Linda Engler is an interior designer here in the Twin Cities and a personal friend of mine who I met decades ago when she designed my parents home in Eden Prairie. When I remodeled our family room and living room, Linda was my interior designer and we had a blast. She is an experienced designer that never fails to make me laugh and most importantly she has exceptional style. Every project is unique and she doesn’t use the cookie-cutter approach that so many designers employ. The sad secret of most designers is they use the same scheme over and over. Not Linda. You can’t look at one of her projects and say, that’s typical. She really tailors the design to fit the taste and style of the home owners and that is exactly what you want when you hire a designer. She just finished an amazing whole house remodel on Lake Minnetonka. I was lucky enough to see the project in person and it is incredible. The people who own it completely gutted the existing house and used Peterssen/Keller Architecture and Streeter Homes to create a home that is warm, funky and very livable. Of course I am always looking at the interior design, the fabric, rugs, furniture, art and colors that make a house a home. Linda was gracious enough to share with me some of the photos of the interior and I am sharing them with YOU. The photos which follow are a combination of snapshots I took while touring the house and the professional photos Linda commissioned by Karen Melvin and Spacecrafting Photography (the photos cannot be used or reproduced without the express permission of Engler Studio). I’m sure it will be published by some national publication but until then, here is a sneak peek.
You can check out more of Linda’s work at http://englerstudio.com.
Q: When you approach such a massive project, what is your starting point in terms of developing a scheme?
A: This is the second house I have done with these clients. I started out by asking them to think of some words that they would use to describe their vision for the home, the way they wanted their home to feel. Here is the list of words they used to describe their home:
We called this project, the “Lake Escape House.” I started the design process by pulling the area rugs. 75% of the time, this is how I start a project, especially when I am doing a whole house. I knew I needed multiple rugs for this home and I like having that base as a starting point to the design. The first rug I found was the amazing textural rug which we used in the living room. This set the tone in terms of color and then I built the rest of the plan from there. In terms of selecting the rugs, I want them to complement and enhance each other – to be “happy” together – and I think we really succeeded in this house.
Q: What is your favorite room or design element in this project?
A: Oh boy. That’s a tough question but I think I’ve got to go with the kitchen chairs. It is the Anziano chair by Donghia which we had painted bright yellow (“Happy Face” by Hirshfields). Although I showed this chair in bright yellow to the homeowners, they were hesitant at first, they weren’t sure they wanted to do something so outside the box. We showed them a number of other chair options but in the end they asked me what I would do and they ultimately took a leap of faith and agreed to the customized chairs in yellow. That frequently happens in design, you show clients your recommendations and then you let them mull it over, digest it and process your suggestions. Hopefully you will arrive at a consensus decision that everyone loves. Having worked with these clients before, they trusted my recommendation and I think the chairs look amazing. We decided to carry the yellow into the laundry room by painting the lower cabinets the same yellow.
Q: Tell me about the antique pieces you worked into this plan which makes it so unique. I noticed a very cool lamp base, the colorful turquoise console, the brass portholes, the glass chandelier in the butler’s pantry and the whimsical fixture in the entryway.
A: The pieces you mentioned are vintage rather than antiques (50 years is the point at which something goes from vintage to antique). 1st Dibs is an online resource I love. The entryway fixture is from Belgium; the Murano glass turquoise chandelier in the butler’s pantry is Italian; the acrylic coffee table in the living room is from France and is from the 1950s; there’s a trunk between a pair of McGuire chairs in the living room that I purchased from a dealer in Paris. I always find great pieces through 1st Dibs.
Many of the other pieces are from some of my favorite vintage stores in Chicago and LA. This includes the turquoise-colored console in the dining room, the gate-legged table in the living room, and a lamp that is made out of a vintage metal squirrel cage that was used at an office building in Chicago. The Clients sourced the vintage portholes used above the console in the dining area and we sprinkled other vintage pieces throughout the home.
In terms of design, I like to create tension. Whether that’s tension in terms of finishes – glossy next to rough – or color, orange against blue, vibrant colors versus dull, old versus new, I love the juxtaposition. I oftentimes start with the vintage pieces to see what is workable and then I find the new pieces to fill in. When a room lacks tension, it gets boring.
Q: Where did you find those amazing paddles that are mounted above the fireplace?
A: When Peterssen/Keller designed the room, they drew the elevation of that wall with 2 paddles forming an “X” above the firebox. They also gave the clients a paddle as a holiday gift. Due to the fact that we already had an “X” in the room in the form of the reclaimed wooden “x” work of art, we decided to include paddles in our design but opted to mount them horizontally. The paddles are by the Sanborn Paddle Company and the top paddle above the fireplace is actually called the Minnetonka Paddle. https://sanborncanoe.com/collections/artisan-painted-paddles
Q: What is hard to see from the photos is the symmetry in the room. The great room is flanked on 2 sides by matching fireplaces and on one end, behind the fireplace, there is a very modern and sleek bar with a cerused wood finish and a polished brass top; on the opposite side of the room there is a butler’s pantry with a colorful striped valance and amazing antiqued brass countertops with the rivets. How did the design of these spaces come about?
A: The design of the first floor provided the opportunity for both the husband and wife to create their own special spaces in the home. The husband wanted a modern, edgy and minimal bar space. Peterssen/Keller designed the bar and Darryl Otto – an artistic genius who lives in Minneapolis – used a shou-sugi-ban technique on the wood and then cerused it.
Q: I love the drapes and the light fixtures in this room. Tell me about them.
A: Our decision to use drapes was driven by the desire to maintain some privacy in that room as the next door neighbors have a direct line of sight into the room. We wanted to do a window treatment befitting a lake home but I wanted it to be somewhat sophisticated. We used a narrow black and white ticking stripe in seersucker. The drapes ended up softening the room just a bit while adding the needed element of privacy and helping the acoustics in the room. We also used a similar fabric (black and cream ticking stripe) on the cushion on the porch swing. The porch can be accessed from the bar area so we wanted to create a flow from one room to another without being too matchy-matchy. As far as the lights above the bar, we used a British company known for it knurling process. (Editors note, I had no idea what knurling was so I looked it up, it is a manufacturing process, typically conducted on a lathe, whereby a pattern of straight, angled or crossed lines is cut or rolled into the material). We wanted something stripped down and funky. When you compare this room to the butlers pantry, which is at the opposite end of the great room, it creates the tension that I love. In the bar you have a paired-down light fixture while in the butler’s pantry we used an ornate chandelier; the bar is more rough while the pantry is more refined, monochromatic in the bar, colorful in the pantry. That is what I mean by building tension into the design. I also wanted to note that the client discovered the photograph behind the bar of a Bondi bath photo by an Austrian photographer named Josef Hoflehner.
For the butler’s pantry – that is all about the wife and her aesthetic. The space is certainly more feminine with glamorous touches. She loves the color blue so we painted the cabinetry a blue that is almost indigo – it reminds me of a dark denim (Benjamin Moore’s “Blue Note”). The cabinet hardware is lucite with gold, the countertops are an antiqued brass with a rivet detail and the long fringe element we added to the bottom of the valance lends a bit of a funky touch. The chandelier adds a little bling and the rug we used in there is by Serena and Lily. I saw the rug in LA and we simply took a larger rug and had it made into 2 separate runners. One for the butler’s pantry and one is used upstairs.
Q: Tell me a little about the kitchen design and the powder room.
A: The cabinetry in the kitchen is highly detailed. It has exposed dovetail joints so you can see where the pieces of wood are fit together. The kitchen table was inspired by antique farmhouse tables. The problem with old farmhouse tables is that they were used as work surfaces and the aprons on these old tables are so low to the floor that you can’t usually fit a chair underneath them. In this case we decided to have a table custom built and we started by sourcing some old reclaimed timber which a local artisan then rendered into a table. We then had Darryl Otto finish it as we didn’t want the surface to be perfectly smooth but we had to avoid the surface having splinters or soft areas. It was important to keep the flavor of the reclaimed wood without overworking it and that can be tricky.
In the powder room – we started with the concept of having an ipe wood slat shower floor. That concept evolved into having ipe wood on 3 walls and the ceiling and Ann Sacks tile on the 4th wall. One of the portholes that you can see in the dining room is also embedded into the wall of the shower. If you’re tall enough and standing in the shower, you can see into the dining room. It does have one-way glass so that people in the dining room can’t see you.
Q: What caused you to lose sleep on this project?
A: The porch swing. The Client wanted the swing to be the size of a twin mattress so he could read and take naps on the porch. The problem is, there isn’t a lot of room front to back, so there was a risk that the swing would bang into the screen behind it. We ultimately solved this dilemma by using a special nautical knot so that the rope hangs straight and wouldn’t provide too much play. The cushion on the swing was a design element that took a while to nail down as well. We ordered the french-mattress style cushion from a woman in Texas and it took nearly 8 months to get it.
Q: Do the homeowners have a favorite thing?
A: They tell me they love the porch.
Q: How would you summarize this project?
A: It is collected and laid-back; well-edited, not cluttered, a mix of old and new.
I love working with these clients. They empower their team. They ask for guidance, and they take the guidance being offered. They offered a vision for this project and they said they wanted something outside the box. They don’t hire someone and then tell them what to do but rather they allow their team of professionals to collaborate. Brainstorming a space together with the Architect and the Builder allows for a much different and cohesive space than if we had worked on this project separately.
Let me know if you have any questions about this amazing project and I will ask Linda. I hope you love it as much as I do. It is an amazing home that is well-designed throughout.