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Elizabeth Foy Larsen envisions her Mediterranean-style house as a kind of decorating workshop where whimsy and practicality meet. "I grew up in Minneapolis with a combination of formal and '70s groovy aesthetic," she says. "My mom had a fantastic eye and loved color."
Taking a cue from her childhood home, Elizabeth freely mixed styles and patterns, contemporary pieces with thrift shop finds. Friend and design pro Janet Gridley steered her toward unique wallpapers, fabrics and accessories. "She knew my style enough to recommend a chandelier made of coffee filters for the dining room," Elizabeth explains. "I like things that are a little goofy." Janet also helped source wallet-friendly items like a pair of reupholstered junk shop tub chairs for the living room and a dining table from Ikea. Elizabeth and her husband, Walter Schleisman, did most of the painting, but she credits sons Peter, 14, and Henrik, 11, for taking charge of their spaces. "I think kids should design environments they like and be creatively independent," says Elizabeth, a writer who devoted a chapter to the subject in her book Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun. "They just have to stay within a budget." Daughter Luisa, now 9, was too young to prove her decorating chops when the family moved into the house in 2006. But she's sure to get the chance when she takes over Peter's room after he goes off to college.
Elizabeth and Walter, with Henrik, Luisa and Peter, relax in living room. Splashes of yellow, orange and blue throughout the house pick up the colors in the prints on the wall, bought at a local gallery. Elizabeth found the mirrored coffee table in a Wisteria catalog.
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For the dining room, Elizabeth splurged on toile wallpaper embellished with huge pheasants. "It's from a design firm in Scotland called Timorous Beasties, which resonated with me since my paternal grandmother came from Dundee," she says. The chairs are inexpensive copies of midcentury designs and the light fixture was found at etsy.com.
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For the inside of the bookcases in her office, Elizabeth chose vivid yellow, a color she says makes the long winters feel like summer. A loveseat piped in the same electric hue and an ottoman provide a place for kicking back.
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Eye-catching accessories like fluffy throw pillows and an orange bench punch up an otherwise subdued family room. The modular carpet tiles by Flor can be easily switched out in case of spills.
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Peter, an architecture and design buff, helped artist Daisy Mitchell paint the LA skyline over his bed. "He feels he lives in way too small a town," says Elizabeth. In keeping with his clean-lined tastes, Peter chose a modern bed and headboard from Ikea. Posters of his favorite cities hang above models of the Empire State Building and Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia.
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Henrik chose a blazing orange for his room. "I hate the shade, but he wouldn't budge," Elizabeth says. "Anyway, it's his space." The wood deer head and George Washington pillow are from Honeyshine, a favorite Minneapolis home furnishings shop.