When interior designer Andrew Flesher moved back to Minnesota from New York several months ago, he tackled a project for a very important client: his mom.
Mary Flesher was downsizing from her longtime home, a 2,600-square-foot townhouse in Roseville, to an 800-square-foot apartment at the Waters on 50th, a senior living community in southwest Minneapolis.
Andrew, the award-winning founding designer of Andrew Flesher Interiors, had been dividing his time between the Twin Cities and New York for the past decade, while also working with clients in other states.
“I like to travel, but the constant grind was a lot,” he said. He decided it was time to sell his New York home, a restored 18th-century farmhouse in Westchester County, and make Minneapolis his home base once again.
“The longer I’m away from Minneapolis, the more I miss it,” he said. “The people are more thoughtful. In New York, everybody is fighting for their space. I’d be hauling bags of samples on the subway. You think it will be so great to see shows on Broadway and go to restaurants but by the time you battle your way home, you’re exhausted and all you want is to order takeout.”
In the Twin Cities, it’s easier to take advantage of the thriving arts community and good neighborhood restaurants, he noted. And living in Minneapolis, he could be more available to help his mother, who he credits with sparking his interest in design.
“We used to say her [wedding] vows were to ‘love, honor and redecorate,’ ” he said. “She always wanted to change things. If you came home too late, you’d trip over the furniture,” because it would be in a different place than when you left.
Mary encouraged her son’s interest in design — and even let him make his early mistakes on the family home. “They were going to paint a room blue, and they let me pick the color,” he said. “It was terrible.”
For his mother’s big move, Andrew took charge of the downsizing, assessing the furniture and accent pieces she had, and choosing which pieces would make the move to the apartment.
“Andy told me what to bring. I totally trust him,” said Mary.
He also created two different design schemes for the apartment. He was pretty sure which one his mother would choose. But she surprised him.
“One was kind of like what she had, but updated, fresher,” he said. “It was mostly neutral.” The other was bold, with pops of vivid color — fuchsia, raspberry, plum and chartreuse. “I didn’t think she’d like it,” said Andrew. “But she saw it, and said, ‘What’s that?’ I showed her, and she said, ‘I like that!’ ”
What Mary calls “the perkier” design was based in Andrew’s research on the aging eye and how it perceives color. “I learned that older people get a yellow filter and tend to like stronger and warmer colors,” he said.
To reinforce the bold color palette, two of Mary’s existing chairs were reupholstered, one in a batik print in bright fuchsia, and the other in crisp chartreuse. Andrew then had bold-hued accent pillows made — enough for both her living room and bedroom. “In a small space, it’s good to let the colors flow” from one room to another, he said.
Some of the apartment’s finishes also got a designer upgrade.
Andrew replaced the kitchen countertop with off-white Caesarstone, the white appliances with stainless steel and switched out some of the lighting. “They were small and very utilitarian,” he said of the fixtures. “I put in linen drums” [lampshades].
For seating at her kitchen peninsula, he picked out simple modern chairs from Ikea.
A small nook in the kitchen now holds Mary’s petite writing desk and a carefully curated display of family photos. “It was supposed to be a pantry, but she wanted a desk,” Andrew said. An armoire placed in the kitchen serves as her pantry.
Although Mary shed a lot of her belongings in making the move, she hung onto keepsakes that she wasn’t willing to part with.
Andrew worked them into the design, including a stained-glass lamp made by Mary’s artist great-uncle, a small white accent table that had been her mother’s, and a vintage grain shovel made of wood, which Andrew displayed like an abstract sculpture in the living room. Another piece with memories is a painting of Our Lady of Lourdes church, where Mary used to be an active member. Andrew finished the rooms with some artwork of his own that he had in storage.
The result is a stylish yet comfortable space that helped ease Mary’s transition to a new city and a new home. “I love it here,” she said. “I’m lucky to have him in many ways.”
“She was a pretty easy client,” said Andrew. “I wish I got paid more,” he added, turning to his mom with a playful smile. “But it’s nice to be here for you during the move.”