Corktown comfort: Honor + Folly gets cozy on Michigan Avenue

Blogger and former magazine editor (and longtime Model D contributor) Meghan McEwen is an innkeeper now. The Corktown resident behind the successful travel-inspired DesignTripper acts the part whether she's hosting guests, touring the space with a journalist, or ordering coffee.

Our meeting for my sneak peek at the second-floor space on Michigan Avenue that was once the apartment of her brother-in-law, Phil Cooley, begins with 15 minutes in Astro Coffee downstairs. Meghan excitedly chats up the employees admitting her nervousness over the "soft opening" she is planning in the little space just upstairs. She's already hosted a few trial guests (friends) but with photographers and now a writer buzzing around, it is time for the big reveal for her bed and breakfast, Honor + Folly, and there's a bit of pressure. 

Once inside the two-bedroom apartment, I'm taken to a celebration of local artisanal products from the Midwest, many specifically from Michigan and Detroit. Meghan's chosen to highlight the handmade in the décor and talks about each designer with such a sense of pride and excitement you might think they are all her cousins or children. We begin our tour as she points to the wallpaper she installed just the day before my visit. Carrots now adorn the space below the kitchen island in a pattern designed by Chicagoan Casey Gunschel. A former resident of that city herself, Meghan was editor-in-chief of the design magazine CS Interiors

Following her around the bed and breakfast, I begin to feel that her process in decorating was much like putting together a carefully curated article. She meticulously credits the designers, highlights their interesting facts and insists that I see each blanket, print, or apron up close. She credits them with photos on her website, much like a "contributors" page to be found in the front of a printed issue.

Honor + Folly is in essence a 3D catch all for magazine living. More than just a place to vacation, it will host cooking classes and serve as a subtle retail center. Items around the apartment are available for purchase; the décor will slowly rotate as guests cart away treasured items and Meghan continues to shop the Midwest for more. In preparation for the cooking classes, Meghan is stocked on Amy Ben's aprons as well as Emily Bent's cutting boards. For Meghan, buying products is akin to buying the designer's personal story. She tells me that Ben is a former Brooklyn resident like myself and that Brent lives on an urban farm with her arborist boyfriend. In Honor +Folly, one gets to a lengthy cast of characters with talents for making things by hand.
One of Meghan's more delicate looking acquisitions is a set of dinnerware by Abigail Murray, an Ann Arbor-based ceramicist (and Cranbrook grad) who created a line just for the bed and breakfast. The little white set (that runs $40 for a place setting) adorns a shelf in the well-lit kitchen with a view to the train station. Underneath rests a tray of Skelton keys, the logo for Honor + Folly. As for furniture, her taste tends toward antiques and twee design touches. Next to the carrot wallpaper, the barstools are the work of Zeb Smith, an exhibit coordinator at MOCAD, who created them with scrap wood. Overall the space is cozy, much like Meghan's own house (shared with husband Ryan Cooley and sons) which has been featured on Design*Sponge

Aside from just providing a cozy introduction for the neighborhood, Meghan's also on a mission to support independent business. She's been taken with many, many woolen blankets that came from a family farm on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Lake Superior Woolen blankets saved the family farm from going out of business and are stocked on her shelves in the loft next to market bags. But the most personal items are those from her own knitting group based in Lafayette Park, made by friends. Meghan learned how to knit herself just last year thanks to Sara Woodward, and now there are potholders, blankets, and pillows that exhibit this enthusiasm for the craft.
Hearing all the names connected with this project makes it feel like an insider's guide to Detroit. One of Meghan's goals was to re-created the old-timey feeling of American tourist past, in which people passing through would take rooms above the local tavern for the night. However, with this prime location, Honor +Folly also affords the out-of-towner access to the big tickets of tourism like Slows and the Train Station. From a business standpoint, she's got access that bigger institutions like The Book Cadillac don't. If I was a guest, I'd most certainly take advantage of the short stumble to the Sugar House, chock full of most excellent whiskey concoctions. For those who like to play hostess themselves, there's the potential to rent it bundled with catering options for an afternoon or evening, as opposed to an entire weekend stay. It strikes me as ideal for baby showers, bridal luncheons, or other intimate toasts for other food-centric guests of great taste. 
With another woman-run institution for overnight guests in the same neighborhood, Emily Doerr's Hostel Detroit, Corktown's status as a destination is solidifying. Downtown may still be the hub for hotels, but Corktown's more intimate neighborhood pace is a welcomed complement. It provides something akin to a real immersion in residency, only with much better stuff. Because what is travel if not an escape? If you've any doubts that Detroit can be a relaxing place, I suggest you try this blanket-stocked hive for yourself. But plan ahead and book it now before all the magazine editors get to it.

Photos by Marvin Shaouni

Sarah F. Cox is editor of Curbed Detroit and authors the series Imported to Detroit for Model D. 
Photos: Honor and Folly, a new bed and breakfast in Corktown, Work aprons made by Bourgeois Walker, Cutting board made by Emily Brent, Pillow made by Lafayette Knitting Group, Tote made by Amy Bem, Contributing artist, Cristin Richard, The Lake Superior Woolen blankets
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