The Insta-Home Challenge: Detroit

by Angela on February 19, 2013 · 6 comments

The awesome-weather gravy train had to end sometime. Last stop, the 313!

Our neighborhood of Brush Park in Detroit. Photo by Nick Cordileone.

Our first year of the Lion King tour took us to many warm cities, from east to west. Last winter, Mike started solo in frigid Minneapolis, but as a family we then hit places like New Orleans, Miami, Houston, Albuquerque and Austin at just the serendipitous times of the year. We kissed our cold-weather gear goodbye and shipped off the lambswool sweaters and mittens to family in the four corners of the country to hold onto. And boy, did we bask in the sun happily! Heck, Greenville, South Carolina had its summertime sweltering moments, but it was simply charming and oh-so-friendly. Getting to know a new city somehow is easier while wearing a sundress, strolling down Main Street, USA, pushing a baby stroller with one hand and maneuvering a mint chocolate chip cone in the other.

And now, we’re in Detroit. In February. It’s 17 degrees out. What exactly does 17 degrees look like?

We went from a foodie-fest Sandra Bullock-like rom-com existence in 80-degree Austin to watching out for Stringer Bell and the Barksdale crew on the corners of each forboding, abandoned street in Rock City. I am not even kidding. We are living less than a mile from the Detroit Opera House, where Mike and Nick head to work every night, and they pass some eerie, rough parts of the city on the commute. We sit amidst buildings like this:

Photo by Nick Cordileone.

Our neighborhood of Brush Park used to be swanky (dubbed “Little Paris of the Midwest”) back in the early 1900’s, and the residences included 70 Victorian mansions housing Detroit’s elite — titans of industry, merchants and barons. But with the invention and development of streetcars and then automobiles in the late 19th and early 20th century, these guys could live farther from downtown and the neighborhood began to decline as they moved out. During the Great Depression, many of the older mansions were subdivided into apartments, and the majority of them after WWII became unoccupied and fell into disrepair.

Photo by Nick Cordileone.

However, we have the luxury of escaping the bleak, biting outside world that is downtown Detroit by burrowing in our gorgeous 2 bedroom-1.5 bath condo in Brush Park that we’re sharing with the Cordileones. This, my friends, is what they call the bright side.

I found our housing on VRBO and snagged it months ago. Our once model apartment on the fifth floor of the Carlton Lofts (once the Carlton Plaza Hotel) has this view of downtown Detroit.

The Detroit-y decor allows us to feel entrenched in the city… without having to go out in the icy snow.

For instance, in our bedroom we can hang out with a throwback Tigers team.

Floor-to-ceiling windows adorn parts of our living space, flushing it with sunshine. The living room is spacious and comfy, but funnily enough — despite the ultra-modern decor and industrial feel, the TV is a tube model from 2006!

Max and Hero hang out in our travel pop-up tent during a play session.

Photo by Nick Cordileone.

Probably the coolest part of our place? It’s this luxe walk-in shower, with five shower heads that pelt you from all directions. I can’t lie, I only use the one on the far upper left. Otherwise I feel like I’m in a downpour in a phone booth. But boy, this is surefire relaxing way to escape for a decadent spa experience that I surely need, rounding into my second trimester.

Here’s a wider shot of the bathroom, with a jetted soaking tub that Max loves. Honestly, it’s so nice to have a dedicated bathing area just for him. In Austin, we all were using the same tub/shower — the three Cordileones and the three Hollicks. There, Max’s bathtime was quickstyle and often I just had to ignore the fact that he was splashing around in a grimey, grubby tub.

The sink area is wide, and accommodates Turkey’s litter box underneath as well as Max’s seldom-used potty.

You’d think the whole Lightening McQueen motiff would make him gleeful to visit the potty. The little lever on the right makes an engine revving sound when pushed down. Awesome, right? What would be even more awesome is if he actually thought to use it before he pooped or peed.

Turkey wants you to know he loves Detroit. At least what he knows of it from our condo.

So the Hollicks assumptively get the master bedroom, and in the VRBO photos both bedrooms looked comparable, so the two families agreed to just split the rent down the middle. But Nick arrived a day ahead of us, and sent us a funny text in his always nice, tactful way: “Hey gang, let’s have a conversation on space and equity when everyone is here. The bedroom parity is pretty severe, storage and space-wise — enough to warrant a brainstorm session on how to account for the difference.”

And when we arrived, we saw our cavernous master bedroom and our jaws dropped. Our room is double the size of the other bedroom. We have a desk area, an elevated TV, and a wide open carpet area where we could do Hip-Hop Abs if we wanted or were able.

The huge king-sized canopied bed doesn’t even make a dent in the airspace in the room.

This is just half of the closet space we have, behind these floor-to-ceiling mirrors that slide from left to right.

Downstairs, we’ve got a great high-efficiency stacked washer and dryer, with an extra cot and cleaning supplies.

Hero does her schoolwork at this little desk nook downstairs off of the kitchen…

And speaking of the kitchen, this compact gourmet chef’s kitchen has been fun for all of us to make our meals. The stainless steel appliances and efficient layout makes me think that this is all you need in life. We were missing some essentials, however, like cereal bowls and water glasses, and luckily we travel with a portable smoothie blender because there’s no blender. But there’s everything else your heart could desire, including muffin tins, nesting Pyrex mixing bowls, and a six-burner Jenn-Air stove.

In fact, we made good use of the kitchen the first week when I hosted a kids’ cupcake-making party for Kristine and Reu Weizberg’s girls Ariela and Liliana, as well as Sean and Michelle Sullivan’s kids Madison, Braden and Chase. I selfishly love having the mama company to boot!

The dining room ostenstibly seats six, but there’re no extra chairs besides these four that fit the table height perfectly. Every other seat in the condo is bar height.

We’ve had to improvise with seating a few times, like during our cupcake decorating and eating!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

ANGELIQUE February 19, 2013 at 8:13 am



Janeen February 19, 2013 at 11:00 am

Your house looks amazing! Not a bad place to hole up with that coldness outside!


Anita February 19, 2013 at 11:06 am

Did you leave your purple winter coat here, or take it? Lemme know if you need it. (Hmm, does it fit over the baby bump??)

Enjoy the sledding!


Renee Spaulding February 19, 2013 at 11:26 am

Thank you for this! I love seeing a detailed picture of where Nick and Hero and your family are living when I can’t be there in person to see it! God bless you all!


steve mccarthy February 19, 2013 at 11:44 am

hello again, it’s amazing to see all of the varied places you have gone to this year, and detroit is a contrast to all of them. enjoy the variation and we continue to follow you along the way!


darrell February 21, 2013 at 1:56 pm

love the “Stringer Bell and the Barksdale crew” comment, and great pics Nick!


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