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Prime + Proper

Jennifer Young • Photography by Michelle & Chris Gerard • June 6, 2018

Photos: Prime + Proper

Detroit’s Prime + Proper in the up-and-coming Capital Park neighborhood channels the Bauhaus movement and an Art Deco style while contrasting the classic fare served. Located on the ground floor of the circa-1912 Capitol Park Lofts building, originally constructed by Leonard B. Willeke, Birmingham, Michigan-based McIntosh Poris Associates restored original columns, beams, and staircases while opening up the space to the sights and aromas as much as possible, with the bar, custom wood-burning grill, and butcher counter taking centerstage. “This was an effort to bring back upscale dining to Detroit, but bring it back on a 21st-century level,” notes firm principal Michael Poris.

The restaurant comes to life thanks to a luxe black and white palette with chevron-striped walls and ornate hexagon-tiled marble flooring (a shape that pops up throughout) along with brass accents and subtle hints of violet in the candles and napkins. “There’s a lot of stimulation in the finishes as well,” says lead interior designer Elizabeth Swallow, including warm walnut flooring in a dining area, distressed leather and velvet upholstery for banquettes, and a burnt-out velvet graphic on the backs of barrel chairs. The pattern dressing the sunlit bar’s front mimics herring hide leather, complementing a wooden backbar crafted through the Japanese technique of shou sugi ban.

Via the 100-year-old marble staircase, a wine cellar, chef’s table, and a 300-square-foot, new-age dry-aging room with walls lined in a pink Himalayan salt is “a real nod to the Old World steakhouses,” says Poris. With walls clad in butcher block, the cozy and intimate chef’s table leads down to the wine cellar where the private dining space is housed. Illuminated from within, “It’s almost like a jewel box while you’re in there,” says Swallows.

Closed off for historic purposes, a second staircase leads to nowhere but has become one of the most  Instagrammable spaces in the restaurant, activated through smoked mirrors and hexagon-shaped candles cascading down the restored steps. “We tried to make it an iconic spot in the space,” explains Swallow.

Although the firm did face challenges in the project maintaining the building’s historical integrity, the restaurant came together with “interiors that are a modern interpretation of a classic steakhouse” says Poris. “It’s a rich, textured, eclectic, glamorous space that reflects today.”

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