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March 05, 2004 - Image 60

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-03-05

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Inspired by a painterly, vintage handbag fabric, an interior designer
turns a contemporary home into a showplace that bridges the centuries.



Ellen Blau poses beneath a Del Grasso painting.


hen Arts & Crafts decoration
meets Victorian flourishes, the
result is an intriguing marriage
of botanical wallpaper and ornately bead-
ed handbags.
These complementary styles work
together beautifully in the Bingham
Farms home of Ellen and Marshall Blau.
When they built the house 16 years ago,
the Blaus preferred an ultra- contempo-
rary decor. "Suddenly I was done with
cold, uncomfortable, uninviting rooms,"
says Ellen, who is the director of devel-
opment for the Center for Humanistic
Studies in Farmington Hills. "I wanted
my Harbor Springs lifestyle all year long;
sort of a comfy, denim couch feel."
The impetus for the Blaus' dramatic

interior makeover was a colorful fabric
printed with vintage handbags that
designer Linda Powers found. It struck a
chord with Ellen, who has been collect-
ing extraordinary examples of vintage
beaded, leather and petit-point bags
since 1988. Known as the "bag lady," she
has bags from both her grandmothers, as
well as dozens she's found in Europe or
on weekend jaunts around the state. She
looks for the finest Venetian beads and
defers to expert advice from Evelyn
Haertig, a woman in her 80s who is "the
expert on purses," according to Ellen.
"Unless they're spectacular, I really
don't buy anymore," she says. "Leathers
have become my new passion, especially
leather wallets from the Arts & Crafts

movement." All of the bags are dis-
played as art on specially made stands in
the living and dining rooms.
Ellen, who is on the board of directors
of the National Headache Foundation
and has a master's degree in clinical psy-
chology, also collects antique footstools,
which cluster in front of the fireplace
(see cover photo). And Marshall, a resi-
dential land developer, collects crystal
decanters. The graceful bags, sculptural
stools and elegant barware all command
attention in the living areas of the home,
giving each room a focal point.
"Now we have a living room we can
really use, with overstuffed chairs to curl
up in," says Ellen. "We sit here and read
by the fire all winter long." ❑

A hand-painted buffet divides the living and dining rooms, and complements the Guy Chaddock oak table, Italian leather chairs and French cane end chairs. The bronze and glass Ming pendant lamp illuminates
examples of Ellen Blau's exquisite handbag collection. ■ Tea Bath, a color from Martha Stewart's paint collection, forms the perfect backdrop for the 1920s powder room sink, antique mirror and antique Chinese
bamboo and lacquer shelf. ■ The kitchen ceiling is covered in a reproduction of William Morris's Fruit pattern wallpaper, circa 1864. Morris is considered the father of Arts & Crafts. A Pewabic-inspired ceramic

tile hood and granite countertops add to the Arts & Crafts feel. French bistro chairs pull up to the large center island.

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