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Grand Forks homeowners tout their interior design styles

Terri Nelson remodeled her rambler about seven years ago getting rid of most of her old antique decor and clutter. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 9
Terri Nelson says her design style is best described as transistional, a mix of traditional and modern. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 9
An opening in the wall between the dining room and family room frames a large fireplace. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 9
Family photos are mixed with accent pieces throughout the Nelson home. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald4 / 9
Robyn and Nancy Nettum's family farmhome renovation near Buxton, ND, expanded the original home and includes everything from antique to traditional. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald5 / 9
Nancy Nettum has a passion for interior design that she's put into the design of the family home near Buxton. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald6 / 9
The Nettum family kitchen features oak cupboards built by Nancy's brother in law. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald7 / 9
A teenage daughter's bedroom features popular colors green and purple. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald8 / 9
Nancy Nettum uses photographs and collectables in decorating the family's farm home near Buxton. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald9 / 9

From traditional to contemporary, shabby chic to Hollywood glam, interior designers see a wide variety of tastes in interior design and home decor as they work with clients.

Some clients may not be able to define their particular style, but Susan Nord of Susan Nord Designs in Grand Forks said, “We find that out as we visit with them…it’s one of those things they can look around and sense by things that they really love and building off of that.”


 “If they don’t like a lot of clutter, they’re probably a little more modern and sleek,” she said.

The modern style is all about a clean, minimal look. “We’re finding more and more people decluttering, which is awesome,” Nord said.

Along with the clean, minimal look, Allison Comstock of AllisoNicole’s in Grand Forks said elements of modern style include glass, metal and bold prints.

Nord said cooler colors such as grays and blues are also typically associated with the modern style. But, Comstock said sometimes people choose to do warmer colors with modern pieces.

“Sometimes, mixing modern and cool can feel kind of (uninviting),” she said. “So, I’ve had a lot of clients who want the modern look but warmer colors, so it still feels homey and inviting.”

Another important element of the contemporary design style is sleek, straight lines that carry throughout the entire room from the couches to the backs of chairs, to the base of lamps, to the shapes of the mirrors, Nord said. And, those lines and specific elements are often repeated throughout the home. Nord said modern style includes a lot of repetition.


On the other hand, a more traditional style will include curved lines and rounded edges, as well as more ornate designs, Nord said. And, the decor is often set in vignettes. For example, a candle, picture frame and vase will be displayed together, as opposed to three identical items.

Rather than sleek furnishings, traditional style has puffy, full furniture.

“There’s more bulk, more lines, more details,” Comstock added. She said traditional style also usually includes a lot of warm woods, whether it’s wood chairs, cabinetry or tables.

The style is usually associated with warm colors such as reds, oranges and yellows, as well as neutral tones like cream, taupe and tan.

“If you need more of a visualization, think fall colors,” Comstock said.

She said the style is still really big among her clients in Grand Forks, while Nord said very few of her clientele are going really traditional.


Nord said she has a lot of clients who are going with a mix of traditional and modern, which she calls transitional.

“It’s a little traditional and a little modern, but they marry each other,” she said. “We’ll have someone who likes clean lines, but a really funky antique piece; or someone who doesn’t want a lot of chrome, but they want a clean modern feel.”

Teri Nelson, of Grand Forks, said that description matches the style in her home. When she moved into her rambler about seven years ago, she got rid of most of her old antique decor and clutter. She kept some of her favorite pieces, including a large black armoire that she turned into a book case, but she simplified her look with less pieces and cleaner lines. She also added more modern elements such as the sleek silver hardware on her traditional cabinets and a series of simple black mirrors that add interest in her dining room.

Nord said the transitional style usually accents one of the two styles, and in Nelson’s home, the modern style takes dominance. She said she’d like to go even more modern, but for now, her home is transitional.

Shabby chic

Another popular style is shabby chic, which Nord said includes a lot of refurbished furniture and woods.

 Comstock said shabby chic is a mix of old and new with repurposed pieces and vintage prints with a modern twist. A shabby chic print might be a large vibrant floral, she said.

Other characteristics of the shabby chic style include birds and bird cages, vintage frames or modern frames with a vintage look, flowers and printed rugs.

“It can be a cute little ottoman or the old silver brushes, vintage mirrors. You can throw chandeliers in, too,” Comstock said. “An iron bed but white or off-white that has a little love or use and looks like it needs a little TLC.”

Nancy Nettum, of Buxton, N.D., said her home is a little shabby chic.

“It’s homey, it’s warm, it’s vintage,” she said.

Her living room is full of white birds and bird cages, rustic signs pointing to the cabin and many old pieces that have been repurposed.

She said her favorite piece is a little pastel green wooden chair with chipped paint. She said it was her father-in-law’s when he was a child. Now, the chair acts as a decoration in Nettum’s living room, holding a rustic blue box of candles and seashells.

She said her style is all about chipped paint, tarnished wood and childhood memories, adding that many of her pieces have character and stories to them.

Vintage, Hollywood glam

Similar to shabby chic, vintage style includes a lot of old and reupholstered pieces. But rather than having a cottage or cabin feel, the vintage look is all about old Hollywood glam.

“I think of mirrors and crystals and pillows with broaches on them,” Comstock said. “For a print, you could do damask, lace, sometimes a little bit of floral.”

She said the style includes a lot of metals, mirrored furniture and chandeliers. Makeup vanities and fainting chairs are also characteristic of the style.

Comstock’s home has a touch of Hollywood glam with a series of gold sunburst mirrors of various sizes on the wall in her basement den.

For colors, Comstock said she thinks of silver, black, gold, white and off-white, with little pops of color in lamps or candles.

A mix of styles

Although it’s easy to define certain styles, it can sometimes be difficult for homeowners to stick within a certain style when decorating their home, Nord said.

 “What’s neat about the design world now is that we don’t have to have a style,” she said. “We don’t need to be Victorian, and we don’t have to be modern. We can be both.”

Comstock said she personally loves traditional, vintage and modern. “You just have to know to blend it all properly,” she said.

And a consistent color palette can help one do so. She said she starts with a dark, medium and light color for her primary colors. Then, she adds other accents from her patterns.

Other items that can help pull a room together are lamps, candles, rugs, pillows and wall art.

“You definitely want a room to look full and complete, but you also want to keep in mind that you don’t want it to be cluttered,” she said.

Design style characteristics:

  •  Modern: Glass, metals, bold prints, cool colors, straight lines, minimal pieces and repetition.
  •  Traditional: Curved lines, ornate designs, warm woods, full furniture, neutral colors and earth tones.
  •  Transitional: One’s favorite elements of modern and traditional.
  •  Shabby Chic: Repurposed furniture, chipped paint, flowers, printed rugs, bold florals, birds cages and vintage frames.
  •  Hollywood glam: Old vintage pieces, mirrors, crystals, metals, silver, black, gold, vanities and fainting chairs.
Jasmine Maki
Jasmine Maki is a features reporter for Accent. Her main beats are arts and entertainment and life and style. She also occasionally covers health, family and TV.
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