What is Minnesota's interior design style?


The Twin Cities are "one" of the most distinctive cities in the world in terms of design, and we're not just saying that because we're in Northeast Minneapolis. Many neighborhoods, spread out through the Twin Cities all have distinctive and yet artistic vibes from an architectural and design perspective. But in terms of interior design, we have been wondering if there's a specific style that defines Minnesota?

We can certainly see some recurring elements, like industrial warehouse, bohemian, pop art, minimalistic, and traditional like Arts & Crafts, Tudor, Victorian, and Colonial. We have seen the history and development from several design styles in both old and new neighborhoods in Minnesota. Through the long history, industrial development, and the influence of modern arts, Minnesota has grown into a state with great history and modern cultures. A distinctive interior design style has been cultivated under the influence of mixing history and modern cultures.

Add modern to history: David Heide Design Studio

Even though minimalism was all the rage in past years, old houses in Minnesota were not affected. Instead of tearing them down, we add modern elements, mix the old and the new, and turn it to the distinctive Minnesotan style.

David Heide is a great representative of interior design style in Minnesota. David founded The DHD Studio in 1997, and has been renovating historic houses for decades. The studio renovates historic houses, improves functionality and vitality, and also keeps the history and story of the house.


For example, in these projects, the stained glass was an original piece of the house. After the renovation, it was kept and transferred to the top. The new design keeps the stained glass and adds extra lighting source to the room.

David says: "We believe in honoring the past while planning for the future. This philosophy informs all our projects, from historic restorations to new contemporary-style houses." We think this is an innovative and effective way of renovation, and we believe it will help preserve more historic houses in the future.

Add history to modern: Spyhouse, Denny Kemp Salon

Spyhouse Coffee

Spyhouse is one of the most popular coffee shops in Minnesota, known for its high- quality coffee and unique interior design style. One of the most popular Spyhouse locations is in Northeast Minneapolis. It features a rustic industrial design mixed with high-end antiques. "I don’t look at design or contemporary magazines for inspiration. Stores, such as Architectural Antiques, are places where I look and haunt." Said by Spyhouse Coffee owner Christian Johnson. (Architectural Antiques' interview with Johnson about NE Spyhouse: CLICK HERE )

The new Spyhouse is in the North Loop neighborhood. Different from the Northeast neighborhood, North Loop is filled with startups, entrepreneurs, and new constructions. The new Spyhouse is nesting in one of those new buildings.  Different from other Spyhouse locations, the new building, according to Johnson, "had zero character". But he brought the Spyhouse vibe into it, by adding antique decors, such as the special-made lighting from Architectural Antiques. One of our customers described how much he likes the new Spyhouse in this way: "The building is purely new, but when you walk into Spyhouse, it's like another era." (Architectural Antiques' interview with Johnson about North Loop Spyhouse: CLICK HERE )

We found Johnson's design principle very inspiring: "We never design a store to tailor the clientele, I think it more caters to the neighborhood." At Architectural Antiques, our biggest muse is Minnesota itself. 


Denny Kemp Salon

Adding historical elements into modern space becomes a dramatic art form at Denny Kemp Salon in Minneapolis. The exterior entrance salvaged from Iowa is installed inside the salon, adding character and interest to the modern design. The 14-foot antique crystal chandelier pairing with 1920 marble statue adds classy and glares to the minimalistic black-and-white room. (More photos of Denny Kemp Salon: CLICK HERE )

As a talented designer, Kemp is always working on his own projects. A few days ago, Kemp stopped by Architectural Antiques and mentioned he just sold his 1901 retro streamline mansion and now, he is working on a mid-century-modern estate.


We have seen some signature Minnesota designs, so is there a distinctive interior design style in Minnesota? Architectural Antiques has been collecting answers from customers, social media, and designers and bloggers. From the feedback we received, we can certainly see some patterns: customers from different generations have different opinions on which style represents Minnesota interior design; customers and interior designers also think different in Minnesota interior design style. Even on different social media, people have different opinions. However, we do find some commons in the feedback from tastemakers(designers, bloggers, etc.) in Minnesota.

We connected with interior designer Amy Hendel (WEBSITE), interior designer Lynn Woodruff Peterson (WEBSITE), and interior design and lifestyle blogger Erin Francois (WEBSITE). The three designers and bloggers all have deep roots in Minnesota and have been working with numerous Minnesota clients.

What is it like?

They all agree that Minnesota clients like to integrate some old-mix-new in interior design styles. Francois has mentioned a reason why "old" elements are important in a modern home:  "Bright modern spaces can often feel stark and a bit impersonal, so that's where antique and hand-crafted pieces come into play. Pieces that are made by a hand or have history behind them help to soften and bring authenticity to otherwise stark spaces. In my eyes, the human-made imperfections or signs of wear are what make these pieces so special." Hendel and Peterson both mentioned Minnesota clients tend to be more traditional and transitional than solely contemporary in their styles, but clients are also "always wanting one of a kind homes". This is when designers step in and help explore clients' styles further. In this case, mixing modern lines with traditional architecture to build a one-of-a-kind style becomes a very popular choice among Minnesota clients.

The younger generation:

Millennials have become an important clientele in interior design. Designers have noticed that the younger generation prefers an easier, faster, and more convenient way of lifestyle. As in home decoration, Peterson mentioned many of them want fast furniture, fast lighting. "You can get it online the next day!" However, she also mentioned the Bohemian design style is very popular among Millennials, which is holding some ground in both fashion and furniture. "This style is nicely obtained through antique stores and thrift shops." From the design perspective, the Millennials have lots of character, and they want to bring that into their homes. "They want to have their own style, not their parents' living room."

Francois is one of the millennials. Her favorite style is very modern, one she described as "a visually clean, modern space, one that's light, bright and airy". Her blog is filled by clean, fresh, and contemporary eye-candies. But she also likes a good mix of old and new. "Antiques help create unique, original spaces that no one else will have; new pieces add modernity and often help balance the budget, so I think using the starkly different styles in tandem can be quite a fantastic mélange." She agreed that there's a segment of millennials that "wants all new, mass-produced furniture", but she pointed out: "There's a large and growing portion that appreciates the originality, soul, and social consciousness that only antique and handcrafted pieces can provide. Aside from reducing landfill waste (which is a whole other story in itself!), there's a lot of value in investing in quality pieces that you buy ONCE, and they pay for themselves over time."

What will the Minnesota interior design be like in three years?

Peterson: "I think in three years we are going to continue with more diverse styles.  Look at fashion, it’s fantastic from Bohemian to Traditional to Contemporary. It’s very eclectic and our interior design style is following it on its fashion heels.  I think the more we insert contrasting elements or juxtaposition of styles from Contemporary and Traditional, the more interesting our room environments become.  This mixing takes a skilled and keen eye but it’s fun to do and the outcome can be memorable and the lifestyle of the space pure bliss."

Hendel: "we tend to not have a Minnesota style, we like our projects to be placeless and timeless, so that it could be in Atlanta and built last year or 20 years ago."

About Minnesota, Peterson gives it very high praise: "I believe that the clientele in the Twin Cities does have a lot of integrity and stability due to the strong industries here in the Twin Cities such as large corporations like…Medtronic, Boston Scientific, General Mills, 3-M, and Cargill, all supporting many working professionals here in town.  This is where people want to raise their family…good schools, good neighborhoods, etc.  We have a pretty well-traveled clientele and less of a transient population and I think people are willing to invest in their homes and family."

We love Minnesota, not only the place, the history, but also the people, so full of characters, and dare to be unique. The characters have shown in neighborhoods, architecture, and interior designs. Through our research and interviews with customers and designers, we have noticed no matter which interior design style is on trend, no matter the style features old or new, the style in Minnesota is never about following trends. Instead, we fill our homes with personal treasures to reflect distinctive characters. It may seem like we have different styles, but we share a similar vision: the love of history and uniqueness.

In a word, mixing old and new is popular in Minnesota, but as design is the reflection of characteristics, it's not fair to put a label of one style on so many distinctive designs, only because they share some commons. We intend to explore more in future posts. In the meantime, if you have a view of what Minnesota style means to you, please tag us or send us pictures that feature Minnesota's interior design and we will share them on the post.