If you think long enough about a dream, it will come true. That’s precisely how it went for Shirley Maddalena, who traded her garden-filled suburban backyard for a concrete jungle in downtown Detroit last fall. Although she briefly owned a riverfront condo years ago, she says, “I prayed that I’d live here again, and I knew I would!” After 33 years in Bloomfield Hills, she now wakes up downtown at the recently constructed The Griswold.
The interior designer, who runs Maddalena Design Ltd., admits that she loved living in the suburbs, but she knew change was required to reignite her work. Timing was on her side when she found the spacious accommodations at The Griswold, which was completed in 2017. Developed by The Roxbury Group, it was the first new construction housing the city had seen in the central business district in 25 years. The 80 residences are a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments that offer unobstructed views of the city in all directions, polished concrete floors, and open floor plans.
While there seems to be plenty of attention focused on millennials moving downtown, Maddalena is a prime example of many who are entering the city. Whether they completely move, or find investment properties or their downtown pied-à-terre, suburban metro Detroiters are interested in Detroit real estate. “If we could bring more Gen X and baby boomers downtown, they would transform it beyond their wildest dreams,” Maddalena says. “They would re-adopt the city where they grew up or that they’ve heard about, and keep their families engaged.”
“I’m doing everything I can to bring people to the city. It’s my passion.”
— Shirley Maddalena
Even with the thousands of residential units that will soon be on the market, Detroit may still lack the inventory and unique features that would really attract those wanting to downsize, Maddalena contends. She firmly believes people still want space for their two cars, their grand piano, and three sets of china. “Space for dishware was, in fact, a prime necessity for me because of the entertaining I do. I’ll go through 60 to 70 glasses hosting a dinner party!” The creative designer says that, thankfully, she was able to fashion plenty of space for her party essentials.
Maddalena enjoyed a seamless transition in her move, in spite of having more prized possessions than her new home could hold. She says her assistant, Katie Rosinski, laughed and said, “You’re going to have to give up everything, but it will be fine.” Rosinski measured every piece of furniture and meticulously placed each piece in CAD, a computer-aided design system that allows designers to create interior layouts. As a result, the move was “smooth as silk” — movers knew with certainty where everything was to go.
Among the items Maddalena kept is a bevy of art. In her Hollywood-glam powder room, photos of Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe, two of her favorite actresses, line the wall. Custom pieces commissioned by local singer/songwriter/artist Ben Sharkey hang in the living room and bedroom. Family heirlooms are scattered throughout the apartment, including a necklace holder that was once displayed at the historic Himelhoch Brothers Department Store on Woodward Avenue.
The guest bedroom doubles as Rosinski’s work space, and holds hundreds of design samples and selections for Maddalena Design Ltd.’s current projects. The focal wall is adorned with a custom map of Detroit that dates to 1893, which was enlarged and redigitized with the help of The Detroit Wallpaper Co.
Maddalena, an expert at transforming spaces into award-worthy designs, is bent on changing people’s minds about the city she now calls home. “I’m doing everything I can to bring people to the city,” she says. “It’s my passion.” She’s had hundreds of visitors, including naysayers who’ve heard of Detroit’s revitalization but are beyond dazzled when they see her new backyard.
The three-bedroom apartment has floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Capitol Park, whose name pays homage to the land that housed the state’s first capitol building when Michigan became a state in 1837. The park now serves as a neighborhood meeting space and is home to dozens of new restaurant, retail, and residential developments.
Every square foot of Maddalena’s apartment is perfectly equipped to handle the designer’s undeniable knack for hosting. She’s known for gathering groups of carefully curated people at her favorite neighborhood hot spot, Eatóri Market, for cocktails and appetizers. Then it’s a walk across the park to her home, where a buffet-style dinner awaits. Her hospitality and attention to detail are evident in everything from the delicately folded cloth napkins to the sounds of a vinyl record playing on her Shinola turntable. She serves drinks in intricate glassware from her beloved French bar.
“It’s more about the sociability here in the city,” she says. “I love getting a group of like-minded individuals together.”
One year in, and Maddalena hasn’t looked back. “It’s been joyful, just magic!”