For a home of huge proportions this downtown Minneapolis house is all about the teeny tiny details

The home of interior designer Victoria Sass is a masterclass in how to counter the imposing structure of an old property

three images together of interior
(Image credit: CHRIS MOTTALINI)

While most homeowners aim to create a sense of easy communion with their environment, Victoria Sass cheerfully describes the relationship with her home design as ‘somewhat challenging’. 

Built at the turn of the 20th century, it features wood-paneled walls, large fireplaces and 12-foot ceilings. The interior designer explains that ‘as a result, the house has an inherently strong personality. With such a bold backbone, it lays down the gauntlet, inviting us to meet that character with some bold decorative choices. But that edge is what makes things interesting.’ 

hallway with curtains and bookshelves and chair

Toile des Lapins wallpaper and fabric, both Nicholas Herbert.

(Image credit: CHRIS MOTTALINI)

Located in a suburb south of downtown Minneapolis, the property had been divided into three apartments before Victoria Sass and her Danish husband came across it, five years ago. After stints in Copenhagen and Malmö, the pair had returned to settle in Minnesota with their young family, close to the neighborhood where Victoria’s own parents were born and raised. 

‘We had been used to pared-back Scandi style interiors, and all of a sudden we were faced with taming this unwieldy home,’ says Victoria. ‘Aside from rationalizing the space, which meant eliminating a ground-floor bathroom and first-floor kitchen, our task was to introduce a more human scale – even the entryway is a generous room, replete with a working fireplace.’ 

dining area

Chandelier, Arteriors. Rainer Daumiller chairs, try Pamono. Corolla cotton tablecloth, Lisa Corti.

(Image credit: CHRIS MOTTALINI)

The pair met that challenge by introducing color, pattern, and texture in a relaxed, loosened-up way that riffs on traditional Midwestern design motifs. ‘What I love about this state is that it is creative – we face long, cold winters, and therefore people dig deep when it comes to hobbies and interests,’ says Victoria. 

‘As a result, a rich tradition of craftsmanship has emerged over the years. I enjoy that a global design sensibility is gently filtered through a Midwestern lens here.’ For the decoration of this home, Victoria and her team at Prospect Refuge Studio(which started life producing hand-thrown ceramics before branching into interiors) turned to the nostalgic homes of their own childhoods. 

living area with fireplace

Armchairs in Rainbow Rose by House of Hackney. Jute rug, Golden Fiber Rugs.

(Image credit: CHRIS MOTTALINI)

‘The rug in the informal living room, which we call the “Great Room”, is an exact replica of one that my grandparents passed down to my parents,’ says Victoria. ‘And we bought the classic swivel-rocker chairs in the hallway from an elderly local couple.’ Those traditional motifs have been reframed via a series of unusual decorative choices. 

The swivel chairs have been treated to a bold floral; the stuffy, gilded wallpaper in the hallway has given way to a loose, freehand-painted mural; and, in the sitting room, lampstands have been topped with rustic fabric shades. ‘My instinct was to meet the building’s occasional loftiness with a sense of informality,’ reflects Victoria. ‘It was almost about bringing these interiors down a peg or two.’

grey kitchen

Haleigh metal dome rod pendants, Rejuvenation. Beckett stools, Made Goods. Island in Benjamin Moore’s Caldwell Green.

(Image credit: CHRIS MOTTALINI)

Work on this home is still ongoing: next, the first floor will be rejigged to open up a new, more functional walkthrough between rooms, while the ‘dirt floor’ basement offers plenty of renovation potential.

‘In many ways, this home still remains an enigma,’ says Victoria, who had to employ plenty of considered guesswork when it came to distinguishing original elements from later additions. ‘The building likes to withhold itself a little from us. But we enjoy that mystery. We relish the promise of a lifetime’s work here.’

bedroom with fireplace with curtain

Curtains in Mobby, Kettlewell Collection. Fire curtain, Pierre Frey. Vertigo pendant, Petite Friture. Artwork (above fireplace), Wayne Pate.

(Image credit: CHRIS MOTTALINI)

Meet the designer and owner

Victoria Sass shares her style inspiration...

Describe your style in three words

Thoughtful, intentional, Midwestern

What do you love most about color?

It's an opportunity to evoke an emotion.

What objects might we find on your coffee table?

Pieces by my favorite ceramicists, including Ginny Sims, Rebecca Chappell, and Katrin Moye

Where is your happy place?

I like to complete a scene with sound and scent. I might put on a great album, light some incense, brew a warm beverage, open the windows – whatever I can do to take an experience to a more holistic level.

Which designer is your go-to?

Patricia Urquiola is always doing something interesting. I also enjoy the work of those who go deep into their craft like artist JB Blunk.