The challenge: Debra Zillmer and Dan Leaver bought a rustic 1970s log home in southeastern Minnesota in 1999. They recently did an extensive remodeling to turn it into an Arts-and-Crafts-style retreat. As part of the redesign, the couple wanted to bring the wonders of nature inside the home to be admired every day.

The newly renovated kitchen, with cherry cabinets and granite island, provided the ideal canvas for a one-of-a-kind design. "The backsplash is what everyone looks at while working and eating," said Zillmer. "We wanted it to be very special."

Down the hall, Zillmer and Leaver had installed a new powder room and also planned to enhance that tiny, windowless space with nature-inspired art.

The designer: Artisan Stephany Eaton, Painted Ambiance,, 612-386-5154.

Mosaic master: For ideas, Zillmer visited the Minnesota Mosaic Guild website and was impressed with Eaton's designs.

"My works are about energy, balance and a feeling of Zen," said Eaton. That was the right combination for Zillmer and Leaver, who invited Eaton to their home. She asked the couple about their favorite images from nature, which she could weave into glass mosaic designs for the kitchen and bathroom. "She got a feeling for our home and drew a design, which we loved," said Zillmer.

Kitchen gallery: Eaton described the backsplash mural as "Nature's Yin and Yang." "It depicts day flowing into night, with winter on one end, balanced by summer on the other end," she said.

Under-cabinet lights illuminate the hundreds of pieces of vibrant-colored glass above the kitchen stove.

"It catches your eye with its beautiful colors," said Zillmer. "It sets the tone of the kitchen and creates an inner sense of calm."

Aurora borealis bath: During the remodeling project, the couple removed a stairway to create space for a main-floor powder room for guests. Once again, Eaton re-created a natural phenomenon, the aurora borealis or Northern Lights. She used lots of iridescent glass -- "so that when you turn your head, the pieces change color, which gives the feeling of movement and energy," she said.

The illuminated design flows across the space, with tiny crystals sparkling like stars on the walls, which are painted dark blue. When the bathroom door is open, it's easy to see the reflective mosaic from the far end of the hallway. "It invites you in," said Zillmer.

Removable installation: Eaton assembled the hand-cut mosaic artwork for the kitchen in four sections in her studio and then screwed it to the wall so that it can be taken down at any time.

Best part: The day-into-night mosaic art gives the couple a sense of peace and joy every time they look at it, said Zillmer. "It keeps us healthy."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619


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