The front of Mary Ewer’s Buena Vista home. Courtesy | Mary Ewers

Years ago, it was an ordinary home.

But for Mary Ewers, driving by the home was like love at first sight. The moment she bought the house was the magical moment that The ‘Buena Vista’ home was born, right on the streets of Hillsdale. 

Ewers, director of parent rela­tions and the President’s Club, bought the Oak Street house called Buena Vista in 2003 and worked on dif­ferent ren­o­va­tions, cre­ative projects, and addi­tions to the house up until 2019.

The house was built in the 1940s in the New Orleans style, and Ewers was imme­di­ately drawn to it. The house had six sets of french doors, a double balcony, turquoise shutters, and a pink roof, but it had a good foun­dation for a future home, Ewers said.

“It needed a lot of work, but it had good bones,” Ewers said. “I had done a lot of ren­o­vating in my life, so this was not my first rodeo.”

Throughout the entire ren­o­vation process, Ewers redid the entire kitchen, ren­o­vated five bath­rooms, tore down and rebuilt the garage with a merlot-colored roof, and put in a com­pletely new ter­ra­cotta dri­veway and back patio. 

Though most people look for open floors plans, Ewers said, she loved the sep­arate and unique spaces throughout the house. She saw the potential of what the house could become and set to work with mul­tiple projects in mind, all while adding her own cre­ative style.

“It really wasn’t about my cre­ativity as much as the house just screamed for it,” Ewers said. 

Through the first set of french doors, Ewers quickly noticed that the walls of the house would be a blank canvas for her. She set out on a painting escapade, but not by herself. Ewers reached out to Kate Lundberg ’10, a Hillsdale fine arts student at the time, and asked for her help with painting the walls.

“Mary is a very visual person, and when it comes to inte­riors, she loves taking an uncon­ven­tional sort of twist on things,” Lundberg said. 

This was Lundberg’s first big interior artistic venture, and who better to tackle it with, Lundberg said. Lundberg would often go to the house to paint, many times in the middle of the night after a full day of classes, and would even stay the night at Buena Vista. The project lasted all the way until Lundberg’s grad­u­ation, and was a perfect expe­rience to have under her belt for a post-college career. 

Pic­tured is the ‘Red Room,’ which took many hours, layers, and even tears to paint. Courtesy | Mary Ewers

“Kate is just mar­velous, and of course I got to love her more deeply than I already did during that time,” Ewers said. “Watching her cre­ativity was very inspi­ra­tional to me. I chose what she was going to do, but she would always add her flair.”

During the entire process, Ewers was never afraid to use bold, dynamic colors. In each room, Ewers wanted to paint the walls with colors from her thick, Persian rugs that lined every floor to com­pliment each other. She even matched colors with the deep, dark oak floors. The dif­ferent spaces had com­bi­na­tions of metallic silver and aqua­marine, violet and copper penny, and espe­cially red, Ewers’s favorite color. 

Almost every surface was covered in paint — even the ceilings. But the metallic paints in par­ticular were a painful process for Ewers because the chemical process of the paint wouldn’t adhere to the ceilings. But after many coats, and many tears, Ewers was finally sat­isfied with the beau­tiful, metallic coloring. 

Kate also dec­o­rated certain walls with Van Gogh-esque sun­flowers and big, dec­o­rative bible verses. Inside the kitchen, just above the sink, Ewers requested Isaiah 49:16: “See I have inscribed you in the palm of my hands.” 

“Between the two of us, it was magical,” Ewers said. “The sun­flowers were glo­rious, and Kate did it all freehand too.”

Katie Lundberg ’10 free handed Van Gogh-esque sun­flowers in the kitchen. Courtesy | Mary Ewers

In another hallway, Psalm 73:25 – 26 rests on the top of the walls: “Whom have I in heaven but thee? There is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”

“God is the central point of my life,” Ewers said. “I don’t know where I’d be without God. He has been beside me the whole time.”

Lundberg echoed Ewers’s sen­timent of her faith, and said that Ewers’s strength and the way she carried herself inspired her daily. The Buena Vista home was a tan­gible display of Ewers’s faith, and if someone were to walk into the house, Ewers’s char­acter, thought­fulness, and love for the Lord would be evident, Lundberg said.

Mary Ewers vaca­tions in Jack­sonville, Florida. Courtesy | Mary Ewers

“The house would say that this is somebody who is bold and willing to take bold risks and choices in interior design in order to express them­selves more fully,” Lundberg said. “Both her and her house are whim­sical. Mary is unashamedly and unabashedly herself.”

Ewers’s daughter, Natalie Holt, made the move into the Buena Vista house during her eighth grade year and had to adjust to the new space. The ren­o­va­tions began imme­di­ately, but Holt was used to Ewers’s energy and passion for cre­ating a house, and still felt right at home. 

“It was a dif­ferent phase of life, so it was hard but it also became a home very quick,” Holt said. “It was like a sto­rybook house. It’s such a sweet little house and it became home quickly.”

Ewers added many details to the home that truly made it into a sto­rybook of a home. Holt remem­bered bunnies painted all over the kitchen walls, and the bold, heavy colors that Ewers would incor­porate into every room. 

Before moving to Hillsdale, Ewers would make the drive from Brooklyn, MI for her work and her kids’ school. Holt remem­bered driving past the original Buena Vista house before they bought the property, and the amount of times Ewers wished the house would go up for sale. 

“She would drive me to school, and she kept saying, ‘I want that house so bad if it ever goes for sale.’ And then one day, it went for sale,” Holt said. 

After that moment, the house became their home, and their home became the sto­rybook that Ewers had wished for for so long. 

Once her kids moved out of the house, Ewers began renting it out to fam­ilies for Parents Weekend and dif­ferent events. Since Ewers often travels for her job, the Buena Vista house became a home not just for her, but for guests as well. 

“You feel like you’re at home. Not her home, but your home,” said Kati Molloy, a Hillsdale parent. 

Molloy has stayed at the home mul­tiple times for the phone-a-thon and Parents Weekend. She has stayed in every room of the house, but her favorite room is the kitchen. Often the women who stayed there would get together and share cups of coffee in the morning before heading out to work. 

Bible verses are painted on walls throughout the house. Courtesy | Mary Ewers

“I would work with Mary to do training with her, but then to come to her house with a group of people doing the same thing — the cama­raderie there was fab­ulous,” Molloy said. “You really got to know the people you’re working with so much, it’s just such a warm, wel­coming environment.”

Ewers offered her home many times as a space for parents helping with the phone-a-thon, cre­ating an envi­ronment of vibrant con­ver­sation and peaceful decom­pression after a long day at work, Molloy said.

“Mary never quits,” Molloy said. “She is just on fire for Hillsdale and she knows all things about Hillsdale. She is just absolutely engaging, and then you go to her house and you get to see that cre­ative, ener­getic side of her.”

Once inside the home, the char­acter of Mary is evident, Molloy said. 

“When you walk in, you know who she is,” Molloy said. “She’s a woman of faith, a strong Christian woman, and she’s pas­sionate about life and her home. I think the house totally speaks to her, and it is fun to find out what drives them when you go to their house.”

Now, Ewers has moved to Nashville to be closer to her daughter and grand­children. She still plans to keep the house and con­tinue renting it out to fam­ilies vis­iting Hillsdale. Though she won’t live in the house anymore, Ewers is forever grateful for the time she had there. 

“God gave me that house,” Ewers said. “I had nothing, and He gave me the house. I did not deserve it, but He gave it to me anyway. It was such a mark of His loving kindness and favor.”