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Courtesy of Steelcase

Inclusive Interior Design: Steelcase Conference

Recently our team was invited to participate in a two-day event at Steelcase diving deep in the topic of inclusive design. The group was a thoughtful collection of individuals who approached the topic with a range of experiences and backgrounds which drove thoughtful conversations. We got the opportunity to tour several incredible spaces, from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meyer May House to the Steelcase HQ. In addition, the group got exclusive access to tour the build site for Michigan’s Special Olympics Training Facility that will be completed in late 2024. This event raised awareness, brought together new connections, and left a positive memory for me to carry forward into my work.

  • Date December 2023
  • Written by Sarah Davis
  • Topic
    • Strategy
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Pophouse | Detroit Interior Design Firm
Photography by Jeff Bondono

The Meyer May House

We began our time together touring the Meyer May House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Steelcase purchased the property in 1985 for the purpose of restoring the property to its architectural prime. The Meyer May House was built in Grand Rapids in 1908 and in classic Frank Lloyd Wright fashion, features two levels of meticulous design including expansive windows, skylights, and terrace overlooking a perennial garden. The details in this restoration are impressive and it truly is worth the visit if you have the chance. My favorite detail was the custom sconces that Wright included that when lit, cast a consistent pattern onto the walls as seen in the windows and other metal work throughout the home. The custom furniture and carpets complete the holistic design throughout and combine to create a unique and memorable residence. It was also remarkable to hear about the restoration process the home has gone through since Steelcase acquired the property. Thorough attention was given to interviews and searching historic artifacts to aid in the process of reviving the details of this special home, even down to the details of the landscaping. 

Pophouse | Detroit Interior Design Firm
Courtesy of Steelcase

Steelcase Tour

We toured Steelcase HQ, learning about the work that Steelcase has begun to rethink their spaces and elevate the experience their team members have onsite. I was particularly interested to hear the levels of discover they have undertaken in developing these new team spaces – their approach lining up well with what our team performs when we begin work on a new project. We then had time to roundtable with individuals at Steelcase focused on DEI, HR, and Workplace Innovation and participate in an engaging conversation about what inclusive design means, how we see this concept in our work, and how we all do better with inclusive design. One of the biggest takeaways for me as I went through this event was the reminder that everyone is moving through a space with different feelings, emotions, circumstances, and abilities. Being able to let individuals experience an environment with choice promotes autonomy, which can lead to empowerment and comfort. When you consider and consult with others, you become aware of how different people interpret conditions which results in stronger design decisions. 

Pophouse | Detroit Interior Design Firm
Being able to let individuals experience an environment with choice promotes autonomy, which can lead to empowerment and comfort.

Michigan Special Olympics Training Facility

We also had the amazing opportunity to tour the Special Olympics of Michigan, a space that is under renovation and will be completed by the fall of 2024. It was impactful to see firsthand the uplifting work that has been planned with this space. SOMI was more than a physical space, and the spirit was felt throughout our time onsite. It was evident how much thought has been invested to make this space truly remarkable not only for the participants but to activate within the community and it was deeply inspiring to learn about. Throughout this space, consideration has been given to how people access and use this building. Wayfinding has been designed to be read at different levels for example based on individual conditions. There were meeting spaces that had technology integrated to help all participate. As well as anchor furniture that assists individuals with visual challenges be able to orient to a space successfully. Walking this building illuminated many layers that were carefully thought through to make everyone feel welcome.  

Pophouse | Detroit Interior Design Firm
Pophouse | Detroit Interior Design Firm

The time together helped to highlight how big the topic is of inclusive design, how it is distinct from universal design, and how important it is to consider and focus on design from purposeful angles to profoundly understand the intricracies and the realities of what we are designing. Design has the power to unite and connect people of all abilities, perspectives, and backgrounds. It is a privilege to explore this topic and be able to make a difference that can have a significant impact on someone’s life. It was an honor to be included in this event and I am proud of the discussions our group was able to enage in.  


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