Interior Designer Elin Walters Talks About Her Midcentury Home Renovation

Midcentury home renovation - Interior designer Elin Walters  - Exterior front

Interior designer Elin Walters and her realtor husband, Christian Ward, took on the personal project to design their own home. The couple’s careers in the field of architecture together with a passion for midcentury modern aesthetic fused to make sure that each part of the home has been carefully thought out using space wisely, employing natural materials and creating a natural flow throughout the home. 

Each inch of the stunning 1800 square foot home serves a purpose and its interior decor combines vintage with modern design. Being able to design your own home is quite the unique luxury. Curious to learn more, we got in touch with Elin Walters to tell us about the project.

Midcentury home renovation - Interior designer Elin Walters  - living room

Which parts of a new project excite you the most?

I am giddy at the start of a project when I am re-imagining the space and developing the concept and the overall look and feel. I enjoy trying to learn as much about the client as I can to incorporate their personalities or desires into the design. Starting a new project to me is like taking on a challenge and finding the best solution that looks fantastic. 

The installation of a project is equally as exciting. To see what started out as a concept in my head come to life, producing a certain experience and feeling, is so satisfying. 

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What are the emerging trends in residential architecture that will shape our way of living in the next ten years?

With the lion-share of our population comprised of Baby-boomers and Millenials, and what seems to be their desire to scale back the size of home and maintenance, I believe we are headed towards more compact homes rather than the McMansions of the 90s and early 2000s.

A smaller footprint and decreased square footage requires architects and interior designers to think creatively about space. How can needs be met with less space? Is there really a need for a formal dining room? Can spaces be multi-purpose? Is it better to renovate than build new because homes already exist close to town, and that is where people are wanting to live now? Environmentally speaking, we need to reduce, reuse, recycle – I see smaller scale and repurpose of homes as a necessity for global survival. 

Midcentury home renovation - Interior designer Elin Walters  - living room
Midcentury home renovation - Interior designer Elin Walters  - bedroom

Can you tell us a bit about the story of your house?

My husband and I are the owners of the home in this project. We have 5 children between the two of us and when we first moved in, needed to accomodate living space for a larger family. Each inch of our 1800 square foot home matters, and therefore every inch is carefully thought out.

Three children have since moved on and we find that a family of 4 lives quite comfortably in our 5-bedroom house. My husband, Christian Ward, is a realtor in Ann Arbor and my business focuses on the mid-century modern aesthetic.

We find that our careers meld beautifully and have plans to buy, renovate and sell homes, leaving them with the midcentury flare! 

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In designing for your own home, what was included in the brief?

We wanted our home to have a flow – an open, expansive feel and a modern approach to a midcentury built home. In addition to bedrooms for everyone, we wanted a living space for activities and a separate space to read and sit by the fire.

We love the midcentury modern aesthetic and wanted to accentuate the concept of bringing the outdoors inside, having lots of light, using natural materials, keeping clean lines, using pops of color and generally having a open flow to the whole house.

Midcentury home renovation - Interior designer Elin Walters  - bedroom

What was your approach for the project? 

The approach to the project was to create a gigantic list at the time of move-in (December 2009) of all the things we wanted to change about the house and chip away at it as we came up with good ideas and/or had the funds. What we’ve found is that the house is constantly evolving.

We have accomplished 99% of what we set out to change initially, but we seem to think of new things each year! We have a handy family and have done many of our projects ourselves, but also find that some things are best left to the professionals (ie. recently rebuilt our stairs: floating treads and glass panel railings).

The interior decor of the home mixes a lot of modern with vintage. What are some of your favorite designers for this style of furniture? 

Oh, there are many midcentury designers that I love. Honestly, Cranbrook (40 min from our home) in the 1930s was home to many of the iconic designers that I love (Charles and Ray Eames, Florence Knoll and Eero Saarinen, just to name a few).

In addition to them, I’m drawn to Vladamir Kagan, Hans Wegner, Paul McCobb and Finn Juhl. All of these designers favored the clean lines of midcentury Modernism that I find to be simply perfect. I’m a lover of geometry, simplicity and color and these designers knew how to use these elements in such striking ways. 

Midcentury home renovation - Interior designer Elin Walters  - living room detail
Midcentury home renovation - Interior designer Elin Walters  - living room
Midcentury home renovation - Interior designer Elin Walters  -

You’ve put a lot of your own, unique and familiar touch to the home, such as the small desk by your stepfather. How important are details like that for you, and what specifically did you request for in terms of design, materials and color palette?

Because every bit of space needs to be used wisely in our home, the built-in desk is a shelving unit that pulls out from the wall for access to the water heater that services the heated floor in this space.

Form and function at its best! We are drawn to the light woods of so much of Scandinavian design and chose natural birch as the ‘wood of choice’ for various aspects throughout our house (ie. built-in desk, kitchen cabinet doors, paneling, built-in closets, dressers).

As a designer, repeating elements and materials in a home is something I make sure and do. Without being aware, a natural flow exists when the eye picks up on repetition. 

Which is your favourite part of this house and why?

My favorite part of the house is the space around the fireplace. The floor is heated, the vintage fireplace kicks out some serious heat, the room feels open and light, the outdoors is viewed from the couch, my favorite colors of orange and turquoise are peppered throughout- it simply feels comfortable, peaceful, quiet and inviting.

Did you do any research on the mid-century period aesthetic (if so where) while working at this project?

If ‘research’ can be defined as a childhood with artistic and architecturally-minded parents, then I guess you could call that my research. I like to tell people that I was a sponge as a child and soaked up the knowledge that I have today about design and architectural periods from my parents.

Dragged around as a child to antique shows, resale shops, museums and lectures was on occasion ‘boring’, but I thank them now for a fine education! 

Midcentury home renovation - Interior designer Elin Walters - Exterior front
Photos by Bob Foran

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