Tyler & Jack’s Musical Chairs

published Mar 13, 2015
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(Image credit: Mike Hetu)

Name: Tyler and Jack
Location: Heritage Hill; Grand Rapids, Michigan
Size: 1,000 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; Rented

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Tyler and Jack have the best-smelling home I’ve toured so far. As I entered their apartment, the scent of pine trees and an Up North campfire hit me. The incense and candle fragrances floated from room to room as dreamy, lounge music from Neon Indian and Bonobo spun on the record player. I began counting the number of iconic chairs in the apartment: fourteen.

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(Image credit: Mike Hetu)

The couple likes to entertain. Friends and family tend to gather in the living room where they can sit, chat and listen to music. Chairs are easily moved around to accommodate guests. Choosing from the Wassily or a molded Eames or Nelson, each visitor is guaranteed to have an awesome seat.

The guys are passionate about art and design beyond iconic furniture. Tyler is a graphic designer and Jack is a painter. Their artistic abilities are displayed throughout the home, from woodcut prints by Tyler to a custom headboard by Jack. Their creativity extends to side projects. Tyler is the founder of Mid-Century Michigan, a blog that documents mid-century modern homes in East Grand Rapids. (Check it out on Facebook and Twitter too.) With Tyler’s photography and interviews, the site could be called “Mid-Century Michigan Therapy.” Last autumn, Jack started his own pie company and even built a collapsible cooling rack onto a kitchen wall. Now I’m curious which smells better: the homemade pies or the incense?

(Image credit: Mike Hetu)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style:
Tyler: Before we moved in together, I was really impressed by Jack’s previous apartment. I loved his strong attention to detail and overall consideration of aesthetics. Jack looked carefully at things I would have once overlooked or considered “fluff,” like throw pillows and sheer curtains. I have always been very design-oriented, paying closer attention to the objects within a space, always considering function first, and coupling that with timeless forms. To me, the comfort and quality of something like a chair were more important than a pretty vase on the table next to that chair. Therefore, I think our styles complemented one another quite well when they came together during our move-in period. But Jack jokes that more and more of his things have been replaced as time goes on. While my approach to design is more masculine where pragmatism meets high design, Jack brings elegance and a broader view of the atmosphere. The two styles marry well.

Tyler: When we were younger, we watched a lot of “Trading Spaces” on TLC. When I was in college studying graphic design, I became exposed to early modern design movements such as Art Nouveau and Bauhaus and discovered furniture and architecture from the early days of 1920s modernism. I remember seeing Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair from 1929 and Marcel Breuer’s Wassily chair from 1925 in an art history book, and I had to rub my eyes to check that I read the dates correctly. How could such a futuristic-looking piece of furniture have been designed so long ago? I was fascinated, so I dove deep into design from the modern era, educating myself on mid-century modern furniture and architecture. Today, I tend to buy mostly designer classics or mid-century modern pieces, as the build quality is unparalleled, and those pieces retain their value well, which is important if you care about selling something later when it’s time to upgrade, which I often do.

Favorite Element:
Tyler: The location of the apartment in Heritage Hill. Living six miles from work equates to a 30-minute bike ride. We’re close to bus routes and we can get downtown on foot in ten minutes. Jack can walk to work in 15-20 minutes. My mom moved to Heritage Hill at the same time and we ended up a block away, so family functions are a two-minute walk to the end of the street, and we sometimes host here. We also love having a back yard, which is home to many bonfires from spring to autumn. Jack gardens, so the yard is a wonderful playground for his skills. Inside the house, we’re really happy with the natural light. We’ve got sixteen windows in the apartment, eleven of them south-facing, so we get brilliant daylight and sunsets through our living room windows. Because of the era in which the house was built (and the fact our apartment is on the second level), many of our windows sit only a foot above the floor and almost reach the ceiling. The ceilings have beautiful canted edges and flares where they meet the walls, so there is no crown molding up top. Though we have fans with lighting, we don’t use overhead lighting much – they’re only used for task lighting when cleaning or cooking. In fact, Jack removed a fan from the dining room to install a chandelier. This forces us to use the numerous lamps we have, which cast the space in a warm ambient glow after the sun goes down outside our front windows. It’s a pain in the ass to turn them all off at night, though.

Jack: Sometimes we jest over who has to go turn all the lights off before bed. Tyler loves that the bathroom is about two steps from bed, because it makes getting out of bed easier when a hot shower is so close. It’s luxurious to have our own little ensuite. We love that our landlord lives across the street. Maintenance calls are easy to place and we can hand-deliver rent. We also love our sunroom. It’s functional as an entry space to sit, take off your shoes, and hang a coat, and it gets brilliant sun and stays warm even through the winter.

Biggest Challenge:
Jack: Being on the second level makes it difficult to access laundry in basement.

Tyler: Getting Jack to do laundry is the biggest challenge. We hang dry everything, so I don’t blame him. Another big challenge is knowing where to stop with the improvements and upgrades since we’re only renting.

What Friends Say:
Tyler: We’ve had a few guests describe our home as having a healing atmosphere and good energy. They also say it’s warm and inviting. We usually have natural Fir Balsam incense from Incienso de Santa Fe burning, so maybe it has something to do with the primal feeling of warmth and comfort you get from the sweet smell of a campfire or fireplace. People usually want to walk through the whole apartment right away and explore. They’re usually smiling, looking around really slowly. When people hear what street we live on, they usually exclaim that it’s the best street in Heritage Hill – wide and lined with old trees. The street is dotted with well-kept Heritage Hill craftsman, Victorian, and Italianate homes. This house seems to be the ugly duckling amongst its neighbors, so guests are usually surprised by what they see when they come up to our apartment.

Biggest Embarrassment:
Tyler: The size of bathroom. For a guy that’s 6’6” like Jack, it’s almost a joke. And our apartment is in the ugliest house on the block. But really, it kind of is. Our landlord assured us the house was even uglier before he owned it.

Proudest DIY:
Jack: I constructed a built-in headboard as a surprise for Tyler while he was away on a business trip. Tyler’s first woodworking project was our “no waste” platform bed frame, for which he found the plan and source list on Instructables.com. Needing a good storage solution for lots of shoes (and after frustration with a rickety shoe rack that kept collapsing), Tyler designed and built a low eight-inch bench, which nestles perfectly under the window frame. It keeps shoes out of the way and helps the plants thrive in the southern sun. I constructed a series of frames with colored glass inserts, which hang outside to enclose the back deck. Tyler is still trying to figure out their purpose, but he admits they’re very pretty.

Biggest Indulgence:
Tyler: The 1960s Chromcraft smoked acrylic dinette set was pretty expensive, but I had been after that exact set for years after seeing it online. It was a miracle to find a set in such good condition listed as something nondescript like “retro table,” so I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I tried to talk the seller down a few times and he didn’t budge, but I never regretted it. Now I’m on the hunt for two matching armchairs to complete the set. I also saved for a long time to buy the Pro-Ject Debut SE II turntable and Rega Fono Mini preamp. We listen to records daily.

Jack: We use the Eames shell chairs as auxiliary seating and have managed to fit eight people around the dinner table. My biggest indulgence was the Hotel Collection bedding. Tyler almost had a heart attack when he found out how much money I spent on bedding.

Best Advice:
Tyler: Seek out quality over quantity. If you find something in a magazine or style blog you love, don’t settle for a cheap alternative. Save your money until you can get the quality item that you know you’ll have for decades, or something that will retain its value when it comes time to sell it and get something new.

Jack: We’ve really had to edit down our belongings. When we moved in together, we filled the largest Uhaul truck you can get – twice. I recommend using a combination of uplights, downlights, highlights and low lights, because with attention to lighting, you can make any space look voluminous.

Dream Sources:
Tyler: Design Within Reach, but because of our budget, it’s more like Design Out of Reach. Restoration Hardware. Unlimited access to Herman Miller and Knoll catalogues would be nice. Or a shopping spree at Modernica. I really want a Case Study Daybed with bentwood legs in walnut from Modernica.

(Image credit: Mike Hetu)

Resources of Note:


• Candice Olson for Benjamin Moore: Nimbus Grey, Mt. Rainier Gray


  • George Nelson clock : eBay
  • Vintage Modeline lamps: estate sale
  • Herman Miller Eames shell rockers: eBay and local auctions
  • Drapes: IKEA
  • Adrian Pearsall coffee table: eBay
  • Marcel Breuer Wassily chair: yard sale
  • Vintage desk: Craigslist
  • Lane First Edition record cabinet: Lost and Found Antiques
  • 1976 Lava Lamp: inherited
  • Pro-Ject Debut SE II turntable: Amazon
  • Moroccan lantern: TJ Maxx
  • Goat concert poster: Artist WB72
  • Large scale mirrors: yard sales and secondhand shops

  • Light fixture: IKEA
  • Herman Miller George Nelson Swag Leg desk chair: The Company Store
  • Desk: Target
  • Chromcraft smoked acrylic dinette suite: Craigslist
  • Eames shell chairs: Lost and Found Antiques (Red), Modernica (blue)
  • Made in Michigan poster: Artist Nicholas Will
  • Circular mirrors: TargetCrystal lamp: Menards

  • Basset Furniture Industries buffet: Craigslist
  • Canisters: Target
  • Smoked crystal chandelier: Lowes
  • Mirrors: basement find
  • Bodum double wall drinkware collection: Ebay
  • Vintage Sunbeam toaster: eBay
  • Kit Kat Clock: childhood relic
  • Wire frame light fixture: basement find

  • Hotel Collection Bedding: Macy’s
  • Dresser: Meijer
  • Swag Lamps: eBay
  • Octagonal nesting tables: West Elm
  • Curtains: Meijer
  • Headboard: DIY (Jack)
  • Bed frame: DIY (Tyler)


  • Shower curtain: Menards
  • Chrome light bulbs: Amazon


  • Basset Furniture Industries night stands: Craigslist
  • Eames shell chairs: Modernica (green), Craigslist (navy)
  • 1950s “peacock” lamp: inherited from Tyler’s grandma
  • Shoe cubby/bench: DIY (Tyler)
  • Filament string bulbs: Meijer
  • Window frame veils: basement find
  • Water drop vinyl window clings: Droog Design for Levi’s RED


  • Colored hanging window panes: DIY (Jack, glass from Rainbow Resources)


  • Vintage Woodard Sculptura chairs: eBay
  • (Image credit: Mike Hetu)

    Thanks, Tyler and Jack!

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