In the heart of a Detroit neighborhood, an old firehouse was the ideal project for a local creative. It takes a certain person to see past the immense amount of work in an old building and have the drive to make it the perfect spot for his family and growing business.

That person just so happens to be someone whom we have had the opportunity to work with for many years while he has captured our work. It was a great opportunity to now return the favor and help him achieve his family’s dream home (including a studio space for his business, Martin Vecchio Photography).

I have known Martin for almost five years now, and from the first time that I met him you could tell that he appreciated creativity and pushing boundaries (I mean, he is a photographer).

Over the years, I have spent many shoots with Martin capturing some of our other projects, where I’d like to think I got a pretty good insight into his design aesthetic. I would pick up on little things, like how he gravitated toward detail shots, or any other factors that made the space truly unique.

The client wanted to retain the firehouse’s charm and character while integrating his own modern and creative style.

Eventually, I heard the big news that he found an old firehouse in Detroit, and he was going to restore it and convert it to a live/work studio. They would turn the second floor into their living space and convert the first floor to a studio space for local photographers. How cool is that?!

The firehouse had such incredible character, so we wanted to maintain as much of that as possible while incorporating the family’s modern style. Finding the perfect balance was no easy feat.

Dark wood paneling wrapped the room and created the perfect contrast to painted cabinetry. Two tones of cabinetry added interest for the space, which was a must with all of the character.

By utilizing softer tones, we could add more warmth and depth to the space that accented the wood flooring and wall paneling very well (more details to come later on how we got to these paint colors).

We opted for a slim shaker door style on full-access cabinetry to create clean lines and pick up more of the modern details without going too modern. Accenting in unlacquered brass was the perfect accompaniment, as it will patina and develop more character over the years. Creating a timeless and bright space was of utmost importance here.

The homeowner was handling all of his own install; they spent a great deal of time fixing up the firehouse and restoring original details such as wainscoting, flooring and trim. Even some factors that were removed from other areas were saved and incorporated into the kitchen.

The wood shelves on the range wall were a major driving factor in the design back there. The wood was repurposed from another area of the home. Martin wanted to incorporate it into the focal point of the kitchen. To do this, a tall section of cabinetry was added on the left and right side of the range, which created a strong focus towards the center of the kitchen.

Not only an aesthetic decision, the functionality was a plus for this kitchen. The refrigerator flanked the left side allowing easy access to prep stations for cooking. To the right of the range became pantry storage, perfect for the kids to get in and out of without disrupting the cooking.

As we all know, no project is complete without a few challenges. I am sure you can imagine that an old firehouse is definitely not an exception to this rule. The kitchen is on the second floor and accessed only by a narrow stairwell.

This provided a unique physical challenge for our delivery team, which had to carry each cabinet up by hand. Other aspects of getting the materials in place were even more challenging (Martin had to rent a forklift to carefully raise his soapstone countertops up to a second story window from the outside).

In addition, there are quite a few columns and large HVAC components throughout the space. We had to meticulously plan for the island between the columns while making it look like the columns were part of the design.

We decided to drop a soffit on the range wall to define a termination point of the cabinetry below the HVAC. This made the space feel complete and more finished, like the kitchen had always been there.

A graphite paint color accented with a putty tone called pearl creates the perfect softness and ties into the wood tones of the original firehouse.

Aside from structural challenges, we also had supplier challenges. Little did we know the headache at the time would turn into one of the best things for this kitchen.

Martin originally considered foil doors for durability. These had very limited finish options, so we settled on a stark white and black duo. Supply issues forced us in another direction, and we ended up changing to painted cabinetry.

We arrived at a stunning combination of a graphite paint color accented in with a putty tone called pearl. This combination creates the perfect softness for the space and ties into the wood tones from the original firehouse so well.

At the end of the day, the renovation turned out beautifully. We accomplished the perfect juxtaposition here and created a great home for the family to enjoy.

I still see Martin frequently at shoots and love hearing how much they are enjoying the new home. As much as we all enjoy seeing completed work, it is even better to hear how much the project means to the family! QR

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