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Home is where the history is

By | 2008-03-27T09:00:00-04:00 March 27th, 2008|Uncategorized|

DETROIT – Brad Kenoyer and Jordan Medeiros had no intention of buying a historical home in Detroit’s Indian Village.

“We originally thought we were going to go loft shopping, so just the fact that we’re in a big ‘ol Tudor – and neither of us were fans of Tudors, we were more into Colonials – is unexpected.”
Then again, Kenoyer and Medeiros didn’t originally plan on settling in Detroit at all. Kenoyer, a native of Seattle, and Medeiros, who grew up in Hawaii, met in college in New York. When Kenoyer took a job in the Motor City, Medeiros was reluctant to follow. But he did, and eventually the two rented an Arts & Crafts style bungalow in Ferndale.
When the time came to make their first real-estate purchase, Kenoyer and Medeiros knew they wanted to be closer to downtown and set out to find the perfect loft. Fate, though, had other plans for the couple, who celebrated their 11th anniversary earlier this month.
“I’d never heard of Indian Village, but we read an article about a gay couple living here and that’s what caught our eye,” said Kenoyer, who drove by the house on his lunch break.
“I grabbed Jordan from work and we walked through it, and by the next day at lunch we had put an offer in on it,” Kenoyer recalled. “When we first walked into it, we fell in love with the flow and readjusted our vision from being downtown loft dwellers to being in a Tudor.”
But, initially at least, they were living in a Tudor in utter disrepair. Time had not been a friend to the majestic home. Designed by famed architect Albert Kahn and built in 1901 – and home, for a time, to automaker Hugh Chalmers – the house had been poorly reconstructed following an early 1970s fire. By the time the couple moved into the 3,800 square foot five bedroom, four bath home, there was little of its original grandeur left to see.
“It was all pink and robin’s egg blue with six different shades of shag carpeting,” said Kenoyer, who spent considerable time early on removing stucco from the ceilings and walls.
The ambitious couple, though, were capable of seeing beyond what it was to what it once had been and could be again.
“We try to be as historically accurate as possible with the permanent infrastructure, with anything that will remain when we leave,” said Medeiros, who points out that the kitchens and bathrooms are the exception, since at the time the home was built there was no running water. “With those rooms we tried to create what they would have made at that time with a better understanding of how we live today.”
Upon moving into the house, the couple devised a 10-year plan for their renovations, but halfway into that timeframe, they’re proudly way ahead of schedule. The biggest task thus far, they agree, has been the kitchen.
“Living without a kitchen for six months was hard,” said Kenoyer. “But it gave us an excuse to eat out every night. The biggest challenge was figuring out what we wanted the kitchen to be and then executing it. We lived here for two years before we started it, and I think the kitchen is totally different now than it would have been if we’d done it when we first moved in.”
Now, the couple is beginning to look past renovating and onto decorating.
“I can say that after five years of living her it will be nice to stop spending money on the infrastructure and start spending it on furniture and decorations,” Kenoyer said. “I’m excited to let Jordan loose with the checkbook and design. The basic vision is not to stick to antiques. I don’t want to be locked in being in a period house.”
“When we decorate, we’ll try to blend something more current, something that pulls good design from all eras,” Medeiros added. “This house was built in 1901, but there’s no reason a 1950s sofa would not work in this house. This house existed in the 1950s. It’s more about picking classic, iconic designs and sort of integrating them through all eras.”
Kenoyer gives Medeiros full credit for the gorgeous muted colors throughout the house that stream beautifully from room to room.
“I’m a big believer in flow,” said Medeiros, who takes the paint splotches for every room in the house when the time comes to add a new color or paint a new room. “Right now all we have to decorate is walls, so might as well make it look good.”

An inspiring history lesson

Despite the enormity of the work, the perks of moving into a historical neighborhood have been many for Kenoyer and Medeiros.
“There’s a really vital gay community here,” Kenoyer said. “It kind of flies under the radar. I was shocked by one, how vibrant the community is in historic neighborhoods in the city and, two, how diverse and welcoming the historic neighborhoods are. I’ve been really impressed, and it’s been one of the bigger bonuses for moving into the neighborhood that we weren’t expecting. It’s a selling point you don’t hear too much about.”
Now, Kenoyer wants to spread the word about that benefit and the many others that go along with living in a historical neighborhood. To that end, he has recently joined the board of Preservation Wayne, Detroit’s oldest and largest architectural preservation organization. This summer, PW will be promoting six historical neighborhoods throughout Detroit and urging folks in the region to take a good look at them.
“There are financial incentives for moving into historical neighborhoods,” said Kenoyer. “The state of Michigan offers tax credits. Then, obviously, the dropping of home prices has made just the general tax rates more affordable. Plus there are a number of mortgages that allow you to wrap renovations costs into your loan.
“As we grow as an organization, I think we want to expand to inspiring people to go into neighborhoods and buy old homes and put in the sweat equity. We want to inspire folks to buy in historical neighborhoods and let them know what resources are out there.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.