House Tour: Welcome Home
Michelle Adams spent most of her 20s in New York, telling stories about how other people lived to readers of Domino and Lonny. Yet her own place, a 475-square-foot apartment that she decorated with fleeting trends, never quite felt like home. "I didn’t want to look back on my life and realize that the people who mean the most to me weren’t a part of it,” she says.
So she bought and renovated a 1920s Colonial near the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, just a few miles from her parents. And she treated it like the investment it was. Rather than channel the design crush du jour, Michelle chose furnishings that she intends to make permanent and that reflect a timeless seaside look inspired by Diane Keaton’s beach house in Something’s Gotta Give. "I’ve always loved the elegant, laid-back look of a seaside home … whether you live near a body of water or not," Michelle says.
The move also marked a career change. In 2016, Michelle launched an online shop called The Maryn, which means “of the sea.” The site stocks furniture, accessories, art and textiles that have the same coastal feel as her home. She plans to introduce her own products in the coming year and eventually to add a boutique in Ann Arbor.
Pictured: Michelle (shown with her goldendoodle, Rufus) modernized her 1920s Colonial, banishing boring beige for deep charcoal blue. (She had a big-box store color-match a pricier brand’s hue to save money.)
Michelle’s house is full of personal treasures—yet it still looks polished, not overstuffed. She leaves some empty space on walls, shelves and tables for visual relief and favors large paintings and vessels for impact. She also collects art that fits her home’s design scheme: Blue, white and seaside motifs recur. But she isn’t slavish about it.
Michelle intentionally kept her first “grown-up” dining room casual, with an antique trestle table and nubby jute rug: “I’d like my guests to feel comfortable and not panic if they spill a glass of wine. A home is meant to be lived in.”
Her relaxed approach to decorating extends to her mix of cottage, traditional and midcentury pieces. She ties everything together with recurring textures, patterns and colors: Woven materials. Stripes. Crisp white walls and upholstery. Waves of varied but related blues, like denim, navy and inky indigo.
Working on magazine stories where several rooms appear on one page taught Michelle to really consider how spaces interact. “I’m big on sight lines,” she explains. (Ask yourself: What will I see when I catch a glimpse through a doorway?) “Having a common thread from room to room makes a house transition nicely and seem more relaxing.”
All-weather furniture and fabric outfit the screen porch.
Artifact Uprising is Michelle’s favorite site for printing photos: “It’s fun to display them in bowls, which encourages guests to peek through them.”
Kitchen with character
Michelle opted for honed marble in her kitchen. It will etch, she admits, “but honestly, I think that adds character and history.”
A touch of luxury
A floor-grazing tablecloth and leather chairs add a bit of luxury to the kitchen.
Michelle uses lots of glass for decorating. “It fills space without looking cluttered,” she explains.
A space to unwind
Charcoal grass-cloth walls lend cozy depth to an otherwise simple bedroom: “It’s just what I need: bed, tables, lamps. For a space you’re supposed to unwind in, I like that,” says Michigan design editor Michelle Adams.
Building on a neutral base
In the living room, a French-style marble mantel and wingback chairs coexist with midcentury tables and lighting. “I like the juxtaposition of billowy upholstered furniture with modern and linear pieces and sculptural lighting,” Michelle explains.
The room reflects one of Michelle's key takeaways from a career in editing home magazines: Be timeless. After years of tracking come-and-go design trends, Michelle steers clear of strong colors or patterns on furniture and walls. “Starting with a neutral base allows you to experiment and have fun with décor,” she says. There are hundreds of neutral shades, of course, but Michelle prefers crisp, modern white—with washable slipcovers!
During the office remodel, crews found wood planking under drywall, an unexpected design gift.
Light and airy
In the attic, Michelle tore up carpeting and painted everything white to make an airy guest room.
Michelle's favorite upgrade is outside, where Michelle hired Home Depot’s Tuff Shed team to customize a shed with windows, a skylight and a shingle exterior.
Using a variety of natural materials like pea gravel, Michelle carved her rectangular backyard into defined zones for entertaining, dining and sitting.