When we first saw this house on instagram, @black.house.blue.sky, we knew we had to get inside and look around for y’all. While we enjoy the insta views of Michel Van Devender’s home as she shares its evolution, we were itching for the big picture, and to see it and hear it all from this designer/owner. Step inside with us and take the tour with Michel, her family and their decor-matching French Bulldog, Maxine. Michel explains:
“The journey began in early 2019, when I started feeling that little nudge, the itch to build and move again. At the time, we were living in a black modern house, our 5th Street home, which we built in 2015 in Elizabeth. It was our “dream house” we created from the ground up. We loved our house, but after living there for five years and making a career change, I felt the timing was right to create our next dream house again, another black house.”
“Once my husband and I decided to move forward with another build, the most challenging next step was securing a building site. We knew we wanted to the city, and as the saying goes, they’re not making land anymore. We looked at some new modern homes in Oakhurst being developed by the builder of our 5th Street house, Peter Vasseur. The neighborhood was less than three miles from Elizabeth. There was an undeveloped lot on the end of the street. We loved the 3/4 acre size and the wooded areas. The land could provide more room for our boys to roam, better opportunities to design outdoor living spaces, and incorporate a pool in our design. We were also sold on the quiet, quaint street and the down-to-earth, eclectic vibe of Oakhurst. We closed on the land in December of 2019.”
“We knew this new house, of course, would be black. This would mark our third dark exterior home, beginning with painting our historic 1930s colonial-style Elizabeth home a monochromatic dark gray back in 2010. I’ve always loved black, whether it’s the wardrobe stable black dress, a black painted room or a pitch black sky. Black on a house exterior is both distinctive and grounding. It stands out, but can also feel understated, blending into its natural surroundings.”
Their Black House is fully contructed from pre-painted black metal siding. Pea gravel creates a welcoming front seating area and ping pong patio, so you know right away this home is something fun.
“There was an existing small, red barn on the property we planned to repurpose and integrate into the new construction. While there are limitations when working with a fixed structure, it can also help shape the vision and layout. With the use of an added corridor, we joined the new construction to the barn. In doing this, we were able to recess the house into the lot, creating a natural buffer from the street for privacy. Playing around with the orientation of the new structure also allowed us to capture the best views of the wooded and bamboo areas. The old barn would become our poolhouse space with a family room, bedroom and downstairs laundry room.
“For the interiors, one of the goals was to create open, modern living spaces with an abundance of natural light. Another goal was to design a layout that fostered a strong connection to the outdoors and nature. The use of large windows and tall glass doors helped us achieve both of these goals. We also painted the entire interior in a warm, yet crisp white, Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace. It’s my new favorite white! The white painted walls provide a blank, neutral canvas for our furnishings and artwork while also reflecting and amplifying the natural light.”
You’re greeted by a large, open light-filled living room upon entry, along with a floating stair to the bedrooms upstairs. The white walls and poured concrete floor leave a blank canvas for Michel’s earthy and eclectic vibe. Texture is everywhere, with neutral pattern pops throughout.
Heading up the stairs, you will likely find their French Bulldog Maxine sitting in her favorite sunny spot. The landing area is layered and styled with an antique bench sourced over 15 years ago from the now defunct, much missed Metrolina Antique Market.
The full bathroom to the right of the stairs landing is used by their sons and features a modern, minimalist flat-front black cabinetry and sleek black matte hardware. Eclectic and stylish, which is the calling card of this home. The mirrors are from a to-the-design-trade company, Kalalou.
The black and white ceramic tile is by Elite Tile and ordered from Wayfair, chosen by Michel for the graphic pattern and practicality in the heavily used space.
Quirky, unique lighting is a trademark of Michel’s, who often designs (creates) her own when she cannot find what she wants. A World Market plug-in rope light is held by a separately sourced industrial black metal pulley.
Gallery walls and found art repeat throughout the home. The Master BR bed was sourced from a to-the-design-trade company. The chandelier is from Uttermost, a to-the-design-trade company.
Michel keeps it serene, yet dynamic, in the master bathroom by utilizing a neutral color pallette. The use of black plumbing fixtures and a black tub keeps the space interesting. The glass shower and mirrored wall, expands the space. The wall sconces are by a to-the-design-trade company, CFC. All of the ceramic tiles are by Emser.
Downstairs, the spacious living room is open to the kitchen, where black cabinetry, of course, marries with Absolute Black countertops. Michel added the organic white Danby marble wall and reclaimed wood shelves to balance the black and warm the space.
The open floor plan continues from the kitchen through the dining table with views into the back yard. The oversized black raffia ceiling fixture is by Texture Imports out of High Point, another to-the-design-trade company.
Michel added a mirrored wall in the dining area to visually expand the space and reflect the outdoors. The dining room table is vintage, an original farmhouse table, and was a gift from a friend.
A side entrance with an attached mudroom leads to the gallery wall, art hallway and office space.
Art created by Michel is everywhere in the home, from the graffiti wall to the hand made note chandelier in her office. Michel mixes vintage and newly sourced photography and artwork, her kids’ masterpieces and art passed down from artist family members with her own paintings, drawings and photography.
The corridor/hallway houses the pool/guest bathroom and connects the new construction to the existing barn which became a poolhouse with a casual family room. The boys call it their fun, creative space where you might find guitars and art supplies scattered throughout.
The guest bathroom feels at once old and new, featuring a custom cabinet and bench made from reclaimed wood. Modern artwork and accessories add additional layers of texture and style to the space. The copper and brass faucet was also custom made. The tall brass mirror is from World Market and the sconces are by Mitzi Hudson Valley Lighting. The hanging basket pendant is from Texture Imports, a to-the-design-trade company out of High Point.
Michel also designed the pool, outdoor living spaces and landscapes for their home. The black modern metal siding provides the perfect foundation for the lush, green surrounds. Working with her builder and the pool contractor, it was a three month process.
The back patio and pool are easily accessed by both the main house and the attached family room.
In terms of the size of the house, Michel explains they prefer intimate, casual and cozy, and an efficient use of space. A family of five with three boys, they knew they’d need at least four bedrooms, and they ended up a little over 3100 sq. ft.
Construction began in January of 2020 and building progressed for several months before the pandemic came into full view. Michel says “In hindsight, I’m honestly not sure we would’ve moved forward with the project had we known what was ahead. Building under normal circumstances is like putting together a massive puzzle with lots of pieces and problem solving. The pandemic created a more difficult puzzle with missing and hard to find pieces, ultimately affecting most aspects of construction.”
There were major challenges with securing materials and making selections but remarkably they were able to move into their new house nine months after breaking ground.
“Over the past ten months, I’ve been pulling together our interior spaces. I love the creative process of decorating a new home, starting with a clean, blank canvas. For us, adding in our eclectic mix of furniture, artwork and accessories, along with all of the layers and textures, gives our homes soul and personality. Much of these things have been collected over 25 plus years of traveling, shopping and sourcing. They move from home to home with us. As my style evolves and each house calls for something a little different, there are things that are woven into our new home and other things that move to their next home. Each time, we fill in the blanks and gaps with newly purchased or collected goods. It’s a fun, creative process. Each house is a little different with different goals and a different personality. At the end of the day, our new house reflects who and where we are as a family at this moment in time. The style is constantly shifting and changing as we evolve. It’s really just all part of the creative process. I’m excited to share this glimpse into our family’s new black house.”
Most days, you can find Michel at her black house blogging, rearranging furniture, experimenting in the kitchen, dreaming of her next creative adventure while wrangling boys and spending way too much time on Pinterest and Instagram!