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Anna G. Larson, Published March 29 2014

Uniquely hers: Design consultant embraces personal style at home

MOORHEAD - Every framed photo and unique piece of furniture in Melanie Iverson’s home tells a story.

“I happen to love this,” she says, pointing to tears in the midcentury modern recliner she bought at The Studio, a vintage and upcycled home décor store in Fargo.

Iverson, who owns Melanie Michelle Designs, calls her three-bedroom rental abode a “canvas” that she’s transforming into a refuge for her, her children, Grace, 6, and Carter, 8, and their rescued yellow Lab, Samuel Kingston Lover.

The wood floors are weathered, and paint splotches decorate the lime-waxed kitchen table. And that’s exactly how Iverson likes it.

“When I was a kid, we weren’t allowed to touch or sit on the furniture at my grandparents’ house. I want to have things that my kids can live in,” says the 32-year-old. “I just decided that I am so fine with letting them live in this space. That’s beautiful. Some people might have a different theory on that, and I totally respect it. I want them to live and look back on these times and say, ‘That was fun.’ ”

Describing her décor style as “eclectic boho goes to the beach,” Iverson says interior design pioneer Dorothy Draper inspired her to embrace her personal taste in décor.

“I want one thing in each space to be like, ‘Well, where did you get that from?’ ” she says. “There’s a story behind everything in here.”

In her gray-walled living room, not one, but three objects stand out.

A printed purple down couch Iverson found at a thrift store for $100 is her favorite piece in the room. The solid couch has good bones, and it was so ugly she fell in love with it.To the right, a massive mirror in a gold frame commands attention. The stately accessory belonged to Iverson’s grandparents, who lived in Nebraska.

Opposite the couch hangs a painting of a woman Iverson named Esmeralda. She’d originally planned to put the thrifted art in Maxwells Restaurant & Bar in West Fargo, where she’s helping with the reconstruction/redesign. But, Esmeralda in her chipped frame didn’t quite fit with the décor.

“They said, ‘It’s broken.’ I said, ‘No, no, no. You’re missing the charm,’ ” Iverson says. “I was like, ‘OK, she can come dance at my house.’ ”

Charm attracted Iverson to many of the goods in her home. She frequents estate and yard sales and thrift stores to find furniture and décor with panache. Some items, like the purple velvet chair in her living room, require paint or the addition of hardware.

Revamping tired furniture is one of Iverson’s favorite hobbies. An advertising and PR major in college, Iverson entered the design world by refinishing furniture. The hobby allowed her to unleash her creativity and make extra money.

“It’s that fun, funky Pinterest movement that has just taken off,” she says. “I would not describe myself as a crafty person. I don’t have the patience for it. I like to research techniques that no one else is using, I like to research art and why it’s applicable to this or that. I use a different approach in design theory.”

Work with Artisan Home Furnishings in Fargo taught her industry basics, and the builders and architects she works with help her tackle ideas. Iverson also believes strongly in supporting local businesses/artists and owns furniture from ICSS Design & Construction and Grain Designs.

“Our community is inclusive, not exclusive,” she says. “It’s about, ‘Hey, you do this well, you should go do this for this person over here.’ ”

Summing up her design philosophy, Iverson says a person’s home should “light them up.”

“Your home should be your refuge. I believe that if it’s not, something’s not right,” she says. “Life is hard. There should be one place where you go and feel like, ‘I can be messy, I can be myself. I can be embarrassing, and I don’t mind. That’s my home.’ ”

Decorating tips

• Keep walls neutral.

“It’s cheaper than changing up paint every year,” Iverson says.

Add color and interest with accessories like pillows that can be easily (and affordably) changed.

• Mix prints and textures.

Anything goes, Iverson says.

She buys what she likes, and tries to stick to certain colors so the items have some cohesiveness.

• Choose a conversation piece.

In her living room, Iverson considers her patterned purple sofa the statement piece.

• Tell a story.

Much of Iverson’s décor came from family members, and she enjoys sharing the stories behind each item.

“When I see something and think ‘Where did you come from,’ that’s when I know it’s good,” she says.

• Use rugs to define spaces.

Rug can define spaces without being permanent.

In her living room, Iverson uses rugs to designate her work area, entryway and living room.

• Stay true to you.

It took her a while but once Iverson embraced her unique style sense, her home felt like a happy sanctuary.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525