| Special to the Detroit Free Press
Ex-NFL player’s $1.1M Detroit home is striking
Showplace mid-century modern architecture in Detroit’s Palmer Woods
Tanya Wildt, Wochit
This striking contemporary home is a near-pristine showplace of mid-century modern architecture set in Detroit’s posh Palmer Woods and surrounded by 1920s Tudor mansions.
Its wow factor starts at the front entrance where two stained glass doors are set into a tall wall of glass that rises two stories to a peak. At its top the glass folds over 90 degrees and lays a slim line through the roof.
The result is a dazzling, sunny atrium. Below that is the foyer, accented by a triple life-size Louis Armstrong image. The floor is cut away above, and glass railings look through to below.
From each side of this startling foyer, glamor spreads out in wide open spaces.
“It’s really like a California home,“ said its owner, former NFL player Ron Bartell, who has lived in both California and Arizona. “The design and the openness really remind me of the West Coast. It’s a great house for entertaining.”
Bartell is a native Detroiter, a Renaissance High School kid, who played professional football 10 years — mostly with the St. Louis Rams, but short stints with the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions.
Now he is a Detroit entrepreneur — owner of Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles, an upscale Southern restaurant on the Livernois’ Avenue of Fashion near 7 Mile. This spring he plans to open a second restaurant called Petty Cash close to downtown, and he’s involved in other development projects on the city’s north end of Livernois.
Detroit, though, has become Bartell’s second home because his family lives in California. “This house is too big for one guy alone,” he said. For his Detroit base, he plans to downsize into Midtown.
The 5,000 square feet he’s leaving are full of touchstones from mid-century design. The living room has a sunken conversation pit in front of the fireplace.
Remember accordion doors? From both sides of the fireplace, accordion doors can fold in or open out with shelves and a door behind them.
Don’t picture the low-budget vinyl doors you might still find in commercial use. These are dark wood that looks very dressy.
It was the previous owners who went through the house and brought it up to such fine finish, Bartell said, full of white marble, pale wood and textured travertine. One of their great improvements was replacing all the windows and glass doors.
Most rooms have a great indoor-outdoor feel because side and rear walls have floor-to-ceiling glass. Now, all that glass is the Pella Lifestyle Series. This puts moveable blinds between two panes of glass, mechanized to raise and lower or tilt for shade.
One other large change was updating the kitchen — the only room no longer mid-century. It’s now a big, open room in today’s style with maple cabinets, black granite counters and stainless steel appliances, including a seven-burner stovetop.
The owners’ suite has a large spa-like bath with a Jacuzzi tub and a large steam shower, both with electronic controls. A two-sided fireplace faces both the bedroom and bath.
There’s a kids’ suite, too. It has a sleeping room, with a bunk bed raised over a space for a desk. A second playroom is attached next door.
The main floor has an office that closes off from the rest of the house. This office has its own kitchenette and fridge.
Among other assets is a big, curving glass carport that looks into the backyard. Besides the cars that fit the garage, you can park more here to keep snow off. It’s also a good place to stage parties, Bartell said.
Bartell grew up nearby in northwest Detroit, he said.
“I always wanted to live in this neighborhood,” he said. “But it was something I didn’t think was reachable.”
Mid-century modern in Palmer Woods
Where: 19455 Cumberland Way, Detroit
How much: $1.1 million
Baths: 4 full, 3 half
Square feet: 5,075 plus a partly finished basement.
Key features: Showplace mid-century modern architecture in Detroit’s Palmer Woods, completely redone recently in appropriate style. Glamorous open spaces, new kitchen, Surround Sound, private yard.
Contact: Miranda Morrow, National Realty Centers, 313-215-5686.
A note about photos
In order to limit our staff’s exposure to coronavirus, the Detroit Free Press is temporarily suspending its practice of using our photographers to capture images for House Envy and is instead using photographs prepared by listing Realtors, with credit to the photographers. We thank the Realtors for helping in this effort.