Home Tours 2012

Tour six houses full of creative people and energy for our ninth-annual Home Tours edition.

Home Tours 2012
Photographs by Steve Henke

WE TOURED SIX HOUSES FULL OF CREATIVE PEOPLE and energy for our annual home tours issue. Between meeting busy beer makers and graceful dancers, we found tons of ideas and inspiration from their real lives, real style, and real homes.


Peter and Elizabeth Grande


Elizabeth (Gummy) and Peter Grande with daughter Daisy, son Ford, and dogs Margaux and Whitney in the family room, where old chintz couches (family hand-me-downs) were refreshed with white slipcovers from Target.

ON A MONDAY MORNING, PETER AND ELIZABETH GRANDE are juggling their two kids, Daisy and Ford, and their two dogs while sipping coffee, making bottles, and shuffling beer. Peter’s been up most of the night at the Fulton taproom, where their popular craft beer is brewed onsite and served to fans steps away from Target Field—a major leap from Fulton’s humble start in a Minneapolis garage just three years ago.

When asked if they ever stop and say, “I can’t believe we did this!” Elizabeth smiles and says, “Every day.” Fortunately the couple, who met in junior high in Edina, has most of their family nearby to cheerlead the new business and help mind the kids. “It’s all hands on deck all the time,” Elizabeth says.

Most of the daily chaos is contained on a large table calendar, which notes everything from preschool events to Peter’s whereabouts to nights when Elizabeth will be managing the taproom. At their Edina home (which used to belong to Peter’s parents), they’ve decorated with kids and dogs and entertaining in mind. Recently they hosted a low-country boil for the Fulton Beer family, and there are talks of building a cold room in the basement. Until then, they’re happy kicking back with a cold Sweet Child of Vine and enjoying rare quiet moments together.

We’re Mad For . . .

Antique birdcages found on Etsy
The growler—first drink the beer, then turn it into a vase.
The family calendar, too big to lose.
Peter and daughter Daisy enjoy cold drinks on the front patio. Ford snuggles on his rocking couch backed by a hunting-inspired screen found at a garage sale just days after he was born. The traditional dining room table is a $200 refinished estate sale find, and Elizabeth scored the acrylic Louis ghost chairs on clearance at Macy’s. “They’re super easy to clean,” she says, “but if you’re wearing a skirt, you can slide right off after a cocktail.”


Mauro Porcini and Elisa Padrin


Porcini and Padrin in the open living space with a mix of furniture from Italy, IMS, and Hopkins antiques stores. To create the dining table, Porcini purchased a vintage table, painted it gold, and cut it in half. He combined this with a new, glossy white table, which he also cut in half.

WHEN MAURO PORCINI CAME TO MINNESOTA from Milan to work as the chief design officer for 3M, he and his wife, Elisa Padrin, were well aware that a move to a Midwestern suburb would mean a different kind of life than the one they had in Italy. "If we had lived in the city, we probably would have missed Milan and what it offered, so we focused on the differences, the space, and nature," Porcini says.

The couple moved into a Hopkins rambler, gutted the interior, and made it all white with modern details and angled doorways for their own slice of la dolce vita, complete with a pool out back. When not cooking or watching 3-D movies at home, they’re usually at Butcher Block, Bar La Grassa, or the Walker, where Porcini became a board member, hoping to elevate the Twin Cities on the design map.

Next up for the couple is New York City, where Porcini has recently been named chief design officer for PepsiCo. "We're not leaving because of Minneapolis. I became an advocate for this city," he notes. "We're leaving for a job." Porcini, who will leave a legacy as one of our most interesting transplants, has good advice for others new to town: "Embrace the city, think about everything it can give you that others can't—like the people, the arts scene, and the nature."

We’re Mad For . . .

The front lawn's pink lion, made famous in Fast Company.
Water glasses designed by Alessi, "a good friend."
Shoes: Porcini has 100 pairs, Padrin has 250. The working cuckoo clock, a reminder to not take design too seriously.
A mini pink lion perches on the bookcase.
Porcini drinks espresso in his Walker-like angled doorway, next to a custom espresso cartridge wall rack by Nespresso. Most important to the couple was finding a house with a pool.


Chris Riemenschneider and Michelle LeBlanc


LeBlanc in the loft-bedroom-studio where she spends nearly 30 hours a week buying and shipping dresses, scarves, jewelry, Senegalese baskets, and more to customers across the country.

TURNING AN OUTFIT INTO A ROOM COMES NATURALLY to Michelle LeBlanc. On the day of our shoot, the soft-spoken curator behind online fashion boutique Pretty Mommy is wearing a silk Tucker poppy-print dress, which hits just the right bohemian note against a living room decorated with John Robshaw pillows, vintage furniture, and a Moroccan pouf. Her towheaded daughter Lila, 5, big sister to 1-year-old Louisa, decides to accessorize with a pink puffy tutu and fairy wings. LeBlanc’s husband, Chris Riemenschneider—longtime music critic for the Star Tribune—keeps it casual in jeans and a denim shirt. “I never try to look as cool as the musicians I cover—it’s a losing battle,” he jokes.

The couple met in Austin, Texas, when both were attending University of Texas (she asked him to go see a Nirvana concert—“hard to turn down,” LeBlanc says wryly). When Riemenschneider took a job at the Star Tribune in 2001, the couple headed north and settled into a 1920s bungalow near Minnehaha Creek.

Eight years later, LeBlanc, a former buyer and manager for boutiques, started her Pretty Mommy shop and blog. “I was a stay-at-home mom for two years and was still schlepping around in my ratty cutoffs and nursing tanks, so starting Pretty Mommy was about getting my groove back,” she says. She works out of their loft-bedroom-studio space, which she recently renovated with the help of friend and interior designer Nadia Haddad. With its funky arrow-print accent wall, floral Indian quilt, and open rack of patterned dresses, it captures LeBlanc’s self-described “organic-hippie-pretty-modern-bohemian” style to a T.—Megan Kaplan

We’re Mad For . . .

Louisa’s crib, with sweet writing on the wall above it.
Carefully curated kitchen shelves.

LeBlanc’s style of mixing ferns, succulents, baskets, and candles.
Riemenschneider and Lila playing in the entryway and dancing to the Tangled soundtrack—one of the many albums on his iPod. Louisa and Lila in their playroom, where the picture books are artfully color blocked. The cozy master bedroom takes up the back half of the loft, where every corner is decorated with stacks of books, extra blankets, and beaded tiebacks.Riemenschneider has a 10,000-strong collection of CDs, thousands of records dating back to his early teens, and framed posters of Wilco and The Replacements.


Pam Mondale


Mondale made the shell mirror. She decorated the room with even more shells and a vintage Louis Vuitton trunk from Guild. The sofa previously had a cocoa chenille slipcover, which her college-age daughter generously donated to Goodwill without permission.

INSIDE PAM MONDALE'S STORE, Guild Collective, on Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park, you’ll find an evolving mix of artisan and vintage goods reflecting the creative people who sell them. Likewise, the interior of Mondale’s white Colonial on France Avenue is full of personality. Mondale, who bought the house 20 years ago, says, “I’m not a two-story Colonial kind of girl, so the animal print wallpaper went up in the hallway in 1992.”

Since then, she’s raised three kids and one pug, and now, newly single, her life and home are ever changing. The one constant is her screen porch, her favorite part of the house, where she’s usually found with her friends and coworkers at the end of the day. “These women in Guild have gotten me through this transition and what could have been a difficult time,” Mondale says. “We’re all morphing, experimenting, and growing.”

When it comes to running Guild, which celebrates three years this fall, and decorating at home, Mondale says you have to keep a vision. Hers is bright and eclectic with many things from the store—a place she hesitates to call work. “It’s so cliché, but find something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

We’re Mad For …

An antique head found in China from designer Robb Whittlef.
Antlers from her shop are displayed on animal print wallpaper from Hirshfield’s.
A longtime home perk: 20 years of heights marked on a doorway.
A typical afternoon for Mondale (center) is spent hanging out on the porch and playing Scrabble with friends and coworkers.The screen porch is decorated with garage sale finds, furniture from Guild, and Mondale’s grandmother’s sideboard next to a pass-through window, which is ideal for entertaining or tossing treats to Sammy the pug. The sunroom is done in turquoise, Mondale’s favorite color, which she calls “Grandma B blue,” from childhood memories at her family cottage. The pillows are from Guild.


Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands


Most of the furniture and drapery was purchased from the condo’s previous owner. The couple added rugs, artwork, and rattan floor poufs from IKEA. “We needed a little splash of Scandinavia,” says Uri, left, with son Tre, Toni, and Tackle Box.

FOR TONI PIERCE-SANDS, living in a condo in The Commodore happened “magically” three years ago. As a kid, she visited the former Commodore Hotel’s lobby with her father to listen to his musician friends perform in the art deco bar. The bar closed years ago but will soon reopen to the public as a retro speakeasy, a turn of events that brings her life full circle after leaving home to dance in New York.

Toni met her husband Uri (a Miami native) in New York City when the pair was performing with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. They later moved to Minnesota with their son, Tre, and started their own company, TU Dance, in 2004. Since then, they’ve been named “Artist of the Year” by the Star Tribune and one of “25 to Watch” by Dance magazine, among other accolades. Last year they opened TU Dance Center to teach kids their art. “I started dancing at age 6 and never stopped,” Toni says. “I love that this all happened here in Minnesota—in a place that deserves it,” Uri says.

They’ve fallen in love with their condo and the area around it. After work you might find them strolling Selby Avenue, past where Toni’s grandmother worked at the Urban League, to relax over drinks on W.A. Frost’s patio or at neighborhood haunt The Muddy Pig—their “watering hole.”

We’re Mad For …

A turquoise and red pillow from Patina.
A photograph of the dancing duo.

Toni’s father’s vintage kora.

Coasters of jazz musicians found in Tel Aviv.
The couple dressed the already-there red walls with retro Alvin Ailey dance posters and works by Ernie Barnes and local artist Lorenzo Crockett. Toni and dog Tackle Box in the front hall.


Erin Olson


Behind the scenes in Olson’s home office, where she manages her 12 blogs and affiliate marketing.

When Erin Olson started blogging for fun in 2007, she had no idea that she was building an empire. Now she works full time from home (making more money than she did in her administrative job) to produce 12 shopping and design blogs. Her best known is House of Turquoise, which turned the head of House Beautiful’s editor in chief, who wrote about it in an editor’s letter.

Olson, who got married last spring to engineer Chris Moser, was happy when the couple moved out of his “brown and beige” bachelor pad and into a contemporary Streeter-built house in Excelsior. The nature lovers fell for the wooded setting and roomy deck with a lake view. And Olson indulged her lifelong passion for turquoise. She warmed up the white walls with travel-inspired artwork, driftwood accents, and plenty of blue and green. “Since I was really little, I’ve loved turquoise,” Olson says. “If I went to a store and found something that shade, I’d pick it up.”

These days she’s more discerning about her decorating choices. She takes most of her inspiration from the blogs and magazines she combs daily while working in the skylight-lit office of her very own house of turquoise. “It’s literally a dream come true.”

We’re Mad For …

The bedroom where Spencer the cat pounces on Pine Cone Hill bedding.
An arty “tree root” hat rack from VivaTerra.
A vintage turquoise phone from Moser’s late grandparents. A framed letter from the editor at House Beautiful mentioning House of Turquoise.
In the family room, Olson framed a blue ottoman (a floor model at Crate and Barrel) with new Room & Board couches and side chairs found on Craigslist. The sunny, all-white kitchen gets plenty of punch from the blue accents, including a turquoise KitchenAid mixer and matching blender. The leafy, angled deck offers both an outdoor dining spot and a cozy living area, with a Dash & Albert rug for bare feet.