Photos by Rubinski Works
Minnesota-raised Margaux Christianson loves flowers, food, and her family—the latter, after all, is largely what brought her, her husband, Paul, and their three young sons back to the North Star State after 15 years in sunny California’s Bay Area. For the Christianson clan, being minutes (versus thousands of miles) from Grandma and Grandpa and other relatives in the Twin Cities was high priority in the hunt for their forever home. But the couple also values education, and they quickly learned Orono’s uber-competitive school district would also dictate what they could find and where.
Eventually, Margaux stumbled across a handwritten sign for an unlisted property in the western suburbs—one just shy of 9 acres that overlooks a beautiful oak grove in Independence—that checked both boxes. “We wanted the boys to be by their grandparents and have the relationship they should,” says Margaux, whose offer was accepted within 24 hours. “Here, we see my parents a few times per week, plus Paul’s entire family.”
Additional family members weren’t far, including Margaux’s cousin, Emily Pueringer, founder of Emily Pueringer Design Studio. Although the couple vetted various local firms to lead the charge on their new build, Pueringer topped the list as their candidate of choice. But it took more than mere convincing to get Pueringer on board: “We basically had to force Emily to work with us,” Margaux recalls, laughing.
Pueringer’s hesitancy was twofold. The home would be her first-ever new construction project and, more importantly, she feared tarnishing her and Margaux’s tight-knit friendship. “She begged me and begged me to do this project,” Pueringer says, “I said ‘no’ a solid three times before I finally gave in.” But Margaux’s persistence produced rather fruitful results: A booming design business for her cousin and an undeniable beauty fittingly dubbed Chateau Margaux for the family of her own.
“When we first talked about the home, Margaux said, ‘I want every day to feel like Christmas,’” Pueringer says. “She started to send me inspiration photos, and it was all over the place—traditional, modern farmhouse, super classic—but then I started to realize that she was describing a feeling.”
She was right: “It’s the feeling of coming home, finding joy, and being really comfortable and happy,” confirms Margaux, who says she wanted to avoid the cold, modern feel of their previous California home. “We also wanted this house to be where the boys and all their friends go when they want to hang out. I had that house as a kid, and I wanted that for my boys, too.”
All 5,400 square feet of the five-bed, four-bath home support these goals. Simple, yet stunning finishes, materials, and thoughtful design details (think clean archways, white oak wood, and minimal casing) balance out bold, “can’t look away” elements—creating an energy Pueringer describes as “welcoming, inviting, colorful, and cheerful.” She adds, “You can just feel it when you walk through the front door.”
From there, through a set of double doors into the foyer, sightlines sing straight ahead to the living room, where wide, white oak-cased archways frame views of the vases, photo frames, books, candles, and small trinkets that decorate floating shelves. A thin Currey and Company chandelier and painting that balances atop the mantel (which once hung above Margaux’s parents’ fireplace) add layers of character and contemporary comfort. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the nearby sunroom illuminate a sexy, black-grouted dark green floor tile, velvet chaise, and slanted wood ceilings. Meanwhile, a Mercury Mosaics hexagon tile, delicate blue-and-white-patterned Tabarka backsplash, and Moen luxury line plumbing make the main-floor primary bathroom suite nothing short of to-die-for.
The family affair continues upstairs, where feathers, birch trees, and the Galapagos Islands adorn wallpapered accent walls in the bedrooms, bathrooms, and beyond. But Pueringer’s grandmother, Rusty (who owned wallpaper company The Paper Mates in the 1960s with Margaux’s late grandmother, Toots), wasn’t quite sold on the eclectic patterns her granddaughter selected: “I was so excited to show my grandma all the wallpaper selections at Margaux’s,” Pueringer says, “but her expression quickly told me she thought they were a bit too bold!”
But despite this dedication to detail, Pueringer admits there was no clear vision or plan for the home’s design. “It was really just about us exploring together.”
Ultimately, that exploration started in the kitchen. From a functional standpoint, the hub of the home needed to be large and hardworking enough for prep zones and to entertain family and friends. “We are a huge cooking family, and my mom’s entire side is in Napa and Sonoma in the food and wine industry,” says Margaux, who does the cooking and baking. “It’s truly the fabric of my family’s life.” (She leaves the smoking, grilling, and barbecuing to Paul—who has perfected some of her family’s favorite dishes, she says.)
From a design perspective, though, Pueringer needed something to spearhead the interior aesthetic, and the terracotta-colored Lacanche range was the easy winner. Above the range, a custom tile backsplash embellished with a singular rooster tile delivers on one slice of Margaux’s wish list, while the heavy-duty solid brass Armac Martin cabinet pulls both look and feel luxurious. “You can knock somebody out with one of those, I swear,” Pueringer says, jokingly.
White oak-framed windows and ceiling beams, in conjunction with drawers and open shelves in various shapes and sizes, add a careful complexity to the kitchen’s design. Finally, a pot filler and farmhouse sink put function first, while the center island with seating for four and nearby breakfast nook keep family at the forefront.
The butler’s pantry, a unanimous favorite space between both homeowner and designer, might just be where all the magic happens. The room features multiple prep areas, a second dishwasher, an orange grove wallpaper, and a dedicated spot for the family’s many bourbon drinkers. And although Margaux says she envisioned its six lower tilt-out cabinets to act as bulk storage for potatoes, onions, and other produce from her gardens, they currently serve another purpose.
“You know what’s actually in there? Juice boxes,” she says, laughing. “Maybe that vision will come true one day, but the kids love to bring their friends over and show them our snack drawers. I wasn’t anticipating it, but the kids have truly made the home theirs.”
Margaux adds, “The home oozes luxury but in a super welcoming way. When we’ve entertained, kids are running around like crazy, adults are laughing, and nobody feels uptight or cautious. It aligns with the goal of coming home to Christmas every day—that feeling of happiness and joy.”