When Victoria Sass, the founder and design director of Prospect Refuge Studio, sat down with her clients, Andrea and Matthew, to talk about renovating their Minneapolis kitchen, Sass didn’t just share them on a Pinterest board. Instead she pulled out her iPad and played a clip of the Spring 2020 Gucci runway show, a contemporary collection referencing how 1970s fashion trends were reinvented in the 1990s. The glossy, mint-colored catwalk and bold touches throughout (a red patent shoe here, a royal blue silk scarf there) stood out to the couple. “Matt and I just looked at each other and laughed at how perfect it was,” says Andrea. 

Sass began dissecting several of the outfits and translating them to the space’s new design. “We loved the almost-hospital-room green tones paired with rusty and true shades of red,” says Sass. The retro hues complemented the couple’s vintage tchotchkes nicely, as well as the home’s quirky architecture (the see-through fireplace that separates the cooking zone from the living area is original). “Everybody’s trying to create timeless spaces, and I’m not really a big fan of that. You can’t just remove time from the conversation,” explains Sass. Instead the designer focuses on “timefulness”—the idea of layering nods to different parts of the past. “I think this space works because it’s just being itself,” she notes. Ditching the status quo, here’s how they brought their fashion-forward home to life. 

Commit to Complementary Colors

The kitchen, before.
Attalos Ceiling Lights, Marz Design; Akoya Island Pendant Lamps, Rich Brilliant Willing.

The kitchen’s Gucci-inspired palette works because red and green are complementary colors. The upper cabinets are swathed in Sherwin-Williams’s Flower Pot, and the lower cabinets are Benjamin Moore’s Dunmore Green. The designer kept the shiny texture of the glossy cabinet fronts going by opting for a glass backsplash (the back is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Cucumber Salad, and the slab above the range is tempered so it can withstand the heat). “It’s funny to me that going with gray over white is sometimes considered a bold choice,” shares Andrea. “We didn’t want typical or safe; we aren’t concerned with the ever-mythologized resale value.” 

Look to Furniture for Inspo

The kitchen, before.

The island was heavily inspired by Alvar Aalto’s bentwood Artek tables, which feature brightly colored linoleum tops and birchwood edges. “We took those components to make it look more like a piece of furniture,” says Sass. To balance out all of the bold elements in the kitchen, the couple invested in simple stainless steel appliances and white window trim. “Thoughtful restraint is also important; every eye needs a place to rest and settle in,” notes Andrea.

Find Good Design at the Hardware Store

The cabinet pulls were a win-win: The handles were sourced from Hickory Hardware and cost only $2 each, and they’re made out of solid, sturdy wood. “They feel really good in your hand,” says the designer. The wood touch adds a homespun quality to the space and counteracts the sleek cupboard surface. “We love the school classroom–esque vibe that they bring,” adds Andrea. 

Don’t Stop at the Powder Room 

Adding a 25-square-foot powder room to the home made the kitchen smaller, but it offered a much-needed barrier to the front door (before, it was just one big, open layout). The spot draws on the tonal shades of the Gucci collection with its tan, brown, and Hermès-orange striped walls. Not pictured: a $20 pastel blue toilet paper holder that’s “just like the ones in every grandparent’s bathroom I saw growing up,” says Andrea. 

Ditch the Rule Book for Good

Where there was once a door leading to the garage, there is now a built-in bar nook with dinosaur wallpaper from House of Hackney—taking the space further off the beaten path. “When we were first brainstorming for the project, Andrea pulled me aside and said, ‘I want to tell you, I’m not afraid of it being a little bit…ugly.’ I knew exactly what she meant,” recalls Sass. While the designer feels like they ended up far from ugly, it was refreshing to be free of the traditional constraints of what defines a beautiful kitchen. Rather than being concerned with how others perceive their design choices, they focused on showing their personalities. “I joke that maximalism is my religion,” says Andrea. Then this is their house of worship.

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