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City Spaces: The woodsy, otherworldly magic of the Wolf House

Photos by Lucy Hawthorne

Photos by Lucy Hawthorne

Artist Lauri Svedberg spent 35 years covering every corner of her Minneapolis home with murals and gemstones, pebbles and paint.

There’s a solarium. A rock path runs through it. It’s like something out of Lord of the Rings. And when Lauri put the home on the market a few years ago, folks who knew it only from the white wolf on its garage finally got to look inside. These days, as a home-slash-studio-slash-Airbnb-slash-event space, this Northeast Hobbit hole has been updated with vintage furniture, new murals, works by local artists, and more.

Check out our photo slideshow for the full tour.

Name: Annette Schiebout
Where: Northeast Minneapolis
How long you’ve owned the house: 4 years

What do you remember feeling the first time you walked through this space?
Woah. I live in Northeast—I’ve lived here since 2005—but I’d never heard of this place. I never came out to this part of the neighborhood, apparently. When I bought it, there were signs out front saying you’re not allowed to enter without a realtor, and there were hundreds of people. It was absolutely crazy. I walked in and was like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know what I would ever do with this place. It is so cool.”

How do you go about adding to or changing a place that already has such a specific sense of self?
That’s what was really difficult for me, was trying to figure out what Lauri built here first. I didn’t meet her even at the closing. I eventually met her—I had a performance in L.A., and I drove out to Palm Springs where she currently lives and met her for the first time. We’ve become very good, close friends since then. She’s referred to me as her daughter who’s taking care of her inheritance, that sort of thing. But I had a lot of people come in and sort of help me figure out what the house was saying before I dumped it with my own stuff, tried to make it my own.

Where do your new purchases come from? Vintage shopping? Local artists?
I love vintage and mid-century modern. Findfurnish and Z Amore down the street—a lot of stuff has come from those places. Patina. Republic Vintage up on Central here. Also the Room and Board outlet, that’s what we’re sitting on, and Target, you know? Function and budget.

I was a consultant to artists for a while, so some of the artwork in here is from former clients of mine. David Quady was a former client—this is one of his portraits, and I’ve got one of his paintings in the hallway down there. Erin Sayer did the mural in the bathtub, that’s her portrait over there in the hallway. Andy Sturdevant at Springboard, he did that poster over there.

Of all the wild stuff in here, my favorite thing might be the little wall of mason jars where people have started leaving trinkets.
I heard that Lauri couldn’t afford to replace a window, so she made her own window out of mason jars. I’m actually having a storm window installed behind it, because it is very drafty during the winter. But Alex Bledsoe is a friend of mine who stayed here, and she was the first person who left -- I think it was a tiny little sail ship, and a cat, and a little note in there. People just kept leaving these little treasures from the universe inside these mason jars. I had a D&D group who met here and left one of their dice. A gentleman who trimmed one of the trees came back for a check and his son was with him, and his son was so enamored by the window, he ran out to the truck and brought me a little finger skateboard so he had a gift to put in there, which I thought was incredibly sweet.

Something that probably gets lost is that while this is a beautiful home, it’s an old home. What are some of the more intense projects you’ve done?
It’s over 100 years old, and I think that’s hard for some people to see when they walk in and they’re like, “It’s a magic space!” It’s still an old building that has mice and cracks and spiders. I love Lauri, I adore her and would never say anything bad about her, but she’s very much an artist and not really a fixer. She had painted both the sink and the toilet, which were impossible to clean. Plus, I love taking a bath, so to get a two-person soak tub is like... if I’m going to stay in a dreamy home, that’s what I want to do when I’m there.

The kitchen counter was glued-on laminate and really hard to clean, the sink was old—that sort of thing. There’s been a lot of surprises where I have had to actually look at the foundation and structure of the house and the function of the house. My dad was an electrician, and I changed out probably 70 percent of the light fixtures. Lighting is really important to me—I’m also a total introvert, and it’s kind of an introvert’s paradise, with lots of little nest-y spots.

And then on top of all that you have this garden, and I bet maintaining it is a pretty much full-time job.
It’s a good 25, 30 hours a week. I enjoy gardening, which is helpful, but it’s kind of never-ending. Especially at this particular time of year, when the vines are going nuts and all this ground cover spreads into the different beds. It’s a lot of work. I’m in the process of putting down landscaping fabric, trying to be able to control that a little more. But it’s such a labyrinth out there—it’s stunning. I was just here gardening last night, and it’s work, but it’s beautiful.

Even walking past, going under the trellis on the sidewalk, it feels dreamy.
I’ve met a lot of neighbors who—they’re walking by with their kids or their dogs by and going, “It’s such a cool little house!” I’m not taking credit for it, you know? But thank you. It’s cool to own and maintain.

It’s probably almost impossible to choose, but do you have a favorite thing about it?
I do get asked that quite a bit. I absolutely love waking up in the bedroom, it’s like the leopard print meshes into the tree branches down the hall. It’s stunning. What a way to wake up. A close second I would say would be the solarium room. Watching the sun set from that room is surreal. That pink couch down there is a Hide A Bed, so I’ve slept down there, and you kind of feel like you’re camping—you can watch the stars and the moon and squirrels. The ceiling of that room is painted as treetops as well. It’s this really beautiful mixture of: You’re in nature, but you’re not. You’re safe. And all winter, too, which is huge.

Especially here in Minnesota.
What’s interesting to me is the house is consistently rented on Airbnb from March until December, and then in January it really slows down. If I didn’t own the house, I would rent the shit out of this place then, because you are alive. It is so life-giving here.