A "Maximalist Thrift" Industrial Michigan Loft

A "Maximalist Thrift" Industrial Michigan Loft

Diana Paulson
Jul 4, 2017

Name: Darren DeWitt and Adrian Ohmer
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Size: 1,400 square feet
Years lived in: 2 1/2 years

Darren hasn't stayed in one home or job for very long in the past 20 years. "I've been an instrumentalist, a dancer, a Shakespearean actor, a photographer, a waiter, a concierge, and the Easter Bunny, (a position I one day hope to leverage into a gig as Press Secretary.) But as it currently stands, I am a classical vocalist with Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit, Michigan." But the one constant in Darren's life (along with a passion for a wide variety of creative endeavors) is the thrill he's felt each time he's been able to design a new home. Not surprisingly, his design method was perfected after two decades, but he faced his biggest design challenge to date when he moved into this apartment two and a half years ago with his fiancé Adrian: compromise!

"The home you see now is the product of two years filled with picking, thrifting, hoarding, purging, pleading and coercing. Completely unrecognizable from the day I first moved in with my fiancé Adrian, and a long shot from the building's origin as an HR training facility for Suzuki Motor Corporation."

Darren says that the building had been converted into loft apartments about five years ago, and actually was Adrian's home first when he moved in after graduating from the University of Michigan.

"One year later with little idea of the consequences he invited me to move in, and so began the transformation. One of the few pieces we immediately agreed upon was our navy leather wing-back chair, which we will both claim to have spotted while driving past the local consignment shop. But with that very small exception, nearly every element has come with its penny or pound of flesh. I'd like to be able to tell you that I was able to tamp down the design demons that don't let me rest until a space is 'finished,' or that Adrian kept his cool as I relegated the majority of his original furnishings to the guest room, then to the closet, and finally to the 'free stuff' Craigslist page. But what I can tell you is that after the dust cleared, we were left with a loft that we both love to call home."

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Maximalist thrift, with front notes of mid-century and a rich Chippendale finish

Inspiration: Mary Randolph Carter. Her book "Never Stop to Think… Do I Have a Place for This?" pretty much sums it all up for me.

Favorite Element: Our blue leather winged-backed chair. It at once sets the style and color palette for the room. It is one of the first things that people notice, becoming a great focal point. And it's my favorite color!

Biggest Challenge: All the vertical space. The 17-foot ceilings in the loft make it challenging to create an intimate and welcoming environment.

What Friends Say: "There is so much stuff! I feel like I'm in a store!" I really enjoy creating collections. I can feel a collection coming on the moment I spy something unique and beautiful. That gets my blood pumping. Once I catch the scent, it's off to the races!

Biggest Embarrassment: The bathrooms. The bathrooms are both very small, with no natural light. There is minimal wall space, so it is hard to make them feel like they have as much character as the rest of our home.

Proudest DIY: Our Japanese kimono dresser. When I found it at my favorite place to thrift, Treasure Mart, I knew I had to have it. I had a dilemma. I didn't need a dresser and it didn't function well, because the drawers are so shallow and difficult to open. I tried to put it out of my head for a month, but every time I went back to the store, there it was taunting me. Eventually, I reached a breaking point and just bought it anyway. Luckily, as soon as I got it home I had a vision. The dresser was a stacked unit originally, but I decided to lay the pieces side by side against the wall instead. This turned them into extra seating and convenient storage for my wine collection.

Biggest Indulgence: Typically, I would describe myself as a "Bargain Basement Betty." I love a good deal. But this metal side table had me running, not walking, to snatch it up. Originally it was a part of a medical cabinet that had been repurposed as a side table, and struck the perfect cord between the traditional feeling of the living room and the industrial nature of our loft. So just this once, I let myself pay full price. No questions asked.

Best Advice: If you are on the fence about a purchase, and find yourself still thinking about it a week later, pull the trigger!

Dream Sources: Sunbury Antique Fair in London and the entire city of Amsterdam. It has been a center of trade for centuries, and has the antique shops to prove it!


Basically everything is second hand. I almost never buy anything new! But here are the few exceptions:

Antique Kimono Dresser — The Treasure Mart
Pillows — Thistle & Bess and Archive New York

Sofa — The Treasure Mart
Blue Leather Chair — The Treasure Mart

Hems 8 Drawer Dresser — IKEA

Thanks, Darren and Adrian!

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