With an appreciation for their home’s mid-mod roots and an eye to their family’s future, a Michigan couple puts stock in a remodeling portfolio full of bold choices.
Natural light family room modern remodel
Credit: Werner Straube

Remodeling is investing. You can play it safe and enjoy modest returns. Or you can take risks and reap big payoffs—that's what Sarah and Jay Finnane did with their 1950s ranch in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

remodeling family parents kids couch
Credit: Werner Straube

"We knew this house would need major work to make it what we knew it could be," Sarah says. "But by that point we had renovated three other homes, so we weren't afraid of a project."And they had found a sympathetic "broker," interior designer Laura Zender, who shares their tolerance for risk. "I loved their adventurous spirit in creating this home," Zender says. "I was more than happy to take that ride with them."

Blue kitchen island modern remodel
white blue kitchen sink cabinets
Left: Credit: Werner Straube
Right: Credit: Werner Straube

The ride began when Sarah and Jay spotted the home on their first house-hunting trip to Ann Arbor. "The surprise midcentury details kept bringing us back to it," Sarah says. "It's an unassuming ranch from the street. You'd never know such a cool space was waiting for you when you come inside." It reminded Jay of mid-mod homes he grew up around in Southern California.

The most potentially lucrative asset was a huge 1990s family room addition with soaring ceilings, walls of windows and underused square footage. "It is really a 'wow' moment when you walk into the space," Zender says. "You cannot see the vaulted ceilings from the street, so it is a spacious surprise."

palmy wallpaper hallway
mudroom kids shoes dog cabinetry
vibrant bold wallpaper colorful bathroom
Left: Credit: Werner Straube
Center: Credit: Werner Straube
Right: Credit: Werner Straube

The Finnanes made the family room the center of an extensive remodel that updated and reorganized rooms to better fit the lifestyle of their active family. The project included moving and expanding the kitchen, adding a mudroom and a powder room, and creating a primary suite. Along with the sweeping layout changes came brave choices in colors, shapes and patterns.

The decision to go all in on the makeover continues to pay dividends for the couple. "This home fits us and our lifestyle so well and has grown with us as our kids have grown," Sarah says. "It has a great flow and harmony that I am still very grateful for."

emerald wall bedroom vintage bird prints
Credit: Werner Straube

Expert Tips: 5 Ways to Go Bold with Your Decor

Ready for a little risky business? We asked interior designer Laura Zender for escape routes from the decorating comfort zone.

Find a Paper Buoy

Choose wallpaper in a fun and colorful pattern. Zender says a small bath or short hall is a low-risk place to experiment with something lively. "If you're feeling extra adventurous," she says, "consider putting wallpaper on a ceiling."

Unsaturate Colors

If big swigs of color are too much for you to swallow, try strategic shots or sips. Incorporate a strong hue behind the shelves of a bookcase or on an accent chair, then spread the same color to other spaces in small doses—such as pillows, light fixtures and accessories.

Indulge a Trim Whim

 Nervous to take the plunge on black trim? Try a softer (but still not white) hue. "Experiment with other colors like taupe, gray, green or blue," Zender recommends. "These are colors we see outside in nature, so they will blend well with the views."

Light Makes Might

Go large with lighting. Zender likes how oversize fixtures have an immediate impact when you enter a room. One example: the island pendant in Sarah and Jay Finnane's kitchen. Its asymmetrical design and mixed metals suit the room's modern vibe.

Make a Statement with Art

"Pick a big bold piece that you absolutely love and display it prominently," Zender says. Gallery walls are great, but a single large-scale piece will be a good conversation starter for guests, and it can even set the tone for the room's color palette.