David Heide

Design Studio

Updated 'Steamship Moderne' condo in downtown Minneapolis

wins Home of the Month

The Mill District abode embraces the Golden Age of ocean liners.

The Star Tribune
By Nancy Ngo Star Tribune
December 1, 2023 — 7:30am

Walk through John Ollman’s freshly remodeled condo in Minneapolis’ Mill District, and it might transport one to the Golden Age of ocean liners, from which its design is inspired.

“I’m a huge fan of the ocean liners of the 1920s to the 1940s, very sleek, very Art Deco,” he said of his place that now — with its dark wood, walls of glass and consistent finishes — has a streamlined look throughout.

For Ollmann, who is vice president of merchandising for signals.com, shopPBS.org and Acornonline.com, what originally began with just one to-do item, new carpet in the bedroom, morphed into a full-scale remodel.

“One thing about condo living is everything can be the same as your neighbors with maple and granite countertops and the layout. I didn’t want everybody else’s kitchen,” he said. “Another issue is with storage — you never have enough. This was a chance to change it with a different personality and add things that were missing.”

Ollmann also felt the condo was swimming in darkness and could use a better layout.

As a collector of 20th-century decorative arts, the self-described “auction nut” also wanted to find a better way to display his collection of ceramics, glass and posters.

“Every surface was covered with something. I was really looking for a solution to get it off of tabletops,” Ollmann said.

Nautical nods

He brought in David Heide Design Studio of St. Paul, with architect Mark Nelson (now retired) and designer David Heide at the helm. For them, while challenging, the project was right up their alley.

“We’re known for some of our period work and period detailing,” Heide said. “I love getting into the language of which that design is spoken.”

They decided on a mix of styles, drawing from horizontal lines that are characteristic in Streamline Moderne design and streamlined materials Art Deco is known for.

One of the first things they did was take down a wall closet that deprived the entrance and dining room of natural light and sightlines of the river.

“Then we lined the bar in there with white [clear] glass. So now you can see through the bar and the room beyond and see the Stone Arch Bridge,” Heide said.

Next, they replaced the existing maple and granite (which they reused on all the windowsills in the kitchen) with custom, nickel-inlaid mahogany shelves and cabinets. In the dining room, they added a thin yet full-height, wall-to-wall custom cabinet with glass doors lighted for displaying art on one side, while the other is solid mahogany.

“John has this amazing collection and we wanted it to be an integral part of the architecture so they’re part of everyday life and he’s living amongst these things that he loves,” Heide said. “The cabinet is designed to look like furniture, but it’s built-in and there’s also tons of storage.”

Glam factor

Mahogany — as well as glass and nickel silver — was used to anchor spaces, as was the use of green hues.

In the powder room, a starburst crystal chandelier hangs from the silver-leaf ceiling. A large mirror grabs the whole length of one of the walls, all of which are lacquered in Essex green. “It’s John’s favorite color and the richness of the color certainly speaks to the era,” Heide said.

In the primary bathroom, mahogany frames the tub, built-in shelves, vanity and a tall cabinet with a porthole mirror. Mirrors also line all four sides of the wall while light from an antique French chandelier illuminates the space.

“By mirroring the windowless bathroom, now when you’re in there, it’s just light coming from everywhere,” Heide said.

Conveniently, the kitchen already had a galley layout to play off a maritime theme. Clear glass was installed for the backsplash and ceiling soffit, stainless steel for the lower cabinets and quartzite for the counters.

“I was thinking of a ship’s galley and how that would be stainless. The white glass was an important design element,” Heide added. “That spoke to the look of that ship interior and the use of glass in Art Deco design.”

Rocking the boat

In the end, the bold nature of the project, dubbed Steamship Moderne, paid off, garnering it a Home of the Month win from the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The awards highlight top residential designs.

For the design team, it’s especially meaningful because the project is not conventional by any means.

“I’m humbled that this project was selected and I’m very surprised because I really see our work as very idiosyncratic and not a widely popular style, but very specific to a particular client,” Heide said.

However, the biggest accolade was hearing that Ollmann was happy with the changes made to the place he’s called home for almost 20 years.

“The reason I love this place so much is it reflects my personality and it has livable elements to it. We were able to get a lot more storage in general by losing that big closet that I thought would be a huge storage loss but I think we found even more,” Ollmann said. “And it puts things on display — the stuff I love, I can actually see it. So, yeah, it’s been a wonderful way to live.”

As to whether the space feels as if you’re on an ocean liner, Ollmann replied, “Yeah, but without the waves.”

About this project:

Designing firm: David Heide Design Studio.

Project team: Lead architect Mark Nelson, AIA; designer David Heide.

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