BIRMINGHAM, MI—You wouldn’t know it to look at it now, but the Townsend Birmingham had a bit of a “grandmotherly vibe,” according to the hotel’s managing director Steven Kalczynski. He said it jokingly. But, then again, after 29 years, who—or what—couldn’t use some sprucing up?
Located in a bedroom community right outside of Detroit, the hotel was in need of a makeover to bring it up to date and in keeping with the expectations of today’s travelers. The result is a very posh, yet elegant, hotel with touches of European influences.
“With the previous design, you felt comfortable coming in for afternoon tea and could pretend you’re in London. It was that kind of look,” said Kalczynski. “Since then, we’ve gone through a multi-year renovation and there’s a new feeling throughout the hotel. The lobby and Rugby Grille restaurant have a Ralph Lauren-style to it and the guestrooms have a modern, luxury feel. We have two fireplaces in the lobby area, both came from the U.K., and were selected a long time ago.”
The hotel’s owners were heavily involved in the design project, requesting a certain aesthetic to transform the hotel and it was primarily the vision of designer Dan Clancy, co-owner of Perlmutter-Freiwald, Inc., in Franklin, MI. He incorporated the owners’ wish list and considered the flow of the property, as well as envisioning what the hotel could be to locals and visitors, noted Kalczynski. Clancy died in April and this hotel was one of his final projects. His artistry endures in every area of the hotel he has touched, from the guestrooms to the restaurant—all of it indicative of his creativity and ability to rejuvenate fine interiors.
Clancy recorded notes while working on the design scheme of the guestrooms and suites: “At Perlmutter-Freiwald, Inc., we were challenged to upgrade the guestrooms with a fresh new transitional look. We wanted to create environments that were comfortable and soothing. The rooms also had to exhibit an international design flair that displayed classic good taste,” Clancy wrote.
“We started with a color palette of soft neutrals—ranges of khaki, gold and alabaster intermingle and contrast with rich wood tones of walnut and mahogany. Several of the furniture pieces are based on the transitional designs of Barbara Berry, whose classic style is perfect for the Townsend Hotel. For textiles, we worked with Clarence House, one of the most distinguished fabric houses in the industry. We searched their design archives resulting in the most beautiful bed linens. Artists were commissioned for exclusive works that complement the interiors. We hope the overall look will be pleasing to the many guests who walk through the doors of the renowned Townsend Hotel.”
For the hotel’s Rugby Grille, Clancy, alongside local architect Victor Saroki of Victor Saroki & Associates, spent six weeks reviving its interior, “which maintains all of its original warmth, luxury and charm, and will now boast some added freshness and refinement with the addition of new Ralph Lauren herringbone-tweed wall treatments, Ralph Lauren lighting fixtures, new rugs, upgraded seating in the form of new classic leather dining chairs, all new fine china and contemporary, mid-20th century art by famed painter Joan Miro,” he wrote.
The restaurant is the focal point for the hotel and it is unique in that it’s driven by the community rather than those staying in the hotel. “Birmingham is very walkable and it’s a busy, three-meal-a-day restaurant,” said Kalczynski. “It has a classic look, with the bar stools featuring a leather seating and back. We installed four booths and the furnishings are complemented by artwork by Joan Miro. The art is bright and colorful. It’s a timeless style with good taste.”
The property renovation began in earnest in September 2012, tackling the Rugby Grille, guestrooms and other public areas of the hotel. The meeting spaces and Townsend Ballroom and Regency Ballroom were completed. In addition, the hotel closed up a bar lounge on the corner of the property, aptly named The Corner. It will serve as a private dining and meeting space and is expected to be finished this month.
Remembering Clancy, Kalczynski shared some personal insight into working with him on this well-regarded property. “It was a pride project for him. He always talked about the fact that he felt so honored to be associated with the Townsend. The hotel is the place to stay when you come to Southeast Michigan,” he said. “We used to kiddingly say to Dan that we were going to change the name from the Townsend to the Clancy because of his strong emotional attachment to the place.”