A talented Realtor/designer was on the hunt for an inspired Northern Michigan home for herself and her two boys. Here’s how she gave this Traverse City Victorian a makeover turning it into the welcoming, sacred space of their dreams.

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The Story Behind the Makeover

After her divorce, Marissa Wege wanted to create a warm and welcoming space for herself and two young children that felt like an expression of her personal style. As a Realtor, she knew how to look through the layers and see potential in a classic Victorian on Traverse City’s west side, built in 1863 by the city’s first doctor. Wege immediately fell in love with the old house’s solid bones, beautiful double lot and the location within walking distance of downtown and a stone’s throw from Hickory Hills Ski Area, where her sons love to ski. But there was something else: “The house itself is moody,” she says—pointing out a quality she feels is almost alive. “I’m the type of person who really enjoys the space that I live in,” she adds. “It kind of sets the tone for how I feel during the day, and so my space is pretty sacred.”

Photo by Jesse David Green

Photo by Jesse David Green

Photo by Jesse David Green

The Makeover Begins

The Process

After she purchased the house, Wege worked with an architect on plans for a full renovation of the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home. She decided to put those plans on hold, however. One reason: Keeping the previous owners’ own thoughtful renovations, which included adding important features for a modern family (functional closets!), while preserving historic details including crown molding and maple floors.

Wege chose to work within the existing footprint, and with that decision, she set out to make the kitchen more functional without adding on. She began by giving the cabinets and appliances to a friend who needed them, creating a blank slate to work from.

Photo by Jesse David Green

Photo by Jesse David Green

The Next Steps

Next, working with kitchen designer Kelsey Duda and builder Joe Buteyn, she had a kitchen door to the yard switched out with spacious glass sliders that opened up the view, and then replaced the existing large square island with an oval-shaped island built around the original floor-to-ceiling chimney.

Paint colors give the space a vibrant personality. “I wanted something classic but also feminine and sexy,” she says. “And not boring. Definitely not boring.” Cabinets were transformed with Farrow & Ball’s Dead Salmon. (Strange as the name sounds, it refers to the flat or “dead” finish of the aged shade of pink at England’s historic Kedleston Hall.) On the walls, Wege used another Far-row & Ball color, London Clay.

Other rooms get the same careful color treatment. “I brought in colors that I felt were calming and soothing,” she says. “I love greens; they make me feel calm and safe.” Farrow & Ball’s Green Smoke gives the library a soothing, sophisticated feel. Wege lime-washed other walls, a process that allows brushstrokes to show through. “It adds contrast and texture and makes the spaces feel older,” she says.

The home’s eclectic furnishings—re-covered vintage Italian sofas, rice-paper light fixtures and assorted midcentury pieces round out Wege’s distinctive style. Her penchant for collecting, in fact, has led her into a second career. This summer she opened a new shop called Au Sable in Leland—a charmed space where customers can find their own piece of her inimitable style.

Photo by Jesse David Green

Photo by Jesse David Green

Photo(s) by Jesse David Green