Cy Winship has long been a fan of midcentury modern design.
Now he finally has the perfect house for it.
About three years ago, the interior designer, Cy Winship Design, (cywinship.com) sold his longtime, century-old home in Minneapolis, and moved, with his husband, John Strauss, to a suburban rambler.
“We were looking for a midcentury modern house. I’ve always loved them,” said Winship.
He fell for the second house they saw — an Atomic Ranch-style classic in Golden Valley, with big picture windows, a galley kitchen that opened to a family room with a wood-paneled ceiling, and even a jaunty breezeway.
“I saw windows everywhere,” Winship recalled. “There’s so much air in this house — big horizontal spaces.” Plus there was a large screen porch overlooking a patio and big backyard where he could garden.
“I thought, ‘I can live here the way I want to — indoors and outdoors,’ ” he said. Within minutes, he’d decided: “I have to have this house.”
The rambler was built in 1954, but much of its decor dated from the 1980s and ’90s, with sponge-painted walls in some rooms and stark white walls in the living room.
Winship had another look — and another decade — in mind.
“I look at a room and can visualize pretty quickly what it wants to be,” he said. His home wanted to be “midcentury meets ’70s glam,” with Disco Decade touches such as furry flokati throws and a clear Lucite coffee table.
He didn’t shy away from bold design statements that might seem over the top to some. In the family room, for example, he chose a metallic vinyl wall covering that shimmers like hammered gold.
“It’s as trashy ’70s as you can get,” Winship said of his gilded wallpaper. “Hardly anyone dares to do it, but they think it’s groovy in someone else’s home.”
As a bonus, on gray winter days, the metallic surface reflects light and brightens up the space. “We’re so light-challenged here" in Minnesota, he said. “That gold wall is fantastic.”
Winship also loves bold color. The formerly all-white living room is now a breezy turquoise, set off by a teal velvet sofa and that Lucite coffee table. The kitchen, formerly beige, is now painted chartreuse.
Strauss gives his spouse free rein — almost — when it comes to their home. “John lets me do anything I want,” said Winship. “Except pink.”
The rambler’s kitchen and master bathroom were due for more than a new paint job. The bathroom, an addition in the 1960s, was “falling off the house,” Winship said, and had to be gutted and completely renovated.
The kitchen, meanwhile, was seriously short on storage. There were two metal carts on either side of the stove that were used for storage, “but it was hard to get at anything,” Winship said. He added Ikea cabinets in glossy white and quartz countertops in pale gray. He transformed the adjacent breezeway into a pantry by adding Ikea cabinets there, too.
Out of scale
When it came to furnishings and artwork, the couple had to start almost from scratch. Most of what they already owned was the wrong scale for the 2,100-square-foot rambler.
“We had smaller rooms” in the Minneapolis house, Winship said. “All our art was narrow and vertical. Here, we have bigger walls and need wider art.”
So they sold much of their stuff on Craigslist and started fresh.
Winship appreciates collector-quality midcentury modern pieces — but not their price tags.
His home’s furniture includes several iconic pieces associated with big names, such as Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chairs, Castiglioni’s Arco lamp and Saarinen’s tulip table. But Winship’s pieces aren’t the real deal — they’re budget-friendly knockoffs.
“I won’t pass up a bargain,” Winship said. Familiar to TV viewers from his days on “Decorating Cents,” the HGTV show that featured makeovers on limited budgets, Winship is no stranger to stretching design dollars. “Everything I do is tempered by cost vs. desire,” he said. “We want to spend our money on other things — like travel.”
Besides, a house filled with serious pieces is too, well, serious for Winship.
“Some homes are Gucci this and Eames that. I like to be a little lighter with it,” he said.
Adding to the levity is his whimsical, playful taste in artwork — everything from a print showcasing a Brigitte Bardot look-alike in a bikini, to vintage Russian cigarette ads that he found at an estate sale, to a retro painting of an anonymous young girl. “I call her Cousin Martha,” he said. “I love ’50s portraiture — I like the colors.”
Photos from the couple’s travels and fabrics also play a prominent role in their home’s decor.
“Fabrics do a thing for me,” Winship said. “I like to collect stuff,” such as Guatemalan textiles and a sheer white fabric with a sketch-like pattern that he brought back from Mexico and turned into drapes.
Designing a home for himself and his husband was a much different experience from designing for a client.
“It’s much freer,” he said. “I’m not as serious. Nothing seems too big a deal. There’s a responsibility of dealing with someone else’s home, trying to get what they love.”
And that’s his design philosophy — surrounding yourself with things you love.
“Figure out what brings you joy,” he said. “For me, it’s color, beautiful things, funny things and things I bring back from travels,” then combining them to create “warmth and wit ... a home that feels so good that you’re happier and more productive.”