Therese Sterling-Little (right) lives in Minneapolis with her spouse, SL, and their four-year-old daughter, Henrietta. She and SL (who uses “they/them” pronouns) lived in Brooklyn for years before deciding to move back to Therese’s hometown to be closer to relatives. Three years later, the family has settled into their new community and bright house. Take a look around…
On color splashes: Before moving in, I spent a lot of time looking at house tours, many of which had neutral palettes. Following that inspiration, we started painting the walls white and instantly regretted it. It’s just not us. We quickly abandoned the white, but the living room was already done. We wanted to add color, so we decided to paint the inside of the bookcases with Benjamin Moore’s Angelina — a purple we absolutely love.
On pandemic shopping: These chairs came from an estate sale in the Minneapolis suburbs. They were so cool and immaculate — as if the couple had never sat down on them. The sale happened during COVID, so everything was done virtually. I was bidding online, thinking, ‘I need to have them!’ without having seen them in person. But it worked out!
Painting: vintage, via Etsy.
On the upside of faux: The fireplace used to be wood burning, but when we moved in, we learned it would take $15,000 to make it useable. So, we replaced it with a gas insert — and it’s great! It heats up quickly, and the logs look pretty real. I love that on cold days, I can just turn it on and there it is.
On a chill-out zone: We watch TV on this big, comfy sectional. It’s great for watching TV and falling asleep; and it’s also sturdy enough to withstand kids jumping all over it.
On a hidden hack: This wooden cabinet is actually a laundry chute. It was here when we moved in, and it’s so convenient for cooking, because you can just toss in all the dirty kitchen towels and whatnot, and they go right down to the laundry. There’s also one in the bathroom upstairs. We love them.
On drama: This cloth wallpaper was here when we moved in. When people came to give us quotes for painting, they all said, ‘Well, of course you’re going to want this taken down.’ I was like, ‘Hell, no!’ We envisioned throwing fabulous dinner parties in this rich, dramatic space. At the time, the ceiling was white, and the bottom of the walls were green, but we chose an oxblood paint, inspired by a color we used in our wedding bouquets.
Dining table: Ikea. Chairs: Facebook Marketplace.
On a family-friendly table: We eat every meal in here in the winter, and we also use it as an art station, where we draw and paint. I was hoping for a white dining table, but it’s tough to find an affordable one that doesn’t have terrible reviews. Then we discovered this Ikea one, and it’s perfect.
On leaning in: We decided that if we were going to keep the wallpaper, we were going to lean into the flowers. We found this French chandelier covered in roses (they all screw on individually!) on Etsy, from a lovely couple in New Jersey. It is my pride and joy.
Weaving: Farron Feiner. Chair: vintage (“It’s called a ‘gossip bench,’ which really tickles us.”)
On a closet makeover: When we moved in, the downstairs bathroom was literally just a toilet in a closet. Nothing else. We tracked down the smallest sink we could find, and SL built the trim, put in the flooring, wallpapered the ceiling, and painted the walls. I know many people stay away from black in tiny spaces, but we think it makes it edgier.
On a consolation prize: I was trying to buy a couch from a fancy estate sale, but I was outbid by another couple. Then, the person running the sale was like, ‘Well, you can have the art above the couch?’ So, I went over there and she just handed me this Japanese screen!
On camouflage: I’m a big fan of painting appliances and other functional things to make them blend in. I know radiators are tricky because you have to get into all the little nooks and cracks. Although I shouldn’t really speak to how hard it is — you’ll have to ask my spouse.
On an optical illusion: This vanity is a trick! My aunt spotted a white wicker table in her friend’s garage and brought it over. We spray-painted it black, and then SL painted the arch on the wall behind it. Then we put the mirror on the arch shape and mounted a battery-powered sconce. I can just turn it on, sit down and do my makeup.
On sharing: Every house has a ‘thing,’ and this bathroom is ours. When we were house hunting, we were insistent on two full bathrooms but wound up with one. It’s a big bathroom for a 1918 house, but it’s still tight when the whole family’s in there.
On the grandma room: This is the guest room, but it’s also Mimi’s room. Mimi is what Henrietta calls her grandma, who often comes to visit from Missouri. The furniture in here is a bedroom set from SL’s own grandmother.
On a top priority: When it came to her bedroom, Henrietta was dying to have her own vanity, like mine. SL found this one at a thrift shop; it was adult-sized, but they cut the legs and resize it for Henrietta. So, now we both have our vanities, and she’s thrilled. We recently went away for a weekend, and she looked around the rental house and said, ‘Where are our vanities?’
On family: When we moved out of New York state, we were advised to have SL adopt Henrietta. They were already on the birth certificate, but now we’re having all these intense discussions with lawyers, scrambling to get everything buttoned up before our family is legally called into question. What’s happening in this country, and with our Supreme Court, is overwhelming. As a woman, it’s frightening to see the government banning crucial healthcare. I’ve had to take misoprostol myself, due to a miscarriage when my body wouldn’t expel the tissue. And as a queer family, it’s terrifying to see justices pushing to overturn cases regarding other rights — like the right to same-sex marriage.
On moving forward: Minnesota is a purple state, and the Twin Cities are very blue. But, although this is a better place than many, that’s not saying much. Housing access is a huge issue here, as is police violence — which became all the more evident after George Floyd’s murder. I try to look at the ways I’m active in my community, and think about how I can do more, going forward. I want to use whatever power I have so that my daughter doesn’t have to deal with this shit — and so we can thrive as a family, and think about fun things like our house, instead of our basic rights and dignity.
Thank you so much, Therese!
(Photos by Wing Ho for Cup of Jo.)
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