Window-Shopping for a House

When does a 6,000-square-foot, $2 million house get built in nine weeks? When it's built into storefront space at Somerset Collection, a high-end shopping mall in Troy, Mich.

September 01, 2003


It's not every day that such large real estate is available in a mall for three months. The downside was that the house had to be dismantled by July 1. Fortunately, about 75% of it - including things such as the kitchen and fixtures - was salvaged for use in other spec projects.

When does a 6,000-square-foot, $2 million house get built in nine weeks? When it's built into storefront space at Somerset Collection, a high-end shopping mall in Troy, Mich.

Constructed as part of the Somerset Home and Garden Show, this home was designed by Dominick Tringali, president of Dominick Tringali Architects, and built by Custom Homes by Derocher. Proceeds from auctions and events held in the home benefited the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Suite Dreams Project, Catch, Habitat for Humanity and the United Way.

Custom Homes by Derocher, a Royal Oak, Mich., builder that closes six to 10 houses a year with an average price of $2 million, arranged for financing and organized the vendors. Standard Federal Bank funded the project, for which only about $125,000 to $130,000 was needed thanks to donated materials, labor and decorating.

Because of the compressed building period, the standard operating procedure - plan a house, draw up house plans, select and order product, etc. - was put aside and a sort of piecemeal process put in place. Tringali didn't even have time to do formal drawings. In fact, he says, some drawings were done on the walls inside the house. "I had to think one step ahead because we didn't always have time to do it on paper," Tringali says. The library was done in about four days.

In real life, points out Doug Derocher, president of Custom Homes by Derocher, this house would take at least 18 months to build.

About 150 trades - 80% from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millworks - worked day and night, seven days a week, to finish this project.

"The trades were most helpful," Tringali says. "We had carpenters, tile guys, 120 people working in there at once. They worked in shifts, at night. People spent a tremendous amount of time, triple-budgeted time."

Many ideas for the house came from a focus group Tringali conducted after visiting a show home at the International Builders' Show in January. Among what he learned:




  • People don't want a living room. They instead want a family gathering area.



  • People want to have exercise or wellness centers in their home.



  • People like the use of exterior materials indoors.



  • People want their family room near the kitchen.

    "A lot had to do with finishes," Tringali says. "People like casual European elegance, tumbled materials, a more rustic-looking wall with plaster or a heavy texture. Not too informal, but sleek and clean."

    Cherry wainscoting was used in the library, mahogany walls in the study, limestone and stucco on the exterior, and hand-hewn cedar beams were used throughout.

    What made this home even more unique is that every store at Somerset Collection had the opportunity to furnish or put furnishings in the house. "Someone could walk into the library and buy all the things from merchants in the Somerset Collection," Tringali says.

    And while home buyers want to live in a neighborhood, not a mall, Tringali and Derocher were able to use the house as an example of what their firms could do. Derocher also planned private events there.

    "We had a couple of offers from people who wanted to buy the house and live there," Tringali says.

    About 2,000 people trekked through the house each day from May 12 through June 20.


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