Rooms reinvented: Homeowners across Metro Detroit redefine their spaces in unique ways

Maureen Feighan, The Detroit News
·6 min read

Apr. 16—Like people, our homes and the rooms within them evolve with time. Or they should.

Who says your dining room needs to stay a dining room if you don't use it? Empty-nesters often rethink their spaces once children leave home, converting old bedrooms into meditation spaces or craft rooms.

The pandemic has pushed homeowners to re-think their spaces, especially as we look for new ways to use our homes and rooms in multiple ways. Dining rooms have morphed into homeschool centers and spare bedrooms have turned into home offices.

"People want rooms that will function more than one way," said designer Jane Synnestvedt of Jane Synnestvedt Interior Design in Birmingham. "And as things are opening up and people can have friends over, they have space there. Or they've got room to use it in a different way."

Synnestvedt recently worked with a Birmingham family on converting what was once a formal living room in their home that they didn't use into a music room for friends and family to spread out and jam.

Larger gatherings are on hold amid COVID but Andrew and Julie Sutherland's son, Henry, 9, uses the space for piano practice and virtual piano recitals. And Julie uses the room to read.

"Once they put the artwork up and decorated the shelves, it just really felt like home," said Julie. "There's a lot of personal touches."

Below, you'll find a variety of spaces that have been reinvented in new and novel ways: a former home theater and storage room in South Lyon that's now a wine room and cigar room; a walk-in closet folded into a bright, sleek master bathroom remodel in Ann Arbor; and a spare bedroom converted into a meditation room in Northville.

Reinventing a room sometimes just takes a little creativity

Wine and cigar room

Mike Betts and his wife, Jessica, of South Lyon are serious wine collectors — and they have more than 300 bottles of wine to prove it.

That's why they decided to create a wine room in what was previously an unfinished home theater space in the basement level of their home on Hidden Lake.

Working with Compos Builders in Novi, the room is chilled to just the right temperatures, 55 to 58 degrees. It features eight powder coated steel racks — two in each corner — that span from floor to sealing to display their collection. And a backlit textured piece of granite incorporated into a cabinet with wine glasses creates a focal point in the room.

And just off the wine room, in what was previously a storage room, is now a sealed cigar room with seating, a TV and an electric fireplace where Betts can come down and watch football and have a cigar. Negative air flow in the room prevents any smoke from escaping.

Betts, who owns his own luxury watch line, said he hates to use the words "man cave" but he wanted to create a space with a "rustic masculine look."

And the wine room is perfect, especially in the cold months, for him and Jessica, who also have two kids, to enjoy a glass of wine.

"It's a very nontraditional wine room," said Betts, who also worked with Compos on converting an artist's studio into a spare bedroom in the basement for his mom when she's visiting from Australia, along with a sauna and a home gym. "Instead of just grabbing wine, you can come in here and enjoy it."

Music room

Two pieces of art — a framed sound wave of Andrew and Julie Sutherland's first dance at their wedding and music notes from the Coldplay song Andrew heard when he held the couple's son for the first time — inspired the color palette of the family's music room.

Before Synnestvedt, the designer, took over, it was an unused formal living room with pale pink and cream hues.

It was "very formal," she said.

Synnestvedt's task was to mesh both Julie's style — more traditional — with Andrew's aesthetic, which is more colorful. To do that, she incorporated some fun, "unexpected" textiles such as JF Fabrics' Mix, a fun animal print on two ottomans from Synnestvedt's bespoke furniture line. And the back of the built-in bookshelves are also covered in a vinyl Thibaut wallpaper.

"My husband and I both have very different tastes," said Julie. "She (Jane) and Martin (Martin Bell, Jane's colleague) did such a great job combining what we both like...(Andrew) loves orange and he loves color so it was a good combination with enough neutral."

And while the family hasn't had a big jam session — yet — with friends, the room has ample seating (and without arms on chairs so people easily can play the guitar) and is ready to go.

"We're very happy with it," said Julie.

Master bathroom remodel

Walk-in closets are often considered coveted space but if the closet isn't your style or it doesn't function well, that's a different story. That was the case when Melissa Filter, lead designer of Meadowlark Design + Build in Ann Arbor, was hired to help a couple rework their master bathroom in a historic building in the city.

The homeowners "had actually a very clear vision of what they were looking for even initially," said Filter. "The existing bathroom space did have a closet but it was very dark, and very compartmentalized."

Rather than keep the two spaces separate, Filter and the Meadowlark team tore down some interior walls to open the bathroom up and add square footage from the previous walk-in closet. A soaker tub and walk-in shower were added, along with an entire wall of cabinets from California Closets.

What was dark before is now light and airy.

"That wall of closeting just utilized the space so much better," said Filter. "And we still ended up with a larger shower than what they initially had. We ended up with a larger space with light in it."

Meditation room

With a son now graduated from college and a daughter at the University of Michigan, Jerry and Lisa Zimmer of Northville Township made a decision about the spare bedroom their kids once used for studying during high school. They would "reclaim" the space, says Lisa, and convert it into a meditation and yoga room.

The Zimmers — they were featured in a Homestyle cover story last spring — turned to Detroit-based design firm, RL Concetti, to help create just the right serene space. They'd previously worked together on an update of the couple's master bedroom, TV room and a powder room.

A "Misty Pines" mural covers one wall in their new meditation room. The floors are Brazilian cherry. And while it may have been a bedroom before, now it's anything but — and they actually use it. Jerry uses the space every morning before work.

"It's very Zen," said Lisa. "We love it."