Honor & Folly

01.15.2015 | by: Meghan
Foodtripper

Gold Cash Gold

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Despite all evidence to the contrary, I haven’t abandoned designtripper. I’ve been incredibly busy doing other things, not entirely unrelated. For starters, Gold Cash Gold, which is on the same block as Honor & Folly, is a project many years and many people in the making, and it finally opened its doors last month. About six years ago, back when the only businesses on the block were Slows and LJs (our beloved neighborhood dive bar), the giant pawn shop on the corner went up for sale. The three-story, 9,000-square-foot behemoth was listed for $150,000 — a fraction of what you’d pay for a windowless, one-room studio in most major cities. Yet It sat there, empty and foreboding, an oversized example of how there wasn’t exactly a crush of folks clamoring to open businesses in Detroit. Let’s say the real estate market was lagging; I believe this was right around the time of the rise of the $100 house sensation. It was before this piece about the block came out in Food & Wine (at the bottom of the page, you can see how photographer Marcus Nilsson captured the building three years ago), before Honor & Folly was even a seed of an idea. Rumors began circulating that someone wanted to buy it and open another pawn shop. We already had issues with stolen cars, stolen tools, stolen everything, and the last thing anyone wanted was another incentive for stealing. So a handful of friends, my husband and I included, decided to pitch in what we could to secure the building until we could afford to contribute to the neighborhood in a meaningful way. Fast forward four years.

I’m not going to rattle on too much about the food (other than to tell you to order the pickle-brined fried chicken with dipping gravy and the buttermilk pie), because I wouldn’t do it justice. Our chef and partner, Josh Stockton, who spent time learning his trade all over the world, including a head butchery stint at Blackberry Farms, is a talented and humble genius who focuses on whole beast cooking, pickling and preserving, and making the kind of simple, delicious food inspired by the countryside “whether that countryside is in France or Tennessee.”

But the actual physical space, that’s my language. I helped out with the design (in limited, chirpy ways), while fellow co-owner Phil Cooley and Kaija Woullet of Lavvu Studios did the real work. A natural palette of whitewashed brick and wood, the interior gets its color from stained glass windows and colorful jars of pickled vegetables, both refracting light throughout the dining room by day, glowing by night. There are so many stories layered into the design, beyond the most obvious of repainting the original words from the building’s former life as a pawn shop–rifles, diamonds, art, coins–which is where we pulled the name, Gold Cash Gold. There’s also an old gymnasium floor with a giant eagle rescued from an abandoned elementary school; a wall of canned and pickled vegetables, many grown at our neighborhood urban farm, ACRE; and my favorite, the stained glass installations inspired by all the colorful, mismatched windows of the city. Phil is a big believer in recycling and reusing, and he did an amazing job sourcing salvaged wood (the tables, the benches, the shelves, the ceiling) and pushing to incorporate the old metal panels covered with hand-painted pawn shop signage, now serving as bathroom doors. Looking forward to spring, when the outdoor patio and take-away window will open — and maybe even another Honor & Folly upstairs.


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[All photos by Emily Berger]

10.16.2014 | by: Meghan

Honor & Folly // Leelanau Peninsula

Bringing Honor & Folly to Northern Michigan — a place that has become a hugely important, soul-enriching part of our lives since moving to Detroit (see here, here, and here) — has been a torturously long and drawn-out process spanning several years and involving an unhealthy relationship with Realtor.com. We were entangled with an old farmhouse near Lake Michigan for more than a year, but in the end, it didn’t work out for various reasons, none of which I still fully understand (people are crazy when it comes to real estate). A few weeks ago I drove by, and the massive stone barn, where I envisioned a roster of dyeing, weaving, knitting and cooking workshops, is starting to fall down. We’ve walked through countless botched rehabs, re-imagined crumbling old Victorians with no wiring and moldy walls, and found disappointment in airless, overpriced lakeside cottages that smell like cat pee. On more than several occasions we didn’t even get out of the car after pulling up to a house (overlooking a subdivision/situated next to a junkyard/fill in the blank) that looked positively charming on the internet.

But — cliche alert — it was worth the wait to get it just right. Honor & Folly’s new Leelanau Peninsula outpost is a 1900s farmhouse situated on 20 acres with two barns and a trim little guest house, clad in metal and lined with cedar. I am still bowled over by how lucky we are. I drove 10 hours in one day last summer — there and back with the baby in the backseat — the day after it came on the market, and as soon as I pulled up the long driveway, flanked by a cherry orchard, my heart was beating out of my chest. Aside from one cycle of short-term renters, the farmhouse hasn’t been lived in for 20 years, which means: No tacky 90s rehab! It still needs quite a bit of work, but the bones are rock solid and the important details are refreshingly simple and Shaker-like. And you already know how I feel about the Shakers.

Outside, there are apple and cherry trees, wild carrots and asparagus, and a tangle of untamed landscaping that’s been shaped by two decades of natural elements. Inside, any progress so far, including pulling up carpeting to reveal painted wooden floorboards, feels like an unnoticeable swell in a vast ocean of to-do list line items. I’ll dedicate the fall and winter to getting the place ready for reservations for the spring and summer. In the meantime, I promise to keep you updated on all the workshops we’re dreaming up, artist/handicraft residency programs in the making, collaboration opportunities and general farmhouse progress. Currently accepting all ideas. 

12.04.2013 | by: Meghan

Honor & Folly Holiday Shop

Detroit, MI

This month marks the two-year anniversary of Honor & Folly. In that span, I’ve met countless kind, interesting, kooky, good people who have come through Detroit, many who have become friends. Many who have made the trip because they read this blog. That has been the greatest honor. Thank you, thank you. I love meeting you and showing you my city. This little inn has surpassed my expectations 100 times over and led to opportunities I would have otherwise never had. Like this interview in The New York Times and the H&F holiday pop-up at Shinola–the new bike and watch company headquartered in Detroit (factory and flagship). Because H&F has been so busy–a good problem, right?–I haven’t been able to regularly open up the space to the public for selling goods like I originally intended. So through the holidays, lots of the handcrafted goods that decorate Honor & Folly are on display and for sale in a lovely, dedicated nook at Shinola. And a few new things from the crew of talented designers for the occasion: Amy Bem added leather detailing to the quilt-like pillows; Abigail Murray made a new delicately off-kilter serving bowl; The Brush Factory added walnut bottle rock stoppers and gradient coasters; Megan O’Connell made the most beautiful holiday card I have ever seen (with an Elizabethan recipe on the back); and I gathered up a few vintage pieces that reflect the long history of American design, from a tobacco-drying basket to a natural stoneware mixing bowl (both of which I really want to keep for myself).

11.28.2012 | by: Meghan

Honor & Folly: A Weekend Giveaway

Detroit, Michigan

In the September issue of Martha Stewart Living, I put together a tight little visiting guide to Corktown — my neighborhood for living and inn-keeping (in this post, some bonus photos by Joe Vaughn that didn’t make the story). When I opened Honor & Folly, I was excited about stepping out from behind the computer screen and introducing travelers to the neighborhood-centric Detroit I know — not the Detroit you see from 17th story of some mid-rise hotel downtown. I never gave much thought to the community of neighborhood business owners I was going to be part of, and turns out, that’s a hugely rewarding facet of owning a small business. I’m proud to send guests downstairs to Astro, because the owners, who are my neighbors in real life, are such good people and amazing at what they do. I tell guests to save room for brunch a few blocks away at Brooklyn Street Local, and to make sure to go to Mudgies for a humongous sandwich, the Lager House for a music show, and St. Cece’s for the best unassuming farm-to-table food in the most quirky, unlikely setting. I love bragging about my friend Ryan, who started an urban farm in North Corktown, and rooting on some other friends who are opening a distillery down the street. My brother-in-law runs Pony Ride–an incubator for artists, designers and entrepreneurs–and it’s been fun to watch that grow. If you could have seen this neighborhood when we moved here eight years ago, you would have never believed it would one day in the not-so-distant future end up in the pretty, iconic pages of Martha Stewart Living. There were no working streetlights, hardly any businesses, almost no one walking down the street while I pushed my baby stroller over broken glass. And now. Now I’m giving away a weekend to hang out here for fun! Excuse me while I pinch myself.

In honor of the first-year anniversary of Honor & Folly, I’m giving away a weekend in the neighborhood I love so much. The winner will get two nights at Honor & Folly*, breakfast at Astro, two drinks at Sugar House, and a $50 gift certificate to Slows. I will also give you a personal tour of  the city, including stops at some of my favorite places in Detroit, from Eastern Market to Belle Isle. To enter, just leave a comment below, and I’ll announce a winner — picked at random — at the end of next week. Cut-off for entry Thursday, December 6th at 5pm EST.

You can find the Martha Stewart Living article on the page I finally created for my writing work. Thank you so much for being interested, and for all your support the past year. I am so grateful.

[Photos, all by Joe Vaughn, from top to bottom: Honor & Folly (top three), Acre, Mudgies, Hello Records, Le Petit Zinc, Green Dot Stables, Sugar House]

*Contest assumes mutually agreed upon dates, which must fall between January and the end of March 2013. The sooner you pick dates, the more likely it will be that the dates are available, as the inn tends to book up a month in advance on weekends. If you decide to book mid-week, you will get an extra night.

05.23.2012 | by: Meghan
Foodtripper

Honor & Folly: Food & Wine

Detroit, Michigan

I’m certain he will hate that I’m saying this, but former chef Marcus Nilsson is kind of like the original Todd Selby of the food photography world. He’s been doing that thing for years–where the natural, peripheral mess of things is part of the photograph, part of story. A few months ago, we were lucky enough to welcome him to Detroit for a story in Food & Wine (out this month) about our humble little block of food- and drink-related businesses. The Slows chef, Brian Perrone, whipped up a bunch of BBQ at Honor & Folly and we shared a big meal at the dining table overlooking the old train station across the street. It’s the best seat in the house. We entertained everyone with funny stories about the old days (all of eight years ago) when we had to drill our apartment doors shut behind us, because there were no locks, and there wasn’t a single working streetlight. Marcus and crew also visited Sugar House and Astro downstairs, and the photos he took of Astro are my favorite, especially Jess Hicks’ almond-polenta cake with lemon (photo below; recipe here). Alison Attenborough was the food stylist on the project, and besides being incredibly charming and witty, I appreciate her subtle, natural approach.

Going into it, I was a little worried about how the block would be represented. Food & Wine can be pretty fancy, and there’s a certain rough-hewn quality to Detroit that usually gets exploited or ignored. I thought perhaps they’d try to gloss over or airbrush away, but everything looks exactly as it should (firemen hanging out with little lattes in front of Astro? Not staged.). There’s an honesty to Marcus’ photographs. He sees what we see–that there’s beauty in the contradiction–and he manages to capture the heart behind the efforts. Below, some photos from the shoot–a few from the magazine and others that didn’t make the cut. (Important note: I urge you to thoroughly  cover every square inch of his blog, where he collects all his best travel and food work, ranging from somber chef portraits from Denmark’s famed Geist to a stunning spread of food markets and vendors in Marrakesh.)

03.28.2012 | by: Meghan
Foodtripper

Good Neighbors: Astro/Santa Rosa

Detroit, Michigan

Jess Hicks lives a couple doors down from my house, and Astro, the coffee shop she runs with her husband, Dai, is a couple doors down from Honor & Folly.  I could not wish for better neighbors at either place. Essentially, Astro acts like the communal breakfast table for the inn, and everyone who stays at Honor & Folly ends up making friends and learning about the city from folks who live here. It’s a glorious place (do yourself a favor and order a flat white and an anzac cookie), and I don’t think H&F guests would have the same experience if it didn’t exist.

When Jess isn’t baking up a storm at the shop, she runs a little side, pop-up-style business called Santa Rosa, and together, we have a series of exciting collaborations coming up (a monthly creative-ladies-who-lunch lunch date at H&F). We’ll also be in Chicago at the Dose Market April 15, selling a mix of Astro/Santa Rosa baked goods and Honor & Folly wares. If you live nearby, please stop by to say hello! We’d love to see you. Here, some photos from the Santa Rosa provisions market Jess organizes once in awhile in the shop when it’s closed on Monday. There’s fresh bread, beautifully packaged dry goods, her amazing cakes, and meat from Porktown Sausage, our brilliant neighborhood sausage makers. This week Jess whipped up the most delicious ricotta-spinach-raison spread and sold it in little tubs, and I’ve been gorging on it at every meal since.

01.31.2012 | by: Meghan

Honor & Folly: Guest Perspective

Detroit, Michigan

My weekend guests at Honor & Folly were in town from Chicago visiting Detroit for the first time. Of the super-creative, multi-talented group, one is a professional photographer who sent over these images of their trip. I know what my Detroit looks like, but it’s always fascinating to see what other people find interesting and beautiful. Check out his wife Karen’s travel blog for her take on the Conservatory at Belle Isle–one of my favorite places in the city. Their friend told me later it has a Great Expectations-like quality–“kind of creepy and desolate but in a really enchanting way.” I tend to agree. If you stay at Honor & Folly in the spring, summer or fall, I will very likely send you there with a picnic basket. You will thank me.

01.24.2012 | by: Meghan

Inside Honor & Folly: Megan O’Connell

Detroit, Michigan


One of the things that makes Honor & Folly so special–at least to me–is the collection of stories behind almost every piece of furniture, art and object. Displayed in my favorite corner, the Hair, Pastry, Tobacco tableture tells a great full-circle yarn that starts with a chance discovery 821 miles away and weaves its way back to Detroit. This summer, while we were on vacation in Maine, I took an afternoon trip to Portland while my kiddos were napping to check out a few places, namely  Rogues Gallery, where I heard I could score a pair of Quoddy-made leather loafers for my husband under the Rogues Gallery label (for non-Quoddy prices). And even though it’s a men’s store, I wanted to see the space, which has a very non-gimmicky nautical, rough-hewn New England appeal with a focus on well-crafted, if not hand-crafted, goods. When owner Alex Carleton discovered I’m from Detroit, he told me all about Megan O’Connell, whose beautiful work was hanging in his dark and moody gem of a shop. In fact, the evening before, they had a going-away party for her. Turns out, she was moving to Detroit to be the founding Director of Signal Return–the new, extraordinary letterpress print shop that recently opened in Eastern Market.

When Megan and I met to discuss cards for Honor & Folly, she offered to let me hang her work in the space. I picked this triptych, which was inspired by Virginia Wolf’s Orlando, a fitting starting point for Megan’s tableture and texts crafted from hand-cast, -dyed and -carved paper suspended in Italian beeswax. She’s the founder of two other independent presses, including The Dead Skin Press, which generates cross-disciplinary work across installations, events, printed matter and discrete objects. I’m really excited to see what she does with Signal Return, and beyond honored to showcase her talent in my humble little space.

12.13.2011 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Stay: Honor & Folly

Detroit, Michigan

My big announcement for the year: Honor & Folly is open and ready for guests! As a freelance writer (and blogger), I log a lot of solo hours behind the computer. And as much as I love to travel, the reality is: I spend the hefty majority of my time at home–with my family, in the city of Detroit. Honor & Folly is a product of wanting to interact more with other people–you know, in the face-to-face kind of way–engage in my own community, and introduce visitors to the kind of travel I love: intimate, small-scale b&bs, apartments, houses, and family-owned hotels that tell a story about their location. That create a sense of place.

My favorite part of opening Honor & Folly so far has been working with all the talented local designers, artists and artisans who have contributed handmade design and decorative objects to the space (much of it is even for sale). I love looking around and thinking about how they all spent time creating something–with their own hands–so it could be part of the Honor & Folly story. Everyone has worked so hard, and I can’t wait for guests to stay here–and to use the handmade cutting boards, sit on the wooden stools, and eat from the beautiful ceramic dinnerware by my friend Abigail Murray. I hope when travelers are thinking about coming to Detroit, they choose to stay in this small neighborhood joint, where they can go downstairs and hang out at the bar or coffee shop–and learn something about the city from people who live here. It reminds me of the way folks used to travel–a few bedrooms above the village pub or restaurant with a hearty breakfast. That’s really all you really need. Well, that and a friendly innkeeper.

Here’s the brand-new website. I hope to see you in Detroit soon!

[PHOTOS: All images by the talented Marvin Shaouni]