Claes & Melinda’s Natural (& Beautiful) Chaos
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Name: Claes & Melinda Bergman
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Size: 1,400 square feet including studio
Years lived in: 7 years; owned
The incredible thing about Melinda and Claes Bergman’s beautiful home is that they’ve done virtually everything themselves. Remodeled kitchen and bathroom? Check. Flooring? Check. Paint? Check. There isn’t a corner of their Mid-Century modern house they haven’t put some serious and impressive DIY into. Their Phoenix home is a long way from Claes’ native Sweden, but their style certainly recalls a Scandinavian aesthetic.
The custom house, built in 1954 on a third acre lot, was heavily inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. The builder’s vision was to create a low budget Usonian Automatic. You can see the similarities in the long eaves, open floor plan, and architectural glass. The accordion front door, Melinda and Claes’ favorite architectural detail of the home, allows the surrounding desert landscape inside. From the street, all you see of their property is something reminiscent of the Botanical Gardens gone wild. “I think in another area you’d have less greenery, so you could actually see the lines of the house, but we don’t really care. We know what the house looks like. We just need to have that kind of natural environment coming into the house when it’s open.” The modern simplicity of the exterior of their home contrasts strikingly with the native plants; creating a clean space, but one rich with a bit of natural chaos.
The interior of their home is a constant work in progress and they’d like to keep it that way. Claes is a fine woodworker and luthier and often fabricates for artists. His skill has allowed them to remodel the house economically, but slowly. “We don’t spend a lot of money and most of the stuff we have, we’ve had for a long time. We just recover it and repaint it and patch it up. If I need something, I just make it.”
Melinda, an artist and teacher, studied textile art and weaving at Konstfack in Sweden and has an MFA in painting and sculpture. Their combined mastery has allowed them to remodel the home into something beautiful and inviting. “I think people feel comfortable here because it doesn’t poke at them and say ‘this is expensive, or this is really fancy — don’t touch that.’ I think that kind of intimidation when you go into someone’s home is hard.” They both like their surroundings to be simple and easy on the eyes, but require some laughter to balance it all. ‘If I lived alone and if I didn’t have to confer with my husband it would be way crazier. I like simplicity, but I use all of these things that I find for inspiration for my own work.”
It’s difficult for Melinda to describe her design style, partly because she isn’t following any particular design trend or methodology; mostly it’s because her style comes so naturally and effortlessly that it would be like describing the inner workings of her mind. Ultimately, they’ve crafted a serene and gorgeous retreat that feels well lived in and well loved.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Eclectic and informal. We try to keep things flexible when it comes to any kind of style. Most things are chosen from some kind of vague attraction or some feeling of complementarity with something we already have. Sometimes we don’t even know why we like something alone or together until much later.
Inspiration: Unexpected things past and present.
Favorite Element: We both like the way our front door opens like an accordion. It lets in the lovely weather all at once so we feel like we’re outdoors when it’s open. The lines of the house are really nice too. That is what attracted us to it.
Biggest Challenge: We have several: 1. We can’t decide what to do with the back porch. Should we put in a second bath or simply extend the porch? 2. How do we block out some of the traffic noise from the street without getting claustrophobic living behind a big block wall.
What Friends Say: Love the yard.
Biggest Embarrassment: The biggest embarrassment is that we covered the concrete floors with IKEA flooring that dents like crazy. We keep saying it was an emergency maneuver; that we were overwhelmed by the workload and just trying to make the place remotely livable. We’re not really sure, we probably just needed it to feel clean. The good news is it can easily be removed.
Proudest DIY: Since we have done everything ourselves, except the electrical box, it’s hard to say. Claes did such a lovely job on the bathroom with all the personal touches like the bench and the step outside the bathtub. He also built the cabinet under the sink with two drawers in simple pine. It seems to be everyone else’s favorite room in our house but, personally, we can’t decide.
Biggest Indulgence: We didn’t want the refrigerator to stick out way further than the cabinets so we bought a refrigerator that is 24 inches deep, which was almost twice as expensive. Worth it though. Our Wolf stovetop felt like a splurge too. Even though we found it on craigslist.
Best Advice: Take your time. Don’t be afraid. It’s an ongoing process and it doesn’t need to be “finished,” ever.
Dream Sources: Mel: Svenskt Tenn. Not everything, but a lot. Mostly the Joseph Frank fabrics, though. Love the New York map pattern and the little sofa with elephants. Love almost anything Japanese but especially the Yanagi kettle. Any second hand store. Really.
Claes: Not sure. We live a little too much in our cars here in the southwest and he needs a four-wheel drive vehicle, so Toyota. It might even go well with the house.
Resources of Note:
• Curtain fabric from Retro Redux in Phoenix, AZ
• White dresser from Melinda’s mother
• Floor lamps with bases from Sweden and tin can lampshades made by Melinda
• Paint is a mix of “mismatched” yellows from Home Depot
• Gripsholm’s chair from a small wood shop in Stockholm, Sweden
• Couch from Ikea
• Coffee table from Indiska
• Wolf Gas Cooktop
• Ikea cabinetry with lath additions by Claes
• Plywood dining table made by Claes
• Parlor chairs from Claes’ mother
• Captain’s chairs from Melinda’s grandmother
• Tile from Wholesalers USA
• The pink paint was a homemade mix of Maimeri Polycolor Rosa Chiaro
• Picasso curtains from Used Fabrics
• Michael Graves lamp from Target
• Shaker side table made by Claes
• Chinese bed and dresser given to Mel by her mother
• Plywood bookcase made by Claes
• Yellow lamp, tea light, pillows and white bedspread from IKEA
• Wainscoting, cabinet drawers, landing, and bench all made by Claes.
• The grouting has no valleys which is very nice and took Claes a long, long time.
• American Olean tile
• Ralph Lauren Almafi Navy paint with some pthalo blue and raw umber mixed in for warmth and depth.
• Melinda Bergman
• Cyndi Coon
• Chris Jagman
• Kim Young
• Kevin J. Miyazaki
• Sr. Jose Jimenez Garcia
Thanks, Claes & Melinda!
(Images: Lindsey Nochta)
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— Lindsey Nochta
Re-edited from a post originally published 7.6.12 – AB