The Junior League of Detroit—veterans of almost five decades of showhouses—hosted its biennial event in September 2020, bringing together 27 design teams to reimagine the city’s historic Bingley Fales House. Migrating for the first time to Detroit’s Indian Village neighborhood, the 2020 Designers’ Showhouse transformed the first two floors of a more than 100-year-old Georgian mansion into a dynamic mix of decorating styles. “The home has a very interesting history, and it has all its original features,” says charity chair Liana Dabir of the 16,000-square-foot estate set on over an acre of meticulously manicured land.
aspire design and home: How much time did you have to complete this room, start to finish?
Anne Strickland: I believe we had about two months of access to the house and about 8 months, due to the pandemic, from the time the rooms were assigned.
aspire: What was your biggest challenge? Did you have a Eureka moment during the process?
Anne: My biggest challenge was that with running a business while having three small kids at home or in virtual school I had a full plate. Because of that, I got my dates a bit mixed up. I was about 3 weeks mentally behind schedule when I received a call from the photographer that he was ready to photograph my room and at that point, all that had completed was the painting. Luckily to some amazing vendors we were able to get things installed in 3 days!
aspire: What did you and your team accomplish that you thought would not happen in time?
Anne: After my initial moment of scheduling panic and a few phone calls, I realized we could pull this off on time. These rooms are always a reflection of a lot of hard work by multiple vendors and I am always thankful for the loyalty, work ethic and can-do spirits to ensure a beautiful execution.
aspire: What was your inspiration for this room?
Anne: My inspiration was a sitting room sanctuary for a curious woman. A woman who has traveled the world in search of inspiration and documented it through her paintings, curiosities and books. A well-heeled hideaway full of details and embellishments that create a refined and graceful space. I wanted it to feel timeless, ever-evolving and inviting. A place the lady of the house would curl up with a book, work on art or nestle in with a group of friends. The spirit of the room is to linger and stay continually curious.
aspire: Did you step out of your comfort zone for this project, and if so, why?
Anne: I’m not sure I stepped out of my comfort zone, but I think in this market I used more antiques than people generally gravitate towards. With the light and bright palette, I hoped to create a space filled with repurposed furniture to tell a modern story. I wanted to show people that traditional design can be current and fresh.
aspire: Despite the fact that there were so many designers involved, there is an inherent cohesiveness to the home. Did you all converse/collaborate? Or was this a completely individual process?
Anne: To me, the spaces are an individual reflection of the designers. I think everyone uses a showhouse to tell a story they have been wanting to tell. It’s something that’s been boiling inside them that they have not be able to execute within the constraints of a client -lead project. The thought is that through a showhouse designers can display a true reflection of themselves, in the hopes that by creating something personal, but obtainable, they invite people into a vision of their creative soul.
aspire: Is your preference for a showhouse a small space or a large space? Does one or the other provide a better opportunity to stretch your creativity?
Anne: I prefer a smaller space. I think there’s more opportunity for impact and I tend to lean towards the cozy, rather than the expansive.
aspire: Describe Detroit in one sentence.
Anne: A resilient community of creative ingenuity and determined grit.
This or that:
aspire: Paint or wallpaper?
aspire: Hardwood or rug?
aspire: Beach or Mountains?
aspire: Saturated Color or Black and White?
Anne: Saturated Color
aspire: Brunch or Dinner?
aspire: Midcentury or 18th Century?
Anne: 18th Century
aspire: Draperies, shades, or nothing?
Anne: Draperies AND Shades
aspire: 2001: A Space Odyssey or The English Patient?
Anne: English Patient
aspire: Week at the spa or Week of Broadway shows?
Anne: Oh.. that’s a draw. Spa during the day, Broadway shows in the evening!
Photography by Jeff Garland.
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