Midwest Nest Magazine

Midwest Nest Magazine

Culture, Entertaining, and Home Design

Category: Art

Canvassing the City with ArtPrize

Words by Jessica Wachter Photography courtesy of ArtPrize With the new year in full-swing, it’s a great time to not only revisit your health goals, but also get excited about…

Words by Jessica Wachter
Photography courtesy of ArtPrize

With the new year in full-swing, it’s a great time to not only revisit your health goals, but also get excited about the new experiences waiting for you in 2018. Maybe you’ll take up a new hobby, maybe a new sport? One thing’s for sure, this is the time of year to start dreaming about your travel plans. It’s easy to think you need to travel far to get a unique and memorable experience. If you’re interested in a trip centered around art, you might even think you need to travel to New York or Europe. The reality is there’s a gem waiting for you, right here in the Midwest.

ArtPrize is an art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan for 19 days each autumn. It features a variety of artists from around the world, ranging from well- established, to up-and-coming. The art they create for this competition is specific to location. In other words, the space they’ve been given or have chosen to show their work in plays into the art they create for the event. Art is shown in a wide variety of locations throughout Grand Rapids – from your typical museum setting to the totally unexpected, like a laundromat or within a body of water.

Canvassing the City

The whole city not only becomes a canvas for artists, but also a playground for viewers. ArtPrize has a very welcoming feel. You aren’t expected to be an expert in fine art. It’s okay if you’re someone who isn’t usually comfortable in the museum setting because this event makes art accessible and interesting to people from all walks of life.

Artists in Action
Another unique aspect of ArtPrize is being able to watch so many artists in action. Not only do you get to interact with many of the artists, personally, but some artists even create art on the spot. I gave Chris Vitiello the word “essence” when I was at ArtPrize this past October and he gave me this one-lined poem as a piece of art I could take home with me.

One artist that really caught my attention was Rena Detrixhe. She creates red-carpet rugs that are of an immense scale and full of symbolism and beauty, not to mention hours of careful labor. Her creation for ArtPrize was site-specific. Meaning, it could not be transported. I felt so much beauty in the fact that her creation was temporary – she was creating for the sake of creating. The impermanence of her work made me feel as though, as a viewer, I was getting a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Awarding Creativity
The reason this event has the title of, “ArtPrize” is because the artists have an opportunity to win a large sum of money. The artists are narrowed down to 40 finalist…twenty “people’s choice” artists, chosen from public votes, and twenty juried artists. From this group of 40, two artists win $200,000 USD each and $100,000 USD is disbursed to many different artists for small category awards. This brings the award-money grand total to $500,000 USD. Prize money comes from many sources including, corporate sponsors and state and federal support.

It’s uplifting to think of all the value that comes from this event. It is of benefit for so many…the artists, the sponsors, the city and the viewers. As an artist myself, it was incredibly inspiring to be in such close proximity to so many other creative minds. Their passion and talent were contagious. Even though the event is long past now and all remnants of the artist’s work are taken away, the essence of ArtPrize has left a mark on my mind and heart.

Whether you are an artist or not, you can’t help but feel the palpable energy and swirl of synergy that comes from so many artists and viewers in one concentrated space. To get swept up in the colors and scale for yourself, start making your travel plans now for next year’s event.

Jessica Wachter Art


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Vintage Winter

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography You may remember Vonda and Jim Leiner from last month’s issue when we showcased their fall design while they hosted…

Words by Tracy Nicholson

Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography

You may remember Vonda and Jim Leiner from last month’s issue when we showcased their fall design while they hosted a dinner with their brick-fire pizza oven. This time, we’re back to give you a glimpse of their winter wonderland. Every year, the Leiners decorate their home, not just for the holidays, but as an ode to the entire winter season. They love to entertain and guests equally love to visit, exploring the couple’s seasonally-changing decor and rare, vintage finds.

Inspired by Winter 
When it comes to the holidays, the Leiners believe that each and every room should have a touch of winter wonderland. “It’s for us just as much as it is for entertaining,” said Vonda Leiner. “People usually can’t believe that we have our tree’s lights on so early, but to me, they’re just lights. I don’t think of it as just for Christmas. So, for the winter months, I kind of prefer more of a winter scene.”

One of the features Vonda Leiner is most excited about this year is her dining room centerpieces comprised of an unexpected item, repurposed tree stands, painted white. Only one is a newer version, while the other two are rare vintage finds.

Their centerpiece isn’t the only unexpected decor. If you look closely at the table runner, you’ll see that Vonda Leiner used shipping paper that is typically used for wrapping fragile items. They also love changing out the decor on the large branch hanging over their dining table. For the winter months, each branch is adorned with a mix of new and vintage snowflake crystals. To the Leiners, anything and everything is capable of architectural artistry.

The Leiner’s massive, vintage pendant lights came out of the old Dayton’s department store. Vonda Leiner worked there for about 20 years and when they were going through remodels, employees were offered a chance to bid on various items.

“It’s not your normal looking kitchen because there aren’t a lot of cabinets,” said Vonda Leiner. “Most of the storage is hidden.” The drawers below the authentic, brick oven pull out to hold approximately 500 pounds. The butcher block island is solely comprised of pull-out storage and the refrigerator is hidden behind the knotty alder facade. Jim Leiner, a custom cabinetmaker at Wood Specialists for over 30 years, specially designed the commercial-size sink to include cutting boards while creating a special baking section for Vonda Leiner which simplifies clean up. There’s a hidden TV, microwave and two dishwasher drawers. Every bit of cabinetry and all of the custom finishes were designed and completed by the Leiners.

“With Jim being able to build the cabinets and do all of the finish work, that really helps us be able to live in this type of home. Anything that you can do yourself like the flooring, landscaping, painting – that’s an investment. This house comes from a lot of nights, holidays and weekends of hard work,” said Vonda Leiner.

“Winter is my favorite time of year, so I love when the snowflakes are sticking to the outside of this window. I try to bring that snowy look inside,” said Vonda Leiner. Lending a snowy facade to her kitchen window, these pots were once brown, terracotta that she painted white and finished with glitter to match the painted deer stags overlooking her wooded backyard.

Repurposing the Past
“Jim and I love going to flea markets. That clock is actually an old picnic table, then we found the hinges at another place and thought, why wouldn’t these hinges be cool as the quarters on the hour, then get a clock kit and put it together? I also have a lot of things from family,” said Vonda Leiner. “I like things with Karma and I think there’s a spirit that they give from the past.” For holiday decor, Vonda Leiner kept it natured-inspired with pinecones, trees, deer stags, white lights and greens.

Ski Lodge Love
If you’re a guest to their home, you’ll notice several Maplelag prints, vintage skis and various nods to winter lodges. Jim Leiner grew up in Montana and these pieces represent a small remnant of his past and a beautiful inspiration to them both.
Vonda Leiner’s winter vibe begins in the fall when she changes out the yellow, floral “summer pillows” for warmer throws and ski lodge-inspired, cross pillows.

With the high ceilings in their family room, the Leiner’s use a vintage, red-painted table to elevate their Christmas tree to new heights. At the base of the tree, they incorporated a galvanized tub to hide the tree stand.

Just off of the kitchen and past the antique, red doors the Leiners display an array of vintage and antique chippy items, her mom’s artwork and a winter-inspired mix of pillows with Kriss Lecocq’s grommet adorned linen pillows.

The Leiners found the powder room’s vanity at an antique store in Stillwater, S.D. For a different vibe, they installed a tin ceiling and salvaged shutters. Vonda Leiner happened upon the shutters en route to the dumpster, while working at Scheels Home & Hardware years ago. “For us, our style is just us and it evolves over time, we don’t go to the furniture store and buy the set,” explained Vonda Leiner.

“For the office, we just tried to decorate it more like a library or a men’s club, so that’s why I did the pheasant feathers and pinecones,” said Vonda Leiner. Jim Leiner built the elaborate ceilings and knotty alder built-in details that can be converted to a guest bedroom with a murphy bed. The desk is said to be from a train station in Sioux Falls, S.D and the vintage, leather chair is from an antique store in Arizona. Elaborate stained glass and antique windows accent the more masculine space. “I did a special wallpaper technique in this room and we used 10-inch-wide, plank floors that we hand-drilled and hand-hammered old-fashioned, square nailheads into. Then we took chains and pry bars to distress the wood.”

Winter Warmth
“In the winter, decorating for me is kind of like how we dress, we layer things more. So, in the spring I take down some of those layers and replace the winter pillows with floral pillows. I worked with Julie Alin for a little while at Scheels Home & Hardware and she and I were once managers at Dayton’s. The design department at Scheels used to call me “Mrs. Waverly” because I like mixing fabrics and patterns,” laughed Vonda Leiner.

In the entry, the Leiners repurposed an old dentist table underneath a beautiful, cross-stitched art piece crafted by Vonda Leiner’s sister. If you noticed the jars on the floor, you’re probably wondering why. “We feed our squirrels and they’ll come up and eat peanuts right out of our hands. So, our little friend Karly lives next door and she always wants to eat the squirrel’s peanuts, so we finally got a jar just for her,” laughed Vonda Leiner.

In the style of an outdoor kitchen, complete with crown molding, the Leiners have a grill with custom hood venting, popcorn maker that Jim Leiner refurbished as well as a chef’s chalkboard. The Leiner’s Diner neon sign was a gift from a neighbor. “Jim should get just as much credit in the design, he’s very creative and has an eye for art, design and scale,” said Vonda Leiner.

On the porch, you might notice a large tree branch as an architectural focal point. When the Leiners were first building their home, they saw that their neighbors were cutting down trees and they asked if they could have it for their decor.

In the planters, Vonda Leiner uses galvanized pipe, real berries, greens from Hornbacher’s and oversized pinecones. To warm up their outdoor spaces, the Leiners use blankets they found in the military surplus section at Fleet Farm. “Our old neighbors and longtime friends cut boughs for us out at their lake cabin. So I put these greens everywhere and up in the beams in the entry,” said Vonda Leiner.

“We were at an auction and we saw this mailbox, it used to hang on a building. We actually had to go outside and call the U.S. government to make sure that we could use this as a mailbox. As long as it’s at the right code height and distance from the road, they were fine with it,” explained Vonda Leiner.

In the backyard, Jim Leiner used two sizes of galvanized, stock tanks to create a fire pit, complete with a permanent gas line from the house. Pink winter berries and green boughs accent vintage, metal pots leading to the back patio.

A Labor of Love
“I’ve never followed what’s happening in the design world. Jim and I have never built a house for resale. We build it to what we want to do, then if it sells it sells. And with this house, I didn’t want when people walked in, for them to be able to say, “Oh, that was built in 2009,” based on the trends. We actually built this in 2004. If you noticed on the front porch, we have the galvanized tin up on the ceilings and in our back sunroom off of our bedroom, we have sliding barn doors. We tried to do a different ceiling in every room. So, I kind of feel like we were doing some of these things before they were trendy,” laughed Vonda Leiner.

“This is our fifth home and we started with a 90-year-old home in North Fargo. When Jim and I first got married, we didn’t know that we could do this together,” said Vonda Leiner. We just started and the latter four houses we’d design, then have a contractor get us to the sheetrock, and after that, we’d physically do everything ourselves; landscaping, sprinklers, decks and basement. We’ve put our hearts and souls into it. I don’t want to just say it’s a house that somebody built. It was really built with love and every ounce of sweat, energy and tears. “

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Design & Discuss with J.D. Shotwell, Shotwell Floral & Greenhouses

Words by J.D. Shotwell, Tracy Nicholson Photos by M. Schleif Photography With Holiday entertaining in full-swing, we thought it was time to show off the latest and greatest trends in…

Words by J.D. Shotwell, Tracy Nicholson
Photos by M. Schleif Photography

jd shotwell midwest nest magazineWith Holiday entertaining in full-swing, we thought it was time to show off the latest and greatest trends in seasonal tablescapes. To answer some of the most common questions, I gathered our design and floral experts to help piece together the perfect holiday table including ideas for a side table buffet, DIY tips and a quick design discussion on mixing metals for the holidays.


Tablescape Trends 101
The plaid runner and cloth napkins are a really popular choice this year. Plaid as a fabric is very on-trend right now, but this one is done in more neutral tones of grey and tan, so it’s a little more versatile than the usual red and black. If you change out your floral and other accents, this version can transition through really, any time of year. The pattern also leans toward a farmhouse style when you pair it with galvanized metal napkin rings and chargers. Since the team used primarily neutrals for the base and accents on this table, they decided to give it a pop of bold color with a mass of classic, red roses.

Get the Look:
Plaid napkins and runner
Rose and seeded Eucalyptus centerpiece
Twig design candelabras
Wood bark cross-section chargers
Galvanized, metal chargers and napkin rings
Rolf glass – decor wine glass (middle displayed)
Glass cloche with metal base
Rustic wood dining table
Faux fur pillow
Lambswool pillow
Frosted berries and fresh pine
Four potted pines
Two rustic, white metal doves

Seasonal Side Table
Get the Goods:
Mudpie white ceramic mini loaf pan
Mudpie chrome and acorn-adorned snack server
Mudpie mini tidbit plates
TAG Red snowflake, hand-warmer mugs
Wool, Santa gnome, wine-topper
16.5″ pine tree with plaid base
Two-tiered, wood, tree bark server
Nora Fleming acorn mini-adorned artisan board
Laser-cut and burlap, pine trees
Mulling Spices
Decorative red bells



Setting the Table
Tip #1: Fabric is at the forefront.
When prepping your tablescape, start from the bottom-up. Find a linen, runner, fabric or napkin that you like and start with that. Then go up, choosing a charger and dishware to compliment your linens. We recommend the galvanized metal chargers and napkin rings this season. They work well with so many different linens.

Tip #2: Build your tablescape from the center.
Once you’ve chosen your linens, start building your tablescape from the center out, keeping in mind the size of the table. Figure out what type of floral or centerpiece you want, then start accessorizing outward with smaller items like candles and something organic like sprigs of greenery or pinecones. Many years ago, at a design school, my mother, Annette Shotwell, was told that when you put your elbow on the table, the bulk of the centerpiece should not be above your wrist. It can be a taller centerpiece, but keep it lighter at the top, maybe using simple twigs or something that guests can still see around.

Tip #3: Bold is always beautiful.
Consider classic, red roses for your centerpiece. Roses are not usually the first flower associated with Christmas, but when they’re grouped closely together, it really creates a fantastic pop of color for the dining table in that classic, Christmas red. They are a perfect compliment to pine accents and neutral palettes. Another unexpected pairing we’ve seen is pink roses with Christmas greens. It’s a really interesting combination that stands out.

Tip #4: Trim the wick.
Candles are always a popular accent when entertaining, but make sure you trim the wick down before lighting. A shorter flame will save your candles from burning too quickly and help keep the soot to a minimum.

Tip #5: Organic and earthy adds interest.
Make sure your tablescape has an interesting array of textures. As you can see, we’ve used a mix of metal, glass and other textures with our trees, doves and servers. Using a straw-like table runner like you see on the side table can give you a more inviting and informal look. Even on our more formal tablescape, we incorporated sprigs of fresh pine and berries to add earthy interest. Organic textures mix well with bolder, more colorful elements.

Tip #6: Spruce up your napkin game.
Once you’ve found a great napkin ring, go the extra mile and “spruce” up your presentation with fresh or faux greens. If you go the fresh route, you can either visit a greenhouse or head outside to your own backyard and clip small pieces off to use within your napkin rings. Just make sure that if you use fresh, you wait until the day-of to clip them so they look their best. Tucking in twigs and berries also works really well to complete the presentation.

Tip #7: Neutrals love texture and color.
Consider adding cozy elements like faux fur pillows or throws in different, winter-inspired textures to your dining table area. These can work well in both cool and warm, neutral tones. Keeping these elements in the neutral family will let your bold centerpiece pop.

Tip #8: Don’t have tunnel vision.
Once your tablescape is complete, don’t forget to look above your table. Your chandelier or pendants can easily be adorned with wreaths, ribbon, scrappy garland, sprigs of fresh greenery, berries or pine. If you have pendants, you can start at the ceiling coming down the cord with garland or just keep it simple and wrap cut pieces of garland around the top portion of the light.

Tip #9: Be a gracious guest.
While making the rounds on the holiday circuit, don’t forget to show appreciation for the hosts. Our team loves these felted-wool wine toppers, TAG hand-warmer mugs and Mudpie tidbit plates for our own parties, but they also double as fantastic hostess gifts. Each of these gifts can include a little extra like mulling spices in the mug, a great bottle of wine with the Santa wine topper or a fun cheese, dessert or cracker with the tidbit plates. The artisan board by Nora Fleming is also very popular. The acorn, ceramic “mini” comes off and can be replaced with one of her 90 other themed minis.

Holiday Trends: Mixing Metals
Not only can gold, silver and bronze work well together but varying your textures and tones can give your design a timeless appeal. To show you just a few of our favorite textures and metals in holiday decor, our team pieced together two fun displays that will keep your holidays shining brightly.

Heavy Metal Holiday
Display #1
Our first display mixes crystal, mercury glass, white glass and vintage silver for a striking, cooler-toned combination. Keeping it monotone with the white roses and lilies, this display shows more of a high-end, formal approach. To contrast the white, we chose pops of color in an organic form, using sprigs of pine, eucalyptus and pine cones. Any of these items can be clustered together for a buffet table, formal dining room, side table or foyer.

Display #2
Our second display shows a variation of warmer tones, from vintage and bronze to bright and shimmery golds. One trend we saw a lot at market is the use of old golds like the vase on the left. To complement the variation of golds, the team used a rich, velvet-textured and gold garland, in addition to fresh pine. We loved how the vintage, gold pear and apples look surrounded by pine. The gold deer stag and gold leaf platter have also been popular items for the holidays. Use the taller pieces for your sideboard or buffet, and the shorter pieces for your centerpiece or accenting around the taller elements.

J.D. Shotwell

Shotwell Floral & Greenhouses
4000 40th St. S., Fargo

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Design + Discuss with Grain Designs

Words by Grant Koenig and Blain Mikkonen Photos by Grant Koenig, Dan Francis Photography, Kuda Photography, Nick Friesen Photography, and Shawn Thomas Creative For those that aren’t yet familiar with…

Words by Grant Koenig and Blain Mikkonen

Photos by Grant Koenig, Dan Francis Photography, Kuda Photography, Nick Friesen Photography, and Shawn Thomas Creative

For those that aren’t yet familiar with us, Grain Designs is based in Fargo, N.D. and started out of a joint passion to build and develop new ideas through furniture making. As designers, our minds are in constant pursuit of inspiration and Grain Designs became our outlet to create tangible products out of ideas. We also quickly realized that the furniture market was over-saturated with poorly made, generic pieces and we knew that we could provide something better. We don’t believe in buying new things day after day or year after year, we want the products that we create to hold value and function for years to come. Quality to us means everything and is more important now, than ever.

grain design fargo


Why reclaimed wood?
By choosing to work with reclaimed wood it has taught us to be mindful of the resources we have. This has enabled us to breathe new life into seemingly useless materials giving us the ability to provide a meaningful product and experience unlike anything else.

Fall’s Most Popular Products

grain designs fargoThe Frederick Farmhouse Table
Typically built with reclaimed floor joists out of barns or warehouses, this table has become a staple product for us and is continuing to evolve as design styles change.


The Sliding Barn Door 
This product has taken on a life of its own and has found so many more applications than we had originally imagined. They are most commonly used to replace existing swing doors however we have used them as window shades, large room partitions and even doors on dog kennels.

grain designs fargo


Custom Desks
Work spaces have become so much more flexible, and this had created a whole new market for us in both the home and business industry. The custom desks that we have designed are truly built with the user in mind and have featured everything from hidden whiskey storage to full magnetic, steel wall features.
Instagram Inspiration
In our constant pursuit of new ideas, we find inspiration from businesses across the country and throughout the Midwest, combining their ideas with our own local flavor. Here are a few outstanding businesses that are worth the follow.

Junkyard Brewing Company

This Moorhead, M.N. based brewing company has set out to not only create a delicious product but to facilitate a customer experience unlike any other. Stop by their Taproom in North Moorhead and get inspired with their weekly rotation of experimental beers and live music.


Jordan Iverson Signature Homes 

Three words describe this Eugene, Oregon home builder; architect, designer, visionary. It’s not hard to be inspired by Iverson’s fusion of modern and traditional design elements, materials and color palettes.

Workshop Denver 

Owner Brad Weiman started his Denver, C.O. venture as a construction and concrete furniture company, but over the past five years, they’ve grown to become much more. These days they are a design + build, construction and project management company that specializes in custom features. Follow them to see their take on creative applications of concrete and wood in countertops, custom wood cabinets and floating staircases in their portfolio of over 60 spec homes.


Contact us:
(by appointment only)
6218 53rd Ave S., Fargo, N.D.

(by appointment only)
4487 165th Ave SE, Davenport, N.D.

Blain Mikkonen

Grant Koenig

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It has been just under one year since North Dakota native, David Borlaug, along with the Lewis and Clark Foundation, opened Capital Gallery in downtown Bismarck. This gallery is a…

It has been just under one year since North Dakota native, David Borlaug, along with the Lewis and Clark Foundation, opened Capital Gallery in downtown Bismarck. This gallery is a gem not only for the community, but also for the state and the Midwest, at large. It’s an absolutely beautiful space for artists to showcase their work, and whether you’re a community member or a tourist, it’s definitely a destination worth seeking out. The space is large and open, allowing guests to step back from the everyday hustle and bustle, and breathe in some colors and inspiration.

I am so honored to currently be showing my work at this exceptional gallery through the end of 2017. After nearly a decade of being a professional artist, this is my first show in my hometown of Bismarck. This solo exhibition is entitled #nowords.


I don’t know about you, but it took me awhile to figure out hashtags. In fact, I had to ask a friend to give me a tutorial. She explained, “Hashtags can either be used as a tool to be witty or as a way to categorize a post.” My response was, “Wow, these things really communicate more than I thought!”


Single statements, or a single word in some cases, with the pound sign in front of it, can completely change the essence of a photo you’re viewing or change your mind about what you’re reading. Hashtags can spark a new conversation and a new perspective. At our fingertips is an abundance of ways to communicate; online, offline, this app, that app, emails, handwritten greeting cards, you name it. What an exciting time and place we live in.

For me, communication is much more than words and how they’re delivered. Life inspires me to look around, to be present, and to soak up the sights, sounds and smells. Life motivates me to question, “How do I color this?” rather than, “How do I put this into words?” That is someone else’s gift.

The best language I know how to speak is through texture and scale, movement and color on a canvas. The decisions I make about the scale of my canvases are part of the communication I want to create between myself and you as the viewer. When a painting has large scale, it is bigger than you. Part of the joy of these pieces is getting lost in the work. You can get closer to the art and see more.

Some of the pieces on display in the gallery have been months in the making, some I’ve been working on for several years. In all reality, my whole life got me to the point where I’m able to create the way I’m creating now. So, you could say, this show has been thirty-plus years in the making. As a viewer, my hope is that you’ll feel powerful energy and a new-found rhythm in me as an artist when you walk through the gallery.

Perhaps the most important thing I’d love to communicate with #nowords is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to what you see in my art. This new body of work is me loving to be alive, grateful for this life. All the pieces work collectively to reflect that. Which is why, when people ask me to talk about my art or bring words to it, I always hesitate. It is difficult for me to definitively express my passion for this art and this life, so don’t be surprised if I respond, “There are no words.” #nowords

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