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Design + Decor Home

Inside a Boldly Designed Grosse Pointe Woods Bungalow

March 1, 2021

Geometric wallpaper, crushed velvet furniture, peacock-inspired colors – every inch of this 1,100-square-foot home makes a bold statement

By Nicole Frehsee Mazur
Photography by Brett Mountain

As a little girl, Rachel Nelson was fascinated with peacocks. “I just loved their colors,” she says. “I found them to be mesmerizing and peaceful and bold and strong.”

So when she came across a fringed, peacock-blue chandelier from Detroit designer Regina Andrew a few years ago, it sparked an idea: “I was like, ‘OK, we’re redoing the living room,’” recalls Nelson, who lives in Grosse Pointe Woods with her husband, Joe Trobaugh, and their two dogs. She painted the walls to match the light fixture, then reupholstered her sectional in a chartreuse fabric that she’d had her eye on for years. “It just started to spiral.”

Now lovingly referred to as “the peacock room,” the space is the couple’s favorite spot in the house — but it’s far from the only unique one. Indeed, most every room in the pair’s 1,100-square-foot bungalow is bursting with character and color, from the teal-ceilinged master bathroom and jewel-toned dining area to the emerald-walled guest bedroom. “I love color, and I love spaces that evoke a mood,” says Nelson, who mixes silhouettes, textures and styles that run the gamut from traditional to contemporary. “I don’t shy away from bold statements.”

Nelson’s childhood fascination with peacocks inspired the living room.

If you’re wondering how Nelson managed to combine all these different elements into something cohesive, it’s because she knows a thing or two about tying a room together: She’s the owner of RL Concetti, a boutique residential and commercial interior design firm in Detroit. At work, she hones in on decor that sparks delight for her clients. “I don’t adhere to, ‘Oh, you’re midcentury modern, you’re French Country,’” she says, ticking off design styles. “I zero in on the person and what feels good.”

Rachel Nelson with her husband, Joe Trobaugh, and their dogs, Carson and Matty.

She applied that same principle to her own house. Take the 1950s-era sofa in her office, which the couple inherited from Trobaugh’s grandmother. Nelson refinished the wood and reupholstered the couch in an arresting royal-blue crushed velvet. “I really like doing a unique juxtaposition…to make it have a funky, fun personality,” she says, adding that they went with the color because it’s Trobaugh’s favorite. “Believe it or not Rachel does ask for my input,” he jokes.

Nelson’s appreciation for funky wallpaper is apparent in the master bedroom. She’s a fan of mixing silhouettes, textures and styles to create a “unique juxtaposition,” she says.

The home’s walls are particularly fun, with coverings that range from rainbow-colored diamonds in the dining room to teal-and-black ones in the master bedroom. (The prints are by wallpaper company Cole & Sons.) “The moment I saw it, my heart jumped,” says Nelson of the whimsical dining-room wallpaper, aptly called “Grand Circus.” “I said, ‘That would bring me joy every single day,’ especially to have it in a room where you’re entertaining and making memories.” Just underneath the wallpaper is a purple mohair bench, originally a floor sample at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. “Every time I went in [there] for clients, I’d say, ‘Ooh, I love that purple bench,’” she recalls. She snapped up the bench after someone at the center tipped her off to a floor-sample sale.

A peek into the master suite.

The shower in the master bath can be viewed from the couple’s bedroom. “It’s a little sexy moment,” says Nelson.

Keeping with Nelson’s penchant for juxtaposition, just upstairs from the vibrant living and dining rooms is the master bedroom, an oasis of tranquility. With its earth tones and natural light, “It feels like a European hotel room,” says Nelson, who especially digs the floor-to-ceiling glass panel on the shower wall. (In other words, if you’re lying on the bed, you can see into the shower.) “It’s a little sexy moment,” she adds. “Though it’s usually Matty (the couple’s 90-pound bulldog) watching me.”

The office, which houses a 1950s-era sofa inherited from Trobaugh’s grandmother, reupholstered in his favorite color. “Believe it or not Rachel does ask for my input,” he jokes.

Nelson wanted to experiment with black walls offset by pops of emerald in the guest bedroom.

Like everyone else, Nelson and Trobaugh spent plenty of time at home this past year (though Trobaugh, an elementary-school teacher in St. Clair Shores, is back in the classroom). Unlike most people, though, they say they didn’t grow tired of their space — mostly because every room has its own vibe. “I go to different rooms of the house depending on the mood I’m feeling,” says Trobaugh, who usually works on his doctorate in education in the peacock room or dining room. Nelson conducts formal business calls in her office but on other days, she sets up on the peacock room’s sectional. “I think your environment 100% affects your productivity,” she says, adding that she also held team meetings in the couple’s cozy outdoor space last summer. (The only rooms that Nelson doesn’t rhapsodize about are the kitchen and the basement, both of which she’s planning to fix up. “The kitchen is nice, it’s just not ‘me’ yet,” she says.)

The teal-ceilinged guest bath.

Regardless of the home’s magazine-worthy decor (literally), Nelson stresses the importance of functionality. “When people see beautiful spaces they think you can’t live in them,” she says. “But we live in our house. We’re always curled up on the sofa eating popcorn and the dogs are with us.” (The couches are, of course, covered in durable fabric.) Above all, Trobaugh adds, the couple’s house simply makes them happy. “It’s exciting to come home after long day of work,” he says, “and look around and think, ‘This is beautiful, and this is where I live.’”

Take a 3D tour of Rachel Nelson and Joe Trobaugh‘s home here!

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