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 Colleen Gahry-Robb, Drew Weigandt, Janet Hanley, and Gabriella Andersen of Ethan Allen to learn more about her creative process in designing the Dining Room for this project.
aspire design and home: How much time did you have to complete this room, start to finish?
Ethan Allen: Spring-Summer 2020
aspire: What was your biggest challenge? Did you have a Eureka moment during the process?
Ethan Allen: Using all of the space for dining, we chose to put two larger tables together to create one.
aspire: What did you and your team accomplish that you thought would not happen in time?
Ethan Allen: We managed to get all the detailed trim work and painting done in under a week.
aspire: What was your inspiration for this room?
Ethan Allen: Our inspiration was a theatrical dining experience with the drama of the lighting and wall color.
aspire: Did you step out of your comfort zone for this project, and if so, why?
Ethan Allen: We did with the black walls; it made the room feel so much richer and glamorous.
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?
Ethan Allen: It was a definite collaborative effort for all. The other rooms around use were a smooth transition however it seemed as if all the designers involved were on the same page.
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?
Ethan Allen: We have designed small and large spaces in showhouses. Larger spaces are always fun because you have more room for product and displaying it differently. Small spaces really test your abilities as a designer to make every space count. Both are great.
aspire: Describe Detroit in one sentence.
Ethan Allen: Detroit is the definition of resilience and is a true diamond in the rough.
This or That?
aspire: Paint or wallpaper?
Ethan Allen: Wallpaper
aspire: Hardwood or rug?
Ethan Allen: Both
aspire: Beach or Mountains?
Ethan Allen: Mountains
aspire: Saturated Color or Black and White?
Ethan Allen: Saturated color
aspire: Brunch or Dinner?
Ethan Allen: Brunch
aspire: Midcentury or 18th Century?
Ethan Allen: 18th Century
aspire: Draperies, shades, or nothing?
Ethan Allen: Draperies & shades
aspire: 2001: A Space Odyssey or The English Patient?
Ethan Allen: The English Patient
aspire: Week at the spa or Week of Broadway shows?
Ethan Allen: Week of Broadway shows
Photography by Jeff Garland.
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