This Sushi Chef/Artist Transformed His 660-Square-Foot Apartment into a Virtual Art Gallery
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Name: Mike Han and Tum Tum
Location: Piety Hill — Detroit, Michigan
Size: 660 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, renting
Mike Han’s artwork may look a bit familiar to you; it’s been featured in a couple of Apartment Therapy house tours in the past, like the mural in Gretchen and Kevin’s Detroit house, and the painting in Patrick and Courtney’s Bloomfield Hills house. But though he’s clearly been creative for years, Mike’s career was headed in another direction at the beginning of last year, before the pandemic.
“I’m an artist, designer, and sushi chef, and I was one month away from opening an eight-seat sustainable omakase sushi concept when COVID hit and killed my dream before it could open. I was left without purpose, or meaning. I was unemployed and felt that there was no future for craft I committed so many years to. My opportunity to build confidence in my identity as a Korean-American was destroyed. But in the fall of 2020, I was reborn as an artist, committing myself wholeheartedly to a practice I longed for but lacked the courage to pursue,” Mike explains. “I pivoted from sushi to art and founded The House of Han this year.”
Home took on different roles for many of us during quarantine. Mike’s home—a small, minimally designed 660-square-foot apartment in Detroit’s Piety Hill neighborhood—took on an extra one: art gallery. “The pandemic forced me to become an artist, as a commissioned mural for a private residence was the first income I had in six months. I recently launched a solo art show called Altered Plans, which is displayed inside my apartment. It’s an allegory of life, death, and rebirth painted on salvaged blueprints with paint made from charred animal bones.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I love mid-century modern design and modern architecture. I’ve got champagne taste on a beer budget with sustainability in mind. I have several salvaged pieces in my home which I treasure including a marble table with a copper base (found in two different places in Detroit several years apart), and a chandelier that I DIYed to become a dimmable lamp.
Inspiration: The Eameses and Mies Van der Rohe.
Favorite Element: My custom Eames rocking chair. My father used to work for Herman Miller and they made a “maize and blue” rocking chair for me as I was born at the University of Michigan’s hospital. There is even a little dedication on the back with my name on it.
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge for me I guess would be my budget yet salvaged and garage sale pieces are some of my most favorite possessions. My budget/space constraints have forced me to be very intentional with purchases. I buy only what is essential, and always keep an eye out for things left out on the curb.
Proudest DIY: My kitchen island. I’ve never built furniture, but I didn’t have much money, so I got a laminate top from IKEA and some wood from Home Depot, and cobbled together a piece that I use every day. It’s terribly built, but I love it.
Biggest Indulgence: My Peloton. It’s not really furniture, but it’s one of the most important things I own. I was lucky enough to buy it before COVID (while I had a job) and it has helped me manage my depression and has been an essential part of my morning routine.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Instead of having a TV or a dining area, I use half of my living space as an art studio. Recently, I decided to launch my first solo art show on the walls of the apartment. The entire space, including my bedroom, has artwork hung for sale. It’s a virtual show, but I’ve also done several private showings. So my apartment is essentially an art gallery.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: This may not be brilliant, but buy less. I try to only keep essential things in my apartment. Staying organized makes me feel mentally clear and light, and it’s easiest to do when you don’t have tons of things you don’t use. If you don’t use something, try to find someone who can or will.
- Eames Rocking Chair — Herman Miller
- Marble Table Top — Found on the curb outside of 5e Gallery in Corktown, Detroit
- Copper Table Base — Found inside the Meyer Jewelry Co. Building (now Shinola Hotel) in Downtown Detroit
- Antique Korean Chest
- Korean Onggi
- Black Kallax Bookshelf — IKEA As-Is Section
- Kallax White Bookshelf — IKEA
- Sofa — All Modern
- 2 Plastic Folding Tables
- Ikea Office Chair
- Hektar Floor Lamp — IKEA
- All artwork by Mike Han (on salvaged blueprints) — The House of Han
- Saljan Laminate Countertop — IKEA
This house tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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