A Naturalist’s Urban Retreat

Jeff Bengtson’s mid-century home celebrates a lifelong appreciation of the natural world
As a lifelong collector of art and objects inspired by the natural world, Jeff Bengston has filled his home with collections of carefully curated pieces.
As a lifelong collector of art and objects inspired by the natural world, Jeff Bengston has filled his home with collections of carefully curated pieces. (Wing Ta)

A 1962 modernist gem set among the Beaux Arts mansions of Lowry Hill seems as improbable as a Virgin Mary shrine in a Lutheran’s living room. But it’s idiosyncrasies such as these that make the home of Isles Studio owner Jeff Bengtson and his husband, David Bjork, all the more charming.

The simple one-story facade belies a rich interior that is both comfortably open and conversationally intimate with breathtaking views that make the space feel like a sophisticated tree house.

Touches of greenery indoors blend with the home’s lush treetop views.
Touches of greenery indoors blend with the home’s lush treetop views. (Wing Ta)

Bengtson recalls, “We wanted to downsize from our suburban home and planned to buy a condo downtown, but once we walked in and saw the view, we were sold. Even though the house is right in the city, it’s very quiet and private, plus we have outdoor space for the dog and a small garden.”

It’s not surprising that a bird’s-eye view would seal the deal. Bengtson has a degree in biology and is a lifelong collector of art and objects inspired by the natural world. His East Isles store is a love letter to animals, birds, and plants reflecting a long tradition of nature as the original artists’ inspiration. At home, the theme continues with added dimension from a pair of nesting baby grand pianos (both Bengtson and Bjork play), Mexican folk art, paintings from local artists, and the aforementioned Virgin Mary display. “When I was a kid, I was fascinated with depictions of her in the homes of my Catholic friends,” Bengtson explains, chuckling. He has detailed versions from Mexico, Spain, France, and Italy.

The Isles Studio owner’s display of Virgin Mary statuettes features ornate versions hailing from Mexico, Spain, France, and Italy.
The Isles Studio owner’s display of Virgin Mary statuettes features ornate versions hailing from Mexico, Spain, France, and Italy. (Wing Ta)

The couple did an extensive remodel in 2013 but kept most of the home’s mid-century details including post and beam ceilings, walnut paneling, and walls of glass. The clean lines and airy feel are a perfect backdrop to their colorful collections, frequent entertaining, and watching the seasons change from their perch in the trees.


Jeff Bengtson

What tips do you have for someone interested in starting a collection?

Buy one piece you absolutely love and go from there. Don’t worry about trends or whether you have the perfect spot. If you love it, you’ll never tire of it.

 Bengston also has a collection of ethically sourced taxidermy including exotic birds that die from natural causes.
Bengston also has a collection of ethically sourced taxidermy including exotic birds that die from natural causes. (Wing Ta)

Any dream pieces you wish you had?

A Scarlet Ibis, but I’ll never get one. They’re a protected species and it’s illegal to buy or sell them—even vintage taxidermy.

What does a night out look like for you and David?

Dinner at The Kenwood is just a walk across the park or, if we’re feeling like a fish fry, we’ll head to The Anchor in northeast Minneapolis.


Digital Extra: Fall Home Decor Picks

Refresh your interiors with unique products from Jeff Bengtson’s Isles Studio.

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