Vanessa Vander Weide says the word "whimsy" makes her dry heave.
But we can't help it: Her south Minneapolis abode is all delight and whimsy, with art painted directly on the walls, words on the steps leading up to a cozy attic nook, and a Harry Potter mannequin flying from the vaulted ceiling. A pink trailer parked out front completes the one-of-a-kind home, a clear expression of the fun and creative spirit of its owner.
Be sure to check out our slideshow for the full tour.
Who: Vanessa Vander Weide
Where: Ericsson, South Minneapolis
How long you've lived here: 11 years in September
Because of the size of the house, I’m obsessed with cabins. I’ve always wanted my house to have a cozy, comfortable feel. But I also want it to be aesthetically pleasing, stylish. I love color, patterns, texture, but I hate clutter. So it’s a fine balance. When you have as many animals as I do and the manic taste that I do, how do you balance it? I want to capture the function of the room, but also how I want people to feel in it, and how I want to feel in it.
How do you want people to feel in your house?
Instantly comfortable! That’s the biggest compliment you could give me.
One way you've played with the function of a room is with the TV room. Tell us more about that.
The TV room used to be a closet. But I wanted to make it a place where my neighbor kid could play and hang. I wanted it to look like Kevin Arnold’s bedroom when he’s sick and playing video games. It’s the feel-good room.
Favorite thing about your space:
One of the things that has kept me in the house this long is the view. The fact that I’m across from this field, coupled with the fact that I have a decent sized backyard and then the neighborhood itself. I get to take all of it in from inside the house. Once I widen the windows it’s only going to get better. I'll have a south-facing window that doesn’t look straight into my neighbor’s house.
Least favorite thing about your space:
The things I like are also the things I don't like about it. It’s really crooked. You can’t avoid it when you’re inside. Cabinet doors don’t stay shut, all the cat toys wind up in one corner. But I also kind of like that. I live in a crooked house. It’s like a nursery rhyme. It’s annoying but as long as it’s structurally sound, I like it.
Trend you love:
There was a home for sale in Golden Valley recently and everything matched. It was amazing. That was my heaven.
Trend you hate:
I like the idea of minimalism, but I don’t like it for me. I would feel like I was in a strait jacket.
Best memory here:
It’s gotta be something centered around a party. I love throwing a party. Usually in the summertime, I love my backyard and any party I’ve had back there has been a good memory. We used to have parties until 6 a.m. There’s a patio, a fire pit, an outdoor movie screen. Last fall, I did a Halloween movie night every weekend in October. It was so fun and people are already asking if I’m doing it again this year. That gives me a really good feeling that people see this as a place to hang out.
What's one item you like to show off in your home?
The wall art. Not just my own but all of it. I was raised with really cool parents who let me paint on my walls as a teenager. My parents have always given support to any creative energy we had. Now I do that in my own house. That would make it really hard to sell the house because I’d have to leave that behind.
Other art on my walls is by people I care about. All the art has meaning. I love that I know everything about it.
On the way upstairs, there is a Harry Potter mannequin hanging from the ceiling. Please explain.
I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. I have a Harry Potter tattoo. I just got back from Harry Potter World this spring. This is the mannequin from a Harry Potter-themed Christmas window in downtown Minneapolis. I met a producer who is also a huge Harry Potter fan and she was able to acquire the dummy. It's Harry flying on a broomstick and trying to catch a snitch. For a while it was living in a closet under the stairs at her house, which is funny. She didn't know what to do with him, so she gave him to me. It’s just nice for me to have these childlike aspects, these little touches of humor.
Where do you shop?
The last time I redecorated, I got rid of all the furniture and started from scratch. I had very specific size requirements and design requirements based on how the rooms were going to be used. I wound up really lucking out at this store at 38th and Chicago called Covet. They do both design pieces, so brand new, and consigned pieces. Most of my stuff is from their design side. I’ve also found amazing things at Findfurnish in Northeast and Succotash in St. Paul and Hunt & Gather at 50th and Xerxes. Most of it has come from Covet but I also look at the vintage stores around town.
If you had the budget, what you would do to your space:
I’ve been wanting to re-landscape the front yard since I put so much energy in the back yard. I would put up a retaining wall to get rid of the hill. I’d build on the cottage/cabin aesthetic. I’d also love to have a bigger kitchen, take out some walls to get more space. I’d love to redo the floors to make them darker. I would reshape the roof so that the top floor had picture windows overlooking the whole golf course.
So building further on that cabin/camping style, how long have you had your trailer?
Two years this summer. I bought my trailer about a month or two after a six-week road trip in which I lived out of my car. When I was in Wyoming I met a couple that had a teardrop trailer and I thought, “Well that’s nice. They have a kitchen. And a bed.” I was sleeping with two dogs in my car. I thought, "Look at all this space. If I had this I could actually stand when getting dressed and not wiggle into my clothes like a worm."
Where did you find it?
My parents had an RV which was great but I didn’t want an engine to maintain. But someone I worked with knew someone selling their 1963 Shasta. It needed some cosmetic work, but I made an offer, he accepted, and it was a quick process.
Her name is Cassie’s Canned Ham. This style of trailer is known is canned ham because of its shape. It’s common for trailers to have names, more often than not painted on the side. I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I will.
My grandmother’s name is Cassie, her favorite color was pink, and she had pet pigs. It just clicked. It punched me in the face. It was perfect.
There are a lot of nods to my grandmother inside the trailer. There’s a cutting board shaped like a pig that was my grandmother’s. Lots of stuff that my mom brought from my grandparents’ house after they passed away.
What's your next planned trip with Cassie?
Well, I took her to Florida around Christmas and it was really fun but I found out Cassie’s got some leaks that have created some mold issues. I have found someone to take a look and see how extensive the damage is. I don’t want to buy another camper. This is Cassie. There won’t be a Cassie #2. If she has to be gutted and renovated, then it’s custom-designed. I can get rid of the stove and put in the wet bar. Because I love camping with alcohol.
Who doesn't? Okay, one more thing that's been driving us crazy. What does PTTWFYG stand for?
It’s a Joan Jett reference. It came about during the movie The Runaways. I am an unapologetic Kristen Stewart fan. I have her name tattooed on my arm. I actually have it twice. Because I met her and she saw it on my arm and signed her name right below it. So I got that tattooed, too.
Anyway Kristen Stewart was asked if Joan Jett had any tips for her when she was playing the role. She said Joan didn’t like the way she played the guitar and told Stewart her motto for how to play it right: "Put your pussy to the wood and fuck your guitar."
Now when I play Rock Band, I play like Joan Jett would want me to play. That was a good summary of women in rock at that time. How do you bring your energy to match the stage presence of men playing music? It’s about staking your claim in whatever world you’re in.