Mies van de Rohe garden home for sale in Detroit’s Lafayette Park

Judy Rose, Special to the Detroit Free Press
Published 7:00 a.m. ET Aug. 22, 2020 | Updated 8:26 a.m. ET Aug. 22, 2020


It’s a rare Mies van de Rohe garden unit in Lafayette Park in very good condition with many respectful upgrades.


The spare elegance of the garden homes designed by Mies van der Rohe became a beacon to many fans of modernist architecture. But only 24 such co-ops exist — a pod on two streets in Detroit’s Lafayette Park.

The rare listings come up for sale on Detroit multilists at a rate less than one per year. Others sell from owner to owner without being advertised.


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A great part of the appeal is that each unit has an all-glass back that looks out into a brick-walled courtyard. So the owners have a private yard, courtyard or garden of their own just walking distance from downtown.

With full glass walls looking into the courtyard, the outdoors becomes part of the living space.

Light and space flow among the large living room, the dining area and the galley kitchen. At left is the full glass wall that looks out into the walled courtyard. (Photo: Samuel Bond )

This Mies garden home has been owned and nurtured for 25 years by a couple who include an architect, Robert Hafel, and a professional musician/ civil rights lawyer, Joan Blair, both retired.

Not only is their unit in fine condition, over decades the couple enhanced it.

That takes a light hand when you recall Mies’ famous mantra, “Less is more.” But these owners came up with ways to create “more” that did not add clutter or alter Mies’ precise use of space.

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In the late 1950s, Mies used materials affordable to mid-income people. But components wear out of course. In this unit the couple replaced them with high-premium products known to architect Hafel.

Take the bathrooms. Floorplans stayed the same, but vanities and their medicine chests have been replaced with the very high-style Robern brand, often spelled as lower-case robern. Once independent, it’s now a little-known luxury wing of Kohler.

Bowls and counters on top of the vanities are made from molded glass. The sides are a different glass, made to look like gray wood grain, wrapped with stainless steel handles.

No drawer handles show, but a deep drawer rolls out from the front, lighted from inside. Both this drawer and the medicine chest above it hide electrical outlets. You can use a hair dryer or electric toothbrush without messing up the counter.

The robern medicine chest is six inches deep and has an automatic defroster. Faucets are Hansgrohe. Toilets are the Japanese brand Toto.

In one bath the tub has been removed to make a low-threshold shower. The shower enclosure is a beautiful glass and stainless steel product by Fleurco.   “I didn’t know these products existed,” said Blair.

The kitchen is likewise stunning — the same 10½-foot galley Mies designed, but with new spark. The cabinets combine beechwood with a vivid Caribbean red-orange lacquer. The white counters and backsplashes are Silestone quartz. The faucet is Brizo brand.

Similar projects run through the unit — always keeping within Mies’ vision, always bringing in a luxury product — for example a granite floor tile called blue pearl that was also used in the former Ford Auditorium.

One huge project is all Hafel and Blair’s doing. Where Mies basements are concrete rectangles, they turned theirs into a living suite.

It has a big, good-looking living room, a bedroom and full bath, a big laundry room and storage rooms. This brings the bedroom count here to four and the full bathroom count to three.

Buying a unit in Lafayette Park is different from buying a condo, because the whole complex was built as cooperative housing. Realtor Charles Krasner, has information on sources of loans. Often, sales are cash. Monthly fees on co-ops are high compared to condos, but they cover more expenses.

Lafayette Park is a diverse community with celebrities, judges and politicians. It has public parks, playgrounds basketball and tennis. It’s close to Eastern Market and the walkable, bikeable Dequindre Cut.

Mies van de Rohe garden home

Where: 1331 Joliet Place, Detroit

How much: $649,000

Bedrooms: 4

Baths: 3 full

Square feet: 1,490 on the main floor, plus about 1,200 finished as a living room plus a bedroom suite in the lower level.

Co-op fee: $850 per month. It includes property taxes, insurance, Comcast, internet, maintenance, security. Also it covers replacing such equipment as HVAC systems, roofs and much other original equipment. 

Key features: It’s a rare Mies van de Rohe garden unit in Lafayette Park in very good condition with many respectful upgrades. Extra living room and bedroom suite in the lower level. A brick-enclosed yard, plus all the advantages of Lafayette Park.

Contact: Charles Krasner, William Adlhoch & Associates, 313-574-4950. 

A note about photos

In order to limit our staff’s exposure to coronavirus, the Detroit Free Press is temporarily suspending its practice of using our photographers to capture images for House Envy and is instead using photographs prepared by listing Realtors, with credit to the photographers.​​ We thank the Realtors for helping in this effort.

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