Debbie Auer Goes Out On A Limb With An Owner’s Retreat Among The Treetops

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.

In our recently released aspire design and home Showhouse Issue, we sat down with designer Debbie Auer to learn more about her creative process in designing the Owner’s Retreat for this project.

aspire design and home: How much time did you have to complete this room, start to finish?
Debbie Auer: 4 weeks, but I completed in 2 weeks.

aspire: What was your biggest challenge? Did you have a Eureka moment during the process?
Debbie: What to do with the damaged floor.

aspire: What was your inspiration for this room?
Debbie: The treetops outside the windows and the wonderful pewabic tile on the walls and ceiling.

aspire: Did you step out of your comfort zone for this project, and if so, why?
Debbie: We wanted to create a calm and comfortable space to enjoy while relaxing among the treetops.

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?
Debbie: None of us spoke to each other on what we were doing, just an accident!

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?
Debbie: We like smaller spaces.

This or that:

aspire: Paint or wallpaper?
Debbie: Paint
aspire: Hardwood or rug?
Debbie: Both
aspire: Beach or Mountains?
Debbie: Both
aspire: Saturated Color or Black and White?
Debbie: Both
aspire: Brunch or Dinner?
Debbie: Dinner
aspire: Midcentury or 18th Century?
Debbie: MidCentury
aspire: Draperies, shades, or nothing?
Debbie: Draperies and shades
aspire: 2001: A Space Odyssey or The English Patient?
Debbie: 2001
aspire: Week at the spa or Week of Broadway shows?
Debbie: Spa

Photography by Jeff Garland.

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