Lofty Ambitions

Tour nine loft developments in Royal Oak for a taste of urban living

Marge Colborn/Detroit News Design Editor

When Candace Graham, 35, was living and working in Chicago, she promised herself she would try living in an urban loft. But she got super busy with her marketing and consulting firm, Sprout Solutions, and the loft idea got put on the backburner.

Then, this high-energy go-getter took a job with Campbell-Ewald and found herself transplanted to Metro Detroit. Today, she’s the advertising agency’s senior vice president of new business development, zipping around the country in pursuit of clients. And she’s the proud owner of a two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,500-square-foot condominium loft in Royal Oak.

Today from 2-6 p.m., you can check out loft living during the Royal Oak Living: Condo and Loft Tour. Visit nine developments to see actual models, scale models or virtual tours. The Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce sponsors the tour. (See facing page for details.)

“When I moved to the area a year ago, I lived in a Troy apartment while I got the lay of the land,” says Graham, who’s dressed in a chic black-and-white ensemble and 3-inch black pumps. “I knew I wanted to be near restaurants, bars, clubs and not too far from Chicago, where I still have family, and work, which is in Warren.”

The brand new 84-unit SkyLofts MarketSquare complex was ideal, close to the action but not on top of it. She bought a fourth floor, southeast corner unit with a wraparound balcony, which overlooks low-rise apartment buildings, vintage homes and the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market.

“I call it my urban neighborhood,” says Graham, who adds she couldn’t live in a city without major sports teams, although she still roots for the Chicago Bears, Cubs and Bulls over the Detroit Lions, Tigers and Pistons.

The open loft has 10-foot exposed concrete ceilings with galvanized spiral ductwork, 8-foot-tall windows, hardwood floors, granite kitchen countertops, ceramic bath floors and a gas fireplace. Amenities include a fitness center, lobby, premium security, washer/dryer and indoor parking. Prices range from $299,900 to $506,900, not including monthly assessments.

When it came time to furnish her loft, Graham dreamed up an urban funky decor. She dispensed with her dining room table in lieu of a pool table, although she kept her contemporary dining room chairs.

A charcoal gray sectional she’s owned for 10 years fit the casual living room space perfectly. And the Barcelona chair, Eames chair and ottoman and Danish modern liquor cabinet that her parents had been saving for her in their basement fill out the space.

“I never entertain formally, and the loft came with a good-size kitchen island where I put four bar stools, $150 each from Art Van, so I didn’t see any need for a dining room table,” Graham says. “I told my parents that I would want the Barcelona and Eames pieces sooner or later.”

The guest bedroom is furnished with more family heirlooms, including a bureau and end tables that belonged to her grandmother. A Pottery Barn desk holds her computer equipment, but a vintage white leather desk chair from her family accompanies it.

In her master bedroom, a floral chair and footstool with good lines that belonged to her grandmother sits waiting to be reupholstered. The sleigh bed is covered in a coral comforter with just a hint of femininity.

Throughout the loft, Graham’s walls are covered with her own quirky artwork, including a montage of miniature plastic toy skulls and a still life of flowers. Oh, and the primary color on the painted walls is orange.

“I’m not a girlie-girl,” Graham says with a chuckle. “My mother says my loft is furnished in a gender neutral style. She thinks I should hang drapes in the living room, but that’s not going to happen.”

Graham’s creative side is revealed in her sleek and minimalist guest bath, which is decorated in what’s being dubbed hotel style. The finish on the walls is four coats of a silver metallic paint.

The shower curtain is pure white. A floral arrangement consists of a clear glass vase filled with smooth river rocks and a few flowers.

In the foyer, a Candy Land game board, is framed with thumbnail-size photos of her friends. (“I’m Candy Graham, so the kids’ game is appropriate,” she says, laughing.)

Over her black Whirlpool refrigerator, Graham hung a wood seat from a Purdue University athletic stadium.

“I was a competitive swimmer at Purdue,” Graham explains. “Can you see the old gum stuck on the seat?”

Graham appreciates Detroiters and their attitude, but it’s taken some time to get used to the need to drive everywhere. And even though she’s only lived in her loft for three months, she already has a slew of pals who love to stop by to shoot pool. (By the way, she admits she’s not very good at billiards.)

“I had so many friends dropping by that I finally had to lay down the law,” she says.

The loft lifestyle, it seems, appeals to both owners and wannabees.

Click here to visit the SkyLofts MarketSquare website!

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