Detroit’s newest hotels offer design ideas, inspiration

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
View Comments

It isn’t uncommon for Emily Childers’ phone to ring off the hook throughout the week with requests — requests to take wedding photos, graduation pictures and more. That happens where you’re the director of sales at one of Detroit’s hippest new hotels, the Detroit Foundation Hotel, and people want in.

Childers tries to accommodate as many as she can but she blames designers Gina Deary and Lisa Simeone.

“I tell them you made too beautiful of a hotel,” says Childers.

An artful mix of original features from when the hotel was the headquarters for the Detroit Fire Department and new elements, it’s a go-to spot for people looking for a unique place to stay or even just an artistic backdrop for photos.

“It’s an experience,” said Jennifer Lee, the hotel’s director of lifestyle.

The hotel is one of many that have opened during the past five years in downtown Detroit and more are on the way. And inside every new space isn’t just a place to stay. There’s a bonanza of design inspiration for your own home.

From the white walls juxtaposed with fun but minimal art in the rooms at Trumbull & Porter in Corktown to the vintage Etsy rugs scattered throughout the Detroit Foundation Hotel, they offer a range of design ideas that any homeowner can borrow. And no two are a like. So whatever your aesthetic is, there’s likely a hotel that speaks your design-language.

Detroit Foundation Hotel

Located in the former headquarters of the Detroit Fire Department and the Pontchartrain Wine Cellars on Larned next door, the Detroit Foundation Hotel is a 100-room property owned by the Aparium Hotel Group. It has a modern, almost moody flair. Details throughout the rooms pay tribute to Michigan and the Motor City.

The headboards in each room are molded plywood painted with automotive paint. Behind the bed in each room is a dark wood wall made with salvaged wood from Architectural Salvage Warehouse. And inset in each wall is a strip of faux fordite — fordite is hardened automotive paint that is cut and polished — that pays tribute to the Motor City’s automotive roots.

“We did a lot of research and one of the things we loved is it (Detroit) is still a city of manufacturing and tinkering,” said Deary, co-owner with Simeone of the Simeone Deary Group in Chicgao. “We wanted to really highlight when you mix engineering with art.”

For Deary, the project was personal. She grew up in Troy and has many memories of visiting Detroit as a child in the ’80s, wondering why the city couldn’t be more.

Deary said she and the Simeone Deary team wanted to create a space that spoke to Detroiters and would make the area proud, a space “doesn’t follow any rules but has an approachable comfort to it.” They kept much of the original floor from the fire headquarters intact and wanted to pay homage to the building’s roots but not be too obvious.

One example: The fire chief’s badge pattern, which can be seen in the bathroom tile floor.

Childers, the head of marketing, says guests often ask about the large scale white subway tile in the bathrooms and the area rugs throughout the hotel. The rugs are all vintage from an shop.

Deary says when she and her team are “stuck” with a design issue, they often turn to two resources: Etsy or First Dibs. First Dibs “is everything from vintage jewelry to old paintings. It’s just cool auction kind of stuff,” she said.

The Siren Hotel

The Siren Hotel isn’t just a name for this sleek 106-room hotel in the Wurlitzer Building at 1509 Broadway: It’s a summons. According to owners ASH NYC, the hotel takes its name from Greek mythology “and acts as a metaphor — calling people back to the city of Detroit.”

Opened quietly this spring, the goal was to preserve the building’s Italian renaissance-style architecture “while adding a contemporary touch.” Many original features remain: travertine floors, original terra-cotta signs and plaster details.

Ari Heckman, founding partner and CEO of ASH NYC, says from the beginning the ASH team was drawn to the era the Wurlitzer building was built — it was built in 1926 — and drew their design inspiration from that.

It “was sort of the end of Beaux Arts influence and the beginning of deco and moderne,” said Heckman in an email. “We found old terrazzo in the building and used that inspiration to create the bathroom vision, which brings in chrome to reflect the industrial era in Detroit.”

The furniture and textiles in each room is a mix. There are pieces designed by ASH and made in Detroit such as the armoires and others such as the marble side tables in the bathrooms, made in Italy.

The color palette is unique. Oxblood and pink were primary influences from early on “with blue serving as a counterbalancing color in the guest rooms,” said Heckman. And art is minimal.

“Each chamber features a vintage painting of various sizes, generally featuring a female portrait intended to connect to the hotel’s spirit animal of The Siren herself,” he said. “Each chamber also features a Bill Rauhauser photograph created for The Siren in limited edition in conjunction with Hill Gallery of Birmingham, and available for purchase in the lobby shop.”

Trumbull & Porter

Talk about a transformation. What was once a Holiday Inn and later the Corktown Inn (which had seen better days) in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood is now the modern and fun Trumbull & Porter hotel.

Purchased by its current owners in 2014, it’s been completely overhauled top to bottom with a young, hip aesthetic thanks to interior designer Patrick Thompson of Patrick Thompson Design. Thompson said they wanted to create a space that would draw both out-of-towners and locals.

“It needed to be a Detroit experience without being too literal,” said Thompson.

Guest rooms shine with a primarily white color palette — white walls and white linens — but Thompson’s team mixes things up and adds some color with fun tribal-inspired pillows and Kilim rugs custom made in Turkey.

“The white provides a nice clean backdrop for accessories and decoration and the fresh start that the property was in need of,” said Thompson.

And the art by Detroit Wood Type Company, though minimal, is tailor-made to Detroit. One framed portrait above a bed refers to Detroit as the “Paris of the Midwest.”

“People want to feel like their experience is unique and memorable,” said Thompson. “This is achieved by creating little moments that people talk about once they leave the property.”

Aloft Detroit

White may be the backdrop at Trumbull & Porter, but Aloft Detroit at the David Whitney is very much about color in its 136 guest rooms. Throw pillows pop in poppy colors such as as apple red, lime green and aqua blue. The walls are painted a taupe color.

Owner David Di Rita, part of the Roxbury Group that renovated the David Whitney and opened the hotel in 2014, said one of the challenges with Aloft Detroit was juxtaposing the building’s historic nature (it was built in 1915) with the standard decor and aesthetic typically found in Aloft hotels, part of the Starwood brand. Aloft hotels are known for their use of bold colors in guest rooms but DiRita says they wanted to tone that down a bit.

“Aloft has a very strong and recognizable design aesthetic,” said Di Rita. “(But) Starwood worked with us and let us soften their palette.”

They also used mahogany in the guest rooms, which is darker than typical Aloft hotels. Di Rita said they didn’t want to fight the historic details with the design and decor.

“We said let’s do the headboard (an Aloft standard) but let’s do it in mahogany, which wasn’t a standard Aloft color but a very David Whitney color,” he said.

Art, meanwhile, is minimal. The only images are prints of Detroit locations from the Manning Brothers Historic Photographic Collection.

Di Rita acknowledges his team could’ve taken a much more traditional approach with the decor but guests have responded to the mix of old and new.

“It’s been kind of a hit,” he said. “It’s like a theme in a ‘Wizard of Oz.’ It just kind of works.”

(313) 223-4686

Twitter: @mfeighan

Hotel hot spots

Aloft Detroit: One Park Avenue, Detroit. (313) 237-1700;

Detroit Foundation Hotel: 250 W. Larned Street. (313) 800-5500;

The Siren Hotel: 1509 Broadway Street. (313) 277-4736;

Trumbull & Porter: 1331 Trumbull Street. (313) 496-1400;

View Comments