A Peek Into a Local Author’s Early 1900s-Inspired Home Office

This whimsical space puts Denelle Zurek in the write state of mind
The plot of author Denelle Zurek’s latest story was inspired by her surroundings.

Author Denelle Zurek’s home office actually inspired her next novel. The intriguing room in her Bloomfield Hills home features everything from old typewriters to a vintage carousel horse. “My next story is set in the 1930s to about 1955,” she says. Fittingly, her home was built in 1935, and her workspace is adorned with a wide range of vintage pieces.

“I’ve never thought to write anything from this time period,” says Zurek, whose current novel is about 60 percent complete and will be available through Amazon and on her website, denellezurek.com. “It’s about a young boy who was born before The Great Depression, and his parents live in poverty. They pass away and he’s sent to live with his wealthy aunt. The plot was directly inspired by my surroundings at home.” 

Zurek’s previous novel, Inventing Character, was published in 2020. (It follows the lives of three strangers with parallel stories and the coincidences that bring them together.)

An antique typewriter, which she often puts to use, especially when she’s trying to get into the mindset of yesteryear, sits on her work table, while a music niche features a 1921 Victrola and a vast collection of records featuring songs from the 1920s to 1950s. A Wm. Knabe & Co. parlor grand piano, circa 1915, also ignites her creativity. (“I play it now and then,” Zurek laughs, “banging on the keys in the opposite way that I use the typewriter.”) 

With three children ages 10 to 13, there’s never a dull moment for the author, whether she’s imagining character profiles or running her kids to school outings. When not piecing together plots, Zurek, who studied creative writing and screenwriting while majoring in social anthropology at the University of Michigan, works in the advancement office at Detroit Country Day School.  

Sitting in a nook off her kitchen, the author tells us all about her special place.

A Look at Author Denelle Zurek’s Home Office

Color inspiration

The walls are awash in Billiard Green, a Sherwin-Williams paint. “It goes with the hardwood floors and the antiques,” Zurek says.

Mane attraction

A colorful carousel horse from Herschell-Spillman, an American carousel manufacturer of the early 20th century, rests in front of a bay window. “I purchased that at an antiques auction in New Jersey. The horse was made around 1910.”   

Crank the tunes

Singers and musicians ranging from Doris Day and Gene Autry to Tommy Dorsey and Cab Calloway provide the soundtrack for plot creation. “I play them on the Victrola.” Zurek tracks her large collection of records on a spreadsheet. 

Just her type

Zurek adores her vintage typewriters. “I clack away on them. Typewriting itself is an important part of my writing process. There’s something about that finality of the word on a typewritten sheet of paper. That drives me to put the best word down. It never goes away.” She owns a couple of antique Underwoods from around 1897, and a 1907 Smith Corona, which she uses for writing her novels. She then re-types her work into her computer. 

Coffee, tea, or whiskey? 

“Whiskey!” she says. “My go-tos are Macallan 12 and Writer’s Tears, an Irish whiskey. They’re lovely. They do help me at times. Writing is a process.” She keeps her whiskey in a Waterford crystal whiskey decanter, a Christmas gift from her partner.  

Dialed in

The first antique Zurek owned was a Silvertone radio, given to her by her father. (Silvertone is a brand that was introduced by Sears in 1915.)

The hot seat

Zurek’s chair is a simple wooden design because she says she needs a solid back. “I like the hard back. I don’t want to get comfortable writing. The more uncomfortable I am, the better I write.”

Write here

The writer’s desk is a simple teak table that she bought at Crate & Barrel 10 years ago. “I like it … it’s a solid slab of teak and it’s big, so I can spread out lots of things on it.”  

Speaking of vintage

Zurek is fascinated by the circa-1939 Shure Unidyne 55 microphone she keeps atop her radio. Her partner picked it up at an estate sale.

This story is featured in the August 2021 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition. And click here to see more metro Detroit interiors.