A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Such it seemed as I reflected on the days before I transformed my (then) rather non-descript detached condo in West Bloomfield into the place it is today. A place and home that I often (tongue in cheek) call Chez Loren.
As I awaited the arrival of Styleline Magazine’s interior design writer Jeanine Matlow, who had heard about Chez Loren’s metamorphosis from a “vanilla box” to something more akin to “Oz,” I couldn’t help but step back and look around the house at some of the projects and art I’d created over the years, all the while trying to imagine what others must think of all this craziness when they walk in the front door for the first time.
The Oz reference isn’t much of a stretch. While I truly enjoy living in a detached condo in a lovely West Bloomfield neighborhood, I must admit that all the homes in my neighborhood look pretty much the same. On the outside. However, just like in the movie The Wizard of Oz, what begins as a rather mundane black-and-white landscape, i.e. my neighborhood, becomes a colorful land of art, music and whimsical features once you pass through the front door.
You’re definitely NOT in Kansas anymore.
Unlike the movie, Chez Loren is not inhabited by Munchkins…only me and my adorable cats (who cause more trouble than any Munchkins ever could…well, except those three Lollipop Guild boys. They always looked like troublemakers to me. The interior of my home is definitely an extension of my art, from food (culinary) to traditional art, both fine and functional.)
It all started as an outlet for my creative energies once I crossed over into the administrative side of my profession as Corporate Chef of Epoch Restaurant Group, and now, for the past 11+ years, as Director of Culinary Development at Nino’s.
While I’m still in our kitchens, bakeries, deli, meat and produce departments creating many of the new prepared items you see on our shelves, our talented managers and associates also contribute their own ideas, giving me the opportunity to step back from time to time and be creative in another medium. I’m talking about one of wood, metal, glass, concrete and vivid colors that aren’t in my food world.
On the main floor is my food kitchen, with gleaming stainless-steel appliances; cookware of every size hanging from an oversized hood; and cupboards full of china, glass tableware and every utensil of the culinary trade. Directly below it is my art kitchen, my studio, a place where fancy cookware is replaced by table saws, drills, welders, sanders and a pegboard full of every tool of the building trade. Some of the most satisfying, and often amusing, moments come when I entertain at home, and quite often, it’s groups of 30 or more, including many who only know me as a chef. It’s only moments before someone inevitably asks where I bought this or found that, only to discover I pretty much made everything in my home, from art to furniture to fixtures.
And the tour begins…
Unfortunately, Chez Loren’s official tour guide is also its chef, so I quite often recruit someone who’s been to my home before to lead the procession. This way, I can get the food out on time. I even once overheard someone remark, while sipping a glass of wine, that she was waiting for the next tour because there were too many in the first group that headed off.
I love both my worlds, and it’s equally rewarding to wear both artistic hats. As the evening goes on, I end up getting as many questions about my art as my food. They’re kind of schizophrenic conversations but always fun. Over time, my art has found other homes, including restaurants like Steve & Rocky’s in Novi, fashion stores, a hair salon and some private residences in Southeast Michigan and Chicago.
You can see a glimpse of some of my home art in this month’s Styleline Magazine, which will be on the newsstand at Nino’s this month and available FREE online. Living in Oz, there’s no place like home.