Sunset Terrace is getting a face lift

After looking the same since the 1990s, Sunset Terrace is planned for both system and cosmetic renovations this year.

Changes will be on energy efficiency and updating the popular venue space. It is currently used as housing for Oakland University’s presidents.

The mid-century modern home was inspired by the prairie school-style houses created by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was commissioned by Matilda and Alfred Wilson who lived in the house from 1953 to 1962 when Alfred Wilson died.

“The Wilsons wanted to simplify their life by downsizing from Meadow Brook Hall’s 88,000 square feet to Sunset Terrace’s 12,500 square feet,” said Geoffrey Upward, the executive director at Meadow Brook Hall. “At the time they began construction, they were close to 70 years old.”

The house has not stood stagnant all this time, updates have been made to the house over the years as well as preventative maintenance.

“Previous presidents have been frugal,” said Patricia Engle, the associate vice president of Facilities Management. “They would take care of other campus buildings before we would take care of the house.”

The current renovation taking place will replace some original systems while also refreshing cosmetic elements. Many of the systems at Sunset Terrace are original, such as the two air handlers on the second floor. Right now, changing from air conditioning to heat and vice versa involves 10 to 12 steps from the home’s inhabit. The boilers are being replaced as well.

Along with system updates, the interior of the house is also receiving some updates. The walls will be painted and the flooring will be replaced.

“We’re removing things like asbestos tile,” Engle said. “It’s from the fifties, everyone loved that stuff back then.”

One goal of the renovation is to make the home a vibrant part of the campus community again.

“Right outside, if you drive out, on the road by it you can see the apple trees that were Matilda Wilson’s,” Engle said. “If you liked the music at Meadow Brook, you could just sit in the backyard. It’s got the best seats in the house… Previous presidents have used it for entertaining. Especially at the end of the term, when students groups are leaving.”

The interior of the house also holds historical motifs from the Wilsons’ and Oakland’s history.

“The open staircase leading to the second floor was embellished with glass panels mounted to a brushed aluminum rail,” Upward said. “Etched into each panel were depictions of some of the Wilsons’ horses, dogs and their private plane, Bluebird.”

Although the purpose is to modernize the home, the historical feel will be maintained.

“We don’t knock out walls,” Engle said. “We try to keep it the way it was from when Matilda Wilson moved out. Even some of the furniture that is original is staying in the house… Right now, I’m doing the things that homeowners do to save money, makes it look nice and makes it more usable for her,” said Engle. “It’s just cool, it’s heritage.”

The renovations are planned to be completed in the spring of 2018.