Incredible ‘50s time capsule home in St. Paul keeps the mid-century dream alive

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne

You’ve never met anyone more dedicated to a theme than Eva Johnson.

Her closet is filled with mid-century dresses and jewelry and shoes. Her wedding was 1950s-themed. And her home in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul is like stepping into a time capsule, equal parts softness and quirk, like Mamie Eisenhower shaking hands with John Waters. There’s a hair dryer beauty chair, a Vitamaster belt massager, a pine-paneled basement, and a Mamie-approved pink kitchen. It’s a vintage dream come true.

Check out our slideshow for the full tour.

Who: Eva Johnson and Jay Slattery
Where: Como neighborhood of St. Paul
How long you’ve lived here: Almost four years

So did the house inform the style? Or did you have a vision and try to find a home that fit?
I think I was attracted to the house because of its style. I bought it from the children who grew up here. There were six kids and two parents who lived here. The dad lived here last and he passed away and then the kids sold it. They were really emotional to sell it. I promised I would take really good care of it.

All the curtains came with the house and I left them all up. And once I saw the knotty pine basement, I was like “Sold.” I always liked the retro look, but as a homeowner, I got really into it. It became this whole new hobby of going to thrift stores and extending it to getting an old car and an old boat and everything to go along with it.

What's your favorite thing about your space?
The open dining room to living room. The house is small, but I can host a lot of people for parties because of the open space. The other thing is that there are three different levels so for a tiny house you can still get separation.

What's your least favorite thing about your space?
No main floor bathroom and we have a shared driveway.

Trend you love:
There’s a movement right now called Save the Pink Bathrooms and I love it. Yes! Save the pink bathrooms! It’s so painful to see people rip those out and just go all beige with everything.

Trend you hate:
I really hate those wall decals with inspirational quotes.

Where do you shop?
Almost everything in here is from Craigslist or a thrift store. I go to a thrift store on Rice and Larpenteur and then this big one on the East Side called Valu Thrift. I might also look at Habitat for Humanity ReStore for some fixtures, like a new sink for the bathroom upstairs.

How much have you done to the space since you moved in?
Not a whole lot. We painted the dining room blue and the kitchen pink. We replaced the carpet in the living just because it was old, but it was fairly similar to this. In the dining room, we took up the carpet and refinished the wood floors. And then upstairs we retiled the bathroom floor and walls. We wanted to do a pink bathroom but everyone warned us against it for when we want to resell because they said no one wants a pink bathroom.

If you had the budget, what else would you do?
[Laughs] I would love to make a pink bathroom. I’d probably do it in the basement to make that space more usable. The materials are expensive to do a pink bathroom because they’re almost custom-made. You can’t just go to Home Depot and get them.

Speaking of pink, what is it like to cook in a pink kitchen?
Everyone asks if Jay was mad at me for the pink kitchen, since he’s the main cook in the family. But it doesn’t bother him at all. He’s been a really good sport. He doesn’t get into it as much as I do but he’s also my wing man for all the Craigslist pickups and stuff.

Something about that kitchen makes me want to eat a lot of pastries. Like if I tried to cook anything in there, it would just always come out as a cake.
And neither of us is into baking!

What do you like to show off most in your home?
I’ve finally completed my wall of presidents. I found a Walter Mondale plate and a certificate for a flag that was flown at the White House.

I like that you’ve included Obama in your mid-century mix.
Yes! My husband’s from a very small town, a very conservative area, and he was like, “Now my friends won’t want to go upstairs and go to the bathroom.” Oh well. Loud and proud!

What else? What about this couch? It really does feel like we’re in Graceland with that couch.
Yeah, that was one of the first things I bought. I didn’t know what look I was going with, so I brought a friend along when I was shopping and was like, “Does this look so ridiculous and cheap and tacky?” It was a President’s Day Sale so it was like $1,000 off so I was like, “Eh, fuck it, I’m just going to do it.”


You’ve even got these old-school matchbooks in the ashtray!
Yeah, I grew up on the east side of St. Paul and these were our hangouts. I was excited when I found those. The old stomping grounds!

What's your best memory here?
I closed on this house on a Friday and the next day I met my future husband. We started dating and the early part of our relationship was all about us in this house. We got ready for our wedding in this house. The other thing is that I host my dad’s side of the family here for Thanksgiving and we have 15 people all in here. It was my first adult responsibility. We have a tradition of watching a movie after the meal and so it’s nice to have everyone all sit on this couch together.

What does your family think of your whole aesthetic?
I think they’re used to me being distinctive. I’ve always dressed like a weirdo. I was called Gaga for a while because I always used to wear wigs and masks. The first time I met Jay I was wearing a pink wig. A sober middle-aged woman asked me if I was doing drag. [Laughs] I was like, “Actually, no I’m trying to holler at that guy.”

Well it worked!
Yeah, even though we’re different, we’ve come into this exciting, creative thing together.


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