Photos by Spacecrafting
With their three oldest children settled into places of their own and their youngest headed off to college, Clint and Diane Blaiser decided they were ready for a change of venue themselves. The two connected with Amy Leferink, founder/principal designer of Interior Impressions and a close friend of theirs, to enlist her help when it came to designing their new dream home—namely, a two-bed, three-bath condo located in downtown St. Paul.
The couple’s previous house—a traditional-style family home in the suburbs—had worked well for raising children, but its closed-off, compartmentalized layout wasn’t conducive to having company over. The 2,875-square-foot condo was just what the Blaisers were looking for, thanks to an impressive, wide-open main space perfect for entertaining. Measuring 26 feet wide by 60 feet long, it featured an enormous span of windows running the entire length of the room that overlooked the city skyline.
After picking the place, it was time to draw up a design plan. “We knew we wanted it to be more modern than our last house since it was a city condo,” says Diane. “I liked wood tones, I wanted some wallpaper to jazz it up, and I needed the floors in the bathrooms to be heated—we had that in our old house, and once you have it, you can’t live without it,” she says, laughing. Outside of those directives, Leferink was given free reign when it came to creativity, and after being friends with the couple for more than 15 years, she knew exactly how to tailor the new home to their tastes.
“I wanted to make sure I incorporated their love of nature,” says Leferink, who chose a neutral, earth-toned palette of toasty caramels and creams for the condo’s color foundation. “They love being outside and traveling, and I wanted to create that organic-inspired feel inside. We wanted to keep it elegant and sophisticated without feeling too formal—we wanted people to be wowed when they walk in, but also feel at ease just hanging out and enjoying a glass of wine and some great conversation.”
In the entryway, a long paneled wall made of black walnut serves two purposes: creating that aforementioned wow factor when guests first arrive, and disguising two side-by-side closets and a door leading to a flex room the couple can use as an office, guest room, or exercise space. “We knew we wanted warm wood on that wall, and Diane found a photo online of something similar that was just stunning,” says Leferink, who collaborated with St. Paul artisan carpenter Michael Casler of Hóll Studio to design the element.“We showed it to Michael as inspiration, and he took it and nailed it.”
In the main space, the first order of business was opening up the kitchen (which was completely enclosed) to the rest of the room so it could take advantage of the sweeping skyline views. Next, walls were painted a soft white, carpeting was removed and replaced with wide-plank white oak flooring, and a fresh coat of bright white paint was added to the existing millwork to make the crown molding, trim, and baseboards pop. Then, Leferink focused on designing the individual zones of the living room, kitchen, dining room, and family area. “I wanted to make sure each area had its own unique flair while keeping it aesthetically harmonious so it would all flow together,” says Leferink. “It was important to make that large, open area feel comfortable without it being overwhelming.”
In the living room, the double-sided fireplace and adjacent dry bar take center stage. A smoky granite surround and subtle wall panel millwork make the fireplace a striking focal point, while a brass picture light installed above a photograph from a trip to Italy (taken by the couple’s friend, local photographer Nancy Nafziger) adds a personal touch. “The bar was really a labor of love because of how much detail went into that little area,” says Leferink, who worked with a local cabinet maker to top off the design with a custom arched wood panel. “I remember telling Diane, ‘This is going to be a fun party house—you gotta have a little bar!’”
The centerpiece of the newly opened kitchen is the enormous 13-foot waterfall-edge island, large enough to seat six and made of solid, black-stained oak and topped with sparkling Cambria quartz. The same quartz is also used on the sink backsplash for a dramatic, yet seamless effect, and the surrounding cabinetry was finished in a soft gray to blend with the black island and white walls.
Situated between the kitchen and wall of windows, the large walnut slab dining table perfectly fills the gap between the formal living room and the far end of the room, where the family area is located. The highlight there is the media wall, which features an elegant Phillip Jeffries woven wallpaper. A cozy sectional sofa, patterned swivel glider, and thick textured rug make the area a comfortable and inviting hangout space for everyone.
While the condo’s two bedrooms were easy to update thanks to their simple layouts and blank-slate designs, the bathrooms were another story. A maze of small rooms, unnecessary openings, and leftover space was cleverly reconfigured to make two powder rooms that both open up to a shower room in between, allowing overnight guests access to bathe while also giving the couple’s daughter (who lives with them when not at school) her own personal space as well.
Meanwhile, the main bathroom suite was also gutted, with the team designing a new vanity with two sinks and plenty of storage, wall-mounted light fixtures, and granite countertops. A spacious walk-in shower is complete with multiple shower heads, a marble mosaic floor tile, and large-scale porcelain wall panels that mimicked a natural Borghese marble the team had originally fallen in love with at a stone showroom. “We went bold! The shower slabs make such a big statement with those dramatic veins of black and gold,” says Leferink. “Go big or go home, right?”
With clean lines, contemporary style, and just the right amount of cozy textures and organic touches, this casual, yet sophisticated setup created exactly what the couple wanted for their new home: a city-dwelling entertainer’s dream space. “I love everything about the condo,” says Diane. “I love making dinner when the sun is setting, watching the storms roll in, and seeing the skyline light up at night. It doesn’t matter which room you’re in or which window you’re looking through—it’s all beautiful, both inside and out.”