Morning everyone, did you guys know I used to live in Detroit? To be a little more precise I lived in the ‘burbs in a small town near to the art institute Cranbrook, in a place called Birmingham.
I remember freaking out when Graham asked me what I thought about moving to Detroit all those years back. I had a good job working for Terence Conran’s publishing house, and life was kind of plodding along just fine here in the UK. However I fancied a change and with Ford (G’s old company) looking after us incredibly well, we took the plunge.
I remember hating it at first, coming from London and relocating to a city that, although it had great suburbs, had no downtown shocked me to the core! I couldn’t imagine living there for any length of time. But then I didn’t get below the surface of it properly. I didn’t (as Atticus Finch would say) step into it’s shoes and walk around in them for a bit. Once I found a job and started working in Detroir I did, and I met some amazing people doing some amazing things for that city.
I can honestly say our time spent living there changed my life. Career-wise more than anything else, because that’s when I made the plunge and changed careers to get into interior design. I don’t think I ever would have been brave enough to make the switch without that sort of “can do” attitude that you get in spades in the States! I dabbled and I experimented and I got to discover the great city of Detroit. When we had to return to London I remember sobbing for days.
When we lived in Detroit 15 odd years ago the city seemed to ooze money. I remember the incredible houses belonging to the car industry exec’s that we got to work on – they overlooked the great lakes and were totally amazing. But since then Detroit has suffered and fallen on some terrible times, doesn’t get a lot worse than bankruptcy right? The city hasn’t flourished for years, and now buildings are dilapidated and falling down. It makes one wonder if is bankruptcy the best option, surely, there were other options. Whole streets have been deserted and you can buy houses for crazy low prices, $30K or less.
However Detroit is nothing if not a resilient city, and I’m so glad to hear good things are starting to happen! More than any other job – pop star, lawyer, doctor, interior designer, blogger – schoolchildren in Detroit aspire to be entrepreneurs, which I think is amazing and just about sums it up. From being a mecca to start ups, to innovative organic food farms that have taken over abandoned downtown areas, people are picking themselves up again. All of this means the tourism is picking up, which I think is super important. It used to be a real drag to get to Detroit (long long hours, and for someone who hates flying believe me it wasn’t fun!) but in the summer Virgin is about to be the first Brit airline to fly daily direct to Detroit, so that’ll make it easier!
Not just the can-do attitude that I love, but Detroit is an incredibly creative city too. They’ve got an amazing street art culture, as you can see from all the pics in this post. The world’s largest mural is being painted right on the First National Building in the middle of Detroit – a whopping 100m high, and they apparently use more litres of paint per square metre than any other city in the US. My sort of city! It’s the home of techno music and the oldest jazz club in the States too.
So without further ado, it’s Detroit Week this week. I’ll be peppering my posts with all things Detroit, including interviews with entrepreneurs, design highlights and some of the amazing people making a difference in the city. Hope you enjoy!