With the help of family and friends, a young couple transforms a ramshackle, 131-year-old Detroit house into a stunning home
By Erin Marie Miller
Photography by Brett Mountain
Looking at the Damaske home in Detroit’s historic Woodbridge neighborhood, one would hardly guess that less than a decade ago the house stood vacant and in disrepair, covered in peeling green paint and chipped, time-worn shingles. The house’s owners, Jeremy and Ashley Damaske, lovingly refer to their home as the “Teakle House” after Robert Teakle, the man who built it back in 1889. Standing peacefully on the edge of a quiet street surrounded by similarly well-kept historic homes, today it’s both cheerful and inviting.
Jeremy, 36, first learned about the home in 2013 after a friend — now the Damaskes’ neighbor — mentioned it was for sale. Jeremy, who hails from Harrison Township, had moved to a nearby rental in Woodbridge in 2006 and says that he quickly fell “in love” with the area.
The friend connected Jeremy with the homeowner, who lived out of town, and he and Ashley (an Orion Township native and his then-girlfriend) went to check out the house.
“It had a lot of issues we were able to see as soon as we walked in,” says Jeremy, recalling that the rooms were bursting with the previous owner’s discarded items — furniture, books, magazines, rolls of carpet and stacks of tile — that needed to be cleared out before renovations could begin. The drywall was also in poor condition and needed to be replaced. Regardless, Jeremy says the house’s “potential and natural beauty” was obvious, and he and Ashley, now 29, knew they could “make it into the perfect home to start a family.” (The pair were married in 2015.)
In the background, Jeremy was also working to advance his business — a pizza company called Pie-Sci that he had started as a pop-up at Woodbridge Pub in 2009. Within two years, the venture had proven so successful that Jeremy struck a deal with the pub’s owner, Jim Geary, to lease a nearby building where he could build out a brick-and-mortar pizzeria. Although the process came to a halt due to rezoning issues that would span the next couple of years, Jeremy and Ashley closed on the Teakle house in 2014. It was days before Jeremy’s birthday, and the pair had scheduled a trip to Baltimore to celebrate. But after realizing how much work was in front of them, Jeremy says, they canceled their plans.
“We had [friends and family] come and give us their opinions,” he says. “And immediately we knew we needed to take it down to the studs.” Overwhelmed but undaunted, the couple enlisted guidance from mentors like Geary and Ashley’s father. They also employed a small army of friends and family to complete projects like removing drywall, installing insulation, updating plumbing and electrical systems, replacing the roof and managing a particularly troublesome termite infestation.
“It was important to us to honor the historic parts of the home,” says Ashley, who works as a teacher at a private school in Detroit’s Indian Village. “But we also wanted to make sure that it was functional for a family.” With a focus on pragmatism, the Damaskes found sophisticated ways to blend the house’s historic elements with more modern and practical features. In the kitchen, IKEA cupboards and updated appliances complement the original built-in cabinetry in the dining nook. Upstairs, stained-glass windows handmade by Jeremy’s cousin as a wedding gift share space with original leaded glass.
Earthy palettes and warm, natural décor echo throughout the home. “We like to use more natural materials, so there’s a lot of wood and earth tones,” Ashley says. Inspiration for her design choices partly stem from the greenhouse attached to the dining room, which the Damaskes believe was added sometime in the mid-1900s. “We went with botanical wallpaper [in the dining room],” says Ashley. In the warmer months, the couple fills the greenhouse with plants and greenery.
The dining room also features a wooden table custom-designed and handmade by John Orland, then a student at the College for Creative Studies. Beyond the table, sunlight dances across 100-year-old Italian tile adorning the entryway floor. Jeremy says that cleaning and laying the tiles, which were salvaged from the remnants left behind by the previous owner, was the first project he and Ashley completed after buying the house.
As renovations on the home continued over the next couple of years, Jeremy’s dream of opening a restaurant became a reality, and Pie-Sci debuted in July 2016. The following year, the Damaskes welcomed their daughter, Adelia (now 2 ½) — an event the couple says played a prominent role in shaping their interior design choices.
“I’ve always been focused on making sure that [Adelia’s] space is also livable because it’s her home, too,” says Ashley. “We don’t try to hide that we have a toddler.” Adelia’s whimsical, fairytale-esque bedroom, along with her toys that fill the home, is evidence of that commitment.
The Damaskes’ work to transform their house has been extensive, but the couple insists they’re not finished yet. “It’s been really dreamy renovating this house and making it our own,” says Ashley. When asked about future renovations, they launch into a litany of possibilities for the attic. “I say we’re done, but it’s never done,” Jeremy says with a laugh. “There are always projects.”