Andrew Flesher knows Minneapolis’ stately 510 Groveland building intimately. The designer has lived on the top and bottom floors of the classic former hotel, and decorated a half-dozen apartments in between. He long considered one particular unit the ugliest. And that’s the one he recommended that his dear friend, Anne Wethington, buy. Why? Financially, it was a good deal. “And I told her: ‘We can take anything and make it nice,’ ” Flesher says. First, they assessed the apartment, which had once been two hotel rooms. The entry was odd, with the main door opening directly into the living room. Classic moldings representative of the building’s 1927 heritage had been stripped from the walls. An original parquet floor was so beat up it seemed beyond repair. The paint was dingy, the light fixtures bleak.
As a fixer-upper, it seemed daunting, but Wethington had faith in her friend. “Andrew has an incredible sense of beauty and knows how to bring it alive in a space,” says Wethington, who leads global services for Atmosphere Commercial Interiors. “His taste is eclectic. He travels internationally and brings the rest of the world back to his projects.”
What Wethington wanted, as she downsized from a bigger unit in the building, was soothing personal and work space with objects she loved and plenty of light.
To achieve the vision, Flesher first brought in architect Klaus Freyinger, who also lives in the building and who suggested moving the door to create a proper foyer. Doing so allowed for an open passageway connecting the living room at one end to the bedroom at the opposite, pulling light throughout.
To regain the grandeur of the original unit, Wethington had wall and ceiling moldings custom-made from original samples. She commissioned architect Laurel Ulland to create radiator covers to mesh with the space. To blot out street noise, the team installed new soundproof windows.
Then they got to work creating the environment Wethington and Flesher envisioned — bright and airy, mixing classic and modern, with lots of original art and charismatic antiques.
“One of our favorite things to do is go on Saturday morning run-arounds,” says Flesher, who splits his time between Minneapolis and New York City. Regular stops on these scouting forays here include H&B Gallery, Claire Steyaert Antiques and Circa Gallery. One morning, Flesher spotted what looked like a Dunbar cabinet in a dull wood finish at Steyaert’s. He saw its potential, lacquered it white and used tea paper, a gold leaf foil, on the doors. The dullish piece with good bones became the room’s bar and a focal point.
Flesher scours the internet in a similar fashion. Example: He found a 1948 Harold Brett portrait of a young, blond woman in a lovely blue dress on 1stdibs.com. Brett was compared to Norman Rockwell and, like him, illustrated Harper’s Weekly and other magazine covers. For fun, Flesher and Wethington gave the painting a back story and refer to her as “The Reluctant Debutante.”
But before adding art and antiques, Flesher created a neutral palette that Wethington can spark up or calm down as she chooses. For spring, she uses bright pillows, throws and flowers to add freshness and pops of color in harmony with the overall decor.
As she continues to refine her space, she relies on Flesher’s sensibility and knowledge. “He has educated me about the pieces we find. For him, it’s not just about procuring; it’s about listening to his clients’ taste and interests. He has helped me expand my own vision for my home and make it real.”
Styling by Barbara Schmidt, principal of studiobstyle. Schmidt is a nationally known creative director and stylist. She recently collaborated on Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book, “Goop Clean Beauty.”