You know them by name—or by their businesses. Now step inside five homes of local notables to see where they kick up their feet. Get up close with Peter Kirihara of Moose & Gather, Christine Hartman of Holly Hunt, Tom Ryan of Smashburger, and Martha Rossini Olson of Sweet Martha's Cookies.
Growing up, Bruce Erickson and Peter Kirihara had an early exposure to good design: Both of their fathers were professional architects. So when it came to remodeling their own 1940s-era home near Cedar Lake, the couple didn’t have to go far for inspiration and guidance. “When I was 8 or 9, my dad built our home, and I was his little helper,” says Erickson, who brings his design experience with him as a realtor at Coldwell Banker Burnet. Kirihara, co-owner of Moose and Sadie’s, Bev’s Wine Bar, and Jetset, credits his father for helping rework the floorplan to maximize every inch of the 2,400-square-foot, multi-story home.
About 15 years ago, Erickson and Kirihara bought this house and have been remodeling and reworking spaces ever since. The open floorplan now features a just-right-for-entertaining main living area that shares space with the adjoining kitchen and dining room. Glass doors that run the length of one side of the house overlook a pool and infuse the home with natural light. As beautiful as their house is, it’s also functional for the couple’s lifestyle. “To me, it’s all about how you use a space that results in good design,” Kirihara says. For example, the couple recently hosted 16 people for a candlelit, sit-down dinner. “We entertain a lot so it was important to have an open floorplan,” Kirihara says.
The couple’s personality is reflected with meaningful objects and books largely from local shops and their travels. Their eclectic art collection is displayed gallery-style on white and charcoal walls. Brazilian cherry floors, which Erickson and a friend (with some begrudging help from Kirihara) installed, give the home a warm, inviting glow. “Design is all about finding solutions, and Bruce and I have a similar vision for how we want to live,” Kirihara says.
Kristi Berkvam Stratton doesn’t get when decorating trends skew to monochromatic white. “It’s so boring, and I’m a color-holic,” says the affable creative dynamo behind Hunt & Gather.
Since it opened in 2003, Stratton’s oddball-chic vintage emporium in southwest Minneapolis is a mainstay for local shoppers who enjoy the thrill of the hunt, from letter signage and antler mounts to funky furniture and grandma’s cake plates. It’s all arranged with a rock-and-roll edge that rivals any Anthropologie window display. This chaotic visual feast also characterizes Stratton’s 1917 East Harriet bungalow, which she shares with her husband Michael Stratton, a ticket broker (the pair met in the ’80s when he co-owned Urban Wildlife and she co-owned Muddy Waters), and their daughters Grace, 14, and Lyla, 12.
“We use every single inch of the yard and house,” says Stratton, who is all about living inside a “feet-up anywhere” kind of house. She’s layered her home with her one-of-a-kind finds and creative installations—a patchwork of patterned linoleum is stapled on top of a damaged floor, brightly striped serapes are tossed over her furniture, a painted Cub Scout table found at a fair is the kitchen’s centerpiece, and large-scale art is displayed in worn-and-weathered frames.
The self-taught design aficionado clearly believes having fun trumps decorating rules. “I’ll mix any color or pattern and change it from room to room,” she says. “I suppose my house is pretty crazy for some people, but to me, it’s perfect.”
When Christine Hartman and Robert Riesberg—two major forces in the luxury furniture market—married five years ago, their love of traditional décor, fine art, and classic antiques made it easy to comfortably combine their homes.
Hartman, general manager at the Holly Hunt showroom, says she was immediately taken by Riesberg’s picturesque estate on Sunfish Lake. “It feels like Connecticut here,” Hartman says. The property features a white Federal-style main house, a lakefront cabin, and ample storage for Riesberg’s inventory of 17th-, 18th-, and early 19th-century antiques.
Blending business and pleasure comes naturally for the couple, who frequently travel internationally: Riesberg personally sells antiques to clients worldwide. Hartman often joins her husband on trips to buy items, like to Paris for example, where the two attend the Maison & Objet design show. “I’m on a plane about three times a month and Christine often comes with me,” Riesberg says.
Even with Riesberg’s background in fine antiques, he says anyone on any budget can create a tastefully decorated home. He makes a point of buying pieces and providing price points that don’t generate sticker shock for beginner clients. “What you want is that one gem in every room, that very unique thing that money can’t buy.”
There’s a fine line between a character-rich house that’s spacious enough for entertaining and a home that’s too much maintenance. But Smashburger founder Tom Ryan and his wife, Jody, struck the perfect balance by finding historic mansions that had been remodeled into condominiums in both cities where they divide their time—Denver (where Smashburger is headquartered) and Minneapolis (where the couple met 28 years ago).
“Finding these mansions that were converted into condominiums is a great way for us to have everything we love architecturally, as well as a great scape of space so we can entertain,” Tom says.
Their Minneapolis condo includes the main floor and a portion of the second, about a third of the historic 5,000-square-foot residence near Lake of the Isles. “The main floor is perfect for entertaining, and we like that it doesn’t have seven bedrooms,” Jody says. In fact, one of the couple’s favorite spaces to be is in the kitchen. “It’s very social—we just added a Sonos, so it’s a great place to cook, eat, drink, and chat,” Tom says.
And while he describes their empty-nester lifestyle as modern, the house is anything but. Built in 1914, between the eras of Tudor opulence and the Arts and Crafts movement, the mansion’s architectural details caught the Ryans’s attention. “We fell in love with the craftsmanship,” Jody says. “The first floor is just magic,” Tom adds.
The plaster and woodwork throughout remind the antique lovers of a manor home from a bygone era. “One of our favorite places to travel is Scotland, and when we walked into this house, it struck a chord with us,” says Tom. “It felt like home.”
The kitchen is often the hub of the home. But for Martha Rossini Olson, her kitchen was also the hub of her business, Sweet Martha’s Cookies, which launched 36 years ago and is a State Fair staple.
Olson and her husband, Gary, were just settling in to their Highland Park “starter house” when they got the call that their application for a cookie stand at the State Fair was accepted. The couple, along with friends and business partners Brenda and Neil O’Leary, who had hoped to open a booth for their Hennepin Avenue frozen yogurt shop, submitted a cookie application on a whim since their Famous Amos–style yogurt toppings were a popular seller. “I hung up the phone and basically screamed because we hadn’t done much homework on cookies,” she says.
With fewer than three weeks until the fair, the duo transformed their two-bedroom home into the makeshift headquarters for Sweet Martha’s Cookies. “We worked nights and weekends—I was testing to find the perfect combination of our mothers’ recipes while the guys were hammering away in the yard building the booth,” she says. The result, as any Minnesotan knows, is a cookie company that now churns out 24,000 cookies in 12 minutes during the 12-day fair. That’s up from the 200 cookies per 12 minutes they produced when they started.
“We’re an expansion story,” Olson says. “We moved our stand six times before landing where we are today.” And while the couple had no problem getting bigger spaces for their business, they couldn’t quite part from where it all began: their home.