Tour a Stately and Stylish Historic Michigan Home
Alyson Cameron, who started her art direction career at the original Domino magazine, decided a few years back that the hustle and bustle of city life was no longer the best fit for her husband, Russ, and their son, so the trio left New York behind in search of more space and peaceful living. They found a historic home in the small village of Schoolcraft, Michigan (which has a population of 1,500) and began a new adventure.
Built in 1867, the Italianate-style five-bedroom home is on a piece of land that was previously a stop on the Underground Railroad. Though Cameron and her husband are both originally from Texas, the couple followed their careers to New York, where they had lived for six years. “Those Pure Michigan commercials are cheesy I guess, but actually—they're spot on!” Cameron said. “We love the authenticity of life here.” To decorate the space, Cameron combined pieces sourced from family members, as well as items found in local flea markets and consignment stores.
Keep scrolling to take a full tour of the charming and expansive space!
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When seeking inspiration for the home’s interiors, Cameron looked to international shelter magazines for ideas. “Early on I started looking at House & Garden UK and World of Interiors,” Cameron says. “Nothing else seemed to connect to the feeling of being in this house. We're in a small Midwest village, but the house is so grand and European in look and feel that it was hard to figure out how to strike a balance.”
In decorating this space, Cameron wanted to create a cosy, comfortable environment that combined personal memories with artistic touches. “I like spaces that are artful and cosy and full of memories,” she told us. “My style has evolved a lot over the years, but it always seems to tie back to what I was looking at and learning when I first started at Domino.”
The process of decorating this home turned out to be a surprising one for Cameron. “This house in particular has taught me a very important lesson: There's a difference between spaces that I find interesting or aspirational, and spaces I actually want to live in,” she said. “I've pinned a lot of beautiful images as inspiration for this house, then realised later that I feel most comfortable in a very different kind of room.”
The resulting design is a combination of collected and inherited pieces handed down from the couple’s parents and grandparents. In the living room, Cameron reupholstered a sofa her grandmother gave them as a housewarming present, using a Schumacher velvet to add modern appeal. “All of the other pieces in that room were starting to make it look so formal and stale—I wanted to do something that felt more modern and fun,” she tells us.
Though the couple didn’t do a large-scale renovation, mini updates around the house helped make the space their own. In the study, removing the carpet revealed a black painted wood floor, which they decided to keep. Painting various rooms and re-plastering the dining room ceiling were the only other projects they took on.
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Cameron took care to preserve the home’s historical details wherever possible. “Originally I wanted to paint over what I thought was stained wood trim in the study,” she told us. “But when we had the previous owner over to walk through the house with us, we found out that the study was the last room remaining that still featured the faux hand-painted birds-eye maple trim. Until they told us, I literally thought it was just stained wood. It is an excellent example of the kind of skill and craftsmanship that went into building a house like this in those days, so it was a pretty easy decision to abandon the idea of painting that trim!”
A lack of counter space and an odd set-up in the historic kitchen required Cameron to bring in additional pieces to make it function. “The butcher block table scored at a local shop added counter space I was desperate for, and the bench by the window became a place for people to sit down, have a drink, and hang out with me while I cook,” she told us.
Utilising the home’s butler's pantry as an additional space also enabled the family to make the kitchen work. “I spend a lot of time in there prepping and baking,” Cameron said. “The countertops are very low—I'm not really sure why, perhaps people were shorter back then? But it makes involving my son in baking projects a lot easier.”
To prevent toys and kid “stuff” from creeping into every room of the house, the couple designated the home’s second living room as a playroom complete with teepee. In the other spaces, Cameron tried to limit the amount of furniture they brought in to enable each room to have space to play. “There has to be space for spontaneous wrestling matches and Hot Wheels tracks that wind in and out of rooms,” she told us. “We don't have any ‘kid furniture’…our son doesn't know the difference, and it would seem strange in this house.”
The colourful paint choices in the home reflect work the couple put into the house combined with existing decorative elements. “I was determined to have a dark grey or black bedroom, but the trim in that room was already painted an arsenic green colour,” Cameron said. “So one day I just decided to go with it and paint the walls to match. Now it's probably my favourite room in the house.”
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With limited access to large retail chain stores, Cameron browsed local antique and consignment stores to fill in any gaps not covered by the couple’s inherited items. “There's a great consignment shop in Kalamazoo called Kalamazoo Kitty, which is where I found my dining room chairs—all 10 for $100!—and the wooden bench in the kitchen,” Cameron said. “I really enjoy the thrill of the hunt. Most of the artwork in the house was done either by myself, my husband, a friend, or a family member.”
When asked for her favourite aspect of their home, Cameron does not hesitate. “The windows, hands down,” she said. “They're all original to the home and most of the panes have that old wavy glass. They flood the house with light and provide such nice breeze in the spring, summer, and fall. I sometimes kind of feel like I'm just as much outside as I am inside.”
Do you live in a historic home? Let us know how you honour your home’s past while living in the present in the comments below!