While many CEOs hold their meetings in a private office or conference room, dPOP’s Melissa Price holds hers in a former bank vault.
In fact, it’s the perfect setting to reflect her firm’s culture and approach to commercial interior design.
Hidden beneath Detroit’s Chrysler House (once the Dime Savings Bank), the space invites employees to walk up a small ramp, then through a circular entrance flanked by brass gates. A massive vault door hangs from the right side of the portal, sparkling with ornate combination mechanisms and time locks. Once inside, the atmosphere becomes cozier, outfitted with crimson drapes, dusky lighting from a crystal chandelier, and lounge pieces upholstered in tufted leather.
Although the dPOP team regularly discusses the company’s business here, the vault feels more akin to some tucked-away realm in a fantasy novel than a traditional work space. Then again, this unconventionality should come as no surprise when considering the work conducted by dPOP. Founded in 2013 as an offshoot of Quicken Loans’ facility team, dPOP strives to tell each company’s unique story through the physical environment.
While Detroit is widely known for its automotive innovations, it’s just as famous for its rich music history. From blues, gospel, and jazz to pop, rock, and rap, Detroit has been the hometown of such musical icons as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger, and The Temptations. One of Detroit’s premier spots where the musicians of tomorrow are getting their start is at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME). Designed in July 2014 by dPOP, DIME pays homage to the diversity of Detroit’s musical roots with a lively and vibrant color palette to inspire students and staff. The basement is also home to a live performance stage and bar, with administrative offices and additional live performance space on the first floor. The second floor is filled with classrooms and collaborative space for students—some of whom may one day go on to make music history of their own.
After taking on interior projects for several affiliate companies—including Quicken Loans, StockX, and Rocket Fiber—most recently, the studio has attracted notable external brands such as General Motors, DTE Energy, and Delta Air Lines.
“We really focus heavily from a facilities-management side,” explains Price, who started at Quicken Loans more than 15 years ago as an IT project coordinator, and then as the leader of its facilities team before becoming CEO of dPOP. “Our approach to design isn’t specific to what’s trending, but to company culture: how it functions, what are the business needs—just knowing all areas of the business. That’s where our specialty lies and why our spaces are as successful as they are.”
Naturally, Price and her team applied that same philosophy to their own space.
“We were walking every square foot of building,” recalls Price about her first visit to dPOP’s then-future headquarters. “When we got to the basement, we immediately knew that this was a space that needed to be activated. But it was in complete disrepair. [The] engineers didn’t have a working elevator, so they were forced to leave piles of stuff down there.”
Many companies would have viewed this as an inconvenience, but to the dPOP team, it as an unbelievable stroke of luck.
“The elevator’s original brass doors were down there,” Price says. “And the craftsmanship of the doors and the quality of the patina—it just screamed, ‘bring us new life.’ We [had] to use this as a conference room.”
The thoughtful design process behind their own headquarters’ adaptive reuse project positioned dPOP to apply this same thinking to client spaces: honor a city’s heritage while celebrating company culture through design.
“We certainly can have cases where the building itself is a brand-new construction,” Price says. “But in the communities where we’ve been building most recently— Detroit being one and Cleveland being another—we’ve been fortunate enough to walk into projects and spaces that just have craftsmanship and detail that really need to be celebrated or repurposed in some way. It’s not that this craftsmanship doesn’t exist today, but how special to keep it going and create that longevity for the details that are [already] there.”
Detroit seems specifically primed for such an approach. “There are quite a few buildings that were really buttoned up and locked down for so many years that they were naturally preserved,” Price says. “They didn’t go through some of the ’70s and ’80s renovations where you would normally see that demo occur. Because they were preserved through those times, we were in a position to dust them off and see what we had to work with.”
Completed: September 2013
Notable feature: The relic wall
Although the conference room’s vault door may be the most eye-catching element of dPOP’s headquarters, Price also appreciates some of the subtler details of the space.
“I’ve always had a love for the relic wall,” she says about an installation created by renowned Detroit artists Scott Hocking and Clinton Snider. “[They] came in and, for two days, collected artifacts in the building and put them back in the walls as an installation. That’s one of the most exciting things: bringing these artists into our spaces, just as another layer that creates so much depth beyond just a trend.”
Globe Tobacco Building
Completed: June 2016
Notable feature: Table built with
an antique elevator wheel
Sometimes, creating a dPOP space is not only about preserving a building’s character and history, but also about actively reaching into the past to revive traditional elements. In the case of the Globe Tobacco Building—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—the seven-story atrium had already been gutted of much of its original personality when dPOP began restoring it.
“So many details have gone into that space,” Price says. “We did all of the lobby core and elevators just inches at a time. To see that come to new life and be a space that now gets rented out and used all the time when it was really just avoided for many, many years is great. It’s great to celebrate what’s already there and just add minimal layers to really make it special. Just by redoing the lobby, it automatically created event opportunities for [the Globe].”
In addition to working with the local real estate developer Bedrock to restore some of the rustic millwork and masonry, dPOP turned to one of its other spaces, a nineteenth-century brick beauty at 1265 Griswold that’s now home to the Detroit Institute of Music Education, for one of the lobby’s most memorable details: a long, wooden table cleaved by an antique
“Bedrock had modernized the elevator equipment at [the Institute],” Price says. “So we decided to utilize [the wheel] for a table. We knew that we were going to have a mixed-use space. That building has a lot of wood and wrought-iron columns to begin with. We just had an opportunity to utilize it, and we did.”
Quicken Loans | Higbee
Completed: July 2016
Notable feature: Original wooden escalator
stairs from Higbee’s department store
A Quicken Loans call center was recently finished inside Cleveland’s historic Higbee Building, named for its original use as the iconic department store many might recognize from the film A Christmas Story. When transforming the space, dPOP made sure it honored the Higbee legacy.
“We were so fortunate,” Price says. “Building engineers had been storing everything on an abandoned floor. Much like what happened in our basement, they knew it was something special that couldn’t get thrown away, but they didn’t know what to do with it or how to use it.”
As a result, the call center’s modernity has been infused with elegance from another era—the store’s four original chandeliers, jewelry mirrors, and makeup counters all glimmer within the space. The engineers even saved dishes, signage, and a glass display case used to showcase Quicken Loans’ awards.
But the crown jewel is undoubtedly Higbee’s original wooden escalator steps, the deep walnut stairs that connect the two floors of the space.
“That’s just not something that you throw in a demo pile,” Price says.