before & after: detroit design studio

I keep hearing about cool design and small business-related happenings in Detroit, and consequently, the city has rocketed to the top of my must-visit list. It’s a city with many beautiful old buildings, and designers are flocking there to turn neglected, empty spaces into thriving creative communities. This is one such space, and I love what Claire and her team at Model D have done with it. They’ve kept many of the original touches intact but lightened and brightened the space, bringing in a mix of modern and salvaged furniture to add warmth and personality to the room. Nice work, guys! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

See the full post after the jump . . .

Time: one month

Cost: $5000

Basic Steps: We whitewashed the walls; dusted off the mantels and moldings; found vintage furniture, art and accents from local Detroit shops; and swapped out the dark shades for white curtains. The space had beautiful features — two handsome fireplaces, gorgeous old wood pocket doors — but the muddy wall colors made it feel dark and dingy. By lightening the walls and opening up the windows, we brightened up the space without losing its historic charm. No major alterations were made, just some simple touches to breathe new life into a great old space.

Shop local, buy reused whenever possible, keep it simple. Over time, I’m sure we will add more art and fixtures, but keeping it spare makes it feel more spacious and elegant. Enlist the help of local merchants who can help you find unique odds and ends. Be willing to do a little refurb or repair in exchange for a good deal. And if you’re relying on the generosity of friends for cleaning and arranging (as we did), it never hurts to have good tunes on the iPod and beer in the fridge!

We wanted it to feel like an old-school publishing house or literary salon in a London townhouse or Parisian apartment, but with local Detroit artifacts so there’s no mistaking where you are! The clocks, pillows and prints all express our midwestern geography, which was very important to us. — Claire

  1. I wish I could see close ups of the pillows…I love old ephemera printed up on fabric. These look like they’re from a vintage atlas. So cool. I’d print up old knitting patterns. What fun that would be….

  2. This is gorgeous. I love the airiness and the asymmetrical clock arrangement. I have a weird question though: where is that accordian (sp) style notebook holder from? I could use one in *my* studio!

  3. joquena says:

    My house was built in 1940 and we’ve put a lot of work into it. I’m so glad you kept the original flooring. What’s the fireplace made of? It’s a very interesting color. Is it marble?

  4. Alice Stone says:

    Love it – the clocks, print over the mantel, the white table by the window – is that from Ikea? Great floors and love how much lighter the space is now!

  5. Courtney says:

    Oh that is gorgeous. I really love the window seat – what a great way to take advantage of those amazing windows + the natural light.

  6. Crystal says:

    Always great to see a before & after coming out of my home state! There are so many great things happening in Detroit!

  7. Laura says:

    This is lovely, and now I am homesick. Yay, Detroit!

  8. My town! Glad to see the old house being used for something instead of vacant. It’s truly beautiful now; I’m looking forward to more and more people doing the same.

  9. Samantha says:

    Claire herself is a gem. Everything she has done and continues to do in Detroit is illuminating and refreshing. The space reflects the big smile she always has. Thanks for showing space from Detroit!

  10. sarah says:

    Where can I find those terra-cotta pots?

  11. BananaMama says:

    Oh, that’s lovely.

  12. Giulia says:

    I want the flower pots!!!!!! Any idea where to get them?

  13. Cathy says:

    Like the multiple clocks thing going on. Looks like they are all set to the same time, but could not read the labels underneath – what do they say?

  14. Libby says:

    How lovely!
    The windowseat – was that made specifically for the reno, or was it existing? It is beautiful. What a bright nook.

  15. Aude says:

    Great house with beautiful architectural features.

    Loved that little planters too and after a little research it seems they were featured on … design*sponge :

  16. This is a make-over I definitely love…wow. I love the fact that they didn’t alter anything too much – just took a space that wasn’t being optimized and added bright touches to bring out its natural beauty. Stunning!


  17. Riva says:

    Model D is awesome and so is Claire! They are doing an amazing job of promoting Detroit and all of the creative Detroiters here. Our city is alive and thriving with many young and not-so-young independent entrepreneurs, artists, thinkers, and do-ers.

  18. Una says:

    beautiful! The pillows are by a local designer —

  19. Cindy says:

    I read in model D that you can get the terracotta pots at Nest Housewares around the corner. City Bird is also around the corner and I think I saw the pillows there on Saturday.

  20. Michelle says:

    I am in love with the pillows! Thank you Una for posting that link!

  21. Claire says:

    Thanks for all your nice comments — come visit us in Detroit! For a list of local sources and some more detail shots, click here: Also, HUGE thanks to the amazing & talented Patrick Thompson:

  22. Bethany says:

    You can get the Terra Cotta pots from NEST, in Detroit:

  23. Danielle says:

    Beautiful space! And it’s always great to read wonderful things about my hometown. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Suzy says:

    Wonderful! That fireplace is a gem. Yay Detroit!

  25. Arlene Frank says:

    So much creativity in the re-design…wonderful. Makes a hometown gal proud.

  26. carol says:

    Claire, you never cease to amaze…….. xoxo

  27. maria anne says:

    I’m always so proud and excited when Detroit’s creative community is highlighted. Makes me miss my hometown so much more!

  28. JEFF says:


  29. Karolina says:

    Amazing. Where do I find those curtains ans the pole curtains? Not even sure what they called.. please help – I love it :)


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