Photography by Dan Francis Photography
To kick off the 32nd Annual Homes for the Holidays tour, by NDSU’s Alpha Gamma Delta Alumnae, we visited the 1923 character home of Sara Oltvedt and Dan Olson, in Fargo’s Historic Hawthorne neighborhood. Each November, this tour partners area designers with local boutiques and homeowners to create stunning holiday scenes ready to inspire. This year, we followed local designer, Christy Brawner-Riley who showcased her recent refresh with holiday decor from Eco Chic Home.
Oltvedt and Olson moved into their 1923 Fargo home just three years ago and have recently been working with Christy Brawner Interiors to refresh their home’s layout and furnishings. As the fifth family to reside here in 95 years, the home had already gone through a handful of remodels and upgrades, many of them dating back to the 50s and 90s. When they moved in, they brought their own heirloom furnishings and so started the challenge of what to keep and what to respectfully set aside. As beautiful as their furnishings were, many of their existing pieces did not fit the light and bright look they wanted to incorporate. Very carefully, Brawner-Riley worked with the homeowners to update furnishings and room layouts to better suit their family’s needs.
For the tour, Brawner-Riley worked with decor from Eco Chic Home in Fargo, to complete the homeowner’s nature-inspired holiday design. “Eco Chic has such beautiful greenery and some of the more natural elements that I wanted to bring in here. I didn’t want to go over-the-top Christmas, but I wanted it to have that classic Christmas feeling with warm and cozy elements,” said Brawner-Riley. To complement the Eco Chic Home decor, she also incorporated a few of her own holiday-inspired pieces.
Previously, this room was underused, but Oltvedt wanted this to be an area where she could have friends and family and entertain. “By changing the entire layout of the room and making the fireplace the focus, they will get a lot more use out of it and be able to sit comfortably and enjoy the space,” said Brawner-Riley.
“The pillows on the sofa were kind of our jumping off point – I found that fabric and loved it; it also had some of the turquoise in the chairs, so we had those pillows custom-made,” she continues. “This pattern was also the inspiration for some of the colors and more natural aspects of the tree in the nearby sunroom. They have a beautiful garden all around the house, so it’s kind of nice to bring that nature in. The house just lends itself because it’s so classic and centered around simplicity. All of the furniture in this room is new, except for the piano. I found the sofa and chairs at McNeal & Friends. Some of the smaller pieces like the side tables and coffee table were found on Wayfair.”
“Since it’s been done, I come out here every morning and I’m amazed that this is our house, it’s not just something from a magazine that I’ve seen and want,” said Oltvedt.
With subtle changes in furnishings and layout continuing in each of the rooms, the homeowners have a running list of areas to update in their historic home; including the fireplace’s stone surround and kitchen. To respect the home’s original charm and high-end finishes, each decision is a balancing act of new and old.
After Brawner-Riley had designed a new layout for the adjacent living room, it was decided that the Christmas tree would be better served in the sunroom, near their son’s chess table. “The new layout of the living room was designed as a space for entertaining, so we wanted to keep that as is and not obstruct the flow,” said Brawner-Riley.
“Sara had wanted to replace all of her Christmas decor, so, shortly after I found out that I would be doing the holiday design here, I stumbled upon everything I needed. I was out thrift store shopping (I’m an avid thrift shopper), I found all of the jewel-toned ornaments on this tree,” said Brawner-Riley. “I ordered the pompous grass from Hornbacher’s to bring in that feather element and I also brought in the peacock feathers.”
The Bar Harbor Room
The room where they spend most of their family time was dubbed the Bar Harbor room, long before their day. Recently, the homeowners were told by a local expert that it was likely built in the 50s, judging by the brickwork on the fireplace. The floorboards were predicted to have come from the original carriage house.
For the holiday decor, Brawner-Riley complemented the warmer wood tones and chose classic comfort with plush pillows from Eco Chic Home. “With this room being more of a family room, I wanted to go with a classic red for the tree and decor, and I designed for the little niches and kept it simple,” said Brawner-Riley.
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The red bird on the coffee table is a treasured piece the homeowner bought for her very first home, many years ago at the first Junk Market held in Eco Chic’s parking lot.
Elegance at the Table
The dining room’s floral wallcovering and custom built-ins were originally designed by previous owners who lived in the home for 28 years. Working with the home’s historic charm, Brawner-Riley adorned the heirloom dining table with new, more stylized captains chairs and nature-inspired bird prints; tying in the nature print from the formal living room’s pillows. Fur placemats, aspen branches, fresh-cut greens and her own vintage bone china, set the tone for timeless tradition and elegance. Near the built-ins and console, she chose pine tree accents from Eco Chic Home.
The Sara Oltvedt’s father is a well-known artist and former MSUM Art Professor, Carl Oltvedt. Nearly every piece of their collection is local or regional, with a few favorites from Bob Crowe, Kay Ornberg, Charles Beck, Dan Jones and many more.
Brawner-Riley found the console table near the front entry at SCHEELS Home & Hardware. The artwork behind the floral is a piece by local artist, Kay Ornberg. “Kay used to travel with my dad; this is a tree that she painted from a trip that my dad led in Scotland. My husband, Dan had this painting before we met, so when my dad came over for the first time to his house and saw the painting that he had, he said, ‘I know what tree that is!’ So, later he went home and dug through his photos and brought the photo of the actual tree.
Embracing Historic Character
“The bulk of what we’ve done is bring in the artwork and bring a more classic style into the home, just to maintain some of the character and integrity of the original finishes,” said Oltvedt. The entry, hallway, living room and kitchen were all updated by the most recent previous owners, who lived here for around five years. Linen and textured wall coverings were added throughout, and nearly all of the windows have been replaced in the style of the home’s original character. The hardwood floors near the front of the home are original and the window upstairs on the front of the house, French doors and entry all have original glass panes.
Giving Back by Design
“What really brings the designers, volunteers and homeowners together, in one collaborative effort, is knowing that the work we do gives back to the F-M community,” said co-chair Brenna Naseer. “Each year, we choose a different local charity to receive a share of proceeds from Homes for the Holidays. Last year’s event supported the Great Plains Food Bank BackPack Program and this year we chose Churches United for the Homeless. That is one of the biggest reasons why I love being a part of Homes for the Holidays – playing a small role in something that has made an impact for local people over so many years; it’s truly a great feeling.”
For more information, contact:
Christy Brawner Interiors