A Charming Ranch in Grand Rapids

Jean Stoffer and her design-partner daughter use a light touch on this layout—and get big-impact results.

Written by Juno DeMelo
Photography by Stoffer Photography Interiors



When award-winning designer Jean Stoffer and her daughter, Grace Start, were tasked with transforming a brick 3-bedroom, 2-bath ranch in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they started with a “very-involved” layout option. “But the homeowner didn’t want to make too many structural changes,” says Grace, who leads the design team at Jean Stoffer Design and appears with Jean on the Magnolia Network show The Established Home.

Jean and Grace were up for the challenge of using a light touch to make a big difference. Though Jean is known for her high-end renovations, she says she relished the opportunity to make something look beautiful and function well on a budget, something she doesn’t often get the chance to do anymore. “We wanted the home to be nice, but also it was in a very quiet, modest neighborhood, so we needed to be very budget-minded and careful of overimproving,” she says.

The homeowner, whose husband had recently passed away and who wanted to be closer to her daughter and her grandkids, envisioned a traditional, cottage-style getaway that was worlds removed from her modern, mostly black-and-white home back in California. “The house had no bells, no whistles, no architectural details worth salvaging, no updates since it was built in the 1970s—not even the appliances,” says Grace. In fact, you couldn’t even open one of the drawers in the kitchen without opening the dishwasher first. “Luckily,” says Grace, “it had really great bones.”

Sticking mostly to the original floorplan, they opened up the kitchen by taking down all the soffits and knocking out a peninsula that had been blocking the space off from the living room. Without the footprint for an island, they opted for a galley-style layout with two lines of cabinetry on opposite walls. “We wanted it to be really pretty and functional, and because she didn’t have serious storage needs, like some families do, we were able to take away some cabinets,” says Jean. “That made everything seem so much more open and larger and gave the kitchen a feeling of space and brightness that wasn’t there before.”

For the backsplash, they installed hand-cut, hand-glazed terracotta Idris by Ait Manos field tile and trim in Nacre White. “That was a choice that the homeowner actually brought up when we were first discussing tile,” says Jean. “She loves it. I think it offers a really nice texture and movement in the kitchen while still being neutral.” The color palette is heavy on whites, creams, and taupes, with the exception of a hint of blue wallpaper inside the glass-front cabinets.

The two bathrooms back up to each other, and while both were small, the ensuite bathroom was three feet across and barely usable, says Jean, who likens it to an airport bathroom. So she and Grace moved the wall between the two bathrooms and made both of them five-by-eight feet.

The design for the guest bath had to work for both guests and for the homeowner’s grandsons when they slept over. They opted for all Savoy tile “that’s very durable for three little boys,” says Jean, installing Savoy field tile in Paperwhite on the shower walls and field tiles in Linen and Lantern in a checkerboard pattern on the floor. “The floor felt playful enough for her grandkids but also like it could move into the future,” says Jean. “I’ve not seen those Savoy tiles used on the floor, but they should be.”

In order to make the primary bathroom feel luxurious in spite of its size, they leaned on materials in rich tones. “We wanted something interesting and pretty and not just white-white,” says Jean. They fell in love with the deep brownish-red color of the Kannon field tile in Canela Twist, “but putting that in that whole tiny bathroom would have made it cave-like,” says Jean. So Grace came up with the idea of combining ceramic and stone, putting the Kannon tile on all but one of the walls, a shower wall she covered with Cararra Bianca Tumbled tile in a herringbone pattern with a pencil border.

For the floor of the primary bathroom, Grace went with the Pala Mosaic Hexagon in Carrara to tie everything together. “The homeowner had recently lost her husband, which was part of the reason she got this house,” says Grace. “And when we showed her a little piece of Carrara, she said that it reminded her of traveling with him to Italy. So we ended up using it in a few places because she had that nostalgia.”

Jean calls the cozy home “the quintessential 3-bedroom, 2-bath ranch. The layout has probably been seen a million times or more. I think a lot of people really responded to this project when it was featured on our show because so many of them felt like, ‘That’s mine, look what I can do.’”

July 21st, 2024

Also in Project Profiles

A Design Insider's Dream Kitchen

A bold backsplash takes center stage in this stunning Oregon remodel.

An Architectural Gem in Highland Park

Using statement slabs from Ann Sacks, homeowners Adam Saxton and Dan Murphy blend old and new in the "Beverly Casa".

A 1970s “Tree House” in L.A.

Surrounded by nearly 100 trees, discover how actress Ashley Williams transformed a "huge disaster" into a contemporary space perfect for her family of four.