Why the Twin Cities Should Be on Every Design Lover's Bucket List

Minnesota deserves to be known for more than just its frigid winters and 10,000 lakes. Instead, locals know the Twin Cities has a wealth of culture to offer both born and bred Minnesotans and visitors alike. “From historical St. Paul landmarks and modern Minneapolis architecture to the Mississippi River and endless amount of lakes, beauty is around every corner for you to explore,” explains local interior designer Bria Hammel.

First of all: “There is art everywhere you look,” says Minnesota-based designer Amanda Lorenz of Henri Interiors. “From painted murals and beautiful parks to a number of museums and gorgeous restaurants to countless art-focused events, it is nearly impossible to not feel inspired when you are here.”

One particular source of inspiration for local designer Martha Dayton is the architecture of Minneapolis and St. Paul. “The Twin Cities are home to eclectic urban and suburban neighborhoods with a fascinating mix of architectural styles, including historic homes by Cass Gilbert, Clarence Johnston, Harry Wild Jones and other legendary Minnesota architects, breathtaking modern homes by top local architects, charming Arts & Crafts bungalows and rustic lake cottages,” she explains.

As the ‘Minnesota Nice’ adage goes, “People here really value humility,” says designer Victoria Sass of Minneapolis’ Prospect Refuge Studio. “So much is happening under the radar, and sometimes that can be hard for outsiders to step into. People aren’t shouting about the amazing things they are making, so you have to do your homework by talking to shop owners, gallery owners, and restaurant owners about what they are tuned into.”

Here, we—along with a few of the city’s top designers—do just that to share our favorite design-forward spots to eat, drink, shop, play and rest.

Where to Stay

Hewing Hotel

A historic 1897 warehouse in the trendy North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis became a beautiful boutique hotel in 2016 thanks to ESG Architecture & Design, who paid homage to the state’s Nordic roots with steel, wood, zinc and millwork elements combined with an abundance of cozy textiles like leather and flannel. A five-story atrium cut through the building allows light to pour in, spotlighting the original timber beams. ‘It’s incredible, and the rooftop is one of my favorite places in the metro,” says Minnesota-based designer Heather Fox of HGTV’s Should I Stay or Go. “My husband and I always call the design ‘Minnesota Chic,’ and we’ve had countless clients name it as inspiration when they’re building or renovating. Within walking distance of the hotel are some of the best design-forward shops in town.”

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Alma Hotel

Designer Talin Spring of Spring Finn & Co. Studio found inspiration in the cuisine of Chef Alex Robert’s restaurant Alma for the conversion of an adjacent historic building into a seven-bedroom hotel of the same name. “You eat a meal surrounded by people in the Café or restaurant—with its open central kitchen—then you go upstairs, close your door and your eyes, just like in a home,” writes Spring. “Creating a warm and human environment was my main concern all along the project.” She used locally sourced white oak canopy beds by Marvin Freitas to highlight the 14-foot ceilings, vintage textiles, and Lebanese and Japanese woodblock prints to “give a physical connection.”

Adds Sass, “For an all-in-one retreat, I can’t recommend Alma enough. Make reservations for a seasonal prix-fixe in the Alma dining room, which was recently—and beautifully—refreshed by local design firm James Dayton Design. The rooms are thoughtfully appointed with locally handcrafted furniture and artisan touches from around the world.”

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Hotel 340

“This hotel was the first boutique hotel in the Twin Cities,” says Lorenz. “Located in the landmark building of the St. Paul Athletic Club, this unique urban sanctuary combines historic details with clean, updated charm to create an unprecedented and artful meld of service, quality, comfort, and convenience. The old and new work together to create a continuing role in the vibrant cultural and social life of the center of the city.”

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Westin Minneapolis

“While the Twin Cities has many great hotel options, I always want my out-of-town guests to have a memorable, ‘only-in-the-Twin-Cities’ experience, so I often recommend the Westin in the heart of downtown Minneapolis,” says Dayton. “Located in the circa-1941 Farmers & Mechanics Bank building, not far from where Mary Tyler Moore famously tossed her hat, the hotel has great bones and a beautiful restaurant in the former bank lobby.”

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Where to Eat and Drink

Monte Carlo

Belly up to the copper-topped bar at this old-school Minneapolis landmark, which features a ceiling-high wall of liquor. “For classic supper club vibes, this hangout has been around since 1906,” says Sass. “Sit at the bar and order a martini.” And don’t miss the famous chicken wings.

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Hai Hai

“At Hai Hai, you’ll instantly feel like you’re on vacation in a tropical location with greenery and fun pops,” says Fox of the Southeast Asian restaurant. “Their cocktails are like a design experience, too—tasty and almost too pretty to drink.” Owner Christina Nguyen relied on fun accents, like Pierre Frey Jungle & Maya and Christian Lacroix Parati wallpapers, to enhance the vibe.

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Saint Dinette

This St. Paul restaurant serves upgraded takes on classic comfort food under executive chef Adam Eaton, all in a gorgeous setting complete with Eames-style seating, stained wood, high ceilings and city views. Try the award-winning cheeseburger, a mix of brisket, sirloin and dry-aged chuck, butter and a blend of Gruyère and sharp Cheddar cheeses.

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Gallery: The most beautiful restaurant in every state (Cheapism)

The Lynhall

After a five-year stint in London, celebrated entrepreneur Anne Spaeth saw an opportunity in the Twin Cities to create a market-inspired restaurant, bakery, event space, and kitchen studio that would also serve as a community gathering place and mimic the feeling of British neighborhood cafes. She opened The Lynhall’s first location in Uptown Minneapolis—voted 2017 best restaurant design by the Star Tribune—then recently expanded to Edina, Minnesota, where she tasked architect Mohagen Hansen and interior designer Jessie Pasqua of Pleasant Bay Designs with ensuring The Lynhall Edina followed in the timeless and feminine aesthetic footsteps of its predecessor.

For the interior design, Spaeth and Pasqua placed a premium on elegant and delicate finishes to ultimately create a light-filled destination punctuated by oversize windows, warm woodwork by Joe Michalski of Rosemount Woods, vintage and antique accents, quartz countertops by Minnesota-based Cambria, and a backdrop of white.

“The large open eating hall encourages a sense of community with a fare that stays true to the region,” says Lorenz.

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Young Joni

Los Angeles-based designer Milo Garcia of Studio MAI helped create this wood-clad restaurant for James Beard Award-winning chef Ann Kim in Northeast Minneapolis. To recreate the feeling of Kim’s mother’s kitchen, Garcia used mismatched china, copper pots, Morris & Co. wallpaper, and oversize communal tables. “The Minneapolis food scene is on fire right now,” says Sass. “Ann Kim serves pizza and more with a Korean spin. It’s a cozy little hangout with plenty of bar space to land if you missed making a reservation. Don’t forget to check out the secret ‘back bar.’ It’s like partying in your parent’s basement while they are out of town, records and all.”

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“This restaurant was designed by local design firm Studio Grey,” says Lorenz. “Its charming open atmosphere is an experience like no other, somewhere between sitting at your mom’s kitchen table mixed with an intimate restaurant setting that’s reminiscent of being right off a European street corner. They offer a six-course dining experience with a menu curated to the season. Because of its limited space, I recommend getting on the reservation list early.”

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Sooki & Mimi


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“I’m obsessed with Sooki and Mimi in Uptown,” says Dayton. “Everything—from the interiors and the tables to the dishes and the flowers—is to die for, and the food is out of this world.” Adds Fox, “Sooki & Mimi is beautiful and makes you want to breathe the design in deep. The food is bold, and a date night there feels like an experience.”

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Where to Shop

Brooke & Lou

Twin Cities-based designer Bria Hammel opened her first-ever brick-and-mortar pop-up shop in Edina, Minnesota this summer for her own home décor collection Brooke & Lou. Filled with everything from pillows and wallpaper to furniture and vintage accessories, the shop is highly curated by Hammel in her signature pretty-but-not-precious aesthetic.


Steps from the Monte Carlo in Minneapolis’ North Loop, MartinPatrick3 offers a mix of men’s and women’s apparel, fine jewelry, contemporary furnishings, gifts and artwork—all in a 22,000 square-foot space overseen by cofounders Greg Walsh and Dana Swindler. They even have an in-house interior design studio that will help you source the perfect piece for your home.

Love Your Melon

Mission-driven apparel brand Love Your Melon hosts an annual build-your-own-beanie pop-up in its North Loop retail space from October through March, where you can flex your design muscles to create a custom hat with various knit, patch and pom options. The studio features custom-finished bleached-maple wood floors, a Cambria Skara Brae quartz shelving wall with rows of white beanies waiting to be customized, and neon signage. Love Your Melon is dedicated to giving a hat to every child battling cancer as well as supporting nonprofit organizations that lead the fight against pediatric cancer.


“Basically, half of my wardrobe is from Mille,” says Sass of the Minneapolis women’s boutique founded by Minnesota transplant Michelle LeBlanc. “Designed in-house and available on a subscription basis, their designs are somehow miraculously flattering on just about everyone and look just as good on the beach as they do at a wedding.”

Golden Rule


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“A fun, colorful collection of local art, jewelry, accessories, and clothing, this is the perfect spot to find a local-made gift curated by their incredibly artistic owners,” says Lorenz of the Excelsior, Minnesota shop. “You can also check their website for art-based events and pop-ups located in their charming attic.”

Faribault Woolen Mill

One of the last vertical woolen mills in America, the Faribault Woolen Mill in Faribault, Minnesota creates stylish blankets, throws, scarves and accessories from raw wool thanks to fifth generation craftspeople. The Mill is open for tours, and there’s a standalone shop in Linden Hills, too. The brand recently released a limited-edition blanket designed by Native American artist Dyani White Hawk in collaboration with The Great Northern Festival.

Julia Moss Designs


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This home décor and gift shop in Wayzata, Minnesota has everything from Anissa Kermiche love handles pottery and artist Ashley Longshore’s latest coffee table book to Hunt Slonem bunny portrait plates and Alex Bibian sculptures.


Minnesota-based sustainable outdoor furniture brand Yardbird, cofounded by father/son duo Bob and Jay Dillon, opened its first brick-and-mortar showroom in Saint Louis Park, Minnesota in 2018 and sold out of $1 million in inventory in its first four weeks. At the shop, visitors can touch and feel the product, receive one-on-one design advice and order furniture along with accessories, like pillows, umbrellas, fire tables, and custom all-weather covers. We love the new Winnie teak collection.

Where to Explore

Walker Art Center

This contemporary art museum offers free admission on the first Saturday of each month. Visitors love the famed ‘Spoonbridge and Cherry’ sculptural fountain by Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg, which sits in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and frames a view of the cities.

“For me, art brings inspiration for my interior designs,” says Fox. “Seeing combinations of colors makes my brain buzz.” Echoes Dayton, “For endless design inspiration, I love exploring the galleries of the Walker Art Center with my daughters.”

Guthrie Theater

“Even if you don’t have time for a show, make a point to pop into the striking blue building—you can’t miss it—designed by French architect Jean Nouvel,” says Sass of the theater set on the traditional land of the Dakota People. “Take a walk down the 178-foot cantilevered bridge, dubbed the ‘Endless Bridge,’ for a unique perspective of the river and the neighborhood.”

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

“The Como Conservatory is a great way to spend a day for the garden lover or anyone who needs a little greenery in their lives,” says Fox. “It’s another great source of inspiration for me and such a peaceful way to spend a day.”

Human on a Stick Magical History Segway Tour


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“The St. Paul tour will take you along Summit Avenue to explore the history behind the beautiful homes and historic mansions,” says Lorenz. “You will see and learn about the birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald and also learn all about the history and renovations of the Minnesota State Capitol.” Adds Sass, “Some parts of St. Paul still feel like they are right out of a Great Gatsby novel.”

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