Going Retro in this Vintage Excelsior Home

Excelsior home becomes a showcase for couple’s vintage furniture collection.
Cheryl and Tom Lesser at home with their two dogs, Natasha and Daisy (in lap).

Homebuyers Tom and Cheryl Lesser discovered an Excelsior home  that is exceptionally suited to their lifestyle and their mid-century modern furniture collection. The Lessers are empty-nesters who had been shopping for a condo in Minneapolis, but when nothing downtown sparked their interest, the Lessers took a peek at homes in the lake area. “We had looked at many homes,” says Cheryl Lesser, “but when we walked into this one, we knew immediately: This was it.” Interior designer Susan Wittine of Domain Architecture & Design describes the Lesser’s home as vintage mid-century and says it serves as a perfect showroom for the couple’s furniture collection. The Lessers began collecting late-1950s furniture a few years ago. “I lived in Germany for a long time and came to appreciate clean and modern design,” says Lesser. “This sleek home was built in 1958 on a lovely wooded lot with views of the lake. Our furniture fits perfectly.” The home’s kitchen had been updated with new countertops, so Wittine helped the Lessers with finishing touches a like new color palette, lighting, fixtures and a few additional furniture pieces. “The goal was to complement what they already had,” says Wittine. Some of the items in the Lessers’ collection included an Eames leather lounger, a Noguchi glass coffee table, a Risom rocker with custom teal fabric that provides a pop of color, a Bantam studio sofa with great lines, a chrome Tolomeo Mega floor lamp, a Line credenza and an American Modern bed. Wittine added a modern ceiling fan and a Chilewich spun vinyl rug made of recycled material. The Lessers’ furniture collection combined with the home’s open floor plan and lake views made the space as visually appealing as a mod set design for Mad Men’s Don Draper, should the fictional character ever decide to move from Manhattan to Minnesota. But it’s still a lake home with a big yard and garden that contribute a touch of rustic resort feel. The home’s smaller footprint has forced the Lessers to make choices about what they really want. “This home is 1,000 square feet smaller than our previous home in Inver Grove Heights,” Cheryl Lesser says. “Smaller homes lend themselves to a stronger focus on quality furnishings. Our creativity has been fueled by constraint.” An added feature of this unique home is that it included a dog. The previous homeowners were relocating to Hawaii and were advised by their veterinarian that their fox terrier Daisy wasn’t fit enough to make the trip across the Pacific. After several attempts to find Daisy a good home, the homeowners asked the Lessers if they might consider taking Daisy along with the house. “We already had a dog and a cat,” says Lesser, “but our cat ran away during the move and I may have been caught at a weak moment.” The Lessers took Daisy in and say she gets along beautifully with Natasha, their standard poodle. “They are adorable together,” Cheryl Lesser says. “Daisy is also a great conversation-starter when neighbors walk past and recognize the dog but not us.” The Lessers’ vintage home and adoption of Daisy demonstrate the importance of hanging on to what’s valuable. “Instead of tearing down this old home and replacing it with something new,” says Lesser, “we have found preserving this house—and the dog—to be very rewarding.”