Sneak Peek: Alison and Jeff Allen


Three years ago, Alison and Jeff Allen moved into this 100-year-old home in the heart of South Minneapolis with their two young boys, Finn (4) and Gus (1). The couple had always wanted to live in one of these old houses but quickly realized that they’d need to do some decorative tweaking if they wanted to marry their old home’s dark molding, trim and wainscoting with their love of modern and mid-century furniture. The challenge was making their love of modern lines, their collection of vintage pieces and their need for color fit into this old space without detracting from the 100 years of character. They wanted all their beloved “stuff” to look like it belonged in the house and not like they’d dumped a bunch of new items into an older space. Luckily, Alison has a background in photography and art, so she managed to make it all work. (Alison blogs daily about her life, design, food, kids and DIY projects at Deuce Cities Henhouse.) And the best part of living in an old house has been the huge front porch, which has become their own little rural Minnesotan cabin in the city. In the summer, not a day goes by without some quality porch time. They even set up a turntable there so they can listen to records and catch a breeze. Thanks, Alison and Jeff! — Amy Azzarito

Image above: This is my bedside table in our bedroom. Being the mom of two boys and having a husband and a boy cat, I dipped the legs in hot pink paint on a whim as a way to rebel against all that manliness. The side table is flanked by our book collection and bed; it always makes me happy at the end of the day when I walk over to my side of the bed and spy those pink legs.


Image above: The kitchen is the one room in our house that needs a complete overhaul. Since we won’t be remodeling any time soon, I’ve made the best of the space by going lighthearted and kitschy to the max. I painted the walls “Aqua Bay” by Behr and added lots of yellow and red vintage pieces throughout the space. My favorite thing in the kitchen is our vintage Minnesota plate collection hung on the wall, inspired by a centennial commemorative plate that I inherited from my great-grandmother.

See more of Alison and Jeff’s Minneapolis home after the jump . . .


Image above: Our dining room has been the trickiest space in the house to decorate. There is wainscoting that goes about two-thirds of the way up the wall on all sides. Finding a gray paint color for the walls that looked gray during both the day and the night was hard to find. After the sun went down and the room was lit by the overhead light, almost every shade of gray veered toward purple against the dark woodwork. Weird. We finally found a winner: “Anonymous” by Behr, the only gray that stayed gray no matter what time of day. Hanging artwork in the dining room was an even more difficult task. It couldn’t be hung at the normal height because of the paneling, and hanging it too high on the walls looked strange. After trying out lots of different methods, I decided to use white frames (Ribba from Ikea) to help unify the space and create contrast against the gray walls.


Image above: After envying many bar carts on the internet, we finally took the leap and committed to one in our dining room during the holidays this year. We’re hoping the kids don’t destroy it. The dining room connects our kitchen to our living room, and furniture (besides the dining room table) needs to sit close to the wall so that it doesn’t protrude into walking areas. The bar cart (formally a side table found on Craigslist) was a good solution for us; it added a bit of sparkle and bling to the room and was narrow enough that it didn’t interrupt the flow of the space. I added white trays as a reference to the white frames on the walls and to add contrast to the room.


Image above: We recently painted this room, taking it from a lighter and less saturated blue to the deeper tone it has now (“Dragonfly” by Benjamin Moore). Typically, dark colors enclose a room, but our room doesn’t feel that way. Instead it feels cozy and open at the same time. We can sit in the living room and see the snow and the neighborhood outside our windows. The gray winter colors from the overcast sky and the bright white snow reflect light in a way that only the Midwest in winter can. We feel like we’re in our own little nest away from all that cold. There is something extremely comforting about the feel of a cool color like teal against a world of white and gray.


Image above: Off the back of our dining room is a hidden extra room that we’ve made home to Jeff’s guitars and piano, as well as our record collection. When we originally moved in, the room was covered in floral yellow wallpaper. Not cool. Last year we finally removed the wallpaper, re-plastered the walls and painted and hung new wallpaper (Feather wallpaper from Ferm Living).


Image above: We love listening to music! Our record collection is our most prized possession, and listening to records is part of our day-to-day ritual. We totally feel lucky that our house has a space to showcase our collection.


Image above: I’ve nestled my desk into the entryway of our house right near the staircase. It’s a good little space located near the living room. I can keep an eye on the kids while attempting to get some work done. On the wall we’ve framed and hung some items from awesome times past, including a Lifter Puller show coaster from 1998, the night of our first date.


Image above: We started decorating Gus’ nursery before we knew if Gus was going to be a boy or girl. With that in mind, we decided to go with a gender-neutral yellow and gray color palette. The quilt, curtains and the pillow are all handmade by me, and I’m glad they make their home in Gus’ room. We love our Oeuf Sparrow crib; it was an expensive investment when we purchased it four-plus years ago but an investment I’m glad we made.


Image above: Gus’ nursery: I had a custom bus roll-style poster made from My Sweet Prints shop on Etsy. The term “Get Bugged” is something my older son, Finn, says when he’s ready to be tucked into bed, a hand-me-down of sorts.


Image above: This is our older son Finn’s room. It’s a rather large room, and we wanted it to work as his bedroom and a play space that both the boys could enjoy. It was the first room we painted when we moved in because, well, of course painting a room bright green (“Asparagus” by Behr) is the first thing you do when buying a house. I added even more color by incorporating a vintage crocheted throw blanket at the foot of his bed and colorful bold patterned curtains from Ikea. It’s important to me that Finn has a place to show off his accomplishments, so I hung a piece of frame wire across the far wall of his room where he can hang his artwork from metal paper clips.


Image above: We try to keep all of Finn’s many collections organized and accessible for him on his Expedit bookshelf from Ikea. There he has easy access to his Legos, books, handmade building blocks given to him by his Uncle Matt and his super-cool vintage Fisher Price collection. Of course, any future vinyl collector needs a Fisher Price turntable and a place to sit and listen to jams. The red tip n’ rok chair was picked up at a garage sale by a close friend and has been well loved.


Image above: We painted our bedroom black and white last year, which was the first time I had ever actually painted something black or white. I really enjoy the space and all the light that gets reflected around the room. The bookshelf allowed us to incorporate a lot of color as well as loved objects into the room without being overwhelming. It’s one of my favorite spaces in the house.


Image above: The selling point of the house was that it didn’t just have one front porch but also a four-season back porch off our master bedroom. We see our porches as little casual corners of our world where we can get away from real life for a minute. I’ve been known to crochet and knit from time to time and have a strong appreciation for vintage afghans. It’s hard for me resist adopting them all when I visit a thrift store or am perusing the Etsy vintage sections. The porch is also where our Bruce Springsteen pillow lives; we are die-hard fans and have seen him live many times, including this past summer in Ireland. I crocheted this pillow a few years ago, and it has had a prominent place in our home ever since.


Image above: We had our house painted this past summer. It was previously painted white, and the ’60s asbestos siding was showing its age. We found some great local painters who were able to add corner board to the house and paint our storm windows charcoal gray. We painted the house in “Twilight” by Benjamin Moore, and now you don’t even notice that ugly old siding. Fooled you. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

Jessica

What a beautiful home.. I absolutely love all of the color! I too recently purchased an older home in South Minneapolis and am enjoying mixing the old with the new. :) Thanks for being a great inspiration!

emilygotta

Beautiful! I am especially loving the aqua blue color in your kitchen against the pretty dusty brick. And I LOVE the feather wallpaper! My husband and I live in SLP…MNLOVE!:)

Elizabeth Crust

Oh my. So lovely. We are fellow South Mpls dwellers (Bancroft), so I find this incredibly inspiring! Ironically, the first thing we did when moving into our 100 yr old bungalow was paint our kids’ playroom in the attic Behr’s “asparagus” green!!!!

Tia

Love it! Lots of inspiration :) Fixing up a century home is no joke. You’ve done a lovely job.

Laura

I still have my little people A-frame & house too! BTW – beautiful home!

Hannah

Haha that Springsteen pillow is hilarious! Love it. And I also love the idea of a porch with a record player. Unlikely to survive in a British summer sadly.

drae27

Ohh I love it. A real family home with lots of love and inspiration. Lucky kids!!!!
We live in a 1930’s cottage also covered in asbestos shingles. We painted it dark gray this year and I have to agree, it looks so much better and hides the flaws.

joan p

Love the grey dining room. I have similiar wainscoating and have always wanted to try grey. It looks great

Abbie

I’ve never seen so many vintage pieces that in such great shape. Polished, clean and perfectly put together…like all the wood finishing in the dining room, wow.

heidi

So great! Do you remember where you got your awesome little bedside table? Loving it.

Kim

I love the modern colors and patterns combined with vintage furniture. Great combo! And I especially love the dining room solution, it looks beautiful!

ale norris

i absolutely love this house! that’s one of my favorite nurseries i’ve seen – perfectly minimalist but warm at the same time. and who doesn’t love a porch like that? great job, guys!

Sarah

This house is so tasteful and excellent! I love the thoughtful pops of color throughout. I recognize a lot of etsy finds that I also own throughout this home! Posts like this give me hope for what our Philadelphia fixer upper could be some day. Thanks for sharing!

Jasmin

I have a collection of vintage California kitschy tourist plates on my aqua kitchen walls, too. Glad to see I might not have some kind of a start on a house as gorgeous as this.

Summer

i usually just absorb and admire in silence, but have to say: We may have been twins in another life… or at least kindred spirits! We’ve outfitted our 93 year old IA home w/the same wall colors (in the same rooms!), we have some of the same mid-century furniture, artwork, etc. TOTAL deja vu and TOTALLY pinning your job well done as we wrap up some of our in-process spaces:) Thanks:)

PhillyLass

Oh, man, do I love this house. That deep, gorgeous blue in the living room is so perfect! It makes me want to paint something!

maggie

Love the kids’ room. The tip n rok knocked me over. I had one as a child and LOVED it, but have been unable to hunt one down for my son. Jealous!

Cheltz

Ah! I want to paint our ugly old white siding that exact color! Also, listening to records on the porch is a great idea. We’ll have to keep that in mind while renovating ours.

Preeti

Ohh i just loved this space !! So elegant yet minimal. And i loved the term “get bugged”, how sweet of you to preserve the childhood memory this way. Book shelves, wooden furnitures with lots of colors and white photo frames, Perfect !

Beccy

I love ‘Get Bugged”. Great poster, lovely house, the outside charcoal grey colour is fabulous.

Robinsons Beds, Glasgow

Loving the simple base colours then the bright splashes. I’ve just decorated my nursery in greys and plan on bringing out a splash of colour when we know the gender.

Lisa

very inspirational as our home is quite similar with all the wood trim. Our desk is also in the same spot as your – makes sense to use up that good hall space near the living room!

ashely

i love everything about this! my husband and i are buying our first home in south mpls this summer and i am feeling totally inspired.

Alison @ Deuce Cities Henhouse

Thanks everybody for the incredibly kind and thoughtful comments! I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have the opportunity to share our home with you on D*S. It’s been an amazing start to the new year.

Also, glad to see see so much support from the Twin Cities and Midwest!

Heidi – The side table was from Ikea, unfortunately they stopped making it a few years back.

Chris S.

Hi. Great house! What pattern fabric is that on your dining-room chairs? Thanks so much.

Lauren

I love this house and the incredible use of color! I’ve seen so many white-walled houses and apartments here on Design*Sponge (which are lovely in their own right), so thank you thank you for including this gem. Beautiful house and such love!

Alison @ Deuce Cities Henhouse

Hi Chris and thanks! The fabric is a few years old now, so to find, it you’ll have to look on ebay or etsy. Search for “Fortune” from the Good Folks line by Anna Maria Horner. Hope that helps!

Laura

Man! 2/2 on great sneak peaks today! love the colors and especially that nursery and teal room!

Michaela Jaros

This home reminds me so much of the one my husband and I just bought in the Chicago suburbs. Especially the three seasons porch, beautiful baseboards, and plaster walls & ceilings (yes, I have a trained eye). Our home is 130 years old and needs a lot of TLC. Seeing this home encourages me; it’s a reminder that we can bring back the original charm of our home too.

Virginia

Lovely! Where did you get your record collection shelves? We also have a LARGE record collection and will need additional storage soon…

Carolyn

Thank you thank you thank you for not painting the beautiful woodwork in your downstairs!

Cordu

What a lovely home! Love the wall colors – I didn’t think black walls would work that well.

Robin

Beautiful colors. Can u recommend the painters u used for the exterior? I also live in Minneapolis… Thanks!

Ce petite coeur

This post is so inspiring! I have a 30s cottage here in Australia and love the original features (moulding, wainscoting, built in deco cabinets) but struggle to sometimes make these work with my 50s-70s furniture and decor. I love what you’ve done with colour and how you’ve made everything so stylish but cosy and kiddie-friendly. Dream home!

Jenny

Living room designs are cool. I like these interesting ideas to create a wonderful ambiance for my rooms. In all designs there is youthful energy and ambiance is enormously bright in each of these living room designs.

LEAVE A COMMENT