EXPLOREMY LIBRARY
MOVING UP
After years of huddling in 500-square-foot apartments in New York City, a magazine editor moves home to Michigan and upsizes her house—and her life.

BRINGING THE INDOORS OUT The small shed in Michelle Adams’ Michigan backyard, above right, isn’t just a spot to stash garden implements—“it’s become my favorite little hangout,” she says. Ordered at Home Depot and customized to her specifications, the Tuff Shed structure includes windows, a skylight, and paint that matches the main house. Michelle outfitted the interior, above, with pegboard (to hang tools), a trestle table crafted of IKEA parts, and a vintage wire Bertoia chair scored for $20 at an antiques market. The shed can serve as an office or a shady spot for Rufus the pup as Michelle works in the garden.

“DON’T GET ME WRONG,” SAYS MICHELLE ADAMS. “I HAD A LOVELY LIFE AND AN AMAZING CAREER IN NEW YORK.” She was the editor in chief of Domino and cofounder of Lonny and by any estimation had “made it” in the big city by the time she turned 30. “But I also felt like I was actively choosing my career over my family,” she says. “I was ready for a change of pace, and I was ready to have a life outside of work.” She packed up her 475-square-foot apartment and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, just a few miles from her parents.

Her new digs? A 2,200-square-foot Colonial built in the 1920s that she actually owns—and that she put much thought and elbow grease into furnishing and decorating. “When you’re renting,” she says, “it’s much easier to have a trendy place, as opposed to when you own a house and have to make expensive renovations. That was a huge eye-opener when I moved into this house. How do you design a home that feels relevant today but still timeless so you don’t have to redo it in 10 years?”

The answer, it turns out, is to surround yourself with things you love, treat the outdoors as an extension of the interiors, and invite people over—often. That spacious square footage, after all, is meant to be shared.

THE SOFA AND WHITE WING CHAIRS ALL HAVE WASHABLE SLIPCOVERS SO MUDDY PAW PRINTS FROM RUFUS WASH (OR BLEACH) RIGHT OUT.
THE ORIGINAL HARDWOOD FLOORS WERE IN GREAT SHAPE, BUT THE YELLOWING FINISH WAS UNSIGHTLY. AFTER SANDING, CLEAR POLYURETHANE LETS THE WOOD’S RAW COLOR SHINE THROUGH WHILE PROTECTING IT FROM SPILLS.

ELEGANT MIX Michelle modeled the living room, left, after the work of one of her favorite architects, Michele Bonan, who designed J.K. Place luxury hotels all over Europe. “He always uses the same formula from a layout standpoint and pairs midcentury modern pieces with highly traditional ones,” she says—hence, wing chairs and a marble mantel mingle with a sleek coffee table and sculptural light fixtures. “I always wanted to live in one of his hotels, so I took the basic elements and put them in my living room!” Because the house has no foyer, the front door opens directly into the living room, above. To create a bit of transition from outside to in—and to catch jackets and keys—Michelle hung hooks on one wall and situated a shallow table and mirror on another.

A FRESH FACE Seriously dated when Michelle bought the house, the kitchen, this photo, was heavy-laden with brown cabinets and vinyl flooring. “I really had to choose where to spend my money and where to save,” she says. On the “save” list are the cabinets purchased from Home Depot; they’re elevated with pricey Restoration Hardware knobs and Carrara marble countertop.

DO IT BETTER

LIGHTING MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN DECOR. EVERY ONE OF MICHELLE’S CEILING FIXTURES IS ON A DIMMER—ALL THE BETTER FOR SETTING THE MOOD AT AN EVENING GET-TOGETHER.

HAPPY MEDLEY The breakfast room, left, hosts items from all over the world, and they coexist happily. An IKEA tulip table lurks under a custom-sewn indigo tablecloth, with leather chairs surrounding. In the corner is a quirky elephant sculpture by a French artist—years ago, Michelle borrowed it for a Domino shoot, and she got attached. “This is coming home with me,” she remembers thinking. “It’s wild but I love it.”

“OPEN SHELVES MAKE YOU EDIT YOUR THINGS,” MICHELLE SAYS. “THEY MAKE YOU BE PRETTY HONEST ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE GOT, AND THEY MAKE THE KITCHEN AIRIER, BRIGHTER, AND NICER TO BE IN.”

DO IT BETTER

RATHER THAN TOTING HOME SOUVENIR T-SHIRTS OR MUGS FROM A VACATION, INVEST IN ARTWORK (PHOTOS, PAINTINGS, TEXTILES) WHEN YOU TRAVEL. “TRY TO MEET LOCAL ARTISTS AND FIND COOL PIECES—THEY’LL REMIND YOU OF YOUR TRIP,” MICHELLE SAYS.

MEMORY COLLECTOR Michelle is careful to include meaningful items in every vignette in her home—things that are special to her and remind her of travels and family—and the living room bookcase, above, and living room nook, left, are brimming with them. The bottom shelf of the bookcase is piled with fabrics from all over the world (New York, Guatemala, France); the custom watercolor (an Etsy commission) on the gold-edged table is of her pup, Rufus.

“LIVING IN NEW YORK ALL THOSE YEARS MADE ME VALUE EVERY SQUARE INCH OF MY HOME. I TREASURE THE CLOSETS, THE BASEMENT, EVERYTHING—I TOOK ADVANTAGE OF EACH LITTLE SPACE!”
MICHELLE ADAMS, HOMEOWNER

DARING MENU “I didn’t need a super fancy-pants dining room, but at the same time, the house called for something sophisticated,” Michelle says. She toned down the room’s inherent formality with edgier elements: a metal hutch and sleek square chairs. They gather around an 1800s Swedish trestle table alongside antique chairs reupholstered with vintage Guatemalan fabric for the right balance between edgy and elegant.

MICHELLE APPLIED A ROLL OF CORK (BOUGHT ON AMAZON) LIKE WALLPAPER ON ONE WALL TO CREATE A GIANT BULLETIN BOARD WHERE SHE PINS IDEAS AND INSPIRATION FOR HER WORK.

DO IT BETTER

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU SEE WHEN YOU WALK INTO A ROOM? IN HER OFFICE, MICHELLE WANTED TO FOCUS ON THE WARM WOOD WALL AND ANTIQUE OIL PAINTING RATHER THAN THE BUSY INSPIRATION BOARD.

ATTENTION-GETTER The office, this photo, was hiding these gorgeous wood planks under drywall coated in neon green paint. The dropped ceiling also concealed original beaded board. Michelle happened to be at the house when the contractor uncovered both—she stopped him from putting up more drywall. It’s here where Michelle works on her latest venture, The Maryn (themaryn.com), an online editorial destination “dedicated to the pursuit of living well.”

BACK IN BLACK The walls of the master bedroom, this photo, are cloaked in almost-black grass cloth, which imparts the depth, darkness, and texture Michelle was after. White curtains, white bedding, and a white upholstered headboard offset the dramatic walls. “It is a cozy little cave,” Michelle says.

FOR RESOURCES SEE PAGE 101.