by Molly Guthrey
To Jayme Meyer, painting comes naturally: Her parents are professionals in the building trades, and she grew up changing her room's walls just about as often as she changed clothes.Now, using the skills she has honed as an interior designer with Martha O'Hara Interiors, she finds paint an easy and economical way to redo her own home's style.
How long have you lived in your St. Paul home?
About six years. It's a very small place, about 1,200 square feet, but my husband and I love that the lake (at Como Park) is about a mile away. We often run down there or bike. Now I couldn't imagine living without access to a lake.
How did you change up the place after you moved in?
It was definitely a fixer upper. Smokers lived there. We've done a lot of work. We repainted everything, including the woodwork, which was a tan oak but is now painted creams and whites. We ripped up all the carpet and refinished the hardwood floors underneath.
Is there anything you don't like?
I bought the brown chair and sofa in my living room back in college, and I hate them now. I'd like to replace them with something not matching, something that mixes it up — like wood on the chair and a fully upholstered sofa. I'd also replace the rug, which is from Target, with a modern rug, a solid color — a fine, hand-knot rug would be my dream. I'd choose different colors for the room now, like grays and taupes, maybe even a linen color, creams.
My husband likes the dark rug that is there now, though, because you can spill on it and walk on it and it doesn't show. We laugh about that: the real-life situation versus what looks good. Maybe there's something out there that can make us both happy.
Beyond your own showroom, where do you shop?
The usual places that everyone else does. Ten years ago, I'd pick the wrong stuff there. Now, I can use my skills as an interior designer to spot the good stuff and the good deals. I also love little boutiques, like Sophie Joe's on West Seventh Street in St. Paul.
Can you spot the classic looks that will endure even when you're at a discount store or picking through a boutique?
It's funny, but what I thought of as “classic” 10 years ago, well, now I know … wasn't. My eye has matured, evolved. It's hard to describe, but I guess what I look for is in the colors and lines.
Do you like color?
I love any color. My latest is orange and white. Like a bright tangerine color and a crisp white. My kitchen is purple (Grape Juice by Benjamin Moore). It sounds extreme, but I did it a couple of years ago and I still love it. It's a really bold pinky-purple. It took me months to pick it out. It doesn't matter if anyone else loves it; when I walk in the room, I love it. I love bold colors, like my dark bathroom color. Anything with a high saturation draws my eye. I think it's because those are the colors that make me happy.
Do you ever get sick of your choices?
Yes! I've painted my bedroom three times in six years. My kitchen is on its second color, the office is on the third color, the bathroom the second.
Isn't all that repainting a hassle?
I like to do it myself. I like the process. I find it relaxing. My dad is a painter; that's where I learned it. My parents are both in the business — sheetrock, drywall, painting. My mom has done wallpaper for 20 years. Changing our rooms up when I was young was fun for them, fun for us. My parents let me change the walls of my room however many times I wanted. I can still remember my first wallpaper choice, a 1990s light pink and light blue, shiny, wavy wallpaper. It's not there anymore, thank God.
What are you like as a client?
I am both a horrible client and really easy. I'm difficult because I have to fall in love with something to bring it into my own home — it can't be just OK — and it's hard to fall in love with every single piece. I'm an easy client because I love so many different things and styles: I love mixing up shabby chic, contemporary, traditional, casual and even gaudy traditional, like a gold chandelier or a big, white, swirly lacquered mirror.
And what does your husband think about purple kitchens and gold chandeliers?
I just do it. I don't give him a choice. He's accepting of everything. Sometimes we'll even agree on some weird, wild thing. Maybe he has a little bit of an eye for it, or maybe from me talking about this stuff, he's slowly picked up on it. And our purple kitchen, when I was trying to decide between the two final colors, he picked the one we used!
Molly Guthrey writes about homes, gardens and motherhood for the Pioneer Press and MinnMoms.com
by Molly Guthrey
Lisa Knighten is a kitchen designer who finally got the chance to design her own kitchen. The remodel was an opportunity to unite the skills of her eclectic career path: appliance designer, art teacher, woodworker and now the owner of L.K. Kitchens and Baths.
Why did you remodel your kitchen?
It was lacking in storage, lighting and countertops. It was a little, square-shaped kitchen with no island. It did not flow.
How much bigger is the kitchen now?
It went from a small to a medium kitchen, from 114 square feet to 196 square feet. It was part of a bigger project: Our house is a 1940s rambler, a one-story rectangle in St. Louis Park. We put two additions on the back to create a U-shape, with a new outdoor room in the middle. The additions gave us more space for the kitchen and bedrooms.
How did the common living space change?
Before, there was a small doorway between the dining room and kitchen. I opened the wall and duplicated the original archway that separates the kitchen from the living room. The whole space keeps the original style of the house but makes it feel much more spacious.
What was it like to design a kitchen for your own family?
Oh, I've been designing it forever; it was fun to finally bring it to life. I knew exactly what we needed and wanted. Before, when I opened the cabinet where I kept the Tupperware, everything would fall out. So I designed a really deep Tupperware drawer. Nothing falls out anymore!
What were you like as a client?
You can ask clients a ton of questions about how they use their kitchen and what they want to store, but ultimately you don't know their habits as well you know your own. So, when designing for myself and my own family (she is married and has an 8-year-old daughter), I knew how we would function.
How much storage space did you add?
We now have a mini-mudroom right off the kitchen. It's honestly equivalent in size to a coat closet, but for such a small square footage, it has a huge amount of storage and organization. It has floor-to-ceiling cabinets that include outlets for charging things and a hidden kitty-litter box. There's a bench to sit on and lots of hooks.
We made use of every inch of space. Because of concerns over the placement of the new fridge and whether the door would have enough clearance and not hit the new archway, we moved it over nine inches. We didn't want to waste those nine inches, so we designed a tall, skinny shelf that pulls out to access oils and vinegars. Below it is storage for trays and cutting boards.
What is the cabinetry like?
It's all custom cabinetry, painted white, by cabinetmaker Tom Britz, owner of Minnesota Masters Renovation. I met him on another project and was impressed with his craftsmanship. When he worked on my kitchen, I liked that he was open to my ideas.
What idea did you splurge on?
The glass subway tile backsplash that is the color of water. I did not want to see any outlets on the backsplash, so outlet strips were installed on the bottom of the upper cabinets.
Where did you try to save money?
I just fell in love with the walnut for the floors, so to stay on budget, we put carpet in the new bedroom. I tried to make good choices all along; for instance, we did not buy a new, builtin microwave. Instead, we built space in a cabinet in the island to fit the old one.
I also originally wanted soapstone countertops, but they are expensive and it was hard for me to find the color I wanted — gray-black rather than the more common green. I ended up finding black granite that looked just like the soapstone I wanted, but at one-third of the cost.
Where did you shop?
Lighting consumed a large part of the shopping time. Lighting is like jewelry and can make or break a room. I shopped at a wide range of lighting stores when designing my renovation, from high-end stores like Filament Lighting and Muska Lighting in St. Paul to Menards. I also shopped online at Lamps Plus. I have no problem hanging a $500 light fixture next to a $30 light fixture if it is the right piece for the room.
Did your husband get to pick out anything?
He wanted a “refrigerated beer drawer” — a stainless-steel drawer under the countertop that pulls out and holds bottles and looks cool. But it broke our budget, so instead we compromised on a new Electrolux Icon French Door refrigerator; it has a thin drawer inside that spans the whole width of the fridge. That's his beer drawer.
Was there an appliance you insisted on?
I bought the Electrolux Icon fridge because it has a great water and air-filter system. Plus I liked the control panel on the icemaker because the options are dark until you touch it, and the handle matched my other appliances. I selected the Thermador duel-fuel range with convection because it is a great-looking appliance from a company with excellent products and history.
What's one of your favorite parts of the new space?
On one end of the kitchen is the little family room we built with a gas fireplace, and it's almost a part of the kitchen. When you're sitting at the island or cooking, the fireplace — framed with two contemporary, warm gray chairs from Room & Board — is the focal point, almost like a piece of art. You also get views of the back yard from the windows on either side of the fireplace.
I like that the TV on the wall and the couch are off to the sides and not within view.
Molly Guthrey writes about homes, gardens and motherhood for the Pioneer Press.
John B.A. Idstrom II
by Alyson Cummings
John B.A. Idstrom II helps people design their dream kitchens and bathrooms for his work with Partners 4 Design in Minneapolis. For his own home, on a 10-acre lot in Minnetrista, Idstrom designed a "cottage in the woods," a cozy place full of furniture with sentimental value.Angel and Purple, his two thoroughbred horses, and Corbin, his mini-poodle, add to the country charm.
What was your inspiration for the house?
I wanted to do a Southampton type of cottage — it's a fairly formal cottage in the woods.
What were some challenges you faced in the design process?
The property is pretty heavily wooded. I looked at it first in the summer but didn't buy it until all the leaves were off the trees. I wanted to see it with the snow on the ground. There's a little creek in the back yard. The land was really important to me. I designed the house to be very north and south oriented, and I stuck to that.
Did you give yourself a budget?
I was downsizing, so it was more trying to keep the size of the house down.
Did you downsize when it came to buying furniture, too?
Most of it is inherited, so it has more meaning than anything else. There are a lot of pieces I got from the house I grew up in and some from my grandparents. Where do you like to hang out? The master bedroom that gets the sun in the morning is a great place for coffee in the morning during the summer. How was working on your own project different from a client's? Making decisions is challenging because, as a designer, you learn to like so many different things. You work with so many different materials and are exposed to so much it's hard to narrow it down. Clients have a more definite taste: “I like that. I don't like that.” Do you like working with yourself as a client? I probably would have liked myself more if I was more decisive. Alyson Cummings is a Twin Cities writer.
Shayne Brown Barsness
by Alyson Cummings
As the owner of Style Minneapolis,Shayne Brown Barsness recycles everyday household items to create fabulous looks for her clients. Barsness and her husband, a contractor, are continually re-creating their own home, too - her "style lab" - and testing ideas she can use in her work projects.
One of Barsness' favorite rooms in the Uptown house belongs to her daughter, Greer, because the mother and daughter worked together to create a cozy teenage hideaway. Even though Greer is now away at college, the family cat, Aulait, still hangs out there.
How would you describe the room?
Well, there's really no set style to it. The bed is surrounded by bookshelves and curtains so it's a nice, cozy nook. We incorporated drop molding and rope lights that glow at night when they're turned on. We did the whole room when she was a junior in high school, but it's really a great room for any age.
How did the room come together?
We don't put anything on paper. Our carpenter has worked on our house extensively. We start with just a concept, and he's fabulous at turning our ideas into something three dimensional.
What part of the room is your favorite?
We both think the bed is the best thing in the universe. She spent a lot of time in there doing homework, and her friends were always stretched out in there. Aulait still sleeps there like he's waiting for her to come home.
What is something that went wrong?
The paint was a disaster. Greer wanted yellow but didn't have time to pick it out, so I went and got some paint. We put it up on one wall, and it just really wasn't what she wanted. We added a tint to fix it, and that was that.
What are some things you splurged on in the rest of your house?
I definitely splurge on rugs. I mean, I can't make rugs like I do with everything else. I love lighting fixtures as well. They can give a lot of presence in a room. My favorites are probably the antler chandelier and my animal hide rugs.
Where are some of your favorite places to shop?
I get a lot of my things from thrift stores and estate sales. Craigslist is great, too, and I love Zachary down at IMS (International Market Square in Minneapolis).
How is renovating and decorating your own home different from working with a client?
I'm more experimental in my house. It's more of a style lab, really. When I'm working for someone, I decorate to reflect the client, not myself. Everyone's taste is a little different. Most of what I do involves reupholstery, paint and slipcovers. I really try to work with what you have unless it's absolutely ghastly.
Do you like working with yourself as a client?
I'm the best client in the universe, and sometimes the worst. I'm the easiest one to please and sometimes the hardest one to please.
Alyson Cummings is a Twin Cities writer.
by Molly Guthrey
Carrie Kirby-Rodman, a senior designer at Martha O'Hara Interiors, gave herself a tough assignment when she and her husband - and their soft-coated Wheaten terrier,Vivian - downsized to a 950-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath condo. But it was worth it, because the empty nesters now live by Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. They've said goodbye to highway commutes and hello to regular walks around the lake with Vivian.
What was your biggest design challenge?
It was the first time I was starting from scratch - we got new things when we moved, because the scale of the condo was smaller and nothing we had would work. (Our son got a lot of our furniture.) Scale was very important: The biggest challenge was fitting enough seating into the living room, a small space where you had to be very careful of the depth and width of things - if the sofa was this wide, you wouldn't be able to get out to the patio, and if a chair was that wide, you wouldn't be able to open the door to the bedroom.
Wasn't it difficult, finding small pieces? Furniture today seems so super-sized.
Not anymore - a lot of furniture manufacturers are downscaling their sizing, because people are downsizing, especially baby boomers.
So you didn't buy a sectional to stretch out on?
No, we chose a bigger leather ottoman to put in front of the sofa. It works perfectly: My husband and I can both put our feet up and watch a movie or a game, or one of us can lie down and another can put our feet up and it's really comfortable - and it looks pretty.
What's your favorite space?
The living room - it's our only living space. It's where we entertain, where we watch TV; it's our only hangout spot. I have a dustyblack and off-white wallpaper that's a pretty big floral; I did that to disguise my big monster TV, which I had to have!
What says "Carrie"?
I love fabrics and wallpaper more than anything. I really have fun with those. I'll build a room around them. I think I inherited my love of wild wallpaper from my grandma. I don't have art on the walls; I have wallpaper. The other is in the bathroom - it's a lime-yellow background with huge white flowers. Most everyone comments on it - doesn't matter if it's the cable guy or another designer; they all love the impact of a wall of wallpaper. It's a way to add a lot of design for not a ton of money.
Where did you shop?
I found everything through us (Martha O'Hara Interiors, which has a showroom in St. Louis Park) except a chair that I got at Design Within Reach. It's acrylic in a steel base, timeless and cool.
What did you splurge on?
My Ming sideboard from Baker and the off-white leather ottoman.
What were you like to work with as a client?
It's harder to do your own home because you're emotionally attached. I am my most difficult client; most of us probably are. We have to ask each other for help picking out our own furnishings, because we see new things we like every day - and, because we see things every day, we also get tired of them more quickly.
Did you keep a folder of ideas?
Yes, I rip pictures out of magazines just like everybody else. I also use it for clients, because often you have to show them what you mean.
Was it difficult to try to incorporate your husband's wishes into your design?
He drives a Harley. He said, "No way, no how, no pink." I was out shopping one day and I found a pink cashmere skull pillow. I liked the yin-yang of it. I brought it home, and he said, "You knew the one way to get pink in here."
Molly Guthrey writes about homes, gardens and motherhood for the Pioneer Press and MinnMoms.com.