Home is where the hygge is.
Especially if your home looks like a perfect North Shore retreat, bright and cozy, with a wood fire crackling and a blueberry galette in the oven. Shauna O'Brien redesigned and renovated her north Minneapolis house to be an ideal place for that Danish practice of enjoying simple pleasures -- or partaking in another Nordic tradition, Shauna's favorite, the Swedish fika: a cup of coffee, a sweet treat, and a break from the day.
Be sure to check out our photo slideshow for the full tour.
Who: Shauna O'Brien
Where: North Minneapolis
How long you've lived here: A year and a half
What’s your favorite thing about your space?
The tiny Morsø (Danish wood-burning stove). The living room originally had a fireplace that was listed as "wood-burning," but the inspection revealed that it was never operational. There wasn't even a flue. But I realized the space was better suited for a wood stove, which I prefer in any case.
So you ripped out the fireplace?
I had the fireplace surround torn out. Some of the bricks were broken or missing, but I wanted to leave it exposed. Serendipitously, a handful of those same bricks were discovered buried in the floor underneath the hearth, so we used them to patch the chimney. Now the stove has a cool backdrop.
What’s your least favorite thing about your space?
The windows. This is a 1928 Tudor Revival. Historically, it would have had wood, divided-lite windows. At some point they were replaced with low-quality, single-pane, vinyl windows. They're all wrong for the architectural style and Minnesota winters. During the remodel I replaced the kitchen and pantry windows ... so two down, 20 to go.
When you were shopping, what sold you on this house?
This is my forever house. When I saw it I was like, "I'm gonna be buried in the backyard." I never thought I could afford an English Tudor. You put this in south Minneapolis and it's a $400,000 house. So it was a space that I could afford and then I could afford to put money into it and remodel the way I wanted.
Trend you love:
Dismantling rigid design styles! Fifteen years ago in design school I was told to pick a style and stick to it. Currently, there is a widespread embrace of eclectic design; a rejection of adhering to strict rules and restrictions, and simply creating spaces you love being in. This doesn't mean anything you do with a space will work well -- there are still fundamental elements to consider -- it just means personalities are multi-dimensional and your personality should inspire your space.
It's difficult to really hate something because it likely won't last long. Before online design-based communities like Pinterest, Etsy, and Instagram were available, trends took a while to influence the general public. Now trends sweep the community as quickly as they change. There's nothing wrong with drawing inspiration and taking cues from one another, but living authentically and with intention is paramount. Surround yourself with things you truly love, trends be damned.
Where do you shop?
My house is a mixed bag. Many pieces are from antique shops, occasional sales, and thrift stores. I love vintage, handmade items because they have history. American Gothic in Stillwater is a favorite as well as Secondhand Rose, Buffalo Nickel, and Hunt & Gather. The Foundry and Golden Rule are a delight. For ancillary items and kitchenware I shop Homegoods. You can buy a Le Creuset baking dish for $20! I also shop Etsy regularly. I get all my antique rugs on Etsy.
Are they affordable?
Yeah. I mean, this one [points to living room rug] was probably ... $300?
And it's like an 80-year-old handmade rug.
I'm sorry I yelled "shut up" at you, I'm just amazed. Rugs are so expensive!
No, that's how I feel when I'm online! I'm seeing these deals and I'm like, "Shut up! Order!"
You mentioned "occasional sales" -- what are those?
There's probably five to seven shops out there that once a month, the first Thursday through Sunday they open their doors and people just go crazy. They go in and raid all their good stuff. And then the stores close shop and use that time to go to other antique dealers and get pieces; sometimes they go and find pieces in an alley and refinish them so they're still affordable but repurposed.
You've already done so much to the house, but if you had the budget, what would you do next?
Finish the attic! It's high-priority on the remodeling list. The attic and the veranda are my favorite existing spaces in the house. The attic runs the entire length of the house and has a cathedral ceiling. I fantasize about wide plank pine floors and white v-groove wall paneling. And a hammock.
What do you like to show off most in your space?
Definitely the pantry. It's a real charmer. The space was originally a larger breakfast nook with built-in benches. I didn't need another seating area, but I did desperately want a walk-in pantry. I had the walls furred out to create a narrow, arched opening, added vintage-inspired wallpaper, and lined it with shelving. The interior window was purchased a decade ago from an occasional sale. It took me that long to find a home for it.
I also love entertaining, and this [living room, dining room, kitchen] area is really open and conducive to entertaining. I can cook while people hang out or watch TV. The veranda is magical in the summertime. Vines crawl up the outside. It's like a secret garden out there.
What’s your best memory here?
I recently threw a party celebrating the importance of women and friendship, and brought together my best girlfriends from various friendship circles. It was a come-as-you-are-happiest party, which meant they showed up in everything from formal gowns to jeans and sweaters. The night was pure celebration. We laughed so hard our faces hurt, we made speeches and told stories, we happy-cried, ukuleles came out and we sang, and yes, we drank all the wine. That's what home means to me: an inviting space that holds the people and treasures I love.
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