Detroit Palmer Woods estate once a backdrop for auto ads
This is one of the beautiful old houses in Detroit’s Palmer Woods – Mediterranean style with a lush landscape – decorated with stone carvings inside and out. It has 98-year-old faux tile, bronze, and stone artichoke accents, and seven tall arches carved in stone around floor-to-ceiling windows.
Most dramatically, there is an ornate greenhouse from the 1920s that is so grand that the chic among us would call it a conservatory. It has a curved glass roof, which is arched to a point, and heavy filigree doors made of bronze.
It was designed in 1923 by Richard Marr – “Midwestern Architect of Millionaires” – who also designed the homes of two Fisher brothers in Palmer Woods.
The house is in good condition thanks to some conscientious owners. The current owner, John Sayah, rebuilt the landscape, replaced the bluestone terrace, rebuilt the koi pond and brought back fish. He found unusual, screened vintage doors, had them restored and reinstalled.
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He had restored elaborate iron doors on the Brisenweg. Where the original casement windows were painted, it was reversed. “In a way, you’re just a steward of a house like this,” he said.
Two owners before Sayah, Norman Silk and Dale Morgan owned this home. They are among the prominent flower designers of Metro Detroit and longtime owners of Silk & Morgan, also known as Blossoms Fresh Flower Market in Birmingham.
The two are also known for their fine home renovations and have redesigned this home to suit their lifestyle – a household of two, lots of entertainment.
They cannibalized a little maid’s room to create a large, modern bathroom for the owner’s suite. It has a large steam shower, jacuzzi and underfloor heating.
They completely redesigned the kitchen, tore down a wall, expanded it and merged it with the family room. The kitchen now has at least two of everything, Sayah said, plus three fridges and sinks.
Silk and Morgan found the ornate bronze doors of the winter garden in DuMouchelle’s art gallery. They added an indoor-outdoor sound system.
“So, thank you very much to her,” said Sayah.
Silk and Morgan bought the stunning 400-window Dorothy Turkel home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright near 7 Mile Road. They continued to live in this Palmer Woods location during their four year restoration of the Wright house.
International visitors now visit the Turkel House, but the Palmer Woods House is also full of flourishes.
There is carved limestone everywhere – stone roses hang over windows, a stone basket with flowers over the front door. Tall and short planters are carved with flowers. Two stone lions and a stone artichoke are on the back terrace. The delicate heart of the artichoke is a symbol of hope and peace.
The conservatory includes a carved stone fountain. In the back yard there is a three-tier stone fountain that stands in a pool and the levels of which are supported by angels.
Carved angels are common in this house, and Sayah is not a fan of angelic images. But he stayed with the custodian for over nine years and not with the renovation. “If you don’t like the character of the house, don’t buy it,” he said.
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The back of the house is wrapped in a beautiful three-season space. Its floor is the original artificial tile from 1923. Carved stone arches wrap around it and frame high arched windows.
The two original bathrooms look great with their original synthetic tiles – maybe Pewabic or a comparable vintage.
Two steps from the large living room, a smaller adjoining room has an arch with two stained glass framed with tiles and stone. You’re supposed to be Romeo and Juliet.
Halfway up the curved main staircase, two sculpture niches are built into the wall. In each of the illuminated, curved rooms there is a vintage fresco of an ancient Roman scene.
The house has a 1920s version of a peephole on the front door. It’s a small lead box cut into the door with a small lead door that opens to reveal the porch.
In its early days, this house was sometimes used as a luxury background for running car ads. Two such advertisements are framed in the house – one from 1928 and one from 1953 – apparently both Packards. These photos stay in the house.
Palmer Woods estate
Where: 1530 Wellesley Drive, Detroit
How much: $ 876,490
Bath: 3 full, 3 half
Square feet: 4.387
Key Features: Fisher Mansion’s architect Richard Marr’s beautiful Palmer Woods home is full of details such as carved stone, lead, and stained glass, as well as niches with frescoed sculptures. Kitchen remodeled for entertaining, beautiful garden, pond fountain.
Contact: Kenan Bakirci, Keller Williams Metro, 248-330-8038.
A note on photos
To limit our employees’ exposure to coronavirus, the Detroit Free Press is temporarily ceasing its practice of using our photographers to take pictures for House Envy, and instead using photos created through listing brokers, we are the photographers who Honor brokers for their assistance in this endeavor.