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A Rustic Rental in Detroit’s Oldest Surviving Neighborhood

by Garrett Fleming

Working in the creative department of an ad agency can be frustrating — trust me, I’ve done it. It’s not uncommon to sleep at the office, cancel vacations, or miss some of life’s most important moments. For Erin Gavel, the glitter of working on big brands wasn’t enough to keep her at her New York City agency. A year ago, she decided it was time to move back home to Detroit, MI and pursue her dream of opening up a storefront. Thus, Eldorado General Store was born. Her charming shop in the middle of Corktown, Detroit’s oldest surviving neighborhood, is filled with all manner of vintage trinkets, locally-crafted wares and goodies she’s picked up on road trips with her photographer boyfriend Chris Miele.

Luckily for the pair, their one-bedroom apartment sits right above the Eldorado storefront. It’s well decorated now, but before Chris and Erin moved in, the space had been vacant for nine years. A few cobwebs didn’t bother them in the least, though. It simply meant that the apartment was raw and ready for them to make it their own. Erin recalls their first apartment viewing, “I definitely had to use my imagination [and] envision what it could be with a little love and elbow grease.”

Turning the industrial space into a rustic home meant designing around some interesting quirks. In 1870, during the building’s construction, the crew didn’t find it necessary to design any of the walls to be straight. “It’s been one of the hardest design challenges I’ve faced to date,” Erin shares. “We joke [about how] you just have to make everything a bit crooked so it fits.” This hasn’t stopped her from having a blast decorating the home with happy objects that remind her of pleasant memories.

Many of the vintage goods she and Chris purchased for Eldorado have somehow found their way into the home as well. Blankets, crates and vintage finds are abundant throughout the space. There’s even the occasional goofy find: “I like to use silly items that remind me of childhood,” Erin admits. “They become visual reminders to keep dreaming.” Can you spot the fun, letter-licking tongue? Keep your eyes peeled for that and other fun touches when you peek inside this pair’s rustic rental. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Chris Miele

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These blue chairs from West Elm are the only items in the home that the couple purchased brand new. The rest of their apartment's furniture and decor has been picked up at vintage shops, bought secondhand or were gifts from friends and family. Erin's old roommate didn't want this table anymore, so she took it off of her hands. The piece's extra leaf makes it ideal for both hosting dinner parties and crafting. It took Erin and Chris eight-and-a-half hours to clean and hang the home's chandelier!
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Erin and her boyfriend Chris pose with Bettis the pit bull inside their Detroit, Michigan apartment.
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The pair enjoys collecting old crates. What makes this set particularly sentimental is how they're adorned with the names of cities the two have visited. They sit under a vintage Southwestern tapestry. Erin travels all over the country collecting Southwestern and Native American textiles. On all of her shopping trips, she makes sure to buy directly from the artisans who have crafted these beautiful pieces.
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When it came time to dress the apartment's windows, Erin and Chris turned to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs for inspiration. They love the "tent-like feel and cozy vibe" of the hotel's canvas curtains and have replicated the look here with drop cloths from their local hardware store. On the lamp's shelf sits Erin's grandfather's camera. She hopes to film something on it one day, but until then it lives in front of a larger-than-life painting titled "Axis 2." The artist is unknown.
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Vintage bottles and decor from many of Erin's relatives sit on an antique bar cart.
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This Milo Baughman sofa came with Erin from Chicago. It took her quite a bit of time to track down an affordable, secondhand option, but she finally found this one on Craigslist. It's just the right timeless investment piece she hoped to find. The couple often eats dinner in front of it sitting atop these Guatemalan floor pillows and vintage rug from Detroit's Junque Shop Antiques.
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The kitchen's coatrack used to hang in a Detroit firehouse. From it dangles a purse Erin's grandmother picked up in the 1950s. It's responsible for Erin's current obsession with vintage, leather goods. Below it sits "a gift from the universe," Erin says. One day, a woman came into Eldorado General Store. She was on her way to throw this treasure chest out, but thought Erin might like it. She was right, and now it has a permanent home here on a vintage bench.
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The warmth and sheen of these copper tins are what drew Erin and Chris to them. They perfectly complement the kitchen's collection of vintage tools and utensils.
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"The blanket on the bed is an heirloom from my grandparents' trip out west in the 1950s, [and] the two Turkish pillows were found in LA at The Rose Bowl Flea Market," Erin explains. A boa - the remains of an old Halloween costume - drapes over one of the bedroom's many mirrors. "Who says we can’t decorate with costumes?" the shop owner asks.
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Like the majority of the bedroom's furniture, this mid-century side table was found on Craigslist and has lived in three states with Erin. The metal tube with the tongue on it is actually a functioning letter-licker. "This just appeared (at the shop) one day in a box of things. When you turn the knob on the side, the tongue moves in and out," the couple tells us.
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Erin snagged this vintage oil painting at a Chicago market for $8. It's inspired a new game she plays with Chris. "We want to decorate a room by filling it with original art we find for $8 or less," she explains.
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Erin imagines that every castle has a hall of mirrors, so she had to have one for her own little castle in the sky. She's a jewelry-designing fiend and has had to find clever ways of storing her numerous creations. Between the beautiful mirrors, you'll find old candleholders Erin has fashioned into jewelry hooks.
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The one-bedroom apartment is on the second floor of a building built in 1870.

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Comments

  • The Eldorado shop contains the most beautifully curated treasures, so I’m not surprised in the least to see that Erin’s home is just as gorgeous. So much inspiration here!

  • Erin is a styling genius. Eldorado is so beautiful!! I swear you could empty some junk from your pocket and she could arrange it to look like a beautiful tabletop piece. So glad she was featured!!

  • We also live in the apartment above our shop – Cactus Creek. Our building was built in 1910. It is just the happiest life to be so connected to your dream. I loved seeing what these two did with their apartment. It looks like a home full of fun + love!!

  • As a Detroit native, I always get excited to see the city being featured in my blog roll, but what an awesome surprise to find its Erin Gavle’s home! An incredible space that truly reflects the shop below. It perfectly illustrates how much of Erin’s heart is beating through El Dorado General Store. Beautiful pictures, amazing feature!

  • Lovely project! I would love to invest in Detroit. Anybody have any suggestions for pre-gentrified neighborhoods where the prices aren’t through the roof?

  • I live in Santa Fe, NM and I see native american rugs everywhere. I love how this couple chose to incorporate textiles into their home, and it’s fantastic they buy direct from the artisans. What beautiful mementos to have from their travels!

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