It’s been a while since we shared a guest house tour around these parts, but we’re back in action today with Lea Johnson’s beautiful Minneapolis home. If you’re into a light, casual-yet-glam eclectic mix of mid-century modern and traditional meets farmhouse aesthetic, you’re in for a treat today. Lea, a stylist in her own right, can be found over at Creekwood Hill, a blog she started as a “digital diary” to document the build of her home. What was really just for herself and close friends transitioned into a full-blown passion after about a year or so and her site and Instagram account sort of evolved organically from there. She started styling more for family and friends, and then eventually, for clients. But back to her home that we’re giving you a tour of today. Lea and her husband never actually intended on a new build as they really loved and admired homes from the 1920s-1940s, but after many failed offers (and realizing their lack of renovation experience might have ended up being too much for them), they started looking at empty lots and thus began their home building journey.
To make sure it didn’t end up feeling like a “builder grade box” essentially, Lea has filled the home with so many enviable, thrifted treasures. Read on to get a look into all her rooms, how she was able to add character to a new build and how she effortlessly mixed-and-matched retail and vintage finds. I’m going to step back and let her take it from.
Take it away, Lea:
Our entryway is tiny and since we have an open floor plan in a very modest-sized home, you pretty much see the entire home from walking in the front door. One thing I knew when building was that I wanted to create a sort of “hallway” so that, one, it creates a little privacy from the kitchen and, two, we could install a closet to stash coats, shoes and gear. I like to keep things fairly organized in our home (as in everything has a place). It’s something I learned growing up with my grandma who lived through the Great Depression and I would say that is probably why she kept and reused everything but it was always SO fanatically tidy you would never have guessed that she had so many things. So I found a little desk (from World Market but no longer available) that was small enough to fit and that is where we keep mail, keys, sunglasses, change, etc. To that, I added a few pieces of art as I have yet to master the art of the gallery wall (I’m working on building up a collection). The light fixture was my first DIY in the house, one that was inspired by my love of Schoolhouse.
Rug | Marble & Wood C Table (similar) | Side Chair | Rust Lumbar Pillow | Sofa | Bookshelves | Blue & White Table Lamp | Wood End Table | Brass & Black Metal Side Table | Curtains (custom) | Curtain Hardware (Custom) | Roman Shade | Black Side Table | Black Poufs | Wall Color | Decor, Art, Busts (Vintage)
Because of this home’s open concept, I really had to take into account that all spaces needed to flow cohesively with one another from a design perspective. You’ll see a pretty consistent color palette throughout (mostly neutrals, pops of rust, brass, blue), starting n the living room, which sits right off the front door. In here, we added paneling to the walls for texture and a trio of bookcases from IKEA as I wanted to store books and other tchotchkes that I’ve picked up from my many thrift store jaunts. Almost everything displayed, I found thrifting. I make a habit of thrifting before buying new. It’s my way of balancing high and low as well as one way I can try to help keep the planet a little greener.
I knew I wanted a neutral sofa and one with a bit more interest to it, however, we also have a dog and two cats and we want to LIVE on our sofa (not just look at it) so when I found that this one came in this amazing woven performance fabric, I was like yesss! Style, comfort and performance (the trifecta for sofas).
Okay, let’s talk curtains. I would typically go with a neutral solid but I was ready for something bolder. I found this fabric which has a traditional feel to it but the pattern is more whimsical (there are pandas! I mean who doesn’t love a panda?!) The rug was sourced by a really good friend of mine.
Our dining room is located in between our kitchen and living room. We live in the city where houses are built really close to one another so I had piano windows installed because they reminded me of an older home and also provided privacy from the house next door. I mean, I really like them a lot but I don’t necessarily want to eat dinner with them every night. Another “form and function” decision that was made was installing a ceiling medallion. We had to move the electrical box and were left with a hole that needed to be covered, which the medallion hides. It’s also beautiful and again reminds me of the older homes I love so much.
The corner cabinet was one I found in an antique store about 15 years ago; we had moved it from house to house and it was in storage for about three years until we finally found it would fit in our current dining room and provide storage as well as character. One goal of mine while building on a budget (similar to ballin’ on a budget—sidetrack note, there should be a TV show called that) was to keep our home from feeling too “builder grade” so I tried to incorporate pieces that would provide interest and keep it from looking too boxy.
Because I love mixing styles, I found a mid-century Saarinen-style Tulip table to keep the space from feeling too traditional and then I found these beautiful black and cane armchairs. I didn’t want all four chairs to match so I went thrifting for side chairs and miraculously found these vintage Thonet chairs that were almost too good to be true ($15 each). They looked like they were always meant to be family.
I love supporting local family-owned businesses so when I discovered Golden Age Design, I ran (literally) to find a sideboard for this space to hold all our dishes, barware, and it also acts as our liquor cabinet. The owners make two trips to Denmark twice a year where they source vintage pieces and then containership everything they find back to the US. They completely refinish and fully restore the pieces, and they truly are heirloom quality. Ours was a bit of a splurge (to me) but it was one investment piece I that really spoke to me and I knew would last forever.
When building our kitchen, I added a large kitchen window to our must-haves list though it didn’t leave much room for cabinetry. We couldn’t fit fully custom cabinets into our budget so we went with a semi-custom version which allowed me to create very tall “uppers” to flank our kitchen window which creates a sort of hutch look. Since the kitchen sits at the back of the home and every view from the front door looks into it, I wanted it to look as clean-lined as possible.
Originally, the kitchen design was drawn out with a peninsula but I changed it to squeeze in an island, and because of that, it created an L-shaped kitchen style that left a big blank wall on one side of the room. I hated that it looked really unfinished as well as looking like an afterthought (which it sort of was) but there wasn’t enough clearance to fit full cabinetry and provide enough walking space around the island. Determined to find a cost-effective solution, I found these really shallow cabinets (9 inches deep). They provide enough storage for things like pet food, supplies, kitchen towels and food storage bags. I also love the look of open shelving so I added these three VERY inexpensive floating shelves to fill the wall space.
One thing we originally cut from our budget was a tile backsplash so instead, I asked the builder to install shiplap but we were inexperienced and didn’t seal it and it started yellowing in the knots of the wood (it also became really greasy and grimy after a couple of years). I ended up working with another local (woman-owned) business when it came time to replace the original shiplap. I originally met Mercury Mosaics‘ owner, Mercedes, at a couple of events and she reached out to collaborate on our kitchen project together. They make beautiful handcrafted mosaic tiles right here in Minneapolis. I was over the moon, as she and her team are amazing to work with. My friend Morgan with Construction2Style—another local family-owned business who had previously worked themselves with Mercury Mosaics on a project—installed it for us. To me, it’s more than tile. It’s the symbol of three Minnesota women in business who came together to support one another and create something meaningful, one-of-a-kind and beautiful.
Our laundry room is still under a bit of construction in that I would love to add cabinetry to frame around the washer and dryer. In here, I tried to maintain that classic look with the shaker cabinetry and vintage looking farmhouse sink. We were able to save quite a bit in here because we went with inexpensive flooring (VCT tile) that made me think of my grandma’s kitchen floor and a laminate countertop that really mimics the look and feel of a butcher block. I really love the hanging drying rack especially living in Minnesota so we’re able to hang up all our wet winter gear here.
Peg Rail | Leather Fly Swatter | Broom & Duster via HomeGoods
I most recently added a peg rail on the adjacent wall to provide some storage solutions for things like brooms, aprons and baskets (below).
Blue & White Blanket | Lumbar Pillow | Flushmount Lighting Fixture | Curtains (custom) | Curtain Hardware (custom) | Rug | Wall Color | Bed (no longer available) | Dresser, Chair, Chest, Nighstands, Decor, Art (vintage)
We started to work on our bedroom about a year ago. The bed, we’ve had for around 15 years and I love it so I didn’t want to change it. The dressers and nightstands were all thrifted. I love mixing materials and styles so here again you see traditional mixed with mid-century and vintage.
The powder room may just be my arch-nemesis as I recently just wallpapered it and it’s so tiny in here I could barely fit a ladder so being the non-DIY-er that I am, naturally, I thought it was a good idea to put my kitchen stool on top of the toilet seat to try to hang the paper. I completely wiped out faster than I could even realize and hit the floor. I may have even checked myself over to make sure I wasn’t impaled. As if that weren’t enough, I also electrocuted myself while I was cutting wallpaper out around the electrical outlets (okay, I shocked myself. Not fully electrocuted myself but it felt like it).
The only good thing that has come out of the powder room is the vanity. It was an old child’s dresser I found on Craigslist. I knew it was narrow enough to fit into the tiny space but it was really low. My dad is handy (unlike me) so I brought it to his house where he stripped it of the many, MANY layers of chalk paint down to its original beautiful oak and then cut it around ¾ of the way up and added another drawer to add the height we needed and then reattached everything. He stained it (without consulting with me, my heart sank a little when he told me what he’d done) but now I find that I love it and it reminds me of him all the time.
Hallway & Family Room
Blue Sofa | Chandelier | Curtains | Curtain Hardware | Motorized Window Shade | Pillows (left to right on blue sofa): Tweed Lumbar, Check Pillow, Mustard Plaid | Coffee Table, Floor Lamp, Side Table, Art & Decor (vintage/thrifted)
Our upstairs hallway is pretty wide so I added a few inexpensive bookshelves for more of our book collections and other thrifted pieces. We added a barn door to close off a little room that we use as our TV room. It was supposed to be an office but I like working from all over the house and having one dedicated room would make me feel too closed off so instead, we made a small area where we kick back and watch our favorite shows. In this room I wanted it to feel cozy, so my dad and I worked on paneling a wall and added a vintage fireplace (that doesn’t really work). Here, I again mixed in mid-century, vintage, some rustic and traditional pieces.
***photography by Erin Francois
For more guest house tours, check out these great posts:
An Exclusive Home Tour from Leanne Ford | A Stylist “Undecorates” a 1929 Tudor(ish) Cottage | A Before & After House Tour Full of DIYs You Might Actually Do Yourself | A Home Crush a Year in the Making | A Mid-Century Modern Inspired Home | A Warm Scandi Inspired Home