2008 Best of the Good Life

2009 Design Awards

Judges | Best of the Good Life | Rising Star

Best place to take a nap
The couch

If you can imagine a time before couches, you can imagine they were hot property when they first hit the scene. In those days, the couch was an aristocratic indulgence. In other words, a nap on the couch was to pre-industrial civilization what John Travolta’s jet is to John Travolta. Not to mention the fact that napping has been endorsed by no less than Albert Einstein, Napoleon, Thomas Edison, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. So don’t get down on yourself for being lazy. Napping isn’t just a waste of time; it’s a royal waste of time.

A word about naps from Sir Winston Churchill
You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do.

Best place to buy a couch

Oddly enough, Gorman’s (Area locations; www.gormans.com) began in 1940 as a damaged railroad-freight company. Eventually, though, Ben Gorman’s business became best-known for offering the public fixed-up furniture damaged on the rails. Now their area showrooms are also known for 2008’s best couch shopping.

Best handyman
Your husband

Being “handy,” in most situations, is good. Of course, there are other times when being “handy” is completely inappropriate. Having said that, finding a reliable resource when you’re in a fix can sometimes be difficult. Luckily for you, Detroit Home readers chose your husband as the area’s best handyman.

Best place for kitchenware
Kitchen Glamor

A store within a store, Kitchen Glamor — located inside Hawthorne Appliance (Birmingham; 248-644-2200 or www.hawthorneonlinestore.com) — has the best in cookware, bakeware, cutlery, tools, and household help from manufacturers such as KitchenAid, Cuisinart, and Wüsthof.

Best neighborhood ready for rediscovery
Palmer Woods

With its rich history, tree-lined streets, and homes designed by architectural giants such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Minoru Yamasaki, and Albert Kahn, Palmer Woods is among Detroit’s most beautiful neighborhoods. The area — donated by Sen. Thomas Palmer in 1883 — was initially dubbed a “safeguard from the encroachments of commercialism.” This year, you dubbed it the neighborhood most ready for rediscovery.

Best downtown shopping district / Best neighborhood to aspire to

Birmingham is where it’s at. And by “it,” we mean the good life. Detroit Home readers awarded the city best downtown shopping district (Check www.enjoybirmingham.com for a complete list of stores) and neighborhood to aspire to. Whatever it is you’re looking for, you’ll find it here. Grand old homes? Check. Boutiques and basset-hound parades? You betcha. Birthplace of comedian David Spade? Strangely, yes. Named after England’s biggest industrial center with hopes it would achieve similar productivity, the city took a decidedly less industrial path but nevertheless won you over.

A word about Plymouth …
In the early days, Plymouth’s downtown was separated into areas known by names such as “Podunk” and “Joppa.” Eventually, they decided on Plymouth and, these days, the city’s quaint downtown and neighborhood streets are attracting more and more notice. This year, its downtown ran second in the category of best downtown shopping district.


Best historic neighborhood

By 1920, Detroit was the fourth-largest city in the nation, and its wealthy residents began building homes in the less-populated parts of town. The Boston-Edison Historic District was one such neighborhood. Largely built between 1900-1920, the neighborhood is a 36-block area with 900 houses in architectural styles such as English Revival, Italian Renaissance, and Prairie. Early residents of Boston-Edison included Henry Ford, four of the Fisher brothers, and later Ty Cobb, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy Jr.

Best place for eco-friendly home goods
Bureau of Urban Living

Eco-friendliness can mean a lot of things. In this case, it means style. Detroit’s Bureau of Urban Living (Detroit; 313-833-9336 or www.bureauliving.com) is 600 square feet of retail revelry in an area unaccustomed to such things. Since opening last year, Bureau has earned a reputation for community involvement and hip, eco-friendly, home goods.

Best place for a bargain
Royal Oak Flea Market

Legend has it someone once stumbled upon a tiny painting by Manet — later auctioned for $3 million — at the Royal Oak Farmers Market (Royal Oak; 248-246-3276). Opened 82 years ago, the market — for the past 30 years — has reserved Sundays for their flea market. Whether you’re searching for carved oak furniture, art, or a metal lunchbox, bargains abound. Be sure to get there early before all the good buys are bought.

The 13 best things to buy at a flea market
1. Antiques
2. Art
3. China
4. Kitchenware
5. Jewelry
6. Bargains
7. Side tables
8. Tools
9. A watch
10. Quirky stuff
11. Records
12. Furniture
13. Junk

Best place for flowers, flats, shrubs, and trees
Eastern Market

Detroit’s Eastern Market (Detroit; 313-833-9300 or www.detroiteasternmarket.com) has been around since 1891 and is the largest historic public market district in the United States. On Saturdays, it hosts a community of farmers, merchants, restaurants,  and shops, in addition to approximately 26,000 visitors. From farm-fresh fruits and vegetables to peanuts, jazz, and antiques, the market has it all — including your favorite selection of flowers, flats, shrubs, and trees.

For some chronological perspective, here’s a list of people and things that were also born in 1891.
Zora Neale Hurston, writer
Max Ernst, painter
George Adamski, alleged UFO traveler
Cole Porter, composer
Gregorio Perfecto, Filipino politician
Henry Miller, writer
Man Mountain Dean, professional wrestler
Swiss Army Knife
The Australian Labor Party
The penalty kick

Best place to stock your liquor cabinet / Shop for a dinner party
Holiday Market

Holiday Market (Royal Oak; 248-541-1414) has full-service meat, deli, and bakery departments. But that’s not all. In addition to being a first-rate grocery store since 1954, they’ve got an international cheese counter, wine club, catering service, sushi, 80 different barbecue sauces and marinades, the MirePoix cooking school, and booze, too — lots of it.

A word about Duty Free …
Duty Free is like a nation unto itself. Tariffs, taxes, and fees don’t apply inside the cozy confines of this border-based shoppers’ paradise. And while this international bargain zone may not be the most convenient place to go when stocking your liquor cabinet, enough of you mentioned it to make it a strong runner-up in the category. So congratulations, Duty Free. America loves you.

Best source for second-hand furnishings
Materials Unlimited

If you’ve been asking, “Where can I go to browse through 15,000 square feet of architectural salvage?” Detroit Home readers have the answer. It’s Materials Unlimited (Ypsilanti; 800-299-9462 or www.materialsunlimited.com). With a staff of architectural design consultants and an impressive inventory of restored lighting, fireplace mantels, doors, stained- and beveled-glass windows, salvaged hardware, and all variety of architectural elements, this three-floored store was your pick for second-hand goods.

Best room in the house for hiding from responsibility
The bedroom

Responsibility, at times, is too much to bear. That’s when the tough get going and the rest of us run. According to survey results, the room we most often run to is the bedroom. This is logical. Whether under the bed, in the closet, or disguised by an unusually large pillow, the bedroom offers many options for a situational disappearing act.

Best source for lamp/light fixtures

Specializing in vintage lighting, this shop (Lathrup Village; 248-557-8828 or www.michaelslampshop.com) has more than 4,000 shades in stock, along with wall sconces, chandeliers, table, floor, and accent lamps.

Best source for garden accents
English Gardens

For garden accents, you can’t beat English Gardens (area locations; www.englishgardens.com). The local chain has been around since 1954 and has seven locations stocked with all your outdoor essentials.

Best store for high-end furniture

Luxury is hard to define. But it’s easier after a visit to this year’s choice for high-end furnishings. Baker stocks its showrooms — on Woodward in Birmingham (248-593-9608) and in the Michigan Design Center (Troy; 248-649-6730) — with an emphasis on the finer things.

Best source for mid-century modern

Vertu’s (Royal Oak; 248-545-6050) been specializing in the finest mid-century designs for more than 20 years. Check out their stock of jewelry, furniture, clocks, fabrics, rugs, and barware.

Best residential street
Vinsetta Boulevard, Royal Oak

Bet place for electronics/home theater/ Kitchen appliances
Hawthorne Appliance

Hawthorne Appliance has been around longer than Mickey Rooney. Stop by their Birmingham (248-644-2200) or Rochester Hills (248-299-4800) location for a one-stop spot with everything from ovens to digital cameras, TVs, freezers, home-theater systems, and phones.

Best hardware store

The Traskos family opened their first hardware store in 1946. Now with 69 southeast Michigan locations, ACO (area locations; www.acohardware.com) has an established reputation for service, brand names, and low prices. What more do you want?


Best store for plumbing fixtures/custom hardware
Russell Hardware

Russell Hardware (Birmingham; 248-644-0100 or www.russellhardware.com) is a perennial favorite with Detroit Home readers. Their Birmingham showroom handles the best in custom and decorative door, cabinet, bath, and kitchen hardware.

Best place to outfit a bath
Advance Plumbing

Advance Plumbing (Walled Lake; 248-669-7474 or www.advanceplumbing.com) has been in the ’biz since 1920. These days, their Walled Lake showroom is stocked with sinks, shower doors, toilets, and more from top manufacturers such as Kohler, Jado, Grohe, Franke, and Toto.

Best art gallery

CPop’s (Detroit; 313-833-9901) a perennial favorite and your top spot for art with local flavor.

Best store for area rugs

Haroutun Hagopian opened his first business in the ’20s. Nearly 90 years later, the stores (area locations; www.originalhagopian.com) that bear his name have — for the third consecutive year — been the place for area rugs.

Best place to buy the kitchen sink
Herald Wholesale

Oak Park’s Herald Wholesale (Oak Park; 248-398-4560 or www.heraldwholesale.com) opened in 1951 and now carries more than 400 manufacturers, including Grohe, Blanco, and Aquadis. And if you’ve already got your sink, check out their selection of bath necessities and light fixtures.

Best antiques store
Odd Fellows Antiques

Berkley’s Odd Fellows Antiques (Berkley; 248-399-6098) is a treasure chest. Devote an hour and see if you don’t find something you never knew you always needed.

Best community for a first home / Place to buy a loft
Royal Oak

Royal Oak has a well-deserved reputation for its downtown, tree-lined neighborhoods, lofts, condos, nightlife, restaurants, and convenient location. What’s lesser known about Royal Oak is its importance in the history of cowbells. Orson Starr began manufacturing the bells there in the 1830s, eventually building a house in 1845. His cowbells were the city’s first industry and eventually became prized by collectors. Which is to say, without Orson Starr, we may not have had Grand Funk Railroad.

Best all-in-one cleaning product

Vinegar will polish your wingback chairs and your wing-tipped shoes. Here are a few other things to do with your choice for the best all-in-one cleaning product.
1. Soften blankets. Add two cups of white vinegar to rinse water to get wool and cotton blankets fluffy.
2. Polish furniture. Mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water, wipe onto wood, and polish with a chamois cloth.
3. Clean your carpet. To remove odors and stains, mix together one teaspoon of white vinegar, one teaspoon of liquid detergent, and one pint of lukewarm water.
4. Polish stainless steel. Moisten a cloth with undiluted white or cider vinegar and wipe clean.
5. Keep your pets flea-free. Put a teaspoon of vinegar to one quart of water in their drinking water to keep fleas and ticks away.
Source: Michigan State University Extension

A word about Mr. Clean …
Mr. Clean began fighting grime in 1958. A two-fisted, bald-headed, hoop-earring-wearing cleaning machine, Mr. Clean, according to the jingle, could “clean a sink quicker than a wink and a window sash faster than a flash.” This year, he ran a close second in our best cleaning product category.


Best place to store junk
The basement

Admit it. Some of that stuff really is useless garbage. But if you can’t bear to part with it, you’ve got to stash it somewhere. Overwhelmingly Detroit Home readers feel that place is the basement. An underground archive of all the things you should’ve thrown out years ago, the basement proves that the “out of sight, out of mind” approach can be just as satisfying as being organized.

The 7 best reasons to remodel
1. You aren’t getting any younger. What are you waiting for?
2. Personal reward. Because you deserve a gold-plated bathtub as much as anyone else.
3. Inheritance. Don’t you think your great-uncle George would’ve wanted you to have a sunroom? We do.
4. New baby. Your baby can’t yet say it, but she hates your taste in furniture.
5. You can’t sell your house, anyway. So if you’re going to be there for a while, it may as well be the way you want it.
6. Outdated. Style may be cyclical, but it might be another 40 years before yours comes back.
7. Need more space. Space, they say, is the final frontier.

Best décor trend

Décor trends come and go, but few affect the lives of polar bears. Had you named Hollywood glamour or Rococo, the bears would likely pay no mind. But this year’s best décor trend not only keeps your home energy-efficient, natural, and sustainable, it’s also wildly popular with arctic wildlife.

Best source for patio furniture
Jimmies Rustics

A love of the outdoors runs in Jimmy Sica’s family — his grandfather and father began crafting picnic tables from Michigan cedar logs 60 years ago. These days, his store (Shelby Township and Novi; www.jimmiesrustics.com) stocks all your outdoor essentials.

A word about Casual Concepts …
Established in 1981, Casual Concepts (Rochester; 248-652-1080 or www.casualconceptsinc.com) is a downtown-Rochester retailer carrying a mix of interior and exterior furnishings, with an emphasis on the casual. It was your second choice for best place for patio furniture.

Best town for garage sales
The Bloomfields

There’s a pretty obvious correlation between the size of the garage and the likelihood of finding a good deal. After all, the bigger the house, the more stuff needed to fill it. The more stuff in the house, the more likely the homeowner will be willing to part with some of it. The more willing the homeowner, the more likely the price will be right. For this reason, Bloomfield Hills, West Bloomfield, and West Bloomfield Township rated best with readers.

Best place for affordable furniture / mattress
Art Van

Art Van (Area locations; www.artvan.com) opened in a 4,000-square-foot space in 1959. The family-owned furniture store has, since then, become the go-to source for affordability, quality, variety, satisfaction guarantees, and mattresses. And buying a mattress isn’t like buying a side table. It’s an important decision. After all, without a good mattress, you might lose sleep. And if you lose sleep, you might lose your mind. Art Van’s stock of all the newest and latest in mattresses will ensure that won’t ever happen.

In honor of Art Van’s impressive victory, we did a little research on name origin. In the process, we ran across a number of familiar folks that share a similar surname with your favorite affordable furniture store. Here we offer a randomly chosen list of nine notables:
1. Dick Van Patten, actor
2. Van Morrison, musician
3. Martin Van Buren, former president
4. Jan Van Eyck, artist
5. Jack Van Impe, televangelist
6. Dick Van Dyke, actor
7. Jean-Claude Van Damme, martial artist
8. Melvin Van Peebles, film director
9. Vincent Van Gogh, artist

Store you’d like to live in
Michigan Design Center

Okay, so it’s not exactly one store — which, incidentally, makes it a smart pick. Smart because the Michigan Design Center (Troy; 248-649-4772 or www.michigandesign.com) can offer would-be “residents” more than 215,000 square feet and 40 stylish showrooms to settle down in. From Roche Bobois to Henredon Interior Design Showroom, the design center has the highest of the high-end along with a café and meeting facilities — in case you have unexpected guests. Having said all of that, we in no way encourage you to attempt such a stunt.

Best architect
Michael Poris

Michael Poris (McIntosh Poris Associates, Birmingham; 248-258-9346 or www.mcintoshporis.com) has a well-earned reputation for smart design and community involvement. Whether it’s a historic renovation of Detroit’s Park Shelton or an award-winning Bloomfield Hills home, Poris’ work has earned your esteem and the title of 2008’s best architect.

Best designer
Steven Teich

Based in Royal Oak and Saugatuck, designer Steven Teich (The Teich Group, Royal Oak; 248-399-8070) combines a love of architecture, an eye for elegant interiors, and more than 30 years of design experience. This year, he’s our readers’ choice for best interior designer.