This Kid-Friendly Historic Detroit Home Exudes Grown-Up Elegance

dark blue library with gold and red curtains and rug
Photo: Werner Straube

Strong color and creative risks help an adventurous homeowner and an up-and-coming designer reinvent a historic Detroit home for a young family.

01 of 18

Renovation Challenge

white and emerald foyer with hard wood floors and accent table
Werner Straube

They finish each other's sentences and joke that they are twins separated at birth. So it's a little surprising that homeowner Courtney Wigginton and Detroit-based designer Corey Damen Jenkins met after an internet search.

Both in their 30s, the pair forged an instant rapport upon meeting in 2013. No stranger to design challenges (Jenkins was recently named one of the nation's top African-American designers and a winner of HGTV's Showhouse Showdown) he nonetheless admits he was taken aback when Courtney and her husband, Jeff, outlined the to-do list for their 1939 Colonial Revival in a Detroit suburb.

"Overall, there were 32 spaces to design and furnish," the designer says. "The most daunting part was the timeline. They wanted structural renovations completed within six months. Courtney was pregnant with their second child and due soon after the move-in date. I warned them that their schedule was absolutely insane. They looked at each other, smiled, and said: 'We know.'"

02 of 18

Bold Welcome

elegant white stairway with green wall of golden framed mirrors
Werner Straube

Courtney and Jeff had considered other area designers, many of whom knew of the home's long history and its previous designer, Mario Buatta. "They all came up with ideas that mirrored the past owner," Courtney says. "When I met Corey, he understood right away that I wanted to make the home mine—keep its traditional bones yet spice it up."

Taking cues both from Courtney's closet and from the fashion runway, Jenkins presented a combination of bold hues and modern choices juxtaposed against a traditional backdrop. "She's not afraid of color or pattern or of combining the two in inventive ways," he says. Interiors were re-energized using jewel tones and vibrant saturated colors. "When we were getting started, designers like Elie Saab were featuring emerald, navy, and citron on the Paris runway, and Courtney loved those colors, so we started there," says Jenkins.

The emerald-green wall color in the foyer and stairwell is a custom mix. The spaces were repainted after a less-than-exciting white felt dull.

03 of 18

Easygoing Style

colorful blue, green, and yellow sitting room with natural light
Werner Straube

Courtney wanted the home to feel both elegant and easygoing and describes her style as "sophisticated yet livable." The first floor includes a mix of new, vintage, and inherited furnishings, some repurposed in surprising ways. A case in point: the living room's classic French bergères, now covered in a seductive white patent leather. Courtney calls them her "go-go boot" chairs. "Corey came to me with the fabric and said, 'Just trust me,'" she recalls. "I said you're making the chairs sexy, and he said, 'Exactly.'" The fabric is also very forgiving, says Jenkins. "It's great not worrying about the kids' sticky fingers or someone spilling wine," adds Courtney.

04 of 18

Creative Design Ideas

gray-green parlor with stately gold and white chair and porcelain collection
Werner Straube

Courtney, who grew up in a traditional-style home, had never worked with a designer. She had a thick file of clippings and ideas when she hired Jenkins, and she brought her mother to the first planning meeting. "Courtney gave me a budget but didn't micromanage me," Jenkins says.

In the parlor, a Henredon étagère houses a collection of white porcelain.

05 of 18

Bold Color Palette

impressionist painting hanging in gray-green parlor
Werner Straube

The bold blues and greens of Courtney's chosen palette mingle beautifully in the parlor. Artwork above the settee pulls the scheme together.

06 of 18

Dining Room Details

dining room with chandeliers and de gournay mural
Werner Straube

The pair worked their way through the house using a philosophy of saves and splurges. At the top of the splurge list was the luxe de Gournay wallpaper in the dining room. "I saw it in a magazine and fell in love," says Courtney. "But when Corey told me the price, I almost had a heart attack. I had to keep reminding myself that it was a work of art."

The ceiling features an 11-step lacquered Venetian plaster treatment, which reflects the eye-catching de Gournay mural on the wall. Jenkins balanced the room's opulence with clean-lined chairs paired with an English double-pedestal dining table on a sisal carpet.

07 of 18

Pretty Settee

lush green antique settee in dining room
Werner Straube

A settee, upholstered in a lush green antique fabric is a polishing touch along one dining room wall.

08 of 18

Stylish Kitchen

white and sapphire tones naturally lit kitchen
Werner Straube

A pair of midnight-blue Jimmy Choos, part of the color board the designer put together, provided the inspiration for the palette's sapphire tones and the kitchen's La Cornue range. "When I saw those shoes," Courtney remembers, "I said, 'Oh good, he gets me.'"

09 of 18

Durable Breakfast Room

round breakfast table with blue patterned chairs
Werner Straube

Jenkins and Courtney worked to save in areas most frequented by Winston, 5, and Hayes, 2, opting for lower-cost yet still stylish furniture, including the breakfast room's Pier 1 chairs. Save or splurge, durability was key. "We chose a lot of velvets and linen blends, fabrics that work especially well for families with young kids."

10 of 18

Statement Ceiling

dark blue library with gold and red curtains and rug
Werner Straube

Jenkins covered the ceiling with an unexpected, shimmery Cole & Son wallpaper. "I believe in addressing all six walls in a room," says the designer. "Ceiling treatments offer a great opportunity to make a room feel more intimate and make a truly personal statement."

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Library Details

child sitting in leather wing chair in dark blue library
Werner Straube

A deep blue on the walls creates a rich backdrop for estate-sale paintings, inherited antiques, and a tall, handsome leather wing chair with nailhead trim by Henredon.

12 of 18

Bright Bar Area

dark wood bar in room with marble floors and french doors
Werner Straube

In the bar, calacatta marble floors with wood insets create a pretty pattern underfoot. Dark woodwork and leather upholstery lend a masculine air to the light, bright space.

13 of 18

Personalized Redesign

corey damen jenkins and courtney laughing portrait
Werner Straube

Jenkins admits he's happy he didn't know when he took the project that Mario Buatta had been the previous designer. "It would have been a little intimidating," he says. He later showed the design icon photos of the redone house, and he says Buatta approved. "It almost felt like sacrilege to touch it," Jenkins says, but overall he has few regrets. "It just wasn't Courtney's style, but I do feel a little bad about all that chintz."

14 of 18

Calm Master Bedroom

neutral tones bedroom with four-poster bed
Werner Straube

The neutral color palette feels both chic and calm. The main attraction is the luxe four-poster by Ebanista dressed in Kravet fabrics and trimmed in appliqué from Schumacher and Robert Allen.

15 of 18

Traditional Master Bath

vaulted ceiling master bathroom with gray walls and white tub
Werner Straube

The master bath was renovated for a more symmetrical and sophisticated feel. The leather settee was recycled from the Wiggintons' former home and re-covered in white leather.

16 of 18

Pattern-Filled Guest Bedroom

green patterned wallpaper guest bedroom with hanging lantern
Werner Straube

An artful mix of patterns in a contained palette dominates the guest room. The high ceiling allows for a large hanging lantern to make a statement.

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Historic Colonial Home

blue american colonial home with lush green lawn
Werner Straube

This handsome American Colonial Revival residence in Bloomfield Village was designed by the Detroit firm Maul & Lentz in 1939. Members of the American Institute of Architects, partners Walter Maul and Walter E. Lentz left their mark on many historic gems in the suburban communities dreamed up by Detroit developer Judson Bradway. A blue-blood real-estate tycoon, Bradway encouraged the development of Tudor and Colonial revivals within the approximately one-square-mile residential community of Bloomfield Village, beginning in 1924 and ending with about 950 houses in 1964. "It wasn't developed all at once," says Art Atkinson, village manager of the Bloomfield Village Association. Bradway issued restrictions on what was allowed within the development, and even today, the neighborhood maintains his standard of "harmonious homes" distinguished by architectural details; pleasing scale, balance, and proportion; high-quality materials; and tasteful paint color.

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Family At Home

courtney family portrait in yellow chairs
Werner Straube

Jeff and Courtney Wigginton are pictured here with their sons, Winston, 5, and Hayes, 2.

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