Interiors Awards 2018: Hotel

Over the bar in the Apparatus Room restaurant, a warm custom chandelier is a beacon, with 359 exposed-element LED lamps and 110 pieces of handblown glass hanging from the ceiling like golden raindrops. Photograph by Nathan Kirkman

Interiors Awards 2018: Hotel
Detroit Foundation Hotel
Designer: Simeone Deary Design Group
Client: Aparium Hotel Group
Location: Detroit

“A superb repurposing of a building, this is a great example of taking something old and showing what it can be. The design has great balance of refined materials in a raw space.” —Jury

A building as rich in history as Detroit’s former fire department headquarters presented a special challenge to the design team behind the new Foundation Hotel. The project—centering around a structure that spans the city’s rise and fall, and its exciting current revitalization—is symbolic of a re-energized Detroit. Local architecture firm McIntosh Poris Associates orchestrated the adaptive reuse of the five-story 1929 fire station and an adjacent 19th century building, and the Chicagobased interior design firm Simeone Deary Design Group oversaw the interiors to create a 100-room boutique hotel for the Aparium Hotel Group in the heart of downtown.

With the design theme “coming home to Detroit,” the hotel conveys the essence of the Motor City. The melding of past and present is everywhere, in such original and salvaged elements as interior glazed-brick tiles and marble cornices. “A lot of history is built into this hotel, and it is our favorite type of project,” says Gina Deary, co-owner of Simeone Deary. “It’s just so full of opportunity.”

One of the original terracotta-faced arched doorways serves as the hotel’s entrance, and a monumental ground-floor space that once housed fire engines is now home to the lobby, restaurant, and bar. Here, a vintage credenza is reconceived as the reception desk. The restaurant, aptly named the Apparatus Room, incorporates an open kitchen and is a welcoming gathering spot for both locals and guests. The antique brass rails in the restaurant recall a fireman’s pole. Over the bar area, a warm custom chandelier is a beacon, with 359 exposed-element LED lamps and 110 pieces of handblown glass hanging from the ceiling like golden raindrops. Elsewhere in public areas, dark wood paneling and leather armchairs set against a backdrop of ceramic tile and marble create a comfortable, old-fashioned opulence.

In many of the guestrooms, the original brick and marble, often with the distressed finish one would expect of century-old material, is juxtaposed with modern furniture for a familiar yet contemporary feel. Unexpected accents in metallic pink and pastel blue, akin to 1960s automobile colors, punctuate a palette of deep chocolate brown.

Furniture throughout celebrates an industrial design aesthetic, offset with luxurious materials. A channel-tufted velvet sofa and the soft curve and lacquered finish of the headboards, also inspired by high-end cars, add a touch of nostalgia. “There’s a masculinity to the building and a timelessness, so the last thing we wanted to do is pick out trendy furniture,” Deary says.

Deary worked with Matt Eaton, the director and curator of Detroit’s Red Bull House of Art and residency program, to involve emerging artists. In all, 50 local painters, sculptors, furniture makers, and textile and glass artisans contributed. For example, guestrooms feature wall art installations composed of salvaged building trim and moldings. Graphically manipulated photographs of abandoned Detroit landmarks were transformed into printed wallcoverings in guestrooms.

The craftsmanship of the interiors is a testament to Detroit’s ingenuity. As Deary says, “I’ve never seen anything like Detroit, the way people collaborate to get a project done. There’s a really great, unique partnership between the sciences and the arts in Detroit.”

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