[Linda Birmingham & Julie Erickson, Designingwomen2]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Travis Beauchene, studio three bea
During one of the snowiest months in recent history, our team escaped the cold and headed to the lakes for a stunning home tour of a redesign with Linda Birmingham and Julie Erickson of Designingwomen2. With the home's exterior offering a more rustic cabin curb appeal, DW2 found interior brilliance creating high-contrast with vibrant pops of color and a fresh coastal style. See how the team worked with Diamond Edge Construction to transform Karla and Kim Larson's knotty pine and hickory home, with bright ideas and beach-inspired bliss.
From Rustic Retreat to Minnesota Coastal
Transforming the Larson's darker, knotty pine and hickory interior required a team consisting of general contractor, Phil Sinkler of Diamond Edge construction as well as designers, Julie Erickson and Linda Birmingham of DW2. While the home's layout did not need reconfiguring, all of the home's finishes required updates. Sinkler took on the seven-week task of painting the trim, doors and walls. He also refinished 83 hickory cabinet doors, managed the plumbing and rewired for new lighting. The most dramatic change came from the idea to paint the 12-foot knotty pine ceiling white, giving the vaulted space a more updated, beach house appeal. "Phil was great to work with, he was our contractor for every update and managed the project and subs from start to finish," said Kim Larson.
Prepping for Perfection
For the interior design and furnishings, Karla Larson had a vision and a head start. Although they closed on their new home last October, a visit to DW2's studio, four months prior, set the plan in motion. Erickson and Birmingham organized a mood board to decipher the Larson's style, likes and dislikes - then the team collaborated to mix old and new furnishings.
"We were picking out flooring, paint colors and furniture in June - I thought maybe it was too soon, but it was great timing considering some of the pieces took a few months to arrive. By the time Phil was done with the finishes, most of it was here," said Karla Larson. "When I first met up with Linda at the studio, we just clicked. I felt like they knew exactly what I wanted and it was nice that we were able to use some of the furniture pieces we already had."
With an open-concept layout, Birmingham and Erickson designed the kitchen so its features, colors and hardware would flow seamlessly into the main living space. Sinkler took on the hickory cabinet overhaul, while DW2 worked with the Larsons on the design of their Dover White cabinetry with brushed gold hardware and pendants, crisp quartz countertops from Northern Stone, and a fun pop of color on the island.
In the dining room, the Larsons were able to repurpose their existing table and console with a little creative execution. DW2 used Karla Larson's Flamingo artwork, bright console, and orange lamp as the inspiration for the room's vibrant personality. Five drop-down pendants were installed and the chair seats were recovered in a new royal blue tweed. Lending a relaxed, beachy vibe to the more formal dining table, DW2 incorporated organic elements like the banana leaf captain's chairs from Serena & Lily.
"This was a fun project," said Birmingham. "In addition to the pieces we brought in and ordered, Karla would bring things down from their old house and it was like we had our own little store to shop at, right here in the garage."
Lake Life Living Room
A major focal point of the open-concept space is the newly painted knotty pine ceiling in conjunction with the original stone fireplace surround. Pairing with the new brighter space and Agreeable Grey wall color, DW2 chose some of the Larson's more colorful side tables, mixing them with new finds like the Kate Spade indoor/outdoor accent pillows. For the metallic elements, DW2 chose a mix of timeless black and variations of gold - a trend they saw dominating this year's market. To give the space organic texture with subdued color, Erickson and Birmingham brought in a Company C, wool loop rug and added a fresh pop of green with a unique, glycerine-preserved corner plant.
For homeowners afraid of white and light sofas, fear no more. DW2 was able to find a line of furnishings in a performance fabric which is stain-resistant and highly resilient. "When we were at market, they demonstrated this by dumping a glass of red wine on the sofa - it beaded up and ran right off," said Birmingham. "These pieces can all be customized with so many different options, but we wanted to keep it clean and simple with the sofa and two side chairs. Also, we do swivel chairs as often as we can, especially in more open living areas. This is a nice feature when you have guests over, so they can easily swivel around to visit with guests in the dining room, kitchen or living room - and the price is not that much different."
At the room's center, DW2 chose a beautiful and functional stool trio in soft, wide-welt corduroy. "When they told me they ordered the stools instead of a large ottoman, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, but now I absolutely love it," said Karla Larson. "The living room is one of my favorite spaces; even on cloudy or snowy days, it's just so bright and fun, especially with the natural light coming in."
At the furthest end of the living room, near the repainted banister, DW2 created a small seating area with a gorgeous, woven Palacek chair and large-scale artwork by Harp & Finial - both items were found for the home at last year's market trip.
Divine Den & Guest Bath
In the den, Birmingham and Erickson kept the design casual, using many of the Larson's existing pieces like the sofa sleeper, flea market side table and artwork. Updates included swapping out the light fixture and bringing in new accent pillows, a rug and smaller accessories.
Mid-century Modern Master
Inside the master bedroom, muted tones intermix and soft textures take over. Birmingham and Erickson put the focus on the beach-inspired bed by Serena & Lily with oversized lamps and canvas art to anchor the design. Across the room, the team used the Larson's old dresser, modernizing it with a slimmer set of Mid-century Mod lamps.
Crisp and clean, white and bright; this is the Larson's newly renovated master bath with glittering quartz vanity top, silver drop pendants, Dover White cabinetry and a lighter wood-look ceramic tile.
The Final Stage
Before the final reveal and walk-through, DW2 did one last staging of the home, allowing for uninterrupted focus to ensure that every space was dressed to impress. "I had a hard time letting go at the end when they were going in to stage it," said Karla Larson. "I told Linda immediately, 'I don't know if I can do that - I kind of want to be here.' But, I'm glad I left. It was really fun coming back a few hours later and having it all staged - there were so many things that I never would have thought of on my own."
"We have found that our clients get a much better result if they're not in the home during the final staging; mainly the problem is that so many people have envisioned in their mind, where they think things should go," said Birmingham. "If they're open to allowing us to do our job and trust us to make those decisions, the result will be beautiful. Half of what we do is based on psychology - we have to hone in on what is going to appeal to them, what their style is, and what will be functional for their lifestyle."
"Another part of our job is to make sure that we don't let clients go all the way into the newest trends, to the point where they'll regret it in a couple of years," said Birmingham. "It's easy to get carried away with whatever style is trending, but it's a good idea to focus more on what appeals to you. Mix in trends in smaller ways that will be easier to swap out down the road."
Find the Finishes
DW2 is on the Move!
"With the move to a new location, along with our neighbors, Showcase Floors, there will be quite a few changes," said Linda Birmingham. "Instead of trying to carry things in our studio for everyone, we are planning to do more custom searches for items for each person and project. Julie Erickson will be retiring soon, while Mary Lystad will be starting a new organizing business. There will be three designers taking on individual projects, Kari Rasmus, Kris Carlson and myself."
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