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Firefighters Spruce Up Their Home


The dingy brown floor is no more: Now, it’s bright white with blue and gray specks. The once-drab walls are olive green, while the water-stained ceiling has been repaired and repainted.

And floor-to-ceiling studs, opaque acrylic and navy plywood create makeshift rooms for firefighters, so they can have a little privacy.

But the biggest improvement in the dormitory of the Detroit Fire Department’s Engine 52 is hidden in the walls: The electrical system, which had been original to the 90-year-old building, is completely updated.

“We faced several challenges,” said Erika Baker, 41, of Detroit, who redesigned the huge dorm space after the east-side firehouse won a $10,000 makeover from Maxwell House coffee and cable channel HGTV in a contest called Spruce Up Your Firehouse.

Baker, who co-owns Urban Alterscape in Detroit with her husband, Engine 52 firefighter George Baker, had less than three weeks to design the new space. Though the building is decades old, she opted for a more modern, loftlike design.

She pointed to downtown Detroit’s renovated lofts as her inspiration.

“If we’d tried to make it look like it did when it was built, we would’ve had to redo everything,” Baker said. “Keeping it an open structure helped with the cost and let us have an unfinished look that’s actually finished.”

The firehouse beat out Engine 44, on West 7 Mile, which also had applied for a dormitory makeover. The winner was chosen through online votes.

Detroit was one of 10 cities — including Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia — to participate in the makeover contest. One firehouse from each city won the $10,000 makeover.

Baker said the project’s biggest price tag was the acrylic for the dividing partitions. Some of the other high-ticket items — such as the new electrical system — were donated by local businesses.

The engine house’s firefighters did much of the labor.

On Thursday, as the firefighters readied the house for an official unveiling between 7 and 9 a.m. today, firefighters continued hanging brushed-nickel ceiling fans and placing cushions on new wooden chairs.

A huge space in the center of the room will soon become home to either a pool or Ping-Pong table, firefighters said.

“Anything’s better than what we had before,” said firefighter Jason Francis, 32, who has worked in the building for three years.

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