The Interior Startup Growing Detroit’s Design Scene

The Interior Startup Growing Detroit’s Design Scene

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Written by: Heather Nash
Photos by: Heather Nash Photography

Nestled in a neighborhood northeast of downtown Detroit is the home of Rachel Nelson, one half of the interior design duo, RL Concetti. With an emphasis on commercial and residential design, Rachel and her business partner Lauren DeLaurentiis are a rapidly growing design team intent on inspiring and instilling their bold, dramatic and playful style upon the up and coming Detroit design scene.

Popping over to Rachel’s two-story cape cod home for coffee & pastries, I was given the complete tour of her unique, eclectic space, designed by herself with the help of Lauren. The dining room showcases a beautiful granite topped tulip table surrounded by several Panton chairs, while the wall behind it boasts colorful, geometric wallpaper; a true statement and testament to Rachel’s aesthetic. Her gold ceilinged office features a plush antique sofa, reupholstered in a blue crushed velvet. A carefully placed mid-century modern globe light fixture hangs over the sofa, completing the space and giving it a polished, opulent finish. Two friendly American Bulldog rescues curiously trail behind Rachel as she shows me around, eventually finding themselves ushered outside to bask in the unseasonably warm spring morning.

We spent the majority of our time getting to know one another and discussing the pair’s background and goals for the future. RL Concetti formed about a year ago and Lauren speaks to their excitement about being a part of the ongoing revival happening in the Detroit area. They define their style as a mix of contemporary pieces with classic silhouettes, vintage with new, and a unique incorporation of unexpected pops of color, layers and textures. Referring back to Rachel’s gold ceiling color choice in her office, they highlighted the challenge that it presented, a design risk turned into a successful element that could be utilized again for a future client. They spoke of their dream of doing large scale design work for a new restaurant, a goal that could be closer to a reality given the commercial boom happening throughout the area. Until then, no project is too small for Rachel & Lauren as they continue to earn rave reviews from each client they work with.

Lastly, I joined the two at their newly acquired office space, still a work in progress, in an old Albert Kahn factory building located a few blocks from the Detroit River. Lauren and Rachel shared their large concept board, filled with fabric & paint swatches, room layouts and inspirational images that they update and use with each client. We then spent a bit of time exploring one of the building’s cavernous industrial floors, filled with covered vehicles gathering dust, each having been brought up in a giant freight elevator and stored over the years. The building is currently undergoing extensive renovations and will include work/live space in the future.

As we parted ways, I couldn’t help but share in the pair’s excitement about their future as a growing, successful small start up firm. The ups and downs and long days are intensely familiar to me as a small business owner. Not to mention the anxiety and uncertainty that comes with depending on a steady stream of clients who value the goods or services that you provide and will happily pay you your worth. Work/life balance tends to be extremely skewed towards work when it’s your business. Long hours are a given and the personal life component is often overlooked. But those inconveniences are often outshined by the thrill of freedom, creativity and the ability to steer your own course for the future and I wish Lauren and Rachel the best as they continue to create beautiful, lasting design in our little corner of Michigan.

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My Tel Aviv by photographer Yael Nov

My Tel Aviv by photographer Yael Nov

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Article and images by Yael Nov
Yael Nov is a photographer and artist living and working in Los Angeles. She received her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from University of Washington and her MFA from Art Center College of Design.

There are certain places in the world that once visited have a power and pull that keep you coming back again and again. For me that place is Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv somehow effortlessly embodies its modernity and energy while always respecting and acknowledging its immense history. Though its history and political climate remain incredibly complex, Tel Aviv will always be a home away from home. My father is Israeli and though I grew up in the U.S. (the Pacific Northwest to be more specific), I have visited Israel as often as possible, even studying abroad there for a year in college.

My Tel Aviv is not the Tel Aviv seen in the news and media. My Tel Aviv is a cosmopolitan city filled with incredibly talented designers, musicians, technological innovators, and artists. My Tel Aviv is where many of my relatives and friends live. My Tel Aviv is home to some of the most eclectic (and delicious) cuisine that melds European and Middle Eastern influences. My Tel Aviv is the Mediterranean beach-town filled with young people sharing fresh watermelon and a beer while the clicking sounds of Matkot (paddle-ball) reverberate across the surface of the turquoise waves of the Mediterranean. Tel Aviv truly reflects the notion of a “melting pot” culture with communities from all corners of the globe, adding their unique flare to the vibrant tapestry of the city.

Though I love the galleries and boutiques, the nightlife, the cafes, the incredible food, and the beautiful beaches, my favorite thing about Tel Aviv is its warmth. The minute you are invited into someone’s shop or restaurant it is as if you’ve been invited into their home and family. One day when I was studying abroad as a college freshman I was on a search for a button to repair my favorite jacket. As I stumbled into a small shop that sold everything from buttons to binoculars, the old man behind the counter picked up on my American accented Hebrew, offered me a cup of tea and we chatted for the next hour about my family and what brought me to Israel. Now every time I visit Tel Aviv, I stop in his shop to say hello as if no time has gone by. Almost every time I visit I have a similar experience whether my phone battery dies and a stranger offers me his, or the pharmacist gives me antibiotics as well as her grandmother’s chicken soup recipe. The warmth of Tel Aviv is unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else.

I have many other cities around the world on my bucket list but I still return to Tel Aviv any time I can because to me it will always be home- even if only for one week each year.

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Secret Agent PR on Traveling With Kids

Secret Agent PR on Traveling With Kids

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I traveled alone with three kids under five and it was awesome.

I’m not a mommy blogger or a parenting expert, but after my trip this summer, it really got me thinking about why it’s so important to travel with kids and I felt strongly enough about it that I had to share my story.

I grew up with travel in my blood. Born in the US, raised in Malaysia and Switzerland before being transplanted to South Bend, IN before high school. I attended three colleges in four years, Philly, New Orleans, Paris, and only landed in LA by accident. Once my husband convinced me that it was time to settle into a grown up life, we still managed to travel at least once or twice a year. If I didn’t, I would go mad, routine is not my strong suite.

Nothing changed once the kids came along. Now that I’m a parent, looking back on my childhood, I realize that traveling and living in so many different places played such an important role in shaping my understanding of the world. I’m thankful that I grew up with a certain level of fearlessness when it came to learning languages, making new friends, tasting new foods, exploring new places. And I want to impart that to my own kids. My kids aren’t a hindrance to keep me from doing the things I like to do. They’re the reason why I keep doing them.

I make it a point to set aside at least three weeks per year for a big trip with the kids. Often, since my husband works in video games and has to work insane hours, I take trips alone with the kids. When my son Cael was 18 months old, we went to Scotland and France to see friends. We also took a mom and son trip to Quebec a few years ago. I’ll never forget driving down the Gaspe Peninsula, singing out loud to Metric and taking in the amazing scenery with my little dude. This past summer, I took Cael (5), Rowan (2), and little Hana (4 months at the time) to France and Iceland with a quick stop in Boston on the way home.

While it’s different for everyone and everyone’s kids, these are a few things that I’ve learned from my trip to France and Iceland.

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A little crying is not the end of the world. The worst thing about traveling with kids tends to be the people without kids. It’s hard to ignore the scornful and judgemental looks. But I guess I’ve just developed a thick skin about it. We were all kids once, it’s just unfortunate that some people seem to have forgotten that. The inevitability of a full blown nuclear fit on the plane or at a restaurant is not enough to prevent me from taking my kids places because the way I figure it, kids are kids and they are going to cry and get angry no matter what, no matter where they are. It helps to remember that even though it might be stressful in the moment, nobody actually ever remembers those fits after the fact. You, as the parent, forget it as soon as you see your kids having a good time on the trip. The kids certainly don’t remember it, and the disgruntled strangers, who really cares?

Feed their wonder, and they’ll love to wander. Kids are no different than adults. They like to be informed and have an idea of what they’re getting into.Cael is five and a seasoned traveler so whenever we’re about to go on a voyage, we have a routine. I show him where we’re going on a map and tell him how long it’s going to take, how many planes we’re taking, what we’ll eat, where we’ll stay, who we’ll see. We hop on google and I show him photos. I try to feed the kids’ natural sense of curiosity, something that we as adults tend to lose. This makes everything from the non-stop transatlantic voyage to picking up the rental car less mundane and more…adventurous.

Make the simple things fun. As weird as it sounds, my favorite thing to do when we’re traveling is go shopping for food. It’s such a basic thing, but it’s a great way to show kids that we’re really all the same, wherever we go. We all need to eat. Exploring the markets is really fun with kids. When we were in Paris, we popped into the market to get out of the rain. We ducked into a big green gate only to find a warren of little stalls. The boys discovered groseilles (tart little red currants) and ate two whole baskets on the walk home. In Albi, we spent hours exploring the covered central market. There is nothing better than watching your kids savor the same chocolate cookies you used to inhale as a kid, or devour a new fruit that you never thought they’d like. After three weeks in the countryside, we got very good at remembering which village had a market on which day. Our favorite was the night market in the quaint little medieval village of Monesties. Whenever I look at this photo, I can still taste the tart brightness of the groseille gelato and the creamy goodness of the chestnut gelato, and I remember sitting on a dusty bench in the town square, elbow to elbow with my best and oldest friends, watching my kids happily licking their cones and dripping pink stickiness all over themselves, listening to the happy hum of the local villagers. If I remember that moment, so do my kids.

Embrace the little moments. All too often we get caught up in planning, programming, and producing our lives. I am totally guilty of it most of the time, but when we’re on holiday, we improvise. We never have a list of things we have to see. Instead, we fly by the seat of our pants. I figure the kids will develop more of an appetite for adventure if I let them choose it, rather than if I force feed them anything. So far, even though my boys are only five and two, they really seem to devour it. When we were in Paris, they made friends on the playground even though they don’t really speak French that well yet. In Aveyron, they played outside every night till the summer sun set (rather than even picking up their iPads). One afternoon, after driving aimlessly around the countryside, we discovered a random country zoo where the monkeys could climb out of their enclosures to plunder their neighbor’s fruit trees and visitors were allowed to cavort with the local goats. It was such a fun and weird experience. In the evenings, we drank gaillac wine on the back terrace, reminisced about the old days, watched the sun set behind the rolling green hills. We had no plan, did very little, and it was thoroughly amazing.

Embrace the humor of it all. I think the most important lesson I’ve learned from traveling with the kids is that sometimes you just have to laugh at it all, including yourself. It wasn’t all smooth going on this trip. There were tantrums and fights and tears at times. The worst, and best, was when I disembarked in Reykyavik with three cranky kids. As I rushed to find a family bathroom (which thankfully Keflavik and Charles de Gaulle both have, but NOT LAX), I was really beginning to question the wisdom of a layover in a new country all alone with three small kids. Cael was hungry, Rowan needed milk and a diaper change, and Hana was none too happy to be ripped from her blissful slumber by the cries of her brothers, only to find herself strapped to me in a public bathroom. Just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse, and I bent down to pick up Rowan, I heard the sound of the seat of my pants by which we had been flying for the last two weeks ripping to shreds, but my colorful expletives were enough to cut through the crankiness. We all looked at each other, four month old baby included, and couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. I picked everyone up and strolled out of the bathroom with my head held high and my butt hanging out of my pants with as much dignity as I could muster. All of us, still giggling. It turns out that mom’s public embarrassment is enough to make any child feel better.

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Haily’s practical tips and insider finds:
– She uses this book to help get the kids excited about their next trip. Also, it’s applied geography
– The best Paris market can be found here.
This was the best covered market in Albi.
– Dining out with kids is still possible, just choose places with distractions like ping-pong tables or places to run around outside. Try Derriere in Paris.
This animal park in Aveyron was the most memorable.
– Iceland is a super kid-friendly place. With the long daylight hours, you can stay out late with the kids. Also you can get shop tax free, just fill out a form on your way out at the airport and get your sales tax back after the fact. It’s also a great layover point to reduce jet lag once you get back Stateside.


Photos and article by Haily Zaki, owner of LA based Secret Agent PR

The road to Eldorado General Store

The road to Eldorado General Store

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And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow –
‘Shadow,’ said he, ‘Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?’

A corner shop nestled into the heart of Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood is home to Eldorado General Store, a veritable mecca of meticulously curated vintage clothing, accessories, locally made goods, trinkets and other unique sundries. On a bright and breezy Saturday morning, I hopped in my car and made the journey to this “lost city of gold” to meet with shop owner, treasure huntress and bi-coastal dweller, Erin Gavle.

I heard it was a vintage lover’s dream. And it was.

There is so much to be said for a mood or feeling elicited from a certain interior space. Walking through the door I froze, visually stunned by the thoughtful displays of colorful goods and the giant American flag hanging on the exposed brick wall behind a beautiful, gleaming old world wood counter. I was instantly welcomed by Erin and while she hurried about preparing for the day’s business, I slowly roamed through the space, delicately touching fabrics and letting my fingers graze over the unique objects and artifacts hand picked by this brilliant collector. I knew instantly that I would be leaving with a treasure just as I knew I’d be returning, making a visit to Eldorado a monthly ritual saved for the idlest of weekend mornings.

Originally, our plan was to chat and take a few images before the shop was officially open for the day but the unlocked front door soon gave way to a steady stream of visitors. Observing Erin in her element as she greeted guests and introduced herself, one would think she was welcoming strangers into her own home (which incidentally is in the same building). During a brief respite, I commented on this and she spoke about the importance of creating an experience and fostering a sense of community and neighborliness, much like general stores of the past were known to do. At one point, I wandered over to the window where I could see Michigan Central Station, the iconic, towering ruin that serves as a stark yet hauntingly beautiful reminder of what Detroit once was. But despite the blight and blemishes the city is so well known for, it’s people like Erin that help to provide a glimmer of hope for a brighter future.

I lingered for a bit longer, not quite ready to conclude my visit and still eying a beautiful set of gold and marble sailboat bookends just asking to be taken home to a loving owner. Eldorado is truly a magical place. Thank you Erin, for sharing your amazing collections with the world.

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Photos and article by Heather of HMN Photography

Talking custom with Huron Guitars

Talking custom with Huron Guitars

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An unassuming upper level studio situated in the middle of Ypsilanti, Michigan is currently home to Huron Guitars, a shop specializing in custom built electric guitars. In a brightly lit back room just off of the kitchen, owner Luke Jackson quietly works on his latest custom telecaster. He is surrounded by an array of tools, guitar parts and pieces, wood finishes and electronics. The guitar he’s currently working on features a unique faded blue finish, bringing to mind the familiarity of a favorite pair of old blue jeans that you’ve cherished for years.

In 2014, Luke began Huron Guitars as a creative endeavor inspired by his years as a working musician and guitar technician. Luke’s knowledge of woodworking extends even further back to his childhood, when as a young boy he helped with odd jobs at the family sawmill, working with his father, uncle and grandfather. During this time, he learned a lot about the traditional methods and uses for lumber as well as gained an understanding for the process of turning raw material into a finished product.

Luke hand finishes each guitar with a process that involves combining the right color with the right piece of wood. No two guitars look the same and that’s the driving concept behind the business – to create from start to finish, a completely unique instrument tailored to an individual player’s specifications. Unlike the traditional guitars that are factory made by many hands, careful thought is given to the components of each guitar, even down to the patterned, cloth covered wiring, reminiscent of older electronics from another era.

I spoke with Luke at length about his newly developed start up business, future plans and challenges over coffee. With many small businesses, crowd-funding has become a popular way to raise capital and garner support about a product, brand or idea. Lots of musicians use it too as a way to raise funds for album production or touring. So naturally, a Kickstarter would seem like a next step. And while Luke says he’s very much interested in the idea, he also worries about things growing too fast, too soon. He says he would rather work at a slower pace to allow for thoughtful business decisions and growth to happen more organically. For now, the next step is creating more content to help promote his emerging brand. He plans to have a video produced to highlight the look, feel and sound of the guitars as they’re played by local musicians. Be on the lookout for that video in early spring.

Check them out at www.huronguitars.com

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Article and photos by Heather of HMN Photography