Life Offbeat

By Lucy Notarantonio


This four-story American mansion may look like your average home from the outside but it is far from ordinary – it is filled with animal print, bright colours and bespoke paintings.

Michelle Carder, 53, from Michigan, USA, isn’t afraid to match fluffy pink rugs with a leopard print throw nor clash colours and add extra lights to her Victorian post-modern inspired home

Michelle, who is a lawyer,  first transformed her home in 2005 following a flood that destroyed everything and hasn’t stopped since.

She said: “I used to be a serious girl with a serious job living a serious life and I was in complete control of the trajectory of my path.

“I was all buttoned up strict and prim and proper as were my surroundings and everything that surrounded my surroundings.

“My first ever flat was soft whites and ladylike beige and pillows perfectly placed on old lady furniture with a doily flung here and there for emphasis.

“My home décor back in the beginning was sugar-free plain vanilla and I craved something more to come home to.

“In my first apartment, there was a flood upstairs which ruined all the units below, including mine, but it was a blessing in disguise as my creative flow was unleashed.”

Michelle has accumulated her furniture over the years from antique stores, online and charity shops.

She adds “My home is inspired by art as it gives me a variety of colours to play with – I have found black walls are more neutral and unifying than beige or taupe walls.

“Just about everything and even stuff that doesn’t match looks good against black.

“The main inspiration for the house is art, colour and layers – It’s a starting point or a baseline from which I pick up an emotion that I want to convey throughout a room.

“I’ll frequently repaint a room to change the emotional experience, when we move paintings around the house.

“There’s really a symbiotic relationship between the art, the colour, and the décor. More refined inspiration can come from anywhere including music, film, books – I just allow ideas and images to work on my brain almost subconsciously and then don’t hold back if something pops into my mind.

“I might overdo the décor in our house, but I definitely don’t overthink it. I’m a gut-instinct decorator.

“The colours in the parlour mostly include pink walls, theatre red drapery layered with pink drapes, and black and white checked area rugs.

“The secondary colour is blue. I settled on this combination because I’ve always been drawn to black and white check and feel it’s both edgy and yet traditional at the same time depending on what you do with it.

“My current obsession is pink and especially love it mixed with powerful contrasts such as red or orange, or even green or black.

“There’s no rational reason I choose these combinations. It’s purely emotional and visceral.

“We have oversized hand painted butterflies made of balsa wood attached to the ceilings and walls in the stair hall and my office.

“I’ve always been attracted to butterflies, again at an emotional level, so I bring what I love and what makes me feel uplifted and nostalgic into the décor.

“It’s all about influencing emotional responses, mine and those of anyone who walks into a room. I feel great décor must elicit an emotional response and a sense of wonder, and that’s what I try to accomplish here.

“My husband Michael Oaks, 59, and I do all the painting and renovations ourselves as we love getting stuck in and transforming a room from boring to bright.

“When guests come to our house they are usually in awe, they never expect to see so much going on as the outside is a typical Victorian home.

“There has been some people who say it is tacky, but I say full on tacky is haute couture.”


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