Photos by Spacecrafting
On a pleasantly balmy day in November, the golden glow of a Sunday afternoon sunset spills through the windows of interior designer Bruce Kading’s sunroom—washing over a burgundy, nail head-trimmed bouclé sofa perfectly propped against the west-facing wall. A handful of Quality Street chocolates scatters the cocktail table nearby, and the History Channel hums faintly in the background. Countless sheets of grid paper, a triangle, and an eraser are poised at the ready.
With a steaming cup of coffee in hand and Anne & Valentin eyeglass frames perched elegantly upon the bridge of his nose, Kading leans back. He is laser-focused—hard at work drafting, drawing, and dreaming up detailed sketches of the soon-to-be new builds and whole-home remodels his eponymous firm, Bruce Kading Interior Design, creates for clients across the country. It’s in these fleeting moments, when ornate moldings are designed, decorative trims pored over, and entire spaces resurrected, that his ingenuity flows at its fullest. “I’ve been sketching all my life, and these drawings are an important part of my design process,” says Kading, who uses the preliminary documents to explain ideas to clients and collaborators alike. “I feel they have more integrity, emotion, and nuance than mechanical computer renderings.”
This, in its deceiving simplicity, is Kading’s process, one during which he painstakingly depicts every design detail to scale with the historically accurate, worldly style for which he’s nationally applauded. These sketches demonstrate not only an unparalleled prowess but also an innate ability to visualize spaces before the first 2-by-4 is even placed.
That includes the ones inside this near-9,000-square-foot estate nestled in a private Twin Cities suburban countryside. After acquiring the 12-acre parcel of land and its existing home, Kading’s clients had two choices: Tear down the structure or remodel it. The new homeowners opted for the latter, and Kading immediately gathered his atelier of artisans—builder Lee Cornelius, decorative painter Jennifer Raskob Kranz, and expert woodcarver Erik Wyckoff—to deliver on his clients’ primary goal of ridding the residence of its Western-style character. Their desired aesthetic? An authentic, European-inspired mansion.
The transformation began by bidding adieu to the original home’s “gutsy, masculine aesthetic” of dark woodwork, outdated glazes, and chamois-colored textured walls and ceilings. “We also painted the woodwork, and we added trim to the plinth blocks to make it look more French,” explains Kading, whose expertise is largely informed by his travels and lifetime spent globetrotting. “We replaced all the wood floors, so they now have an age to them and look like they’ve been there forever. We even swapped out the stair railing for a fancier one and laid the walls in a subtle glaze that looks like a hand-patted plaster you might see in Europe.”
To the right of the entryway, the great room provides the first real look at the four-bed, eight-bath home’s traditional European interiors. It boasts one of six custom fireplaces, patterned pillows, and decorative furnishings, plus velvety, tufted furniture and pretty pops of red—two of the wife’s personal requests.
This formal gathering space flows effortlessly into the adjacent open dining and kitchen area, and among its new flooring, cabinetry, and pewter-topped island is a revamped cooking center that immediately draws the eye with its delicate, yet dramatic detailing, inky black La Cornue range, antique fire back, and hand-carved French Rococo-style fireplace mantel. “It was already in the perfect spot, but the original proportions were wrong,” says Wyckoff of the original fireplace off the kitchen. “Bruce had me create a replica of it. That’s the level of detail he’ll go to.”
But perhaps the crowning jewel of the kitchen is Wyckoff’s “trophy carving” on the wooden refrigerator door. “In classic 18th-century French paneling, they would create carvings with emblems that reflected hunting, royalty, or the military, for example, above a doorway or significant cabinet,” says Wyckoff, who works from his Minneapolis studio. “Bruce had the idea of adding elements from the owners instead.”
Back near the foyer, a stairwell with a salon-style gallery wall of portraits and antique oil paintings ascends to the upper level, where a British pub and temperature-controlled wine attic attract lovers of both beautiful design and boozy beverages. A Jerusalem-sourced stone blankets the attic floor, while a worn wood countertop slab adds a rustic touch of authenticity. The space also features a leaded glass window, traditional lath, commissioned metalwork, wooden plaques, and custom shelves and staves to appropriately showcase the clients’ wine collection. “Not many people have wine in the attic, but that was the only space we had,” Kading adds, laughing.
The pub, on the other hand, features a replica of a London pub sign (an element both Wyckoff and Raskob Kranz collaborated on), a whimsical tile with “little gnome characters doing funny things,” Kading says, and plenty of seating for guests who prefer to hang back post-dinner parties.
But for when the night comes to a close, two spacious guest rooms await overnight visitors back downstairs in the left wing. Nearby, a romantic primary suite features its own sitting room that brandishes artisan-made bronze fireplace doors. Its spacious bath sports a classic mosaic floor tile and a pewter- and porcelain-crafted tub that are nothing short of sensational. But the dreamy walk-in closet—flaunting mirror-paneled doors, a washer and dryer set, safe room, and Carrara marble-topped island—is arguably bigger than the main bedroom space itself.
Here, Kading let the scenic views of the surrounding landscape guide his selections, opting for a material palette of subdued tones that reflects the peaceful outdoor environment. Not only did he replace the existing floors with a waxed herringbone material, but he also refurbished the walls with a special glaze and crackle paint—both of which were designed to usher an aged, time-worn aesthetic into the space. Raskob Kranz also refinished the ceiling beams to mimic vintage European timbers. “All the beams that look gray were actually dark redwood beams, and they were all hand-scraped,” says Kading. “We had Jennifer come in and age them, and she did a subtle texturing. It was a big deal to make them look natural.”
Across the hall is a library (one of Kading’s favorite rooms), where custom embroidered draperies bestow a luxurious sense of arrival, a feeling further established by black walnut-stained paneling and bookshelves that invite in an epic ambiance. A rolling ladder, antique lighting, nickel fireplace, and collection of books amplify the clients’ desired look—one that updates, yet simultaneously adds historical relevance to the residence.
The finished product is a gorgeous, globally influenced home executed with the highest degree of provenance, pedigree, and patina. But after nearly half a decade of dedication to the job, it all circles back to one common denominator: Kading’s hand-drawn concept sketches.
From gold-clad sconces to over-grouted stone, the designs Kading outlines from the custom Hickory Chair sofa in his cozy, light-filled sunroom all have a story to tell. In this event, a story that started with a soft-grip No. 2 mechanical pencil and finished with a reimagined manor that is très magnifique—for its new-found function, fabulous spaces for family and friends, and oodles of French-inspired flair.
View more rooms below.