When Traci Dokken and Jeff Danberry met at a builders’ association banquet, they had no idea they’d eventually build a life together. Years later, the couple still shares a love of Lake Minnetonka and a laid-back approach to style—and life.
They both make a living creating beautiful, purposeful homes. Jeff is owner of Danberry Building Corp, where he designs and builds custom homes. It took nearly 30 years as a general contractor to realize that “most people want to know who designed a home rather than who built it.” But he knows he must first make sure beautiful rooms also function well.
“I’m the big picture guy,” says Danberry. “Don’t waste my time telling me what color doorknobs you want. That’s Traci’s area!”
Traci owns Traci Dokken Designs, where she focuses on remodeling and interior design. She says her business is all about “figuring out how to get the designer look the clients want at the price point they can afford.”
The pair often collaborates professionally, once on a 1950s mid-century modern home—inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright—which a local investor had hired Danberry to overhaul. “Then I was hired to decorate, remodel and restore it,” says Dokken. “But I fell in love and had to buy it!” The home in Tonka Bay became just one of the couple’s home bases, and it’s a physical representation of their classic-meets-modern lifestyle.
Danberry and Dokken call themselves “outdoorsy” and love the active, tight-knit lifestyle of the Lake Minnetonka area. They can more often be found on a boat or keeping up with their young adult children—seven between them—than stressing out about what they’re wearing. Their keen eye for design is kept in check with a dose of no-frills realism, so designer pieces—whether in a home or an outfit—need to work hard and impress a crowd at the same time.
“To me, fashion is just like home design. You start with clean lines—good, solid basics. Then you add bling,” says Dokken. For a home, it’s light fixtures and artwork, but for an outfit, she says it’s, “a great shoe, belts and funky jewelry.” Those get piled on top of staples like high-quality boots and great jeans, jackets and sweaters.
A good pair of boots is a top fashion choice for Traci Dokken.
“Comfortable, versatile and real” are Dokken’s requirements for the pieces that fill her closet, and Danberry agrees. “We try to find casual quality,” he says. “We’re not going looking for the cheapest thing at Fleet Farm. It’s got to be quality, and we try to buy local.”
Often running from job sites straight to family or social gatherings, Dokken and Danberry know the value of hearty pieces that work for Minnesota seasons. They don’t mind spending a little bit more for high-quality pieces that will last.
Danberry’s basics are sturdy jeans by Wrangler or Duluth Trading Company, tees from local places like Excelsior Brewing, and classic pullover sweaters. “When we go out to Maynard’s or Fletcher’s, we don’t want to look like kids from Uptown,” says Danberry. “We want things that are comfortable. Things that fit.”
“Guys don’t go shopping. We go buying,” jokes Danberry, who still admits to owning a collection of 20 watches. “I like a nice watch. You can put one with any outfit, and it looks like you’ve got some class.” His favorite is a custom blue chronograph sport watch from Albers Jewelry in Long Lake.
Dokken splurges in other areas. “I will put money into boots because I will wear them a lot!” she says. She swears by Miss Me jeans, available at the House of Amore & Fede in Excelsior. “I love a tailored, soft, cropped jacket in denim or cream.”
Once her base layers are firmly in place, she has some fun piling on the accessories that add a pop to an outfit and can easily be updated—guilt-free—as styles and seasons change. For this fall, she’s “loving wraps and anything in robin’s egg blue, pastels or salmon orange” and though she doesn’t like lipstick, will “throw on a good lip gloss for a little bit of color.”
She’s also in a long-term relationship with her classic Louis Vuitton. “I just love that bag,” she says. “I don’t do a lot of messin’ with my purses. It’s too much work!”
One local who swears by classic, quality fashion is Bill Damberg, owner of Brightwater in Excelsior and Edina. “I don’t want to sell you a ton of pieces,” says Damberg. “I want to sell you a few great pieces you’ll wear for a long time.”
“Every man should own a cashmere v-neck,” says Damberg, who is stocking lots of options from clothier White & Warren this fall. “Cashmere. Cashmere. Cashmere,” he says. Damberg is also raving about tunic-length Emu sweaters for women, and local and made-in-the-U.S.A. brands like Gitman Bros., Baldwin Jeans and Minnesota’s own Faribault Woolen Mills. “Understated is always a little better than too flamboyant,” says Damberg.
Another go-to shop that Dokken and Danberry frequent is part tack shop, part boutique. Hartley Woodward in Maple Plain specializes in riding gear and supplies, but also stocks a variety of clothing, home décor and accessories in a curated atmosphere.“I love to help people decide where to put their money and what pieces to invest in,” says owner Brook Hutchinson. One of Hartley Woodward’s best-selling brands—Equine Couture—makes equestrian-inspired leather boots that are as appropriate for a night on the town as they are for a gallop around the arena.
Oiled, leather paddock boots start at $89 for ready-made styles. “You know how the winter gets… you feel like you’re schlepping around in your Uggs all the time,” says Hutchinson. “These are durable. They’re made to get dirty. But they still look polished.”
Debbie Slusar, owner of Amore & Fede, agrees, saying, “In the Minnesota ‘burbs… people want to be fashionable, but they want their clothing to be comfortable and easy to wear. In general, we don’t want to spend too much time getting ready.” This fall, she’s filling her store with “capes, chunky sweaters and ponchos that are easy to throw on with a pair of jeans or fleece-lined leggings.”
In short, the name of the game for Dokken and Danberry is the same as it is for many suburbanites: casual comfort that allows them to take advantage of the seasons with panache. Sharon Dulin, a buyer for Sun and Slope in Wayzata, agrees. She says that “in the fall, [she sells] a lot of casual clothes—corduroy, sweaters. Recreational, all-around weekend wear.”
Traci and Jeff's Shopping Guide
Straight leg or flare Miss Me jeans, from $100
The House of Amore & Fede
226 Water St., Excelsior
Long sweaters by Dale of Norway or Patagonia, from $100.
Sun & Slope
701 East Lake St., Suite 175, Wayzata
Classic Louis Vuitton, prices vary
Jane Iredale PureGloss lip gloss in Soft Peach
Bella on the Bay
474 Second St., Excelsior
Equestrian-inspired boots and accessories
Equine Couture boots from $89
Hartley Woodward, 4910 Hwy. 12 East, Maple Plain
Duluth Trading Co. jeans, from $49.50
Wrangler jeans from $19.99, target.com
Excelsior Brewing, local t-shirts, $15-$20.
421 3rd St., Excelsior
Ray-Bans, aviators from $150,
Brevier Optical, 143 Oak St., Excelsior.
Clarks loafers, from $109, clarksusa.com
Polo Ralph Lauren knit pullover, from $250, ralphlauren.com
A custom sport watch
Albers Jewelry, 1935 Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake.