Her personal life transformed beautifully,
a local designer now makes additions to her professional life.
WRITTEN BY KHRISTI ZIMMETH I PHOTOGRAPHS BY GENE MEADOWS
"I told my friend I really
needed his house — and
then I found him another
one," says Janice Morse,
in her gourmet kitchen.
1 8 •
OCTOBER 2007 •
At 54, Janice Morse thought she had her life figured out.
Then life threw her a curve ball.
"It was 2003, and my kids were grown," she says of Adam
and Alana, now 28 and 31. "I had bought a great condo in
Wabeek and was looking forward to having more time to travel
and have fun. But things didn't work out that way."
That same year, her sister-in-law died of cancer, leaving
her niece and nephew, Sydney and Josh, then 9 and 11,
homeless. Morse decided to take them in.
That fateful event changed many aspects of Morse's life
— her routine, her outlook, even her home. Suddenly she
was knee-deep in parenting again — and she was running
out of room.
"I realized that I needed a bigger house, one that was big
enough for a blended family and that would accommodate
not only Josh and Sydney but also my two grown kids, who
came home often."
A professional designer and the owner of Designs Unlimited
— which now encompasses a brand-new Poggenpohl kitchen-
design showroom — in Birmingham, Morse soon found herself
house hunting. "I went looking but couldn't find anything that
I loved," she says.
Luckily she didn't have to look far. Her friend and fellow
designer Craig Steinhaus had recently purchased a 7,500-
square-foot 1960s contemporary home in Bloomfield
Village. Originally built for Bill Pulte, founder of Pulte
Homes, and his family of eight, the house was just about to
undergo Steinhaus' renovations when Morse's life changed.
"I told him I really needed his house, and then found him
another one," she explains.
Not only did she like the home's contemporary style, she
appreciated its floor plan and materials, including exterior and
interior trim made from the same now-unavailable brick that
had been used to build Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield
Hills. Morse quickly picked up where Steinhaus had
left off, finishing a complete refurbishment in just four
"This is what I do for a living," explains Morse. "I had
all of my friends in the business pitch in. People used to
claim my circular drive was valet parking for the building
and design trade."
Together Morse and her helpers tore down walls, moved
staircases (including a pink circular staircase in the foyer)
and updated the interiors. Morse rearranged spaces, giving
rooms new purposes. A former squash court, for example,
was reinvented as a spacious new family room plus a
second-floor master suite. "I don't even know what a squash
racquet looks like," she quips.
She also moved the kitchen to the back of the house.
Not surprisingly, the gourmet kitchen now includes every
amenity — a six-burner Thermador range, SubZero wine
cooler, two dishwashers, even a built-in coffee and cappuc-
cino maker. The only thing original to the space is a stone
fireplace in the former family room.
Once the renovation was complete, Morse filled the rest
of the house with her trademark look — a combination
of Asian style and clean-lined contemporary mixed with
traditional, classic pieces. "The fun is in making it work
together. For me, it's all about the mix," she explains.
It's also all about family — blended or otherwise. No
rooms are off limits to the kids, who often bring friends
home to hang out. To help her cope, Morse has designed a
home that corrals clutter with plenty of storage.
"Everything is easy to clean and there's a place for every-
thing. It keeps me sane," she says. No wonder, as helping
customers design similar, storage-rich spaces is a Designs
Unlimited specialty. Also there to help: a marble, spa-style
bath and an oversized master suite with a fireplace, which
gives Morse a place to unwind at the end of the day.
While her life has changed drastically, she says it has
changed for the better.
"In the end, nothing is more important than the kids,"
she says. "This has turned out to be a great home — for
all of us." ❑