After fifteen years of disuse, a Saarinen-designed house on the Cranbrook campus has been renovated and updated by the school's Director, Reed Kroloff, and interior designer Lynda Charfoos.
The house, the onetime residence of Swedish sculptor Carl Milles, was constructed in the early 1920s by Eliel Saarinen. It now doubles as a private residence for Kroloff, and as a gathering space for students and faculty.
Kroloff moved into the house in January 2010, after the renovation. All the mechanical and electrical systems were replaced, and new materials and fixtures were selected, but the exterior was not touched. "As a designer," says Kroloff, "it's like living in paradise."
Interior designer Lynda Charfoos, who is based in Bloomfield Hills and sits on the board of governors of Cranbrook, furnished the space with pieces by school alumni like Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia, Charles Eames, Ralph Rapson and Niels Diffrient.
"The ground level renovation took months," says Kroloff. "It's a historic property, so we couldn't knock down walls." A full ceiling of light was installed, thanks to a donation from Arkitektura. "When we were tallying what needed to be done to the project, we actually didn't consider the lighting. Lynda donated her services, or we wouldn't have been able to do it all."
"My favorite piece in the house is the 12-foot Saarinen table," says Kroloff. "The Saarinens were a family of extraordinary talent." All the artworks in the house are by pieces by current Cranbrook artists in residence.
The two-story house is public on the ground level and private on the upper floor. In the office, high bay windows allow northern light to flood the space.
"This was the first time I'd ever worked with an interior designer," says Kroloff. "It was wonderful and terrifying: wonderful because she has a flawless eye that made every decision excellent, and terrifying because I realized that I could never do it with the same ease."
In one portion of the living room, a work by Elliott Earls complements a collection of chairs by Bertoia, who instructed students in metalwork from 1939-1943.
"Cranbrook is one of the greatest movements in American design," says Kroloff. "It's a privilege to live here."