In the realm of design, the advantage of an extensive, active showroom center is manifold when either undergoing a new project or exploring current trends from design tastemakers. The Midwest has its fair share, from Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, or theMART, the 4.2 million square-foot center in Chicago’s River North submarket; to the Designers Walk collection at the intersection of Toronto’s Annex and Yorkville neighborhoods.
Centrally located in metro-Detroit, the Michigan Design Center is one of these influential pools of collective design where nearly 40 curated showrooms representing more than 1,000 manufacturers—the likes of Ann Sacks, Schumacher, and Baker Furniture among them—offer year-round access to the best and brightest in design materials like home furnishings, kitchens, fabric, tile, and more. With dozens of showrooms to explore within the single-story layout and on-site amenities like a café, meeting space, and resource center, the Michigan Design Center can be a day trip destination for design enthusiasts or prospective showroom clients far and wide.
“There are always first-time guests here. We have 216,000 square-feet so it can seem overwhelming, but we help to facilitate it with red banners that we have outside all the participating showrooms, so people know who is participating. It can be overwhelming I suppose, but it’s also an abundance of riches,” said George Bulanda, director of marketing and communication at the Michigan Design Center.
While at the Michigan Design Center, visitors can explore showrooms catering to tastes from traditional or vintage to transitional and contemporary, or collaborate with design professionals to create spaces that reflect personal style and need on site. As a collective of designers—many with offices on-site—the Michigan Design Center remains at the forefront of an ever-evolving design world through its attention to client values, according to Bulanda.
“Well, it’s always [about] new products. I think too what you see is people are interested in sustainably sourced wood that maybe 20 or 30 years they didn’t think about,” said Bulanda. “They are very interested in green products; they want to know where the products came from. I think even though we’re getting a lot more casual, there’s also still a fondness for elegance and we’re mixing elegance with more casual décor.”
Alongside its attention to trends and client values, the Michigan Design Center remains at the forefront of design interests with regular programming and events like conceptual lectures, new collection launches, and, in March, even a wine tasting presentation alongside a lecture about designing a wine tasting room. Arguably the center’s main event, its annual Sample Sale, rings in the spring with marked down, designer goods from approximately 18 showrooms. For about eight years, the admission price for the two-day event has been a non-perishable good or donation to Gleaners Food Bank, a vital resource in southeast Michigan, and so far, the pair have raised more than $20,000 for people in need. This year, the Sample Sale takes place on Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14, 2020 making the day trip destination saturated with accessible custom pieces for an equally accessible price.
“I think they know they’re going to get quality [items] and what they buy is not going to be among the furnishings of their next-door neighbors down the street,” Bulanda said. “I think, too, since we hold it in the spring, that is a time for renewal and rejuvenation, and that extends to home décor. People are tired of looking at the same old same thing and want to refresh their surroundings.”
Text: R. Collins
Featured image: Michigan Design Center, 1700 Stutz Drive, Troy, MI