In recent years, it’s seemed that the only way to make old wood furniture, sometimes called “brown furniture,” appealing to millennial buyers was to paint it and update the hardware with something shiny and new. But one young interior designer, Tasha Schultz, has a different take. She’s scooping up those unloved pieces and giving them pride of place in her home, just as they are.
“These older pieces are usually really well made, and I like that they’ve got quirks,” she said.
Schultz grew up in Forest Lake and started her business, Tchotchkes Design Studio, in 2017 after spending time working for some big names in Twin Cities interior design, including “Dean of Design” Tom Gunkelman (a fan of midcentury modern), Martha O’Hara and Mary Hickey.
“Mary also loves antiques and vintage things, so we really got along on that front,” said Schultz.
Her fondness for vintage began with the simple thrift of a young person trying to decorate their first place with limited funds, as well as a desire to not have a cookie-cutter space.
“Furnishing a house is expensive, especially trying to do it all at once, so I started going to estate sales and vintage shops with my mom and grandma and buying pieces that I thought were neat and not everyone had,” said Schultz. She found that she had a knack for finding good pieces and started collecting. What doesn’t go into a client’s home or her own she sells online at Chairish, an online vintage marketplace.
Schultz and her high school sweetheart, now husband, Travis, live in a story-and-a-half house in Falcon Heights on a street suitably named, for the cheerful and easygoing blonde — California.
“It was the old witch house on the block and had been vacant for about a year, but we knew it was right the moment we walked in,” said Schultz. The couple moved in five years ago and have been fixing it up ever since — replacing windows, roof and siding, remodeling the kitchen, and, just this past year, bumping out the second story to add a nursery, bathroom and laundry room just in time for baby Sydney to join the family in October.
Finding the balance
The home’s furniture and decor is about 80 to 90% vintage but Schultz is careful to balance her decor with a few modern pieces and splashes of color to keep the look fresh.
The living room, for example, includes a pair of 1960s-era Lane end tables with the original bail pulls that bring to mind a split-level with shag carpeting but look smart alongside a new Blu Dot sofa Schultz scored at the outlet. The tables cost $5.
Another find, perhaps her most prized to date, was a couple of vintage Hans Wegner rope chair replicas. She found them at an estate sale in the University Grove neighborhood. They set her back $220, which Schultz says was a bargain. A round midcentury coffee table anchors the room, and a curvy Vermont Tubbs cane chair sits in the corner.
All of the pieces are brown wood but none the same shade. Schultz embraces the variety. “Why not mix them all together? As long as the scale is right and there’s a mix of forms — some round things, some rectangular things, pieces with legs, some without — it can work.”
Schultz chose a color of the moment, navy blue, for the dining room walls to complement Travis’ grandmother’s oak dining table and chairs.
In the kitchen, the couple spent most of their budget on custom cabinetry with inset doors to match the era of the house but painted them black to add a modern touch. A white laminate tulip table Tasha found at Salvation Army sits in the sunny breakfast nook under Travis’ contribution — a mint green electric clock he purchased on eBay.
Upstairs, the new laundry room features the latest in washing and drying technology (the couple have discovered that babies create more loads of laundry than their small size would suggest), and cabinets in a mustardy yellow that Schultz calls ocher, and some might call Harvest Gold, which adds a throwback vibe to the space. The color pops up again in Sydney’s room on the fabric Schultz chose for the Roman shade.
“My childhood bedroom was black and yellow, so obviously I’m drawn to it,” she said. The nursery is mostly vintage and includes a Jenny Lind-style spool-turned crib, an Art Deco dresser and a natural wicker bassinet. Schultz chose white for the walls and added a new black-and-white wool rug to keep the room looking fresh.
“I avoided anything theme-y, boring or kiddie to create a simple, cheerful room Sydney can grow up with,” she said. “I’m hoping that when she’s ready for something different, we can hunt for it together!”
Laurie Junker is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer.