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City Spaces: A St. Paul home proves you can downsize your space without diminishing your style

Photos by Lucy Hawthorne

Photos by Lucy Hawthorne

A smaller footprint doesn’t have to mean shrinking design aspirations -- just ask Scott Griesbach and Tom Ellis.

Charmed by St. Paul’s quiet Mac-Groveland neighborhood and looking to relocate, the couple stumbled upon a delightful Dutch colonial revival that had been almost untouched by time. Today, their home is a space of serenity befitting the neighborhood, from the enclosed porch and dreamy garden to the plush velvet couch anchoring the living room. It melds modern and classic, timely and timeless -- not unlike the family-run design store they just opened in another old-school St. Paul house.

Click here for a full photo tour.

Names: Scott Griesbach and Tom Ellis
Where: Mac-Groveland, St. Paul
How long you’ve lived here: 3 years

What drew you to this house?
Scott: We wanted to downsize. After our daughter moved out it just felt like it was too much yard, too much house. We started looking in this neighborhood -- we liked St. Paul -- and when this house came on the market, we jumped on it immediately.
Tom: We love old things. The house was built in 1910, and nobody had come in and wrecked anything. The previous owners didn’t do a lot, so it really feels like our house. And it did pretty quickly.

Were there any big projects you had to do to get to that point?
Scott: It certainly needed some renovation in the kitchen, adding the half bath, working on the backyard, doing the bathroom upstairs. We knew we had a lot of work to do, so we didn’t move in for about three-and-a-half months. We wanted a screen porch -- we had one at our other house, and in Minnesota having a screen porch is very valuable.

It’s so dreamy out here! You… might have to forcibly remove me from it!
Scott: We use this porch, I mean, as soon as it’s minimally tolerable [laughs]. We have a heater above you, and we eat all our meals out here. For at least six, seven months a year, this is where we eat.

When you were renovating and decorating the house, what were you trying to create?
Tom: Something really tranquil. It was this endeavor of: We’re trying to simplify our life. We’re downsizing. Every room and everything that came into the house either had special meaning or was something we really loved. A refuge, I think, is a good word. Sanctuary. It’s a peaceful, really quiet, lovely neighborhood, but close to lots of activity.

Tell me about some of the things you’ve kept.
Tom: We have these little homages to our mothers. All of our parents are deceased, but we have this really cool sconce chandelier that was my mother’s, and we have Scott’s mother’s pearls on that. Right below that is Scott’s parents’ piano, and I have a beautiful gold beveled glass mirror that was my grandmother’s. We just got the grandmother clock from Scott’s sister; it was his parents’ clock. We have a really cool, old, primitive vintage library table that was my father’s.
Scott: But then we weave it with the new stuff. The furniture’s new, we have some new pieces and things. Tom and the girls are Irish, so there’s some really nice Mosse pottery in there that we all love to collect. Our homes are a mix -- very few of us have all new things or all old things.

It feels real. Not overly stylized.
Tom: You want to hang out here. And we love helping people do the same thing in their homes.

That’s right, you do! What made you want to open a home goods store?
Tom: We had talked about it as this hypothetical, wouldn’t-it-be-great-if kind of a dream thing, and it was time for me to find a different space for my clinical psychology practice -- I like the residential setting for people coming to therapy. The clinic took over the second floor immediately, but then there was this lovely first floor that just screamed: boutique-y home furnishings store. The house really made it come together -- 1898, it was built. The store even has this kind of psychological aesthetic value that is important, so all things beautiful, all things comfortable. It’s a bigger view of what our home looks like.

Coming into an old house like this, were there things you wanted to change right away?
Tom: We’re both pretty efficient, we know what we like and what’s gonna work. I think our marriage works well in that we’re both kind of visionaries, we can see things before they’re done. And Scott is great at schlepping and moving things, whether it’s in the garden or the house.
Scott: The comment I always make to help people understand it is: Tom picks out the plants, and I dig the holes.
Tom: Although you got to pick out the sofa. [Laughs.]
Scott: I did get to pick out the green fabric for the sofa.

 

You know I love a green sofa, and actually I love how green and verdant it feels in here overall.
Tom: Green is my favorite color -- I’m a Virgo, so it’s blue or green. And it’s winter here a long time, as you know, so we need -- I think -- green in our homes. There was a design idea back in the day that there’s too much green outside so you shouldn’t have a lot of green in your home, and that never really impacted me.
Scott: The reason we picked this specific green is that it just feels like nature. This felt like grass to me. Like, when you look outside, it just feels very much like grass.
Tom: The plant in the window mimicking the plants outside -- I love to do that kind of stuff.