Jennifer Komar Olivarez’s Curated Dutch Colonial


Stylemaker: Jennifer Komar Olivarez

Favorite local shops?
Forage Modern Workshop—great quality handmade items as well as fun vintage. I never leave empty handed from the Mall of St. Paul. Northern Clay Center for handmade ceramic art.

Your best find?
Ralph Rapson’s abstract and landscape watercolors when he was selling them at annual art fairs in Prospect Park in the 1990s.

Advice for people starting their own collection:
Shop around to see what you’re drawn to, and don’t be afraid to start multiple collections! Talk to artists at art fairs and sales about their work, or visit museums to bone up on decorative arts.

The moment you step into this Minneapolis two-story Dutch Colonial, you know that collectors live here. Jennifer Komar Olivarez, Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ associate curator of decorative arts, textiles, and sculpture, and her husband, Enrique Olivarez, built this collection of midcentury and Nordic classics together.

Though a curator’s eye is evident, don’t get the idea that this is a museum: It’s a family home, with two kids and a cat. Olivarez’s joy in functional art and her interest in “seeing objects in context” grew her collection, converted her husband into a collector, and drives her work at the museum (most recently the launch of “Finland: Designed Environments,” an exploration of the latest in Finnish design, from furnishings to fashion, see page 20).

Olivarez got a personal look at midcentury design when she worked side-by-side with legendary Minneapolis architect Ralph Rapson, bringing exhibitions of his work to life. In the process, she helped him catalog his designs and belongings—her daughters even refer to him as “Uncle Ralph.”

“I really got to connect with him as a historian of his designs,” she says. “We were able to celebrate what he had done.” A signed, early version of the Rapson rocker has a spot in her bedroom, and several of his watercolors are counted among her most prized possessions.

“This is the furniture you dream about,” she says. It’s not trendy design with obsolescence built in. “When people—when I—invest in these types of pieces, there is a commitment to part of my personal philosophy, not just stylistic choices I make.”

Her love of design doesn’t come to a full stop at the end of the midcentury years: She owns furniture from Blu Dot and pieces made by Scott McGlasson of Woodsport. She also looks forward to shopping the St. Croix Pottery Tour every year. “I can’t help it,” she says. “ I always buy at least a little something.”

Indeed, she says, her collections are “objects of desire, but also more than just objects: They signify enduring value.

Her collection of Nordic pottery is displayed with a curator’s eye.

A prized possession is a signed Rapson Rapid Rocker.

Vera textiles lend a bright backdrop to Teema dinnerware and iittala glass.

By Katie Dohman
Photos by Alex Steinberg

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