Homegazing: Guitarist Brian Setzer's Minneapolis loft rocks

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 19, 2013 - 2:35 PM

Guitarist Brian Setzer and his wife, Julie Reiten, felt right at home in their aptly named Rock Island Lofts. But now that they're moving, you can have it for $1.299 million.

Guitarist Brian Setzer and his wife, Julie Reiten, felt right at home in their aptly named Rock Island Lofts. Setzer would have friends over and “rock the heck” out of the top-floor unit. He even posed with his signature Gretsch guitar in front of the downtown Minneapolis skyline on his rooftop patio for the cover of his 2009 album, “Songs From Lonely Avenue.”

“We leave the curtains open in the living room,” he said during a phone interview while on tour with the Brian Setzer Orchestra’s Christmas show, which included a gig last month at the Orpheum Theatre. “It’s the prettiest nightlight you could have.”

But after eight years there, Setzer and Reiten are selling their condo in the North Loop neighborhood, which is within walking distance of restaurants, nightlife haunts and Target Field. They’re moving to a western suburb where Reiten will have a yard for gardening and space for an art studio — and Setzer will have a three-car garage. “My hobby is working on hot rods and motorcycles,” he said.

‘My Minnesota gal’

Setzer, known for his ’50s-style blond pompadour and masterful guitar playing, founded the rockabilly revival band the Stray Cats, which produced hits such as “Stray Cat Strut” and “Rock This Town” in the 1980s. Then he revived big-band swing music with the Brian Setzer Orchestra in the 1990s.

He met Reiten, a singer for the Twin Cities band the Dust Bunnies, in Los Angeles when she auditioned as a vocalist for the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

“I married my Minnesota gal, Julie,” he said. “We were living in California, and we kept going back and forth to visit her family. I fell in love with the city and liked the whole Minneapolis scene.”

In 2005, the couple traded living by the ocean for the Minneapolis loft. Rock Island Lofts was built in 2002, but the brick building resembles an old warehouse, with arch-topped windows offering views of downtown skyscrapers and the river. The couple chose the two-level top-floor unit with 3,000 square feet and a rooftop patio. “Being a rock star, I had to have a penthouse,” Setzer joked.

The first owner left the unit as a simple, plain box, except for Minnesota Gophers maroon and gold walls, said Setzer. They enlisted interior designer Greg Walsh to give the loft a retro rock ’n’ roll vibe that reflected their interests and integrated some of Setzer’s vintage collectibles.

“I gave it a rockabilly edge without being overtly contrived,” said Walsh, principal at Martin Patrick 3 in Minneapolis. The loft’s upper-level game room, outfitted with a half-dozen vintage pinball machines and a hula-dancer lamp, was inspired by a “1950s bowling alley and bar,” said Setzer. Walsh gave it a lounge-lizard look with cobalt crocodile faux leather on the bar chairs. There’s also a silver-flecked retro starburst decorating the wood floor. And down the hall, Walsh covered a wall with metallic paper to highlight Setzer’s gold records and rock ’n’ roll memorabilia.

The couple furnished the music room with a funky purple velvet sofa in front of a panel of black leather from an auto upholsterer. “It’s one solid piece of leather and is great for soundproofing,” said Setzer. “Me and three guys tacked it up.” The final flourish is a custom lime-green Gretsch guitar light fixture suspended from the ceiling.

On the main level, the couple’s master bedroom “is pretty groovy,” said Setzer. “The zebra carpeting gives it urban glamour.” For one wall, Walsh chose a dramatic matte and gloss wallpaper, featuring an oversized shell motif, and tossed hypnotizing red-lipped pillows created by artist Lisa Pearl on the bed. “The bedroom is exotic Hollywood glam with touches of traditionalism,” said Walsh.

The master bathroom is a tranquil contrast, evoking a minimalist Asian Zen experience with a Japanese wooden soaking tub and black-pebbled tile floor.

Walsh transformed the humdrum living room by adding silver leaf to the painted fireplace surround, a silver tufted Chesterfield sofa, modern track lighting and ebony-stained floors for a sophisticated glam aesthetic. Scott Porter of Porter Design Works in Lakeville did the faux painting and silver leaf floor inlays in several rooms throughout the condo.

Walsh updated the cherry cabinet kitchen by putting in an amoeba-shaped center island and modern cabinet doors and hardware.“The background is simple and clean, and the new island sets the tone,” he said.

The last two rooms in the loft showcase the couple’s personal touches.

“Julie wanted the pink leopard-print wallpaper and hot pink washer and dryer,” said Setzer, referring to the bubblegum-hued laundry room. “You need sunglasses to go in there.”

Setzer is a regular at the nearby Monte Carlo, so he asked Walsh to re-create the restaurant’s swanky men’s room inside the condo’s powder room. “It’s pretty ritzy, with black and brown glass-tiled walls,” he said.

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  • Setzer’s upstairs game room holds his collection of vintage pinball machines.

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