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City Spaces: Classical vibes meet video games at this romantic St. Paul pad

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne

What happens when two people decide to move in together and one is a reincarnated Liberace and the other is more of a modernist gamer?

Beautiful things, it turns out. The upstairs unit of this St. Paul triplex houses all the treasures and styles of John and Zac – without either cowing to the other. An illustration of a Kim Kardashian meme posts up feet away from a beautiful grandfather clock. Lil Yachty mingles with grandma's buffet. It's magical to witness how good taste can span many styles.

Be sure to check out our photo slideshow for the full tour.

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne

Who: John Sand and Zac Campbell
Where: St. Paul
How long you've lived here: 11 months

What is your favorite thing about this apartment?
John: I love the natural woodwork. This was built in 1912 and almost everything is original. There's very little except the kitchen that we had to fix up.

What is your least favorite thing about the space?
John: The windows. I replaced all the windows upstairs but down here it's kind of hodge-podge because some of the windows were replaced with ones that match the style of the home, and some of them are the original windows, but then there are these here that are icky vinyl windows.

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne

You replaced all those windows and you also fixed up the kitchen? You two are handy!
John: My uncle is a contractor, so he and my dad and Zac – he's really handy, too – we all did the windows upstairs. In the kitchen, we tore out everything. Nothing is the same except the windows. Nothing was salvageable. There were particle board cabinets that went all the way up to the ceiling that were really oppressive. Wait, what is your favorite thing about the space? Besides me living here obviously.

Zac: Yeah, it's distinctly John. Probably what I like most the space about it is John and I, our aesthetics, combined. The space is very classical in a lot of ways, but it's also really modern. There's a lot of small video game touches and digital touches. I like the way it all gets wrapped together without any element overpowering. It truly feels like the two of us together.

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne

So who is more classical and who is more modern?
John: I say I am like the reincarnation of Liberace. Just like velvet everywhere and I could have a diamond-encrusted bathtub. I've actually researched it so that's not a joke. I can't afford it at the moment.

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne

Oh, I believe you. Wait, what is this? It's sort of an end table, but it's made of... lead pipes?
John: Oh yeah, I got it at Beckon. The woman who owns the store saw someone throwing it away at some industrial scrap yard. I walked in as she was bringing it in and she was like, “You want it?” I gave her $50 for it.

What!? That's such a good deall!
John: Yes, but getting it here? It's steel and weighs 300 pounds.
Zac: It's so heavy and sleek and there's nothing to grab onto.
John: We had to take like four or five breaks getting it up the stairs.

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne

I appreciate your dedication. What about the rest of your amazing furniture?
John: I love getting stuff from grandparents. This is my grandfather's grandfather clock. It's one of those ones where you pull down on these chains and the weights are what drive the clock. And this is my mom's grandma's buffet. It's in kind of rough shape, but I actually don't mind. This table is from a store in Rogers, MN, just a tiny town where there's a corner of four antique stores next to each other; it was in a basement and it was $30. This is an antique church pew. My mom used to weirdly collect church pews and my dad would cut them down to be benches. But then we just had these benches all over our house that were full of things. Like, this one is the purse bench, and there were 30 purses on it. So, that's where I got my collector mentality.

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne

But you've shown so much restraint! For someone who came from a house of benches, you only have one that I can see. What about this?
Zac: I made this for John for Valentine's Day. It's a cut-out of our silhouettes. It's got our two favorite flowers on it as well; mine is the orchid and John's is the Narcissus.
John: Yeah, it's a fancy daffodil and also I'm a narcissist.

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne

Perfect! What's a design trend you love?
John: I love a bold choice. I love taking risks.
Zac: I really like the trend of rebooting. Using something classical in a new way. I don't really favor minimalist clean design. I like a lot of small touches everywhere and old and new elements combined together. Minimalism is nothing that either of us could manage in our lives.
John: Ha, yeah. I remember when I was in college I saw a picture of Alexander Wang's loft and it was just a huge cement room with a single black Chesterfield couch in it and I was like, “That's awesome.” But then I looked around and was like, “I will never be able to achieve that.”

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne

Now, John, you own the triplex. What made you pick this house? Were you thinking you wanted to live in St. Paul?
John: No, I actually wasn't looking in St Paul. I told my realtor under no circumstances would I move to St. Paul. But she called me one day and said to come look at this place. It went on the market on a Friday, I came to look at it on a Sunday and I was like, “Honestly, for how old it is, it's in amazing shape. And I wouldn't have to make any structural changes. Like, I walked in and it was all the wrong colors all the wrong furniture, but it felt completely right. And then I was driving through this neighborhood and was like, “Oh St. Paul is actually awesome?”

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne

So you got it!
John: Well, so the woman who owned it had lived here for 25 years and essentially it was only on the market for three days and there were 20 offers. I was not the highest bid by far, but she wanted to sell it to someone who was going to live here and not to a development company. So she took a hit, honestly, to let me buy it from her and I'm so grateful.

She'd be very proud I think.
John: I hope so!

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