Photography by Wing Ta
Much of the living room is outfitted with pieces from Room & Board outlet, and plenty of Botsman's black and white accents, from striped and Ikat pillows to tailored Roman shades.
When Nicole Botsman and Luc Bondar moved 8,998 miles across the world from Sydney, Australia, to Minneapolis for Bondar’s job with Carlson Companies, they decided to rent a townhouse downtown to get familiar with the city before investing in a home.
Living in a rental was a smart idea in more than one way: It also helped Botsman realize what she didn’t want when it came to décor. “Every room in the place was painted a different color, which I wasn’t used to,” says Botsman in her thick Aussie accent. “In Australia, homes are more minimal—white walls are the norm—and since there are no seasons, people tend to decorate with what works year round.”
And so does Botsman, who prefers a minimal palette, particularly the contrast of black against white, with wood accents. Mix that with glamorous strokes—bold stripes, animal prints, lots of lucite—and the creative whimsy that young kids bring to the table, and that’s Botsman’s multilayered design sensibility. It’s a look she’s honed over the past six years of working on the four-square 1913 home she and Bondar, who is now a senior VP with Aimia Inc., eventually bought near Lake Calhoun just before they started having kids.
Unpainted door moldings (seen in the dining room and the entry way) keep the character of the original house. Botsman gave the dining room a midcentury look with a George Nelson pendant light and white Tulip chairs surrounding the dark wood table.
“Sofas get climbed on, pillows end up on the floor, and that has to be OK,” says Botsman, who is raising their brood of three—Finn, 5, Tessa, 3, and Zara, 23 months—while running Dezaar Interiors, her new home design business, which launched in September. Formerly a Target buyer, Botsman left corporate life when Tessa was a baby, but kept herself happily consumed with home projects on the side—a snowball effect that led to a major home remodel as well as a gazillion smaller ones: trompe l’oeil sticker tiles that stand in for the real deal, painted navy trim overlays to amp up the kids’ IKEA dresser, and so on.
“I first fell in love with this process while decorating the kids’ nurseries, and then friends started asking me to help with theirs. I thought, Wouldn’t it be refreshing to do something that I really love?” In the room Finn and Tessa share, she divided the mixed-gender space by placing a pink rug and a blue rug next to each other to create a side for each kid, with a sheepskin down the middle as a pseudo divider. A wall map and photo of Bondi Beach by Gray Malin add sophistication and a reminder of home.
Botsman says it took her a long time to realize that she’s a creative person, which is hard to believe when seeing her creative fingerprints on every square inch of the house. She’s a deal shark (“I go to Homegoods at least once a week and always find something.”) and mixes high and low furnishings and fabrics with tenacity. She’s also something of a DIY savant. Most all of the abstract art that appears from room to room she made herself—“I see art and then I think ‘I can do that,’” she says with a shrug, while pointing out a bold black cross print she made by taping off stretched canvas.
The Botsmans decided to dig down to the basement level when they added onto the house to give them enough room to create a sizable playroom for their kids. Decked out with a giant chalkboard wall and an IKEA couch clad in a custom-striped slipcover, the room allows plenty of space for indoor antics. Zara’s nursery has a quiet sophistication with its soft neutral palette, an accent wall covered in wallpaper from Anthropologie, and a chic, modern crib.
The designer got her feet wet with construction when the couple hired architect Carl Gramentz and Zehnder Constructions to bump out the back of the house and build an 18-by-18-square- foot addition on three levels, incorporating a generous light-filled kitchen, a basement playroom, and a master suite on the second floor. “The design work is all by me,” says Botsman, who thought through every detail—the against-trend walnut wood island (“We both grew up with wood kitchens.”), the French doors out onto the patio (“So the kids can play while I’m getting dinner ready.”), and the gas fireplace in the master bedroom which is flanked by upholstered bench seats (“I wanted it to feel like a luxury hotel.”).
Seeking IMS-level experience in the field, Botsman took on internships with business women she admires—Brenda Scherping Westphal with Scherping Westphal and Mary Hickey with Mary Hickey Interiors. Under their tutelage, she learned the ins and outs of upholstery fabrics versus pillow fabrics, pulling presentations together, and invoicing clients. “I would purposely ask myself, ‘Do I like this enough to do this for free?’” Botsman says. “The answer was yes. I loved every minute.” That’s how she knew opening her business was the next step.
Casa Verde helped map out the new light-filled kitchen. Botsman outfitted the rest, from the globe pendants to the upper glass cabinets that show off some of her dish collection. Nicole used a section of Thibaut’s Tanzania wallpaper to add a graphic element to her built-in kitchen desk.
Still, says Bostman, “I’m not a designer by training so I’m not constrained by all the rules out there. She named her company Dezaar Interiors as a combination of “design” and “bazaar”—a reference to finding something really great in the maze of home goods. Working outside the lines gives her a certain freedom and flexibility that she’s figuring out as she goes, as she did with her home, which she often walks potential clients through to give them a sense of her style and the possibilities for what they can do together.
“The challenge when I first thought of this business is that I didn’t have a portfolio of my own, so I made the decision that my house would be my portfolio, and that I would invest time and money to decorate it in a manner reflective of my style,” Botsman says, adding cheekily, “With some deference to my husband!”
“I think coming from Australia gives me a different spin, too,” says Botsman. “The delineations between inside and outside are more fluid and that’s reflected in the way we design and entertain.” For this transplant who craves that indoor-outdoor flow, Minnesota winters can be tough, even after 10 years here. But her kids have acclimated. “The other day, Finn said to me, ‘I love winter, mum.’ It was so cute. But I’m like, ‘Well. It’s not my favorite. Though there are aspects of it I’ve really grown to love.”