Photography by Wing Ta
Photographer Laura Ivanova stuck to whites and neutrals for her Northeast Minneapolis rambler, with one exception: her living room, which is painted Marina Isle by Behr.
Only a particularly creative person would be able to see the potential in a foreclosed 1950s rambler, plagued with a moldy basement, linoleum flooring, and dark woodwork that closed off the 850-square-foot home. But when photographer Laura Ivanova and her husband, Tony, saw the Northeast Minneapolis residence seven years ago, they knew it would be a labor of love. “We could look beyond all that and see the potential,” says Ivanova, who has a degree in architecture and interior design from North Dakota State. “The lighting was really nice; it just needed a bit of a facelift.”
The graphic designer-turned-wedding photographer put her expertise to the test by gutting the basement and tearing down a wall on the main floor to make the living and dining rooms feel more open. She added new flooring and bright-white trim to accentuate the light that streamed from the main window in the front of the home. “I work with natural light, so I love the look of white, bright spaces and clean, simple backdrops,” she says. “My photographer’s eye is drawn to that.”
And while her design aesthetic can only be described as minimalistic—“with only 850 square feet to work with, we don’t have anything in the house that we don’t use,” she says—her sense of style is both functional and intentional. The self-proclaimed neutralist spent years cultivating the perfect mix of furniture that includes big-box buys (think IKEA, Target, West Elm, and Restoration Hardware) and family heirlooms, such as the dining room table constructed of wood from her grandparents’ barn. Meanwhile, deliberate pops of colorful bowls and vases from their worldly travels are sprinkled throughout, while a muted blue wall in their living room sets a “calming and serene” environment for the photographer to work.
Never one to put the camera down, Ivanova often snaps photos of her home that capture the progress of her fixer-upper’s redesign. She then shares them on Instagram with the hashtag #casaivanova so her many followers can glimpse inside her white and bright space. Her most recent project involved new windows and siding, a task that’s “been on our list since we bought the house,” she says.
The home served as the initial headquarters for her blossoming wedding photography business, which started as a part-time gig in 2007 (at the same time the couple purchased their home) and evolved into a full-time profession two years later. After a few too many sleepless night of working well past midnight, Ivanova quickly found need for a separate creative space. “It came to a point where I wanted to find a better work-life balance,” she says. After shuffling among three different studios that were either too small or shared with other tenants, Ivanova found another slice of potential in a spacious studio on Tyler Street in Northeast Minneapolis last year. “It was a blank slate when I signed my lease, but I knew I wanted bright and white and open and airy,” she says. “I had to paint it, add fresh lighting, and renovate it—my architecture background really helped with that. I was able to put the walls exactly where I wanted them so it would feel really seamless.”
After a two-month makeover, Ivanova began to fill her space with the same functional, high-low mix of goods she did her home. Antique brass accents juxtapose a few eclectic pieces from Urban Outfitters, while metallic neutral accents make the space feel open and inviting—a must for brides-to-be who visit the studio for engagement photos or Ivanova’s burgeoning boudoir business. “It’s a nice place to be able to invite my clients over and show them my design aesthetic,” she says. “We can drink wine and talk in a more comfortable environment.”
While Ivanova’s furniture at home has been the result of an organic process of collecting pieces over the last seven years, the studio had to come together more quickly. “I had to have everything at once,” she says. She found the couch and bench at Macy’s, a few smaller pieces from World Market, and a hodgepodge of accessories at Urban Outfitters, all with metallic accents.
“I like the variety,” she says.
Though she still considers her rambler a work in progress—“in the future I’d love to do a new kitchen”—the photographer is content with the openness and airiness she’s established at both her home and the studio. “I’ve had to be creative,”
Ivanova says. But with a little bit of potential, that’s easy to do.