Living Local

Living Local
by Maggie Vertin

Since the day when Minnesota Governor Wendell Anderson graced the cover of Time magazine (1973) in a plaid fishing shirt and an ebullient smile, a North Woods sensibility has gained popularity in home décor -think big lodge, plaid fabrics, dark colors and woodsy influence.

Today, homeowners in lakes country are showcasing a more expansive lake decor in a classic summer cottage, cozy cabin or contemporary lake home that reflects life on the lakeshore. Interior decorating now features regional sensibilities from unique architectural features to artwork and table settings. Local craftsmen, designers and artists are bringing home their love of the land of 10,000 sunny, beachy lakes.

Interior decorating trends are global, and often reflect a global economy, culture or world events. Because delivery was not historically consistent, some areas of the world were caught on the back end of a trend. With the fast pace of technology and communication today, decorating ideas can be in and out much quicker. However, even global trends popular today may reflect historical movements, such as the resurgence of gold accessories. But local trends are very personal and reflect more of a regional lifestyle.

How do home decorating trends evolve? Ideas generally move from either coast inland; the fashion industry affects interior design; and today’s social media with sites such as Pinterest and Houzz are a major influence.

Design professionals from four disciplines- interior decorating, retail home furnishings, education, and textile design weighed in on the lodge to lake transformation. “With many smaller cabin getaways turning into beautiful year-round homes,” says interior designer Bailee Schissel of Refreshing Designs in Perham, Minn., “the design trends are becoming less ‘Paul Bunyan,’ while instead exhibiting a soothing place to rest, relax and unwind.”

This regional trend incorporates many of the traditional lake theme ideas. According to Schissel, these ideas “range from whimsical, vibrant and beachy, to the many shades of blue and green that bring the tranquil water feel indoors.”
Linda Manikowski is an Associate Professor at NDSU in the Apparel, Retail Merchandising and Design program who spends her summers in the lakes area. She teaches a class on Visual Merchandising and Trend Forecasting. Linda believes that lake décor is becoming a major development in the interiors market. “The nautical theme is popular in apparel now as well, and often home fashion follows apparel trends,” she notes. “Even though we are far from the coasts here in the Midwest, those of us who love the lake and being on the water also like to surround ourselves with those things in our homes.”

Steph Ellingson operates Periwinkle Marketplace and Interior Design in Ottertail, Minn., offering a variety of new, vintage and original décor focusing on ‘all things lake.’ Customers to the shop are greeted with a plethora of lake items as diverse as dish towels, skis, buoys, glassware, lake signs, wall canvases and antiques. The Marketplace provides individual vendor stall space for regional artists and craftsmen to showcase their wares. “Our local artisans have seen a continuing demand for repurposed items, water sports memorabilia and lake country themes such as maps, fish, beach and nautical as well as traditional items with lake themes such as pillows, throws, wallhangings and tableware. Let’s just say that we cater to lake people!” exclaims Ellingson. “Vacationers shop at Periwinkle all year long. It seems they want to take home a souvenir from lakes country because it helps keep the memories afloat when the vacation ends.”

Textile designer Teresa Magnuson finds inspiration for her collection of home décor from lake country surroundings. “The lakes, the Nordic heritage, even the pesky mosquito are images that evoke emotion and memories for people,” notes Magnuson, “and they enjoy living in an environment that celebrates lake living.” Magnuson designs patterns that can be used on everything from tea towels to bedding and backpacks. “My customers want to embrace lake sensibilities and I create pillows, flags, wall hangings and fabric yardage to fulfill that desire.”

Decorating with lake accents has become an option for all interiors –historic homes, and cabins and cottages as well as new traditional and contemporary lake homes. Whether the lake place is a getaway cabin or a permanent dream home, the focus is often on de-stressing and escaping. Bringing the water and the outdoors into the design immediately hints at calm and serenity.

With a knack for mixing it up, a space can readily reflect personality. DIY (Do It Yourself) projects have become very popular, accessible through the internet and make designer looks more affordable. The possibilities for lake décor are endless: whether through timeless style with vintage pieces or achieving a beach look with repurposed furniture or a nautical vibe with navy hues and images of ships and anchors.

A touch of lake sensibility can be added with paint, a quick and dramatic way to change an interior. Popular are white finishes that showcase furnishings, feel refreshing and come in every conceivable application: it’s serene with nautical shiplap; it’s sophisticated with marble; it’s textural with white washed beams; it’s a broad canvas; an instant backdrop. Shades of green, blue, teal and aqua surround and soothe like water when added on walls or as accents.

Often, interior decorating takes a clue from an architectural feature. Lakes area is ripe with artisans who use antique or reclaimed wood to fashion new walls or stairs or accent pieces. The historic aspect of using this wood becomes an experience often loaded with memories. Perhaps the wood was reclaimed from a previous lake cabin or evokes past activities of family life. The warmth and texture of wood brings the outdoors in. The popularity of shiplap walls is natural and easily conjures the lake and nautical themes. Creative craftsmen are bringing reclaimed tin roofing from the shed down the road to the ceilings and walls of lake cabins. Local designers create one-of-a-kind pieces such as furniture and light fixtures that evoke lake loving and lake living.

The lakes area abounds with artists. There are art galleries in Perham, Battle Lake, Fergus Falls and Alexandria, as well as private studios that offer an opportunity to incorporate something very unique into home décor. A watercolor lake scene can add a touch of whimsy or convey serenity. A glass fish sculpture announces the lake lapping beyond the windows. Oil and watercolor paintings, photographic images, pottery, blown glass, wall hangings and textiles are all available regionally. They immediately add an original and personal touch to any decorating scheme.

North Woods sensibilities long influenced interior décor; today, Lakes Area sensibilities are doing the same. Interior decorators pull from all these regional lakes area inspirations to create light, bright, airy and energizing interiors for lake property owners. ~L&H

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