Tasked with an adaptive reuse project – that of converting the former Detroit Fire Department Headquarters building into a full-service, four-star boutique hotel – KTGY’s interiors team set out to transform this landmark into the Detroit Foundation Hotel. With the design theme focused on “Coming Home to Detroit,” the hotel conveys the essence of the Motor City.
Transforming the historic firehouse into a hotel was an opportunity to help revitalize Detroit. With input from the community, the design team focused on honoring the city’s past and celebrating its promising future. An emphasis on community, social entrepreneurship and local economic engagement are among the building blocks that inspired the collaboration between the interior design team, developer and architect, as well as the city’s many craftsmen and artisans.
This renovation has lent new life, growth and opportunity to the heart of a booming downtown district. Entering the five-story Neoclassical building through a massive arched, terra cottafaced portal, originally one of the fire engine doors, guests are transported into a voluminous space; a story-and-a-half that once housed the fire engines. The industrial-yet-luxurious concept makes the property an approachable and dynamic environment for locals and travelers alike, successfully bridging the gap between design and functionality, and delivering a guest experience that’s
focused on providing a true Detroit feel.
Memorable moments are found in locally sourced details, from industrial design elements to food and drink menus – all conceptualized by KTGY’s interiors team. The designers showcased special areas, including the aptly named restaurant, The Apparatus Room. Original glazed-brick tiles contrast new finishes while feature lighting adds modernity, such as a street lamp-inspired chandelier that hangs over the restaurant bar and a smoke plume-inspired light sculpture that is an acknowledgment of the building’s history as a firehouse. An antique brass-metal rail system reminiscent of a fireman’s pole runs through the restaurant and highlights the strong architecture of the space, while a charred-reclaimed wood wall delineates the guest reception area from the restaurant, again serving as a rich reminder of the past.
Detailing found in guest rooms includes salvaged moldings on the wall that act as art. A nod to fordite mining is artistically reinterpreted as a headboard inlay, while the artwork of beautiful, abandoned Detroit landmarks graces the rooms as a wallcovering. A color palette of deep chocolates and pastel metallics are punctuated by pink and blue accents reminiscent of 1960s automobile paint colors, adding an unexpected hue to the modern guestrooms. Overall, the furnishings celebrate industrial design, a prominent attribute of Detroit, balanced with luxurious materials.
The objective of KTGY’s branding experts was to create a brand that embodied the resurgent spirit of Detroit’s people and serve as a foundation for the community for years to come. Through concept, planning, interior design and branding, the team created a beacon to represent the largest urban renaissance in American history, working from the theme of “Coming Home to Detroit.” The design and brand messaging attracted local artists and businesses who wanted to make their mark on what was sure to become a Detroit icon. The use of red reflects the firehouse’s history, pulls from the Fire Department’s operation materials, and emphasizes the property’s beauty. The Apparatus Room restaurant within the hotel – named for the room where fire engines were housed – is a celebration of the building’s history. The logo for the restaurant, a figure of a phoenix rising from the flames, was inspired by the friezes on the building’s façade and is emblematic of Detroit’s motto “Resurget Cineribus” (Rise from the Ashes).
Carefully selected commissions by local artisans and makers celebrate the city’s storied past while looking ahead to the future, offering guests a tailored, authentic experience not to be experienced anywhere else. A dynamic art installation spans the third through fifth floor in a large atrium, while elements like an original firehose shaft have been left as museum-quality features, offering a rich sense of history and time.
Honoring community, social entrepreneurship and economically engaging the community are among the building blocks that brought the Detroit Foundation Hotel to life.
Owner | Developer: Aparium Hotel Group
Interior Design | Branding: KTGY
Architect: McIntosh Poris Associates
Artisan: Alex Porbe, Incite Design
Artisan: Kim Harty, Chairperson, College of Creative Studies
Photography: Joe Vaughn
Photography: Detriot Public Library
Photography: Nathan Kirkman
Photography: Sal Rodriguez
Photography: Alex Porbe, Incite Design
Hotel and Restaurant
Building Area: 95,000 sq. ft.
Number of Guestrooms: 100 keys
Restaurant Size: 5,900 sq. ft.
Restaurant Seating: 200+ seats