As a professional interior designer, Jeralyn Mohr knows all the good places to find great furniture and unusual accessories.
Like clearance aisles, thrift shops, Craigslist and even the local dumpster.
“I’m all about Craigslist,” said Mohr, principal of Full Nest Inc. (www.interiordesignminnesota.com), who relies on the classified ad website to find stylish bargains for her clients — and for herself.
She recently transformed her own St. Paul rental home, a 1,000-square-foot apartment on the second floor of an old building, using almost all secondhand and repurposed items as well as her own artwork.
Mohr did the project “on the cheap,” she said, but many of her Craigslist finds look a lot more expensive than they actually were. “Tons of people are changing their decor, want to get rid of stuff and are not charging a lot,” she said.
Mohr’s recent makeover was all about designing a more restful, calming environment.
“I’ve been craving going totally neutral for a long time,” she said of her cream, brown and black color scheme, which replaced the bold blue-and-fuchsia palette she had created before. Her new understated, tone-on-tone spaces help her relax after immersing herself in the kaleidoscope of her clients’ projects.
As a designer, “you have to put on the hat of the other person and expose yourself to so many colors and styles,” she said. At home, she craved “neutralness” as an antidote to all the “visual information” she was absorbing during her workday.
So she sold her dusty blue ’50s modern sofa and used the proceeds to buy a “new” Craigslist sofa in a mushroom hue.
Other Craigslist finds included rugs, a glam zebra-print chaise, a $35 farm table and chairs that she repainted in black lacquer, and a hand-carved Asian armoire in mint condition that she picked up for less than $150.
When you delete color, texture becomes even more important, she’s learned. Her new decor has a variety of shapes and finishes — chunky and fine, shaggy and smooth, matte and shiny, like the distinctive metallic coffee table — or “chrome hockey puck,” as she describes it — that she found at a friend’s vintage shop, Retro Wanderlust in Hopkins.
Mohr also transformed a few hand-me-down pieces she already had, such as an old “Golden Girls”-style armchair upholstered in a dowdy floral print. She painted the fabric with deep green acrylic paint, giving it the look of leather, removed the skirt and hammered in chrome nailheads — to make it “a little less Grandma,” she said.
She sewed new covers for her accent pillows, in luxurious fabrics including faux leather and fur and metallic gold foil. “I keep recovering the same ones,” she said of the foam pillow inserts she once bought at Goodwill.
Mohr, who is also an artist, created most of the artwork displayed in her home. There’s a grouping of her abstract paintings accented with stitching and brass beads, a “juju” (Cameroonian-style headpiece) that she made of black feathers, and a framed piece made of artfully draped player-piano scrolls.
One of the most unusual artistic statements in her home is a pair of tall vertical paintings hung above her bed. To create them, Mohr taped paper to the floor, dipped dance shoes in charcoal and then danced on the paper. “It makes great patterns,” she said of the smoky swirls. Then she glued on crystals — “a nod to ballroom performance wear.”
A focal point in her apartment is the accent wall in her dining room, where she painted a tree mural in creamy tone-on-tone hues. “I’ve done a million variations,” she said of the trees, which she’s painted on several clients’ walls as a custom alternative to framed artwork.
On top of her own tree mural, she hung a likeness of the moon, painted with gesso to create a droplet effect that mimics lunar craters. “I wanted something maternal and soothing,” she said. “I was thinking about a vintage moon print, then I decided to get a round canvas and paint a moon myself.”
Many of her friends are also artists, and they influence her experiments with materials and techniques. “I’m inspired by my friends,” she said. “What they do with their spaces is most interesting to me.”
Fortunately, Mohr has two flexible roommates, including one who embraced the redecorating project and helped her find deals and repaint. They also have an accommodating landlord who allows Mohr to make cosmetic changes, and even pays for other upgrades based on her suggestions, such as switching out cabinet hardware in the kitchen.
“He rolls with it, and seems to like and appreciate the effort,” she said.
Telling a story
Accessories in the redesigned apartment were kept to a minimum. “I’m not a big knick-knacky person,” Mohr said. “I like a few things out that tell a story, that make me wonder where they came from.” She picks up a vintage tin, sitting on a table, and opens it. Inside is a roll of yellowing paper. “It’s tape for Morse code. This is one of my favorite gifts from a friend. She finds the most amazing stuff. The center looks like a crop circle. I like things with a little mystery.”
Her personal style at home continues to evolve. Right now, “I’m kind of obsessed with Gothic florals, and I love faux fur,” she said. “My style is quirky and soulful … sentient.”
Creating an environment that feels like home calls for knowing your style — but not letting it limit your creativity. “Your space should reflect you — but be its own beast.”
For clients who want to save money on their own makeovers, Mohr is open to letting them do some of the legwork themselves.
The secret of successful shopping on Craigslist is to be strategic and selective, she said. “I start off knowing what I’m looking for.” Quality is critical, and so are measurements. “People will pick bad scale and quality just because it’s affordable.” But even a cheap piece of furniture carries a heavy toll when a hasty purchase doesn’t work out.
She knows that lesson firsthand. “It’s not easy to get a sofa up the stairs into this apartment.”