After spending her career covering other people’s homes, the former editor of Domino decided it was time to design her own. Peek inside Michelle Adams’ Ann Arbor home and take a 3D tour of her living room.
By Sarah F. Cox
Photography by Marta Xochilt Perez
As a renter in New York City, Michelle Adams used to peruse Trulia, the listings site, for Michigan homes late at night and dream of what could be. While she dedicated her New York career to covering other people’s homes, she yearned for something of her own.
During her eight years of city life, Adams co-founded Lonny, a wildly successful online shelter magazine, and went on to be editor-in-chief of Domino, a former print magazine that called on Adams and her team to lead an online relaunch in 2013.
Adams grew up moving around New York and the Midwest, including Plymouth and Northville. “We moved so often that I was frequently redesigning my bedroom and imagining what the next one would look like,” Adams says. “I suppose it sparked some interior design creativity at a young age.”
A Michigan State University graduate, she decided to return to Michigan after stepping down as editor-in-chief of Domino in 2014 (Lonny was acquired in 2012). Adams, 35, now runs a blog and online shop called The Maryn, for which many of the photo shoots and styling sessions happen in her Ann Arbor home.
Adams renovated her home from March to August 2014 with the help of William Charles Custom Homes, a contractor in Saline. During the process, they tore out drop ceilings, remodeled the kitchen, overhauled a master closet to double the space and made aesthetic changes everywhere. Adams even ordered a new fireplace mantel, which was shipped in three pieces but looks native to the character of the home.
The colonial has a modern look due to Adams’ choice of color palette. Years of covering design prepared her for what she wanted aesthetically and how it would look photographed. Adams says she’s in love with what she’s built and most proud of where she created new “focal points.” For instance, she moved the kitchen sink to center it below kitchen windows.
Giving a SEEN writer a tour, she points out several other focal points. But now that she’s lived here a few years, she admits there are a few things she’d do differently if she had to do the renovation today. For one, she’d prefer a pantry in place of the smaller counter space next to the fridge. She later muses that energy-efficient windows and a higher basement ceiling would have been nice as well.
A year ago, Adams got a puppy, Rufus, who is the reason for the sheet covering the couch. For this she apologizes (unnecessarily), but otherwise the home is impeccable. While the house is bright and full of art, the basement is surprisingly captivating for different reasons: She’s created her ideal home gym, which features a rower, Peloton bike and sound system to create an oasis for concentration. It feels like a SoulCycle spinning studio with more privacy and none of the sweaty strangers next to you. Next to this in another room of the basement is a photo studio for product shoots.
Settled into the living room and drinking a bright-red beet-colored juice, Adams talks about the transition from publications to her current creative consultant work as well as her shop, The Maryn, which hosts pop-ups locally but mainly exists online. Launching and growing Lonny taught her a lot about growing a following and a brand, but one thing she says she wishes she had done sooner is read “Profit First,” a book she found a year into The Maryn. Adams advises any entrepreneur to read it. The book, by Mike Michalowicz, is explained in the subtitle: “Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine.” One thing she’s connected most with since returning to Michigan is finding a community of like-minded creative people, especially entrepreneurial women.
As for The Maryn, the online site marries the website platform Squarespace and online merchant shop Shopify. Adams does the product scouting with the aesthetic and ethos she wants for The Maryn; her research is known to lead her down Instagram rabbit holes stalking designer wares that have a fair trade or philanthropic message.
The name “Maryn” nods to Amanda Peet’s character “Marin” in the movie “Something’s Gotta Give,” which Adams loves. She explaines she identified most with Diane Keaton’s character, Erica.
“I dream of living by the sea in a house much like Erica’s and raising a family,” she says. “I love the name Erica chose for her daughter, Marin, and connected with it even more when I realized that the name means ‘of the sea.’ So I decided I’d either give my future daughter or a company that name, whichever one came first.”
Asked if she’s harboring any unfinished design fantasies now that the home is done, Adams says she’s thrilled with her neighborhood (it’s so friendly that Rufus even has a doggy door into the neighbor’s yard to share playspace), but that she might like a lake house eventually, or she could trade it all for a mid-century modern restoration dream with an open floor plan.
In the meantime, she’s applying her tips and tricks to other peoples’ spaces and brands, but her favorite secret to share is called Treasure Mart, a resale market in Ann Arbor where she bought the downstairs bathroom mirror for $20.