Change is a constant as design-it-yourself duo rearranges focus and furniture
(This article was first published April 30, 2003)
After a long day at the aerobics studio, Capt. Fitness loves to come home and collapse on the sofa. If he can find it. Turns out that aerobics king Doug Melroe’s partner, A-list hair stylist Denny Kemp, has a mania for moving things around. And trying out new furniture.
“I think we’ve gone through like 15 sofas in our 15 years together,” Melroe said with a major eye roll.
Kemp, soft-spoken and often outfitted in Prada, has an apt counterpoint in Melroe, who recently posed for promotional photos in little more than briefs and a pair of angel wings.
“He’s flashier and more outgoing than me,” Kemp said of Melroe, “but he’s also very practical, where I am impractical.”
That balance has played itself out in their do-it-yourself approach to decorating the turn-of-the-century Minneapolis home they’ve shared for 12 years. After filling its spacious rooms with a rolling assortment of antiques, upholstered chairs, heavy rugs and Stickley furniture, Kemp and Melroe took a hard turn to mid-century modern design a few years ago.
“When the house and the furniture were both old, it wasn’t fun — more like living in a stage set,” Kemp said.
As currently configured, the rooms of the Colonial Revival house by architect Harry Wild Jones (see accompanying article) vibrate with drama and daring. The grand rectangle of a living room off the entryway boldly pairs two Mies van der Rohe Barcelona daybeds, all tufted black leather, with a chrome-and-glass coffee table, an Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair in white boucle and an Arco floor lamp. A Julian Schnabel silk-screen hangs above a marble fireplace flanked by built-in bookcases.
So OK, Kemp and Melroe have placed classic pieces by the big cheeses of modernist design prominently in the most important room
of a house that features such traditional touches as paned French doors, bay-window columns, heavy moldings, even ornamental plaster ceilings. Instant eclecticism, or mega-mismatch?
“At first I went all modern, but that wasn’t me, either,” Kemp said. “I needed a mix.”
He got it by adding an edited assortment of antiques and by searching for compatibility and contrast. “Really, the roll pillows on the Mies daybeds are very French,” Kemp said. And the smooth planes of a veneered, high-legged flip-down Empire desk (probably 19th-century) work surprisingly well in the living room.
The backless leather platforms may not be as comfortable as a traditional sofa, but their lines and pedigree appeal to both men.
“I don’t care if it’s comfortable so long as it looks right,” said Kemp, owner of Denny Kemp Salon on E. Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. “If it doesn’t look good it can’t be comfortable.”
Comfort or no, a favorite Sunday-morning activity for the busy couple is lazing one to a daybed while going through newspapers and the latest style magazines, Melroe said.
`What are we doing?’