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An Art Deco beauty is lovingly restored in Grosse Pointe Farms

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“Old Merriweather Girl” is now listing for $649K

Updated photos by Ryan Vandeberghe and Joseph Lavis

When Natalie and Joseph Lavis searched for a larger home to raise their family, their agent took them from their cozy bungalow in Ferndale to an old Art Deco stunner in Grosse Pointe Farms. After being in the same family since it was built in 1937, the home needed some refreshing. The Lavis’s fell in love with the house and took on the challenge.

Natalie recalls first seeing the house on a cold, snowy day. “We noticed the the plaster overhang above the doorway was literally crumbling,” she says. “The original 1937 windows were completely rusted shut and the kitchen had red carpet!”

Pre-restoration listing photos by Barney Nowicki of First Impression Photography

While they recognized the work ahead, they were intrigued with the idea of owning and restoring a true Art Deco home. “At the same time, we were taken aback by the spacious foyer giving way to the dramatic stairwell with delicate wet plaster work and a sleek banister, leading us to large bedrooms with expansive corner-to-corner windows,” she says. “We also fell in love with the details like stained glass in the doorways, near pristine tile bathrooms, the hand-painted Japanese wallpaper in the dining room, and the crystal lighting and door knobs.”

Many of the Art Deco details remained in the house and the couple worked with designer Johanna Rocco from Grand Rapids to complete the look. They researched to find the correct color palette to work with, and refinished the floors a light wood, which was what the house originally had. The fixtures, tiling, and details in this house are exceptional.

Details in the front door
Fresh tiling in the shower

Even though the house was an ““Honest House… a very well built house, and had a very steady hand on the maintenance all the time...” according to the inspector, it hadn’t been updated in a very long time. Everything had to be touched, and the restoration included an entirely new kitchen, new plumbing and fixtures, updated electrical, new windows, plaster repair, new paint, a new porch, cleaning and restoring bathroom tile, landscaping and retainer wall repairs, and new carpeting and glass blocks in the basement. New wallpaper was added in the house from the Detroit Wallpaper Company.

Updated kitchen
The hall bathroom
The freshly painted living room
Bar area in basement

Here’s a detail up for debate: a posting in a Facebook group shows the brick house originally painted. Would that add to its original style and character?

Although the couple faced many challenges in the restoration, they looked at each as a lesson in patience and gratitude. The biggest challenge, says Natalie, is that the family won’t be able to enjoy the home, as career plans are relocating the family. They’re hoping to find the right new owners to enjoy and appreciate “Old Merriweather Girl.”

The 3,244-square-foot house was custom built for the original family in 1937. When the parents died, their only daughter lived in the home her entire life. A family room surrounded by windows overlooks the backyard, which Lavis says has 60-foot-tall pines and “heaps of happy flowers that bloom in the spring.” The family also loves the neighborhood, which is full of historic homes and in close proximity to a walkable downtown and Detroit.

The house is now listed for $649,000 through Ryan Vandeberghe Malburg.

Family room
New kitchen with restored floors
Dining room
Master bedroom
Rec room