Who wasn’t impressed, if not amazed, dumbfounded and gobsmacked at the pictures of the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, palatial lakefront estate Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and his wife, Kelly, listed for sale recently for $6.5 million?
The man cave looks more exclusive than that club you can’t get into. The expansive kitchen would make Emeril Lagasse jealous. The glass elevator would make Charlie Bucket jealous. The Pistons basketball court. The wine room.
On and on. Room after room. Feature after feature. All that glass and gleaming granite reflecting back our own hopes and dreams of what it might be like to own a home like this.
Who wasn’t impressed?
The people who actually built part of the Staffords’ home also were impressed. But for a different reason. They love the home for its beauty and all the effort and artistry that went into making a design and a dream come to fruition. But they were more impressed by something entirely different. They were impressed with the Staffords.
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Great people, great role models
The people at Bosco Building Inc., a custom home builder in West Bloomfield, Michigan, spent nearly two years getting to know the Staffords while they renovated the home.
From June 2015 until they handed over the house to the Staffords on the weekend of Memorial Day 2017, the builders gutted the old house and added 3,000 square feet, including an entirely new second floor. They accomplished impressive feats of engineering and imagination.
And they forged something else: respect for what Stafford and his wife go through during an NFL season.
“You really get a sense of Matt’s work ethic when you get to work with him, how dialed in he was during the season,” said Anthony Bosco, a project manager and the son of company founder Don Bosco. “I think Kelly and Matt together — it was sort of refreshing, their relationship. They’re great role models.
“Kelly always would come to Matt’s defense with anything that was going on during the season. She doesn’t pull any punches with anything. She always knew where he stood or if he was happy with something or if he wanted something changed. She was great to work with. I thought both of them were great people.”
Tim Birchmeier, another project manager for Bosco, worked closely with the Staffords throughout the project. He also was duly impressed with the Staffords.
“Really down to earth and respectful,” he said. “They didn’t demand, they would ask if something could be done.”
Birchmeier recalled one late request, in particular.
“We were just about to the drywall stage of putting this thing back together,” he said, “and they came and they said, ‘Hey, there’s one more column between the family room and the dining room that we would really like to get rid of.’ ”
Birchmeier had to return to the engineers and found out removing the column would require adding about six more feet to a massive 20-inch steel beam.
“And they didn’t demand it,” Birchmeier said. “They just asked if we could possibly make it happen. It delayed things some, but we got it done and we were glad to get rid of it in the end. But very respectful. I really enjoyed working with them.”
Lions lineman too scared to sit
One of the most unique features of the home is a wine room that holds more than 600 bottles. “The ceiling of that wine room is all glass that’s looking up into the dining room,” Anthony Bosco said. “So from the dining room upstairs you’re looking down into the wine room and from the wine room you look into the second story of the house. It’s pretty wild.”
The dining room table sits on 40-inch by 40-inch glass panels. The glass blends seamlessly with the granite flooring and is virtually imperceptible — unless the lights are on in the wine room below.
“There were a couple times I remember talking to Matt,” Birchmeier said. “He had a couple of the linemen over there and they didn’t want to sit at the dining room table. They didn’t want anything to do with that.
“That glass is an inch and a quarter thick. But I was a little leery myself weighing close to 300 or around about the first couple times stepping on it myself.”
Man, oh, man — what a man cave
The home has several interesting flourishes and details. The pool table in the man cave is made of concrete that weighs 1,700 pounds. That’s more than three times what a typical pool table weighs. And it’s the second one, after the first one broke.
The man cave also has a unique hidden feature that you might find on the patio of a chic restaurant.
“There’s a porch off the side and Tim engineered an overhead door system,” Anthony Bosco said. “Almost works like a garage door, so when you open that door in that man cave, or open that wall up, that door wraps around and retracts into the ceiling.
“He figured out a way to do it without interfering with any of the lighting. It’s pretty wild. The door will come back and you don’t see it and you’ve got a completely open wall.”
As Bosco put it: “It’s half man cave, half trophy room with almost a lounge feel in it.”
The funny thing about the man cave is that it wasn’t the room that captured Stafford’s attention the most. In fact, neither he nor his wife placed more emphasis on any single room. What most surprised Birchmeier was Stafford’s interest in the mechanical workings of the kitchen.
“I was kind of tickled at how much Matt, once he did get into the house, how much he appreciated the way the cabinetry, the doors, the sliding mechanisms and all that in the kitchen and how much I guess he was enamored with all of that,” he said. “Most guys, it’s the man cave and that’s all they’d want. But he really appreciated what was put into that kitchen area.”
As for Kelly Stafford, there was only one feature she emphasized.
“Kelly kind of went with the flow,” Birchmeier said. “The only thing that she asked for was the chandelier to be changed out.
“And it was kind of comical watching the two of them barter back and forth on what she was going to get for a chandelier. And we ended up going back in there after to put that chandelier in when they finally both decided what was going to work for both of them.”
She ended up with a chandelier near the main staircase that looks like an icicle made of bubbles.
Whose house is this, anyway?
There are very few features in the home that indicate a Lions player owns it. There are some hints an athlete might reside there. There’s a half basketball court made of the Pistons’ floor from the Silverdome, although that was left over from the previous owner. Bosco built a workout and recovery room with a cold tub — a feature unique to elite athletes.
But the memorabilia from Stafford’s NFL and college careers in the man cave make it one of the few places in the home that give any hint a Lions player owns it.
“They did keep things to a low profile,” Birchmeier said. “But people on the lake know. They know whose house it is.”
By the same token, the builders tried to protect the Staffords’ privacy by not telling anyone whose house they were working on and not even telling the trade workers who owned the home. The Staffords didn’t live in the home while the work was being done, so they weren’t seen often at the site.
“They were very private,” Anthony Bosco said. “We went to a lot of effort to try to protect that throughout the course of the project. It’s not a home we have pictures of in our office, just because we want to keep their privacy as anonymous as possible. Especially during the build, too, you don’t want people finding out necessarily what’s in the house or not in the house.
“I guess when you go to sell it, all bets are off a little bit. Now there’s pictures of everything. But they were private. We were all blown away by how down to earth they were.”
Of course, some people had their suspicions.
“At one point in time,” Anthony Bosco said, “I did get a call from somebody saying, ‘God, the owner of that house looks a lot like Matthew Stafford.’”
Working with Staffords was enough reward
Bosco Building doesn’t do much advertising. It doesn’t have to. The company was founded in 1975 and has built homes for several of metro Detroit’s high-profile sports figures. They don’t seek or receive much publicity or recognition for their work.
But they admitted they were pleased to see all the attention their work received when the home was listed. Kelly Stafford explained they were selling it because of concerns over having a large infinity pool and living on Long Lake with three young children and a fourth on the way.
“You hate to see them get rid of it or sell it and move on,” Anthony Bosco said. “But on the other end of things, our job at the end of the day is to make sure these clients are happy and we love serving the clients. And really the experience of working with the Staffords was enough for us.
“That was really the joy in any of these (projects). The houses are beautiful and we love these houses, we love all of our clients. But that relationship you develop with the clients and the process for the year or two years when you’re building one of these houses, these big houses, where you get the stories at the end of the day, the house is the byproduct almost.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.