spain