The sisters behind Cochrane House offer warm hospitality

The staircase on the first floor of the Cochrane House – which is not original to the house, as many guests believe – leads to the three bedrooms of the bed-and-breakfast.

Owhen I arrived At the Cochrane House Luxury Historic Inn in Detroit’s Brush Park neighborhood in late April, I knew I was in for a pleasant mini-stay after just a few steps into the bed-and-breakfast.

Co-owners, innkeepers and sisters Roderica “Rica” James and Francina “Cina” James have transformed a rundown historic mansion into the perfect getaway that’s airy and bright, yet still cozy and intimate. Their goal was to create a space reminiscent of their own Detroit upbringing, evident in Cochrane House elements like the artwork and decor featuring nods to the city present throughout the first floor, the home-style breakfasts they serve their guests, and even the names of the rooms.

“When we invite people, that’s what we feel like we’re giving them: an authentic Detroit experience,” Roderica says.

cochrane house
Innkeepers, co-owners and sisters Roderica (left) and Francina James.

Roderica and Francina opened The Cochrane House in 2018, eight years after Roderica bought the house in 2010 and after several years of renovations. The mansion was built in 1870 and was occupied soon after by Lyman Cochrane, a former Detroit superior court judge and whose house is named.

Located on Winder Street, just northwest of the city center, The Cochrane House is a short drive, or even walk, to some of the city’s popular attractions. From my bedroom window I could see Comerica Park and Ford Field, both less than half a mile from the hostel. Head west on Winder and you’ll find yourself on Woodward Avenue, directly across from Little Caesars Arena.

“We got together and we did it,” Roderica, 43, said of the bed-and-breakfast opening, adding that she bought the house at a time when the economy was recovering. still from the Great Recession and that Detroit wasn’t as much of a tourist destination as it is today. The sisters have been close all their lives, and the start of their business, she says, was all in God’s time.

The duo had no experience in the hospitality industry before opening The Cochrane House. Both sisters worked for their mother’s tutoring company and owned real estate in Michigan and Georgia, where Roderica lived for about nine years. In addition, Roderica is a former student intervention specialist for Oak Park Schools and Francina is a licensed attorney.

“When we opened up, we were very intentional,” says Francina, 44. “We wanted to represent Detroit.”

As guests make their way up the stairs, they are greeted by this vibrant mural by local artist Desiree Kelly.

When the James sisters began renovating the mansion – “The house was gutted”, Roderica recalls – their first project was to tear down the walls of the original five rooms on the first floor to create one large open-plan room.

Jazz, R&B and soul music from artists like John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Eric Roberson and Robert Glasper can be heard playing softly through the speakers. A lounge area near the entrance features two sofas, two ottomans and a wooden coffee table next to an electric fireplace, where guests can sit to chat, read or play one of the board games provided . On a table near the large bay window, foreigners (or even locals in need of a refresher) can find a binder filled with brochures and flyers explaining different things to do in town. In the small gift shop in the check-in area, guests can browse hostel products and items from local manufacturers, such as a t-shirt featuring a Detroit-centric collage by artist Desiree Kelly and pillows and tea towels from the Scarlet textile printing house. Crane creations.

Towards the middle of the first floor is a long dining table followed by the kitchen at the far end of the room, where the James sisters prepare breakfast each morning. Guests order their breakfast from the hostel’s website by scanning a QR code, and it’s delivered to their doorstep.

“We decided we wanted to keep any type of house style,” Francina explains. For my breakfast, I enjoyed gluten-free Belgian waffles, turkey bacon from Randy’s Sausage at Eastern Market, scrambled egg whites, homemade fried potatoes, and a glass of orange juice. “It was a bit like our grandparents [it]; they or they [would make us] a big breakfast,” she adds.

But it’s the artwork and decor that I ended up with. The sisters filled the first floor of the inn with paintings, sculptures and other furniture they had in their previous homes over the years, as well as items that had belonged to their parents and other members. of the family.

“We ourselves want to be represented; we want this place to represent what we saw when we were kids,” says Roderica. Their father is also an art collector. “So you see [an Annie Lee painting] on the kitchen wall because my mom had Annie Lee in the house. Detroit flair is also present through works the sisters commissioned for The Cochrane House. A large, colorful mural of local legends like Kelly’s Della Reese and Stevie Wonder greets you at the top of the stairs. And fedoras with hand-painted nods to the city, like Motown and the Tigers, by Florida-based artist Melissa Charyse of Mass Creatvty are displayed on the wall by the fireplace. Other equally stunning works by black artists from across the country such as Kehinde Wiley, Fahamu Pecou, ​​Tawny Chatman and Chanell Angeli grace the room.

The second floor houses the hostel accommodation. The names of the rooms — The Melodic Room, The Jazz Fusion Room, and The Rhythm Section Lounge Suite — were inspired by Paradise Valley, a former entertainment and business district of the city made up mostly of black-owned businesses. The Melodic and Jazz Fusion rooms are each 250 square feet with a queen-size bed and freestanding tub. And the Jazz Fusion room has a private balcony. The Rhythm Section Living Room Suite, where I stayed, is a 600-square-foot space with a double bed, a steam shower, and a separate living room with a couch, TV, and lots of natural light from the large windows.

“I want them to feel comfortable; I want them to feel at home,” Francina says of her hopes for their guests. Indeed, if anyone needs anything, like an extra toothbrush and more towels or even essential oils for their steam shower, Roderica and Francina are only a text away, because they live on the third floor of The Cochrane House.

The Cochrane House is more than a traditional bed-and-breakfast; the James sisters go above and beyond to make every visitor’s experience unforgettable. They offer private chef dining, photography services, and spa packages. The duo helped set up staycations for birthdays, anniversaries, and engagements. The Cochrane House can be hired for private events and retreats for up to 25 people. A winter wedding took place in 2019, and Roderica and Francina put it all together (the couple got married in front of a Christmas tree by the bay windows). You can even have your car washed and cleaned during your stay by Mr. Sunny Auto Clean, a local company the sisters work with.

“One of our most popular packages is our Romantic Celebration Package,” says Francina. “We decorate the room; we make rose petals, chocolate covered strawberries, balloons. All guests have to do is show up, bring their partner, and enjoy the room. In fact, during our interview, Marvin Powell, owner of The Chocolate Experience and exclusive chocolatier of The Cochrane House, stopped by to drop off some chocolate covered strawberries.

And it’s not uncommon for bed and breakfasts to welcome people from across the country – and even the world. Travelers from San Francisco, Seattle, Alaska, Germany, Hong Kong and other places have stayed at the hostel. While there, I chatted with another guest who was staying the night and attending a Tigers game (which unfortunately got watered down) before flying back to Canada after a week-long trip to the US.

“It was amazing. I’m always surprised how many people we get,” says Francina, who attributes the success to word of mouth and Google reviews. They must be doing something right – even celebrities and public figures like rapper and producer David Banner and US Senator Cory Booker have stayed there. “We didn’t know it was the Cory Booker until his security shows up to sweep the house,” Roderica says. “It was so funny.”

No matter who you are – a notable politician visiting town, a local teacher in need of some well-deserved relaxation, a couple on a romantic getaway or a group hosting an event – we’re confident you’ll be looked after at the Cochrane House. .

Rates start at $255. The historic luxury Cochrane House Inn, 216 Winder St., Detroit; 313-230-0398;

This story is from the July 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition.

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