MINNEAPOLIS — Lisa Griebel was feeling sad and overwhelmed. She’d lost four family members in just 16 months, including her mother, resulting in extended trips to Peoria, Ill., to sort through her mother’s belongings and clear out her house.
“I had to make room here, to integrate her things,” said Griebel of her own longtime home in southwest Minneapolis. But where to start? The sheer volume of stuff seemed insurmountable. So Griebel called on her neighbor, Kathy Keehn, and Keehn’s sister, Liz Knutson, partners in One Day Design.
“I knew they were doing this [redesigning home decor using the owners’ existing furniture and artwork], and I’ve always loved Kathy’s house,” Griebel said. So she invited them over to advise her.
“She wanted a change,” said Keehn. “And with her mom’s stuff coming home, something had to give.”
After talking with Griebel about her home, what she wanted to keep and what she was ready to part with, the sisters made some recommendations. One was that she repaint the gold and cranberry-red wall colors in her living and dining rooms in a fresh, light khaki that would brighten and unify the two spaces.
“She said, ‘Do I really need to paint?’?” Knutson recalled. “I said, ‘You GET to paint.’ She had a bad year last year. She needs a new start.”
The sisters reviewed photos of Griebel’s mother’s belongings, then advised her which ones to ship to Minneapolis, including a tall antique secretary and a pair of armless chairs upholstered in celery-colored velvet. “She was going to sell the secretary,” said Knutson. “I said, ‘That’s gorgeous! You have high ceilings. You need height.’?”
Then, while Griebel was in Peoria, the sisters redesigned the main floor, moving and repurposing her furniture, artwork and accessories, and packing up the excess in boxes.
They pared down the number of knickknacks on Griebel’s mantel and on the built-in shelves that flanked her fireplace. “They were chock-full,” said Keehn. “We edited that,” so that each piece had room to breathe and make an impression. “We edit a lot — not that we don’t like their stuff, but most people have too much. It’s better to rotate it.”
Less is also more when decorating with family photos. “In the living room, a couple are great, but 50 is a bummer,” said Knutson, who created a wall of family photos in the upstairs hallway, where Griebel can see them every day but they don’t overwhelm her main-floor decor.
The sisters even staged Griebel’s dining room using her dishes and table linens.
When Griebel came home, she walked into a different house. All the objects were familiar but arranged in fresh ways. She was amazed to see how well her mother’s chairs worked with the other furniture in her living room and was surprised to see mechanical drawings by her dad, a tool-and-die maker, given a prominent spot as artwork in her living room. “I never expected to have them here, but I like them. They fit,” she said.
It felt like home — only better. “When I walked in after eight hours of driving from Illinois, the stress and weight I’d been carrying around started to lift off my shoulders — removing the clutter and taking away the heaviness,” Griebel said.
Her redesigned rooms felt “light and airy, so clean, crisp and welcoming. The energy shifted. I could feel the love of my mom and dad in here. I could feel my family’s warmth in the house even though I grew up 500 miles away. It helped me with my grieving process and my transition into a new life without my family. It was such a huge burden lifted off of me.”
FINDING A NICHE
The sisters launched their “interior redesign” business in January 2016. Knutson, a full-service interior designer for 13 years, was looking to make a change. “I needed a break,” she said. “I used to joke that I couldn’t afford myself.” She was walking with a friend when she mentioned that she was interested in repurposing what people already had, rather than advising them on what to buy new. “She said, ‘I’ll hire you. I don’t want new sofas, but I don’t like my house.’?”
So Knutson recruited her sister, Keehn, an elementary school teacher who had always enjoyed rearranging furniture and staging. “We work really well together,” said Knutson.
The sisters sell their time, not designer furnishings. There’s no charge for an initial consultation; then their rate is $125 an hour for both of them working together. Most jobs take about four hours, they said, which typically involves redesigning a living room, dining room and tweaking the kitchen. “We get the heart of the home figured out,” said Knutson. Griebel’s makeover was more extensive, eight to 10 hours, in part because Keehn was on hand to direct the movers.
“We try not to sell a whole bunch of stuff,” said Knutson, although if a client wants to buy a few new pieces, she’ll pass along her professional discount.
Instead, they “shop” what their clients already own. “We say, ‘Show us your attic. Show us your basement.’?” said Keehn.
“It’s amazing what you can find,” said Knutson.
They ask clients to be out of the house when they’re doing their work. “The process is ugly,” said Knutson, as they move things around and try out different looks by trial and error.
“We make a lot of changes before the final ones,” said Keehn. “We tell people to put a Post-it note on things you want to see every day.”
And if there’s an heirloom a client is really attached to, the sisters will find a place to display it. “We love that people have an emotional connection to things,” said Knutson. “That’s what a home is supposed to be.”
After the installation, the sisters leave so the homeowner can experience the changes without their presence.
“We ask to not be here when they first see it,” said Keehn. “It’s nice for them to be able to soak it in on their own, without talking to us about it.”
Then, if the homeowner wants to make changes, they’re willing to come back and tweak the design. “Change is hard for people,” said Knutson. “One woman was lukewarm at first. Then, finally, she said, ‘I love it. It just took me a while to get used to it.’?”
Helping people experience more comfort and joy in their homes is rewarding, said Knutson. Many of their clients are overwhelmed with stuff and bogged down with boxes that they never seem to find the time to unpack and organize. “They’re working, they have kids. It’s hard to come up with creative ideas when you’re tired,” noted Knutson.
Griebel can relate. “I was so steeped in stuff at Mom’s house, if I had to do this here, too, things would still be in boxes,” she said. “I’d be really depressed and sad.”
“This,” she said, pointing at her “new” living room, “is really uplifting.”
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