After photo, courtesy of Barbara Hafften.
When Barbara Hafften was asked to update the governor's residence, she already had an idea in mind, thanks to an ASID fundraiser activity that asked designers to re-imagine one room in the 1006 Summit Ave. mansion. She was chosen for the lower level, and her vision was one of warmth and entertainment. One year later, the Summit Avenue Society—the group responsible for preserving the historic home—came knocking for real.
Hafften recently spoke with Mpls.St.Paul Home & Design about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and how you can craft a room fit for a king (or governor) in your own home.
Mpls.St.Paul Home & Design: What inspired the dream board you created for the ASID fundraiser that would eventually serve as the jumping point for your remodel of the governor's residence?
Barbara Hafften: I was told by the governor's residence staff that the children living there at the time didn't want to use the space because it was dark and uninviting. The goal of my dream board was to make this the "fun" room in which all members of any governor's family would want to use.
MSP: What were some of your biggest priorities to accomplish that goal?
BH: Lighting and space planning. Because this space is in a lower level, it has very little natural lighting. By adding new light fixtures over the pool table and sitting area, and replacing outdated light bulbs with energy efficient LED bulbs, the lighting greatly improved. Choosing a warm yellow for the wall not only brightened the room, but it enhanced the woodwork, too. Furniture placement was tricky since this room has many functions: playing billiards, TV viewing, and [sitting by the] fireplace. By moving the TV out of a large cabinet on one end of the room, it allowed for the furniture to be set up so all areas of the room could easily be accessed.
MSP: This house was built in 1912. What are some of the biggest challenges homeowners will face when trying to update a room that hasn't been restored in more than 10 years, like the lower level of the governor's mansion?
BH: The biggest challenge is to get clients to imagine the space differently than the way it had been for 10 years. Designers are visionaries; we see the potential of spaces. The homeowners need to think about their lifestyles. Do they have a space for entertaining, exercising, working, or a quiet zone? Maybe that room is not being used the way they would like to use it. If the homeowner has not redesigned the space in 10 years, the price of furnishings will also be a challenge.
Before photo, courtesy of Barbara Hafften.
MSP: To prevent that sticker-shock, how do you recommend our readers upgrade their own homes while keeping costs down?
BH: A fresh coat of paint is always a good, economical start. It forces you to take down old artwork or move furniture around that can really change the appearance of a room. I used antique pieces that were refinished and recovered at the governor's residence. I recommend looking at the existing furnishings to see if they can be refinished or just used in a different way. Flat-screen TV's have changed the need for large TV cabinets. They could be reused in bedrooms or offices for storage or turned into liquor cabinets.
MSP: So are the trends leaning toward "what's old is new?"
BH: Repurposing is a big trend right now. This trend is to use rooms or pieces of furniture in a different way, like moving a dresser from a bedroom into a living room to display your favorite photos, or turning your dining room into a home office. Lighting is trendy now, too. It's important to have efficient, energy saving lights, and lamps can add so much style and fun to a room for little cost. Bold colors like turquoise, orange, and lime green are popular. These can be used in pillows, lamps, and area rugs.
MSP: Now that you've got one historic home under your belt, what else do you have your eye on in Minnesota?
BH: I would love to work on a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home. I know there are a few in Minnesota. I had the pleasure of touring Taliesin West a few years ago and have wanted to work with clients that also appreciate his form of architecture.