Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder met with Schneiderman’s design consultant Natalie Stob in late July of 2012 to ask for, essentially, a blitz. He’d just bought a five-bedroom home in Excelsior and hoped to have it fully furnished by the time his parents visited for his first game—in roughly six weeks time. Also, he didn’t have much to start with. As one might expect of a 24-year-old bachelor, his townhouse contained little more than a couch and a bed. Oh, and he wouldn’t be around to help out with the details, as he was headed off to training camp.
Ponder perused the Schneiderman’s show room, selected a few things he liked, and, in the process, discovered that not every piece of furniture was a fit for his athletic, 6-foot, 2-inch frame. Wingback chairs constrained his shoulders. He bumped his knees on a rustic wood dining table (fortunately, custom feet could be added to raise it up a few inches). And just in case a few 300-pound linebackers came over to watch games, he would need a very sturdy sofa.
While Ponder was at camp, Stob texted him images of furniture and fabrics as she decorated the main living spaces. She also created guest rooms for his two brothers and a lower-level suite for his parents, all of whom still live in Ponder’s home state of Texas. “I wanted to have a space where we could all stay and spend time together,” Ponder says. “That was important to me.”
Shortly after his home was complete, Ponder showed it to a woman he had recently started dating, who was quickly becoming very important to him, too. “She walked in and was pleasantly surprised,” he recalls of his now-wife Samantha’s first visit. “I remember thinking, ‘It’s almost too nice,’” Samantha adds.
After a whirlwind courtship, Christian proposed to Samantha by bringing her to the backyard deck, where he’d spelled out his intentions in Christmas lights. The newlyweds then spent the off-season in Arizona before moving into the Excelsior home last April. Samantha, an ESPN sportscaster, had a longstanding interest in home decorating—“my sister and I shared a room growing up, and I rearranged it at least once a week,” she says—but her job required living out of a suitcase. She’d moved to six states in the past seven years. “This was the first time I felt like I really lived somewhere,” she says.
Having lived in both New York and Austin, Samantha says she’s attracted to a more masculine, rustic, American style. Christian’s existing décor meshed well with her taste, though she has been making a few tweaks. She converted a den into an office and had the home’s dark wood—doors, entertainment center, and kitchen cabinetry—painted white to brighten up the space.
The Ponders’ home now has a more updated Americana vibe, with weathered and vintage accents that make it feel personal, including tables made from reclaimed doors and railroad ties, and an end table modeled after old machinery that can be raised or lowered via a hand crank. A cowhide rug and barstools lend a Western accent that nods to his Texas and her Arizona roots.
Despite the intense nature of both their careers, the Ponders’ lifestyle is informal. In their kitchen cabinets, they display a set of quirky Mason jar wine glasses that were a wedding gift from fellow Viking Jared Allen and his wife. Building on the theme, Samantha recently picked out a kitchen light fixture also made out of Mason jars.
Samantha has an affinity for found objects, so she and Christian have scoured the nearby shops for antiques, such as the English mailbox and silver tea set in the living room. (She buys and he carries, she jokes.) On recent trips to Napa and Montana, they picked up a few additional accent pieces, but she expects to add that layer of personalization gradually. “When it comes to decorating, I would so much rather wait and get something that means something than buy something random just to put it up,” Samantha says. “I like things that have memories that remind you of people and places.”
Following Samantha’s arrival, the kitchen’s dining area was accessorized with succulents, lanterns, and driftwood. “I’m a big fan of taking outdoor things and using them indoors,” Samantha says. As with fashion, she encourages people to break home décor rules. As long as you embrace your personal style, she says, “you can pull off whatever you want.”