Photos by Caitlin Abrams
Witt & Bliss at D.NOLO in North Loop, Minneapolis
With a name like Dayton, it was only a matter of time before interior designer Martha Dayton opened her own store. Witt + Bliss is the home and gift shop she long craved in the Twin Cities—for herself, and her clients. It’s that hostess gift you need on the way to the party, wrapped and ready to deliver; the pillows that instantly transform the look of a sofa. The focus is on gifts and home accessories, with some furnishings mixed in.
The idea of the store has been in the back of Dayton’s mind for years—along with the name, which plays off of her middle name, Bliss, and that of her design partner, Kelly Witt Perry. Perry is helping with the store, but Dayton is the owner and plans to spend as much time as she can on the sales floor.
“I’ve talked about doing this for years,” says Dayton, who has worked in interior design for 18 years and started her own firm, Martha Dayton Design, a dozen years ago. Her grandfather and great uncles founded Dayton’s department store. Her father, Ned Dayton, created B. Dalton Bookseller and her mom, Kathleen, was a women’s accessories buyer for Pitkin County Dry Goods in Aspen, where her family lived for a number of years. So even though she wasn’t near a Dayton’s department store throughout much of her childhood, she says, “retail is part of my genetics.”
The opportunity to rent space within the North Loop’s upscale retail collaborative, D.NOLO, prompted Dayton to finally go for it.
“I love the concept, I love the space,” Dayton says of D.NOLO. “I wouldn’t have done it on my own. If you’re going to be a small, independent retailer, you have to build up collaboration.”
D.NOLO’s first phase focused on women’s apparel, but with a recent expansion, founder Veronica Clark wanted to broaden the scope, adding InVision Distinctive Eyewear and home furnishings. Witt + Bliss is adjacent to Ciel Loft & Home, the St. Louis Park–based store, which is testing the waters in North Loop with its mix of imports, antiques, and reclaimed wood furnishings. “The first day (at D.NOLO), I sold a $2,000 buffet for a loft,” Ciel owner Andy Higgins says. “That’s exactly what I imagined happening in the North Loop.” Witt + Bliss is a nice complement, with its colorful pillows, throws, baskets, and candles. Dayton says she initially stocked the store with goods from interior design partners and Los Angeles resources—“things we were buying retail for our design clients. Now, I’m figuring out where to source that.” She’s buying from artists in Mexico and Spain as she strives to offer unique goods. She’s also found many small brands she loves on Instagram—everything from pottery and soaps to napkin holders.
Dayton describes her design style as “eclectic transitional,” and she brings that textured aesthetic to retail. “It’s about staying true to yourself, and appealing to a broader market,” she says. “With the North Loop becoming destination shopping for everything, it’s a really good crossover target audience.”
219 N. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-850-9493
Martha Dayton's Design Tips
- Don’t be afraid to mix metals. Feeling like everything has to match is too constrained.
- Bring the outside in—sometimes a piece of “outdoor” furniture can look great inside.
- Reclaimed in all ways is a good move, whether it’s true vintage furniture that you have redone, or a table constructed from reclaimed lumber.
- We all love gray. To do it well, add texture and pops of color.
- Create a backdrop in upholstery and furniture pieces. Don’t have everything in a room so overly designed or coordinated that you can’t change it out.