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Design

The mod couple

A Pontiac duo lives on a designer edge

Photos by Cybelle Codish
Voit and Hudacek's home has a lot in store.
A chair by Voit's father with dovetail design.
Sitting pretty: A sample of their wares.
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Published 7/19/2006

Alyce Voit hates walls. Can't stand them. Thinks they're worthless.

She also has a thing against doors — she thinks they're a racket for the building industry. "That's why people have to move all the time," she says. "Families outgrow their space so easily these days."

It's unlikely Voit will ever outgrow her home, a 47,000-square-foot warehouse that also functions as factory, office, showroom, gallery and storage facility for the interior designer and custom manufacturer, and her partner, artist and furniture designer Paul Hudacek.

The pair has spent the past six years rehabbing the building, busting out windows, removing ceilings, tearing out linoleum, and sanding and varnishing old stubborn oak to transform the 1940s furniture warehouse in Pontiac into a celebration of craftsmanship. More than just a knockout, it's an eyeful of inspiration, a reflection of what's possible when two highly creative and motivated people share ideas and actually see every single thing through.

Voit's design firm, Intura, works with clients on residential and commercial interiors. Hudacek, a CCS alum who worked for 12 years as a car stylist, now designs furniture and does sculptural commissions. Their living space, 6,500 inventive square feet of what Voit calls "comfortably and quirky modern decor," also serves as her showroom. She's divided the open place into sections with drop cloths that hang dramatically from the high ceiling, and has arranged inviting separate spaces, such as a reading and a lounging area. Despite itself, the place feels cozy. The canvas-colored palette and decorative accessories made from natural materials — wooden masks, Hudacek's roughly hewn metal figures and even the organic pattern on Persian rugs — add to the environment's easy yet elegant appeal while making the warehouse feel intimate. Distance helps too.

"A bathtub can be out in the open," Voit says. And, yes, theirs is. "How private is it when two bedrooms are separated by thin drywall? It's a psychological comfort. But distance creates privacy better."

The only contained space will be the bathroom (which requires walls to follow code) and a smaller room that already existed, which serves as Voit's closet.

Voit and Hudacek abide by a bare-bones aesthetic that makes objects more important than the space itself. Each item they own is uniquely and carefully constructed — from the exceptional knockoff of Gerrit Rietveld's Zig Zag chair, made by Voit's dad, a master cabinet maker, to the gorgeous slab of stained and flawed marble that functions as an incandescent platform for their wood-burning stove. "Nothing in the room is precious," Hudacek says.

Instead of working or living in a custom-built home, Voit and Hudacek prefer to use an existing building in a new way so it serves a purpose.

Living with her, Hudacek says he's inspired when Voit brings home a piece of furniture — found at a resale shop or an estate sale — and rearranges things to make room for it. Their makeshift style is also pretty practical: It allows them the freedom to change the place around for a party or when the weather turns, and it shakes things up a bit, shifting their perspective on a regular basis to keep the creativity flowing. The only problem is a big one — the $3,000 monthly heating bills that come when the temperature plummets.

Walking through their building, Hudacek and Voit are full of energy, chatting about everything from David Lynch flicks to their awesome cats.

Along the tour, Hudacek darts about, pointing out his prototypes, such as his Tootsie Roll sofa or his take on the sling chair. As a guest in their home, you're invited to test out about 60 different chairs. "Sit on this," Hudacek offers, pointing to a mod green sofa. "Alyce salvaged this old sofa frame, and I was sick of square cushions, so I made circle ones." Voit knows her way with a hammer and nails as well. She recently made a new platform bed because she sold theirs; it left for Croatia with a friend. Constantly fixing, making and replacing everything in your home seems inconvenient, but Hudacek insists it's great. "We never have to go to a factory to make stuff. We are the factory."

Their home is also a haven for 20th century furniture. While Hudacek was living in Austria, Japan, Brazil and Germany, he acquired a fondness for the furniture and would ship it home from flea markets. Voit accumulated the stuff as well, and in no time her assortment was busting out of her garage.

"Everything down here we bought for personal use," Hudacek explains. They'd spot pieces in dumpsters too good to be true, or too heartbreaking to pass up. One whole floor of the warehouse is filled with everything from Mies van der Rohe originals to Voit's 1950s children's furniture.

"We really don't want to focus on one of our hobbies," Voit says. "That is what the mid-century furniture really is. The procuring and reselling of mid-century antiques is not really our desire or job. We just happen to have a collection that went out of control and now we are slowly liquidating."

Their stuff is selling well on eBay, where they get rid of about eight to 10 pieces a week under the eBay name of 2muchmod — everything from a $95 Paul McCobb chair to a $4,500 Arteluce lamp, an Italian classic from the '60s, to Hudacek's sculpture and paintings.

It's obvious that Mr. and Mrs. Mod share passion. Projects they work on together fall under the name the World Unlimited. But their personal relationship is trickier to decipher — they're currently working on moving Hudacek into his own living quarters on another floor.

"Are we a couple?" They ask each other with apparently genuine curiousity.

"Well," Voit says, "We've been together since 2000, so I guess so. It's just that we're so many other things first."

Hudacek's the gearhead, who can look at any object and tell you precisely how it was crafted, to the nail. Voit's got the vision to perfect Hudacek's products, finding solutions as simple yet subtle as "Just take the top down 4 inches" to his challenges. They rely on each other's integrity and taste, and the breathless pace keeps the conversation going nonstop. Hudacek says with a smile, like he's up to something, "I just hope I live long enough to do everything."

 

For inquiries about their stock, e-mail theworldunltd@comcast.net.

 

Motivating muses

Who inspires you the most?

Voit: my parents, Edith and Peter, who are, despite much adversity, incredibly resilient, happy, youthful and silly people.

Hudacek: Leonardo Da Vinci.

Most inspiring designer:

Voit: Philippe Stark, designer for the masses.

Hudacek: George Nakashima, woodworker.

Favorite filmaker:

Voit and Hudacek: Jean Cocteau

Favorite musician:

Voit: George Gershwin. "It's wooonderful, maaarvelous."

Hudacek: Jimi Hendrix.

Favorite artist:

Voit: "The Donald," as in Judd.

Hudacek: All impressionists. Beautiful!

 

Quick tips for home

To quickly change a room for a party:

Dim the lights, light thousands of candles and play music from around the world.

For autumn: Keep the windows open and put small wool throws on every piece of furniture that gets sat on.

The one must-have:

Books, books and more books. Anything that you can read — cookbooks, magazines, medical publications, maps. No one is too smart!

Best place to find

furnishings:

Your parents' and grandparents' homes. Let's stop throwing out and find creative new ways of recycling and reusing so we can prolong our destruction of this incredible earth.

Rebecca Mazzei is Metro Times arts editor. Send comments to rmazzei@metrotimes.com.

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