Megan Collins is always thinking of ways to encourage her three daughters’ creativity – even when decorating the interiors of her Minneapolis home.
She masterfully mixes chalkboard-paint closet doors, where her girls are encouraged to express themselves, with a shabby chic romantic mirror in the entryway. Pretty decorative woven baskets store dolls and stuffed animals so they’re easily accessible for imaginative play. The girls’ artwork and paintings by Minneapolis College of Art and Design students cover the walls. A copy of “Peter Pan and Wendy” tops a pile of decorating books. And Collins made sure to buy a durable dining room table because it often doubles as a craft station.
“I like spaces that are beautiful and stylish – but kid elements are also part of the visual experience,” she said. “A stack of children’s books is an accessory as much as a beautiful silver tray. That’s how we live.”
Megan and her husband, Casey, lucked into their charming 1907 farmhouse-style home five years ago, in Linden Hills, which Megan describes as “a Norman Rockwell picturesque little village in the city.”
“When we walked in, it reminded me of the house I grew up in,” said Megan, who hails from St. Paul, Minn. Although the antique-filled interiors were far from her style – with dark-stained woodwork, green wallpaper, lace curtains and brass light fixtures – she knew the four-bedroom home had immense potential.
“I could visualize light, bright rooms,” she said.
The couple were on a budget and couldn’t undertake a major renovation. But before they moved in, they had workers paint all the woodwork and walls shades of white, and install recessed lights in the ceilings of the living and music rooms.
With a fresh, gallery-white backdrop, Megan gradually layered all the pieces that shape her “vintage modern” style, which has evolved since she had her first home – an apartment in New York City.
“I like the two juxtaposed together and how the vintage softens the sharper modern edges,” said Megan, who works as a freelance writer and editor under her maiden name, Megan Kaplan, for Mpls.St.Paul, Real Simple and HGTV magazine, which recently showcased her home.
Casey approves of Megan’s “good mix of fun and color,” he said. “It’s unique and accessible – and not outrageously expensive.”
That’s because, while growing up, Megan learned how to be a thrifty shopper from her mother, Mary Kaplan. “I’m a high-low kind of girl,” she said. “I spend money on statement pieces and try to fix and patch in what I don’t like in a cost-effective way.”
Megan feels she has inherited her mother’s design sensibility, including the edict that no room should be off limits to kids.
“I learned from her how to create a delightful environment that excites me and my children,” she said. “The interplay of big kids and little kids is what makes design fun.”
Designed for living
Here are some of Megan Collins’ design tips and tricks.
• A vibrant palette of corals, blues, greens and oranges is repeated in the white-walled living room and throughout the house.
• Megan worried about buying an ivory leather sofa from Room & Board Outlet – until she discovered that it comes clean with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
• Artwork is displayed at kid height.
• Two wood cubes painted charcoal make a more versatile coffee table. “They can be pushed together for serving drinks and food,” she said.
• She bought two chairs from Craigslist for $50 and had them reupholstered with white linen and a colorful dragon-patterned fabric remnant.
• The wooden “C” was hung at an angle by accident. “I just left it because it looked like a crescent moon,” she said.
• Designer Alecia Stevens had wool sisal cut and bound to fit as area rugs in the living and music rooms.
• A modern navy sectional shares the space with a vintage Steinway piano. “You need to ground a white palette with deeper colors like navy and charcoal,” Megan said.
• The dining room’s handsome built-in buffet with leaded-glass doors was the first thing that caught Megan’s eye when she saw the house. “It has inspired the rest of the house,” she said.
• Megan wanted a substantial table that seats 12 for family holidays; she found one by Martha Stewart on Craigslist.
• She pulls out craft supplies stored in the buffet for kids’ arts activities at the table.
• Two cut tropical Monstera plant leaves, placed in a vase, make a simple centerpiece. “It’s graphic, bold and lasts a month,” she said.
• She pairs modern ivory Donghia chairs, softened with Ikea pads, with the vintage-look table.
• The glass light fixture by Artemide from ylighting.com illuminates the kids’ art projects, while adding a sculptural element.
• Kitchen updates include replacing dingy linoleum with hardwood floors, painting the cabinets and adding polished nickel hardware.
• A neighbor who builds furniture crafted the table from reclaimed barn wood.
• Megan found “cheap” bamboo blinds from overstock.com and had them cut to fit at a hardware store. A friend sewed a valance from an old tablecloth.
• Megan turned a wall above the sofa into a kids’ art gallery by covering it with magnetic paint and a cream-hued top coat.
• When the FLOR carpet squares get stained or damaged, they can be easily removed and replaced.