This Detroit Loft Is a Place of Both Comfort and Creativity

Heather Zara, the founder of Zara Creative, has a space that’s filled with history and mystery
heather zara detroit loft
Heather Zara pictured above in her Detroit loft.

The Moment Heather Zara began her tour of a loft condominium in Detroit’s Research Lofts, she knew she needed to live there. The first condo she visited — the building has 35 — was too small. But she was ready to take it anyway, until her real estate agent delivered great news: “He told me a bigger one was available,” Zara recalls. “This was a place I had to be. I was like, ‘High ceilings! Wood ceilings!’ Everything is original from the early 1900s.”

That was three years ago. Loft and resident have been veritable soulmates ever since. 

“It originally was a machine shop [Crescent Brass & Pin Co.], and the brothers who owned it became a top producer of metal stamps,” explains Zara, who says the space — with its original brick, wood, concrete, and industrial-style overhead ducts — spoke to her. “My dad learned machinist skills from my uncle when he came to this country [from Iraq],” she says. “Automotive parts for Ford Motor Co. also were built here, and I love Ford. I’m drawn to innovation.”

Even the boiler room door and the old oil spills that peek through the floors’ finish are comforting to Zara. “They remind me of my dad, myself, creativity, progress, and making something of value.”

Zara grew up in Warren and lived in Royal Oak before she bought her home in Detroit. “I’ve always wanted to live in Detroit. I didn’t see a lot of me in the ’burbs,” she says. “I wanted to feel a part of something. This space gives me that creative feeling.”

At any given moment — if this history buff and busy owner of a film production company is home — you might find her sitting with Lola, her beloved Havanese, just ogling her environs. “I’m always looking at the spaces here and thinking, ‘What did they use this area for?’”

Located in the Elijah McCoy neighborhood near New Center and the Woodbridge area on Trumbull, the 1,100-square-foot loft literally inspires its resident to think. “I’m a big thinker,” Zara says. “And the ceilings are so high — this place makes me think big.”

Since her business, Zara Creative, launched 10 years ago, she’s worked with clients such as Ford Motor Co., the Detroit Pistons, Platinum Equity, The Kresge Foundation, and Apple. Zara uses multiple areas of her home for working, planning, and, of course, pondering. (She also has office space in Ferndale.) She compares fashioning a space with creating a good work team. “Building a team, designing a room … you put people or moments together to create a feeling,” she says. “Environments have to feel good.”

Zara, a lover of design, walks us through her prized loft and what it took to create its overall vibe. 

A Closer Look at Heather Zara’s Detroit Loft: 

heather zara detroit loft

Behind door number …

The door on the bedroom appears to be a former office door, Heather Zara says. “I don’t know if this door existed in this building or if it came from somewhere else. It’s beautiful, and there are numbers on it: 3, 0, 8. I love numbers and believe they all carry meaning and energy — 3 represents creativity, communication, and community; 8 represents balance, leadership, and discernment. I feel the energy they carry.”

The jungle look

Zara’s bedding, from CB2, features a take on the jungle with an illustrative look that she adores. “I love all references to nature … because in nature animals don’t question how to be — they are simply themselves.” 

It’s in concrete

The bedroom features the original 100-plus-year-old concrete flooring. “I had it polished to reveal a beautiful stone-filled design,” Zara says. “Originally, it was covered in carpet and cheap flooring.”

Under foot

“I have a lot of vintage rugs from The Rust Belt Market in Ferndale.”

Fave furniture merchants

“Most of my items come from CB2 and West Elm. I also have a lot of art and knickknacks from Detroit’s Eldorado General Store, City Bird, Nest, Nora, and Coup D’état.”

Open up

“I blew out the original setup to create more space in the master bedroom,” Zara says. “The room that was originally the master is now my writing/art room/yoga studio, and what was originally the second bedroom is now the master. I was pleasantly surprised to have all this sunlight. The windows are so high, I can see the moon.”

Plan on it

In the morning, Zara sits in her bedroom and writing room. “I spend the first part of the day in these spaces because there’s so much light. I meditate there, on a cushion on the floor. I set my intentions for the day on a round marble cafe table, and I often reflect, relax, and read in my swivel chair.”

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