Photo: Credit - Brett Mountain

DIY Digs

The Jewish News
Lynne Konstantin

Lynne Konstantin

An artist becomes interior designer for her family’s new home —
one of seven on this year’s Birmingham House Tour.


Jennifer and Todd Kroll had lived on an idyllic street in Birmingham for 17 years — and their teenage daughters, Lilley, 16, and Marlee, 14, had spent their entire lives there.

They loved the area so much that when the growing family began to burst out of the closets of their circa-1950s home, they called in reinforcement for a renovation.

“We were going to expand a bit and add space over the garage,” Kroll says. “I had the plans all drawn up.”

Meanwhile, four blocks over, a brand-new street — still part of their same neighborhood — had been cut in, and a couple of houses had already been built.

“We drove past them every day,” Kroll says. “Literally, just after I signed the papers for our renovation, Todd says, ‘Why don’t we just take a look at the lot over there.’”

They looked — and the same day, Kroll canceled the renovations.

The plans for the new house had already been drawn up, but the couple were still able to tweak them, customizing details that they’d always wanted, including large closets and space to display art collections.

Kroll, who is a jewelry designer and metalsmith, took on the interior design of the home. “I’m super-picky,” Kroll says. “I like to choose everything — I would find what I wanted and have it shipped to the builder. It’s transitional on the outside, but I call it ‘industrial farm’ on the inside.

“I’m really good at finding things,” she says. “And I don’t like to have someone else do what I know I can do myself. I’m sure I would be a pain if I were working with someone else, but since it was just me, I was the only one suffering.”

The family moved into the home in January 2015 — just two weeks before Marlee’s bat mitzvah.

“It’s been said,” Kroll says, “that I’m a little crazy.”

Photo Credit – Brett Mountain

A three-season room was added to the home by Todd Kroll’s company, Kroll Construction. “This small part of the house is where we spend most of our time,” Kroll says. “We push it until it’s just too darn cold — we’ve got blankets, watch TV, eat dinner [at the dining table, not shown]. We do everything here.” Beams across the shiplap ceiling were made to echo those in the kitchen.
Kroll rescued a water-damaged and buckled 1938 map of Detroit’s railway trolley route and had it mounted in Plexiglass. “A woman posted it for sale on a Facebook group,” Kroll says. “It was her husband’s and she wanted to get rid of it. I wonder if he ever noticed it’s gone.” Kroll and daughter Marlee each have their own art studio in the basement.
A vintage school clock, which was hung outside the family room, was scooped up from eBay.
Because Kroll had trouble finding a dining table large enough for the enormous room, she purchased two tables from Art Van and had a carpenter put them together. The black-on-black flocked wallpaper displays framed menus from favorite restaurants, which the couple had signed by the chefs. Kroll found the fabric for the drapery (not shown) at JoAnn and had them made.
Details like an apron-front sink and whipstitch-edged leather barstools add warmth to the kitchen. A pantry with a double-hung Dutch door has a shelf with outlets to house small appliances. Kroll wanted a line of wood around the inside of the ceiling that resembled a barn, but had trouble explaining what she wanted. She headed to a lumber yard, watched a few YouTube videos and set to work on the 15-foot wood slabs herself. “Once I started, I kind of wished I hadn’t. But it was a labor of love.”

The Community House’s Birmingham House Tour, presented by Hall & Hunter Realtors, features seven homes, from traditional to contemporary. 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14. $40/advance; $45/day of the tour; proceeds benefit the Community House children’s and adults’ programs and services. (248) 644-5832;

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