WOMEN IN BUSINESS: ‘Project Queen’ sees art in rooflines and light fixtures

LAKE ANN – Visions of sugarplums is the norm, as far as childhood dreams go. But not for Dorina Rudd of Lake Ann. Her visions were of houses, which she started drawing in kindergarten.

“They were all different colors,” she recalls, “the teacher even told my mother about them because that’s all I wanted to draw.” Even then, Dorina was defining her niche in life.

“I’ve always been, and still am, obsessed with houses and what’s inside them. When I drive by certain homes, I am tempted to ask if I can see the inside. I’d make a great Peeping Tom!” she says with a laugh.

Seven years ago, Dorina decided to turn her creative talents into a home design business called Design Strategies, which includes interior and exterior design. She specializes in cottage style, whether New England, Adirondack, Sea Side or Vintage. From rooflines, windows and light fixtures to flooring, cabinets, color and texture to draperies, furnishings and landscaping, Dorina can help create what many can only imagine.

She saw a need for her talents after friends and neighbors began soliciting her for ideas and advice.

“I’m a visual person,” Dorina explains. “The design of a house to me is like being a painter doing a landscape: it’s an evolving process. A lot of people don’t think they know what they like; it’s my job to show them that they do. I try to find out what they like and why, and earn their trust. I’m so sure they’ll love the end result that I tell them I’ll pay for it if I’m wrong.”

Dorina can work with any kind of budget, from a quarter million dollar project she’s currently working on to turn a time-worn chalet on Lake Michigan into an Adirondack cottage, to helping someone redesign a summer porch.

She spends several hours with her clients on their first consultation, looking at drawings and pictures. “They may show me a picture of a room they like, but when we start to talk about what it is they like and pick it apart, it may not be the cabinets, flooring or furnishings. It may end up that what they really like is the color blue in the picture,” Dorina explained. “I try to tap into their personality and make it a part of them. If someone does a home right, there shouldn’t be a need for major change, and they should be happy with it for years. I love to take a tired, old home and turn it into something beautiful,” she said.

Twenty years ago, she and her husband, Chris, did just that when they began restoring, enlarging and remodeling her grandfather’s cottage near Lake Ann. It has been transformed into a sprawling cottage style home, with the completion this fall of a 2,300 square-foot addition that’s been made to look like the original 1940s structure.

With Chris’ carpentry skills and Dorina’s eye for detail, the hardworking and industrious couple has created a northern Michigan home that is a showcase in beauty, color and comfort.

They are also busy creating a unique Cottage Bed & Breakfast out of a guesthouse that was once her grandfather’s tool shed. The two-story, one bedroom, two bath “Cottage House” will be available for daily, weekly and weekend rentals for those seeking a quiet, secluded get-away, just 15 minutes from Traverse City. A continental breakfast and pontoon boat rental will also be available, and the unique interior country furnishings will also be for sale.

Dorina scours antique shops, art fairs, galleries, thrift stores and flea markets and travels regularly to the Carolinas for furniture shows and ideas. Affectionately called “the Project Queen” by her husband, she always has something being refinished, refurbished or replanted. The gardens that surround the houses feature hundreds of blooming perennials and annuals.

“I have to be surrounded by beautiful surroundings and I always wanted a home that reflected that. My mother died when I was young and I bounced around to different houses for a while. I promised myself that when I got the home I would want, I’d stay put, and well, here I am.”

Dorina sees people moving to the northern area for a change, and then trying to create downstate all over again.

“Most people who move here have a yearning for a more down to earth feel, but they may not know how to pull it off. I can help them create it.”

Design consultations are available by appointment; (231) 275-6482. BIZNEWS