A Design Lover’s Guide to Detroit
From modern shops to well appointed hotels, the Detroit design scene is really coming into its own.
Published Mar 10, 2017 5:00 AM
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Rooted in legacy, grit, and innovation, Detroit is a cornerstone Midwestern city and a must-visit destination for design lovers. The city that was not-too-long-ago written about as abandoned and deteriorating is now being called “America’s Berlin” and “the next Brooklyn.” And locals laugh because what’s great about Detroit—what’s always been great about Detroit—is how distinctly Detroit it is. So don’t call it a comeback. It’s been like this for years—it just keeps getting cooler.
1. Situated in the historic Whitney building, the Aloft Detroit at the Whitney offers elegant, modern rooms with optimal views of downtown Detroit.
2. Housed in a late 19th-century mansion, The Inn on Ferry Street is a designated Historic Hotel of America and offers guests a chance to experience the charm and elegance of Historic Midtown Detroit.
3. The 144-room Trumbull & Porter Hotel is a hip new “authentic Detroit hotel” with distinctly modern guest rooms complete with custom furniture designed by Michigan artisans.
EAT & DRINK
Because you’ll need a place to refuel and relax after shopping and sightseeing.
1. Parc Detroit offers sophisticated American fare in a gorgeous urban park setting.
2. Selden Standard is a quaint, hip spot for seasonal, farm-to-table cuisine in a warm atmosphere. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
3. Located in downtown Detroit, Republic offers a modern spin on the Old-World tavern concept. The setting is lush, the food is rustic and satisfying, and the drinks are plentiful and creative.
4. Ima Noodles is new to Detroit’s vibrant food scene and is receiving rave reviews for its inventive menu of signature noodle soups, small plates, and rice bowls.
5. Housed in a former vintage pawn shop, Gold Cash Gold offers sustainably sourced Southern inspired dishes in a distinctly Detroit setting.
6. Owned and operated by a team of Midwestern craftsmen dedicated to the art of butchery, Grey Ghost Detroit is a hip neighborhood eatery with Midwestern hospitality at its heart. Modern American fare and craft cocktails are served up daily.
7. Dangerously Delicious Pies was originally founded by musician Rodney “The Pie Man” Henry and currently offers a rotating menu of both sweet and savory pies, like their vegan Ratatouille Pie and best-selling steak, mushroom, and gruyere (S.M.O.G.) Pie.
1. Astro Coffee is a small locally-owned coffee shop in Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood offering a changing menu of coffees from independent roasters throughout the U.S.
2. Located in a gorgeous, 130-year old building in Detroit’s midtown, Great Lakes Coffee is a great stop for locally-roasted coffee and treats. And take a bag (or five) of their beans home with you!
3. While the interior of Anthology Coffee Roaster is minimalist and hip, their house-roasted coffee is served up with heart (often quite literally in the form of latte art).
1. Shinola, the famous Detroit-based watch manufacturer, has evolved into a lifestyle brand of high-quality, handmade products that range from watches to bicycles to leather goods to beautifully curated gift items. All of their products are still proudly made in America, and while Shinola has stores throughout the U.S. and Europe, there’s something extra special about visiting Shinola’s Flagship Store in the heart of Detroit.
2. Located in Detroit’s Mid-town neighborhood, Nora is a homewares and gift store that offers an array of gorgeous, minimalist-inspired tableware, textiles, and gift items largely designed by local artists and designers.
3. Detroit pride runs deep at City Bird, one of Detroit’s longest standing independent art, design, and homegoods stores. City Bird carries a variety of housewares and gift items created by independent Detroit and Rust Belt-based artists and designers.
4. Opened as Detroit’s first retail pop-up shop in 2009, Hugh was a trailblazer in Detroit’s curated homegoods scene. Hugh specializes in well-designed items for the home with a classic-modern aesthetic, ranging from Mid-Century inspired furniture to a variety of hip and elegant table and barware.
5. Visit the Detroit Artist’s Market to check out what’s happening in Detroit’s art and maker scene. Housed in a single large-scale, open-concept space, DAM exhibits and sells a rotating collection of work by many of Detroit’s premiere artists.
6. Mill’s Pharmacy has been an anchor in Detroit for over 70 years and is now a must-visit spot for smartly curated apothecary products as well as a wonderful selection of unique home fragrances and a variety of tasteful gift items.
7. Located in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit, Eldorado General Store is a well-curated vintage general store that offers inspired treasures selected by owner and globetrekker, Erin Gavle. It’s a great stop for browsing vintage clothing for men and women, handcrafted accessories, eclectic household items, and locally-made home decor.
8. Detroit is the New Black is the incredibly hip concept store and event space created by Roslyn Karamoko that celebrates local designers and the dynamic nature of urban Detroit’s renaissance. Along with a sleek selection of clothing and carry goods, Detroit is the New Black hosts regular arts and community-based events.
9. Möbel Link Modern Furniture is an award-winning modern furniture company founded by renowned furniture designer, Alan Kaniarz (some of his pieces are on view in the Modern Wing of the Detroit Institute for the Arts). All the furniture produced by Möbel Link is elegantly designed and produced using sustainably-grown and harvested, formaldehyde-free, multi-veneer Baltic birch plywood.
10. Detroit Mercantile Co is the brainchild of Robert Stanzler, a fourth-generation Detroiter and designer of the iconic Made in Detroit logo. The shop feels like a modern day general store and carries a hip assortment of Detroit and Michigan-centric items from clothing to home goods.
11. Hunt & Noyer was founded in 2013 by Kyle Huntoon as a hardwood furniture and home decor company with a focus on creating heirloom quality pieces with a Mid-Century aesthetic. All of their furniture is produced in their downtown Detroit studio and a fun fact about Kyle: he was featured on season two of HGTV’s Ellen’s Design Challenge.
12. Abigail Murray Ceramics is the independent studio and shop of Detroit-based artisan and proprietor Abigail Murray. Her hand-crafted ceramic homegoods are based on simple designs layered with the infusion of complex and elegant patterns found in nature.
SEE & DO
From historic Art Deco skyscrapers and the mansions of auto industry barons to a popping art scene, Detroit is a city rich in a history of culture, architecture, and design.
1. Located in a stunning Beaux-arts building, the Detroit Institute for the Arts has been a presence in the city for over 100 years and houses one of the premiere art collections in the U.S. with over 60,000 works. When planning a visit, make time to tour Rivera Court, which houses the masterwork Detroit Industry murals created by Diego Rivera to explore Detroit’s booming auto industry.
2. Visit the Simone DeSousa Gallery to see contemporary work that explores the connections between art and community. 3. Gallerie Camille is a gorgeous gallery space exhibiting a rotating showcase of cutting-edge work by contemporary artists and designers.
4. Pewabic Ceramics is open to the public seven days a week, and visiting affords you the opportunity to witness a century-old operational ceramics studio in action. Handmade pieces are available in their shop, and they regularly host lectures and events.
5. Curbed Detroit’s Self-Guided Walking Tour is a smartly-curated and informative walking tour through Detroit’s historic downtown. The tour will guide you to 14 of Detroit’s architectural gems and notable public spaces. And since it’s self-guided, you can go at your own pace.
6. If you’re in Detroit on a Saturday, take advantage of a guided Pure Detroit Tour offered for two of Detroit’s architectural powerhouses and National Landmarks: the Guardian Building and the Fisher Building. Both tours are free to the public, and photography is allowed.
1. For the ultimate design lover’s day trip from Detroit, plan a visit to Cranbrook Art Museum and Gardens in Bloomfield Hills, MI (about thirty minutes outside of Detroit). Cranbrook is a 319-acre campus of world-renowned architecture, sculpture, and gardens, including historic home tours of the Saarinen House and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Smith House (open seasonally).
2. Complete with original furnishings and accurate reproductions, the Meyer May House in Grand Rapids (about 2 hours outside Detroit) provides the rare opportunity to experience a Prairie house exactly as Frank Lloyd Wright intended.