THE DETROIT FOUNDATION HOTEL || A Marriage of Old and New

The Detroit Foundation Hotel is a collaborative effort of the city's design, art, architecture, and manufacturing communities. 

There is no better place to soak in Detroit's historic past then at The Detroit Foundation Hotel, a 100-room boutique hotel housed inside the former Detroit Fire Department Headquarters. The five-story Neoclassic building was originally built in 1929, and still holds the old-world charm of the era characterized by the straight, elegant lines and symmetrically aligned windows and doors. Architect studio McIntosh Poris Associates and Interior design studio Simeone Dreary Design Group were commissioned for the remodelling and renovation of the building, which features a ground-level restaurant, private dining room, chef's table, bar, lounge, retail space, two business meeting rooms, and a new building addition to the fifth floor to host banquets and parties for up to 160 guests.  

The design team's initial inspiration was the idea of "Coming Home to Detroit". The goal was to create a space that can honor the past and celebrate the future of Detroit. To honor the past, the building was repurposed to allow numerous original architectural elements to stay, preserving the historic character that makes up the heart and soul of the city. To celebrate the future, the interior design team incorporated numerous bespoke design elements to add a contemporary touch - an integration that also celebrates local craftsmanship.

  Street view of The Detroit Foundation Hotel.

Street view of The Detroit Foundation Hotel.

  Original architectural details from the former Fire Department Headquarter.

Original architectural details from the former Fire Department Headquarter.

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The original fire-engine red doors are being restored and reused, transforming into a design highlight that pays tribute to the original purpose of the space. The decorative doors line the length of the elegant 150-seat restaurant and bar situated in the former fire engine hall. The Detroit Fire Department Headquarter's decorative terra cotta panels with firehouse themes, including a bust of firefighting gryphons at a fire hydrant, and winged serpent-tailed figures flanking a shield proclaiming "DFD," were also repaired and maintained.

  The 150-seat restaurant inside The Detroit Foundation Hotel.

The 150-seat restaurant inside The Detroit Foundation Hotel.

  The restaurant bar is highlighted with hundreds of hanging bulbs.  

The restaurant bar is highlighted with hundreds of hanging bulbs.  

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Many historically relevant moments were considered as part of the inspiration process, including a large decorative light in the dining lounge. The bespoke chandelier was inspired by the shapes and forms of smoke, adding a whimsical yet modern touch to the elevated ceiling space. Warm leather furniture items retain the classical sophistication of the era, popping against the cool neutral colours in the background.

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Guests entering the building will first walk through a massive arched, terra cotta-faced portal, which was originally one of the fire engine doors. The tall story-and-a-half lobby area, which used to house the fire engines, has become the hotel lobby that incorporates a check-in area, retail space, and the restaurant entrance. Existing glazed white tiles celebrate the building's history, pairing perfectly with the modern finishes, decorative lighting, and shelving. The old and the new remains in perfect harmony, complimenting and adding to each other's character.

  The retail space at The Detroit Foundation Hotel.

The retail space at The Detroit Foundation Hotel.

  Modern elements and vintage furniture add character to the hotel lobby.

Modern elements and vintage furniture add character to the hotel lobby.

Carefully thought out details can be found at every corner of the property. An open display kitchen and antique brass metal rail system, reminiscent of a fireman's pole, runs through the restaurant. Exposed and unrefined brick walls from the existing architecture are juxtaposed with the modern wine display, creating a stark contrast that perfectly illustrates the idea of "The old and the new". To remind guests of the hotel's past, architectural remains from the fire department are framed and showcased throughout the public space. Video screens behind the check-in desk showcase footage of local artisans and fabricators whose crafts are incorporated in the hotel's design.  

  Guest room inside The Detroit Foundation Hotel.

Guest room inside The Detroit Foundation Hotel.

Guests will be pleased to discover the same attention to detail that goes into the luxurious guest rooms upstairs. The guest rooms are curated specifically for Detroit, celebrating the city's past with inlaid art pieces and photographs of historic Detroit architecture and Fordite mining.  A deep chocolate colour palette with complimenting blue and metallic accents are used in the guest rooms. These colours are reminiscent of the paint colours of 1960 automobiles, paying tribute to the industry which played a part in Detroit's history. A channel-tufted velvet sofa and soft-curve, high-lacquered finish headboard draw inspiration from the craftsmanship of high-end automobiles.   

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  The exterior brick walls are remained to preserve the historic charm of the building.

The exterior brick walls are remained to preserve the historic charm of the building.

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For first time visitors to Detroit, a trip to The Detroit Foundation Hotel will be a historic lesson that brings you straight to the heart and soul of the city. For locals, this will be a beautiful tribute to the building's history. 

Photography curtesy of McIntosh Poris Associates

Project Details

Architect: McIntosh Poris Associates
Michael Poris, AIA, Principal
John Skok, LEED AP, Principal/Project ManagerKelly Raczkowski, Designer
Sean Ryan, Designer
Blake Hill, Designer


Interior Designer: Simeone Deary Design Group


Client: Aparium Hotel Group


Size: 95,000 square feet; 5 floors