Jennifer & Carl's Traditional Zen in the City

Jennifer & Carl's Traditional Zen in the City

(Image credit: Tracy Leigh Morgan)

Name: Jennifer & Carl
Location: Downtown St. Paul, Minnesota
Size: 2,188 square feet
Years lived in: 9 years; owned

When Jennifer and Carl moved into their newly constructed loft in 2005, they had a retreat in mind. Wanting nothing more than a quiet place to relax at the end of the day, Jennifer embarked on a years-long adventure of learning, collecting, and slow and steady curation. Sure, the city might be bustling just outside those windows, but inside is a warm, happy space devoted to stressing less and living more.

(Image credit: Tracy Leigh Morgan)

Jennifer and Carl’s taste is more conventional than the industrial, “soft loft” builder basics originally offered. The couple opted for paneled doors, soffited ducts, and traditional hardware during the building process and then went on to customize the space after moving in. I had the pleasure of being Jennifer & Carl’s neighbor in this new building, and always found inspiration in the way they reimagined the builder’s vision, turning their space into a more traditional – but still airy, open and magically zen – home in the city.

The large open floor plan in the main area of the loft presented the usual “big space” challenges: making it liveable and cozy, while still enjoying the perks of high ceilings, carefully carved out storage spaces, and the long wall of windows. Jennifer recognized a logistical challenge when she saw it and didn’t hesitate to call in an expert to help her peek around design corners. Andrew Flesher, a NYC and Minneapolis-based interior designer, brought a plan to her goal of creating an entertaining-friendly, serene space to chill out at the end of the day. Leveraging a varied palette of neutrals and judicious pops of color, the end result is a space that allows personal details, collected pieces, favorite artwork, and cityscape to shine.

(Image credit: Tracy Leigh Morgan)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style:

I was looking for a calm, zen feeling to hit me when I walked in the door from my crazy job. I love clean lines, but didn’t want anything super modern or cold. Our home feels like that right balance of a simple, clean aesthetic but also a place where you just want to plop down and just be.


Definitely our travels, the more exotic the better! Our visits around the world have really has helped us fine-tune our aesthetic and what we want to hang out with in the loft.

Favorite Element:

Overall, it’s the feeling of relaxation when I get home every day. But specifically, I love the wide-open floor plan because I love to entertain. Having tons of friends gathered here – on a couch, a random bench, a chair, or right on the floor – makes my heart happy. People seem to feel comfortable here.

Biggest Challenge:

The open floor plan that I love so much was also my biggest headache. It’s why I’ve worked with a designer over the years, the lovely Andrew Flesher. There are just times when you need a pro. Andrew helped make the openness livable and warm. We carved out these seating areas with rugs and furniture so they’re defined but still cohesive.

What Friends Say:

That our place is always a great space to hang out, it’s comfortable and warm. It doesn’t feel formal or untouchable.

Biggest Embarrassment:

The tornado of paper that is our office; it feels so unorganized, literally everything is stuffed everywhere. This is not exactly the zen I was shooting for; that door stays closed!

Proudest DIY:

I installed all the new light fixtures and faucets by myself! After living here a very short time, I realized couldn’t handle living with the weird builder choices a moment longer, so I just had to make it happen. And I didn’t electrocute myself!

Biggest Indulgence:

Definitely the master bathroom reno – we added the heated floor (which is such a lovely treat during our long winters), and that huge soaking tub. It’s my happy place.

Best Advice:

Live in the space, and make it part of who you are before you go crazy decorating or buying. Make a plan, and DEFINITELY use an expert if you need to. Take your time, phase things out, and don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. I finally feel like I have things almost the way I want it, and it’s been nine years!

Working with a designer helped me feel confident about the bigger purchases. I didn’t want to make a mistake buying furniture – which can be very expensive – so I really wanted to make sure it all worked together now, and in a future home. We chose pieces that could be mixed and matched so they would be flexible long-term.

Dream Sources:

I’m honestly not much of a shopper but I LOVE the Holly Hunt showroom here in the International Market Square, particularly the Christian Liaigre stuff. So good!

(Image credit: Tracy Leigh Morgan)

Resources of Note:


  • living/dining/main room - Benjamin Moore Inner Balance
  • media room - Creekside Green
  • master bath - Sharkey Gray


  • console table - Bernhardt
  • artwork - brought back from Dubai on our honeymoon, by Saadia Zaman
  • vase/urn - local Asian shop - I can't recall which


  • couch - Henredon, recovered
  • red antique chest - Three Pagodas (closed)
  • rug - custom
  • coffee table - Room & Board
  • arm chairs (style 694) - A. Rudin
  • chaise - "petite island sofa" by Donghia
  • tall Asian-style dark wood cabinet - Henredon
  • leather chair & ottoman - hand me down from my Uncle in Chicago, I actually don't know anything about it!
  • painting - Neiman Marcus


  • furniture - Room & Board



  • bar stools - Parsons-style with leather; can't remember where these came from
  • painting by F. Elizabeth Douglas, from Art Resources Gallery


(Image credit: Tracy Leigh Morgan)

Thanks, Jennifer & Carl!

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