See more of the story

It's been a banner past year for Twin Cities designer Victoria Sass.

After making Architectural Digest's list of seven emerging interior designers to watch, the founder of Minneapolis' Prospect Refuge Studio launched a lighting collection in collaboration with local glass lighting maker Hennepin Made.

The Ontologia Collection, an assortment of chandeliers, lamps and sconces that rolled out this week, illuminates Sass' philosophy that your furnishings should have meaning to you. If you love a piece, you're more likely to hang onto it.

"I think it's important that we have a relationship with objects, and I think that's part of sustainability," Sass said. "People are worried when they make [decor] decisions that they'll get tired of something. And I'm thinking, 'Well, how do we not get tired of it? What could make this a long-term possibility and make an object not be disposable?'"

It's that commitment to sustainability that made Sass fall in love with old houses. In her design work, which has appeared in Vogue, Homes & Gardens and Domino, she focuses primarily on historic homes.

Sass finds that clients often feel they have to honor the era in which the home was built and are intimidated by the vastness of the spaces. Her strategy is to create several intimate spaces within a large room. Sass, who left the commercial design world to start her own residential interior design company, also gives her clients license to mix new with the old.

"It's a balance. I don't feel like a preservationist and I'm not trying to turn everything into a time capsule," she said. "People sometimes want permission to change an old home."

Practicing what she preaches

Sass owns an old home herself, a 1900 brick house in Minneapolis' East Isles neighborhood, where she lives with her husband, Torben, and three kids, ages 2, 7 and 12.

When they purchased it more than eight years ago, the previous owners had started transitioning it from a triplex back to a single-family home. Sass fell in love with the tall ceilings, giant windows and original woodwork. She and her husband were game for finishing the conversion.

"I fell in love with this home and could live here forever," she said. "For me, I wanted to make it comfortable for living on a daily basis. It's trying to make it accessible and as easygoing as possible."

For the redesign, Sass used playful and nostalgic motifs.

A wool rug in the living room is a nod to her Minnesota roots. "It's in that braided style. My parents and grandparents had cotton ones like it in their kitchens," she said. "Maybe that's why I like it as I'm building this family home for my children."

A clean-lined, wood-and-metal coffee table by Minnesota artist Grant Kaihoi fits the modern aesthetic Sass embraced when she lived in Copenhagen, where she studied design and architecture and where she met her husband.

In the front entry, Sass scored rocker swivel chairs secondhand that she reupholstered.

"I like that they're local, they're vintage and they remind me of the Midwest — it seemed everyone had those chairs in their basements back then," she said.

Shining a light

Sass was a regular customer at Hennepin Made, the Minneapolis-based lighting manufacturer, where she shopped for one-of-a-kind, made-to-order blown-glass pieces. She and the Hennepin Made team worked together to create a fresh, new collection.

"I knew Victoria as someone who was creative and took risks, which is evident in her designs," said Hennepin Made's Jackson Schwartz. "She really pushed us and said, 'I want something very expressive that can look different each time.' There's a lot of vibrant materials and combinations of colors that we don't normally do."

The Ontologia Collection, named in reference to the study of existence, allows for customization. Cords come in three color options (white, brown and baby blue). Choose a brown oil or variegated copper finish, which will develop patina over time.

"There's also a raw copper that will oxidize and show fingerprints that I adore," Sass said. "I just think it's great when an object shows that life, that you live together."

She thinks that lighting should be viewed from various angles, and that's why pieces within a piece can be moved around and rotated to create different lighting effects or to simply refresh a room.

"You want [decor] to have a personality," Sass said. "If it is not complex and interesting and it's flat, you might get tired of it," Sass said.