Northern Home & Cottage: A well-designed house is a bit like a symphony. Various materials come together like the sounds of many instruments, and skill is required to blend them in perfect harmony. Each piece finds its precise purpose and importance. The structure and form must be balanced, and the conductor makes it happen exactly on time and with the right tone.
Accordingly, when they were asked to design a Traverse City home for an accomplished musician, Kelly Kerlin-Ropposch and Lynn Pettyjohn became co-conductors of a grand and complex project. Kelly is an architect at her firm, Archkinetiks, and Lynn owns Lynnteriors, a full-service interior design studio. They were brought together for the first time by the homeowner’s daughter, Laura Herman, and quickly established a close working relationship on this Old Mission Peninsula project that lasted five years.
Today, each is quick to give credit to the other for the sense of warmth and exquisite beauty that this White House–inspired dwelling exudes. Despite its grandiose size and classically Palladian elements such as columns and archways, the scale of each space is comfortable. Views from one space to the next are carefully planned. The formality is apparent but not forbidding—it sets the perfect tone for many parties and charitable benefit gatherings. The homeowner is a patron of the arts, working particularly for music and music education for children.
Kelly structured each space and detail, both indoors and out, to enhance music and visual art. The great room centers around a projected Palladian bay window for a grand piano. Barrel-vaulted ceilings create outstanding acoustics, and adjacent spaces encourage the flow of sound—and party guests—from room to room.
The homeowner appreciates a wide variety of musical styles, and her art collection is similarly eclectic. A mix of Modern and Postmodern paintings and sculptures give the home a gallery feel that begins in the formal, marble-tiled foyer and continues to the entry gallery, the central hub of the floor plan. In the adjacent dining room, niches were designed to receive hand-painted scenic murals from France. At every turn, there’s a new painting, sculpture or piece of furniture to appreciate. The settings are all perfectly lit and surrounded by superb finish materials, including many faux finish treatments by local artisan Amy Monville.
“This house is a lady,” says Kelly. “The scale and massing turned it into an elegant ‘she.’” Lynn adds that there is a softness to the interior spaces, the materials and the overall color palette that make it feminine. This quality is undeniable in the master suite with its soft green-and-rose color scheme, luxurious fabrics and custom bedding.
Lynn gave each room its own distinct personality while maintaining a consistent look and level of formality throughout. The two-story study is paneled in mahogany, but architectural curves and fine textures keep it delicate. Upstairs, the study opens to the circular Northern Light Gallery where large paintings hang above the foyer. Bathrooms throughout appear stately but relaxing. Even the central stairway and halls have their own design nuances.
A less formal, but still finely appointed, inglenook off the kitchen is one of the homeowner’s favorite spaces to sit and relax. It overlooks the backyard English rose gardens and a life-sized bronze of the homeowner’s daughter and her two children created by Verna Bartnick, a Traverse City sculptor. In front, the East Theatre Allée and East Terrace define the formal garden for summer performances and outdoor parties. Kelly designed the formal gardens to complement the hilltop house, then worked with her client to choose the ideal plantings.
The all-female team who designed this house feels that they brought a certain refined sensibility to it that might not have materialized without them. “It’s all about the details—working together with the visual balance of all the elements,” says Lynn. “Women just see, feel and understand it.” It’s quite clear that they do, now that every detail in the house is complete, as graceful as the notes floating through its rooms on a balmy Northern Michigan evening.