Photos by Eliesa Johnson
Inside a chef's home
At work, they have fully stocked kitchens that make the gourmands among us swoon, but what about when these foodies are off the clock? Here, the tastemakers behind Salty Tart, Dogwood Coffee, and Blue Plate Restaurant Company share a peek inside their homes.
Blue Plate Restaurant Company: Stephanie Shimp
Even if you’ve never heard of Stephanie Shimp, you’ve undoubtedly sat down for a meal at one of her eateries. Her business, Blue Plate Restaurant Company, owns Groveland Tap, Edina Grill, The Freehouse, The Lowry, and the State Fair’s Blue Barn, among others.
The name of the company, which Shimp co-founded with David Burley, was inspired by a short-lived business venture in Red Wing, and even though the Blue Plate Café was only open for two years, the name stuck. “We’re blue collar, blue chip, meaning you’re successful in the stock market,” she says. “And then there’s the whole blue ribbon thing, like award-winning or first place.”
It’s a philosophy on color that has followed Shimp to her Minneapolis home that she shares with her two kids, Ruby, 11, and Vincent, 9. Nearly every room on the main level of her 1915 home is a shade of blue—an intentional decision she made with the help of late designer Barbara Fogel when she moved in seven years ago.
“The restaurant business can be pretty frenetic, fast-paced, and pretty chaotic,” Shimp says. “When I come home, I want to leave work. And this palette gives me that feeling of calm and peace.”
But her home, nestled in the Kenwood neighborhood, is far from bland. When you walk through the vibrant red front door, a pink dining room table greets you on the right, while orange curtains and zebra-print chairs beckon on the left. Rather than succumb to matchy-matchy décor, Shimp allows the wall color to act as a neutral backdrop, filling the space with pieces that make the home “come alive with pops of color.”
Shimp chose the multicolored rugs in the living room and dining room with designer Alecia Stevens in the ’90s. “I’m more about style than I am about fashion or what's trendy,” Shimp says of her style.
Over the years, she’s amassed tables, chairs, light fixtures, armoires, and rugs from International Market Square and IKEA to flea markets and Craigslist. Although it’s a “hodgepodge,” Shimp emphasizes the importance of investing in great pieces that tie her self-described artsy-eclectic style together and last a lifetime.
Today Shimp spends much of her time acting as the face of the 23-year-old Blue Plate brand. When she’s not working—or entertaining—Shimp enjoys drinking coffee in the living room, playing piano with her daughter in the music room, or cooking in the home’s original kitchen. She loves how the circular floor plan made it so her kids were never too far away—and made it easy for them to run around when they were younger—but acknowledges it’s time for some renovations. “It would be my dream to open up the kitchen to the music room, and then have a mudroom and more direct access to the backyard,” says Shimp, who has done nothing more than paint, upgrade light fixtures, and replace carpet with hardwood floors. “I’m trying to find the right balance. I like the feel of the house. I don’t want to add a box onto the back of it. That doesn’t appeal to me—aesthetically or design-wise.”
Dogwood Coffee: Dan and Angela Anderson
When you’ve perfected the art of the neighborhood coffee shop, designing your own kitchen is easier said than done. Just ask Dan Anderson, co-founder of 5-year-old specialty coffee roaster Dogwood Coffee, and his wife Angela. The two moved, with their 1-year-old son, into their St. Anthony Park Tudor nearly 10 years ago. After two more babies and nine years of settling in, they decided to renovate their inefficient kitchen. “The house was built in 1916 but it hadn’t been updated since the 1960s,” says Angela, cringing at the memory of the fluorescent light–filled space. “The kitchen was really unfortunately ugly, but everything worked.” And while reworking the existing footprint of the room was always on their honey-do list, other projects, such as a new roof and a total remodel of their basement, found a way to take priority. “Every time we were going to have a baby, we did a big update,” she says. Now, the mother of three boys—4, 7, and 10—couldn’t be happier she put off the redesign of what she and Dan refer to as “command central.” “We hadn’t lived life long enough to know what we wanted in a floor plan,” she says.
When they finally decided to enlist the services of custom design house Casa Verde, the couple knew they wanted a space that could accommodate their family of five at busy meal times, which made the design process easier. “The flow made it super hard to have five people in here at dinnertime,” Dan says. “Three of the four walls have pathways to other rooms.” The renovation, which left the family surviving on a toaster oven for four months, flipped the entire layout of the kitchen, opening the space so that both parents can cook—and Dan can make his precious coffee—while the kids do homework in the corner nook. It also created storage space for all the “essentials” to be put away. “If you take everything out of a room for four months and don’t use it, you’re forced to re-evaluate what you want and don’t want in it,” says Angela. Space had to be made for Dan’s “at-home” coffee gear—not everyone has a scale, electric grinder, hand grinder, and brewer—but to keep the clutter to a minimum, the couple made changes like reducing their coffee-mug collection to fit on a single shelf.
(Below) When Casa Verde flipped the layout of the kitchen, they framed the space around the existing window above the sink, making it a bright focal point and one of Dan’s favorite elements of the room. Angela selected a dark gray finish for the island to add another visual punch. “I wanted it to feel more like a piece of furniture,“ she says. “Both the island and the built-in bench in the corner offer us a place where we can all hang out together.“
The clean, clutter-free, white aesthetic also offered a nice contrast to the soapstone countertop that both agreed was a must for the redesigned space. Angela worked with Joan Harris Interior Design to layer textural elements, such as a rich blue cotton fabric from Fabricut showroom to the dining nook and metallic pendant lights from Visual Comfort. Floor-to-ceiling hand-distressed subway tiles in a light gray finish and three-dimensional pictures from West Elm round out the favorite morning hangout. “Now our family loves to be in that room,” Dan says. “It feels light, and bright, and fresh, and fun. It’s just a setting you want to be in.”
Salty Tart: Michelle Gayer and Raoul Benavides
For a full year after moving into their Linden Hills home, the green sofa was the only thing that occupied the living room. With the help of photo stylist friend Jim Goulet, Michelle and Raoul filled the space with pieces, like the acrylic chairs from MartinPatrick 3, that reflect the modern-yet-comfortable vibe they want to achieve.
You would think the owner of a bakery would spend most of her free time whipping up new creations in her home kitchen. That’s not the case for Salty Tart owner Michelle Gayer, who has several James Beard Award nominations and was named the best pastry chef in the country by Bon Appétit magazine.
“I think I’ve baked cookies with my kids once. We do more savory cooking here,” Michelle says of her and her fiancé, Raoul Benavides, owner of Flashlight Photorental and the record shop Flashlight Vinyl. “He’s an amazing cook. He’ll make grilled oysters, cassoulet, mussels—when we first started dating, he asked if I would like to come over for dinner. I thought to myself, ‘Good luck!’”
Two years later, in the summer of 2014, the couple moved to Linden Hills. After spending two months bouncing between a Best Western and Raoul’s mom’s home, they fell in love with a house for its outdoor living area, low maintenance, and walking distance to school for 14-year-old Isabel and 13-year-old Ava, Michelle’s children from a previous relationship. “This one really spoke to us,” she says. “It was manageable. I wasn’t looking for some huge house. I felt like we could live here and build lots of memories.”
To celebrate the first anniversary of their move, Raoul skipped the traditional paper present and surprised Michelle with something, or rather someone, much more useful: Jim Goulet, a friend and photo stylist who was tapped to bring Michelle’s vision for the home to fruition. “There wasn’t a home makeover we needed to do,” says Goulet, referring to the home’s strong existing structure. It was “move-in ready,” another reason the house was so appealing to them, adds Michelle, who relied on Goulet to inject her and Raoul’s personalities into their living spaces.
“Raoul is a little more modern and wants everything to look buttoned up, like a museum,” Michelle says. “I wanted a comfortable vibe. I don’t want people to come over and feel like they have to take off their shoes or don’t know where to put their drink down.” The juxtaposition between their two styles can be seen throughout—a green velvet sofa pops amidst white walls and clean lines; a furry ottoman and rug provide contrast to the acrylic chairs; metallic accents are balanced by vintage pieces, like the red record player in the dining room.
Though to this couple, it’s not about what’s in the home; it’s about how they live in it. Michelle may not be baking cookies with her kids in the kitchen, but she and Raoul love to entertain in the dining room, featuring an eclectic mix of modern and traditional seating around a clean white table. But once the dishes are cleared and the partygoers have left, Michelle loves nothing more than to relax in the living room. “I’m in there every day,” she says. “For family meetings in front of the fireplace, to go through mail, to unwind for 10 minutes at the end of the day. It’s where Raoul and I have coffee together every Sunday morning.”