Take a look inside Elliott Broom and Tim Sullivan’s artsy loft, where every piece tells a story.
By Stephanie Steinberg
Photography by Brett Mountain
Step inside Elliott Broom and Tim Sullivan’s loft, and you may think you’ve walked inside a mini gallery sprinkled with Detroit artwork, limited edition photos and prized possessions from around the world.
Which is fitting, given Broom, 54, spent the last decade as the Detroit Institute of Arts’ vice president of museum operations before becoming the Shinola Hotel’s general manager last year.
“Every piece has a story,” says Broom, pointing to a night cityscape of the Fisher Building by Detroit artist Anne Fracassa, prominently placed by the entrance. “I bought that at the (Detroit) Artists Market,” says Broom, who admits, “I shop like a nut, and I don’t forget where I buy anything.”
Sullivan, his partner of 10 years, points to a cutout of a man perched on a cabinet in the kitchen. “That’s one of my favorites,” says Sullivan, 47. “They’re orange usually, and they’re on top of buildings in Detroit.”
Broom explains they’re called “Man in the City” by John Sauve. “He put them on the tops of buildings because he wanted to make people look up and not look down at the ground,” Broom says, adding theirs is an interpretation by Boswell Hardwick, a photographer who contributes to SEEN, that he bought at a fundraiser for the Neighborhood Service Organization.
Then there’s the first piece they bought together in an upstairs hallway — a painting of downtown Birmingham from the Detroit Artists Market.
Sullivan notes the turkey drawing in their bedroom is by Broom himself when he was 5. Detroit Public Schools selected it for a student showcase at the DIA.
Ask about any of the eclectic pieces in the 2,600-square-foot loft, and they’ll launch into the story behind it. “It’s stuff along our journey that we’ve picked up,” Broom says. “There’s no specific period or look.”
Broom has lived in the Willys Overland Lofts on Willis Street before there were 64 units full of artists, empty nesters and couples from the suburbs who live there as their city home. In 2008, Broom returned to his hometown to interview for a position at the DIA. When he left the interview, he drove through Midtown. “From a distance, I saw the top (of the building),” he recalls. “I was like, ‘What is that?’ So I found my way over and was like, ‘Oh, I love this building. If I get the job, this is where I think I want to live.’ ”
Broom was among the first five people to move into the building — before the market tanked. “Sales came to almost a halt. I think they built one unit a year,” he says. But the neighbors didn’t mind.
“It was a real community,” Broom says. “We’d grab a bottle of wine and we’d walk around. If there was a unit under construction, we’d hang out in that unit.”
“We’d be like, ‘Well, if I bought this one, this is what I’d do,’ ” Sullivan jokes.
Broom and Sullivan met in Ferndale, where Sullivan saw Broom crossing the street. “I’m very friendly,” Sullivan says. “I’m like, ‘Hi!’ He thought I was just being friendly. I’m like, ‘No, I like you.’ ”
Sullivan, a digital marketing manager for Ford Motor Company, lived in Royal Oak at the time, and the two decided to move in together. But the loft “was mine, not ours,” Broom says.
They loved the neighborhood, so they bought two stacked units — blowing a hole in the floor to combine the two levels with a staircase. “Our neighbors did the exact same thing,” Elliot says. “They’re only two units like this in the building.”
“This is built like a tank,” Sullivan says, explaining the 1917 building was a service center for the Toledo-based Willys-Overland Company that manufactured Jeeps. “So every floor is built to withstand many, many cars.”
Realtor Lisa Nederlander says like many lofts in Detroit, the building is a conversion — “an existing building that may have been a warehouse, department store or gas station, and you’re converting that from one use to another.”
Nederlander, the sales agent for the Cass & York condominiums breaking ground this spring in New Center, says she’s seeing more people attracted to high ceilings and open-floor plans. And more people are “excited about the ability to own in Detroit.”
“Conversions in Detroit tended to be more raw space with exposed bricks and pipes, and that’s changing,” she adds. “You’re getting more drywall, or white spaces, and people are finishing them with a higher degree of finishes.”
Sullivan and Broom’s loft is no exception. While they decorated with mirrors, tables and furniture you’d never guess is from HomeGoods, they also handpicked all fixtures. Nearly every sink, for instance, has a joystick to turn on the faucet. “We went a little joystick crazy,” Broom laughs.
The kitchen features stainless steel appliances with black cabinetry, Sullivan’s beloved cooktop and steam oven. “When you reheat your leftovers, they taste like the first time,” he assures. For entertaining, they added a refrigerator to stock beer and wine and copper sink to chill Champagne.
One thing that didn’t make it? Avocado cabinets.
“Tim freaked out because at one point I wanted green cabinets,” Broom laughs. “I saw it in a magazine, and it was stunning.”
Sullivan put his foot down on that one. “I’m like, ‘We’re going to grow tired of that!’ ” he says.
You won’t notice their one splurge — unless you’re standing in the bathroom in bare feet.
“We heated all the bathroom floors,” Broom says. “It makes a big difference when you’re on concrete in the winter walking from the bedroom. … That was a guilty pleasure.”
A City to Live, Work and Play
Giving a tour of the three-bedroom, three-bathroom unit, Broom periodically pauses to share stories. He stops in front of a tall cartoon. He was on a panel at a Lansing art center when it caught his eye in the back of the room. “Something about it reminded me of the Diego Rivera (“Detroit Industry”) mural,” he says. Luckily, it was for sale.
One prized piece isn’t artwork, but a pachinko machine glowing under the stairs. Broom explains, as a kid, he loved a toy store called Circus World at Northland Mall. They’d have pachinko machines for $500. “My parents were never going to buy me a $500 toy, but I always coveted them,” he says.
One day, he spotted a pachinko machine at the Royal Oak Flea Market, but the vendor said he couldn’t get it to work. “I’ve always wanted one, so we struck a deal,” Broom says. He brought it to his mother’s condo, where he lived while his first loft was under renovation. They plugged it in. The lights came on, but it didn’t work. Broom thought he’d have to send it to California, but his mother called him at work with good news. “She found a local repair person who worked on pinball machines and slot machines. And he said, ‘I know how to work on pachinko machines.’ $75 later, it worked!” Broom says.
The 30-foot brick wall by the pachinko machine is one piece of real estate they’re saving for future artwork. Sullivan has his eye on a larger-than-life photograph of Cher from the ’70s. They were at a bar when Broom spotted it: “I was like, “Tim, looook!’ ”
“I lost it,” Sullivan laughs.
It’s on their list, Broom says, but “as collectors, you have to pace yourself!”
Sullivan says friends often remark that the Shinola Hotel has a “similar vibe” as their loft, but Broom emphasizes he had “zero” influence on the decor. “The living room at the hotel is very eclectic and the same kind of stacking art salon style,” he says.
Broom enjoys the ability to walk or bike to work, and the couple attest they’re “urban people” who don’t like getting in their cars on the weekend. Loft living in Midtown suits them. Their two favorite restaurants, Selden Standard and SheWolf, are a quick walk. As are their go-to cocktail bar, Castalia at Sfumato, and decor shop, Nora. They’ll take the QLine or Lyft for farther trips.
“Finally, Detroit has reached a place where people, especially young people, want to live in the city because it is now evolving into the type of city that has activity that is truly live, work, play. You have access to all the things that make a city vibrant,” Broom says. “…So it’s really gratifying to know that this is happening in the city, and that we get to live here and be a part of it.”