Maison Bodega, a 1920s mansion in Minneapolis, is the culmination of all things nearest and dearest to multi-hyphenate creative and collector, Liz Gardner. Taylor Hall O’Brien meets Liz for a tour of the storied space, discovering a house - and homeowner - alive with creativity. 



Maison Bodega, Minneapolis © Taylor Hall O'Brien


Like most historic buildings, Maison Bodega has lived many lives, not unlike its owner, Liz Gardner. To accurately and appropriately encapsulate all that Liz does is near impossible; her skill set is as layered as the space she inhabits. Creative director, stylist, community cultivator, historian, product designer, salonnière, the list goes on. Liz was a multi-hyphenate before the term was popular, and through years of research and exploration, brings an informed, punctilious approach to all she touches.

The Minneapolis-based creative lives and works at Maison Bodega, a 1920s mansion which is both a multi-disciplinary creative studio for Liz, and her partner Josef Harris, and a private residence for the couple and their beloved husky, Agnes. The property, designed by the architect Ernest Kennedy - who also designed notable homes for the Pillsbury family and Gilbert Walker (of the Walker Art Center) - has a fascinating history, which Liz researched extensively when approaching its design and restoration.

“I found endless newspaper clippings about the women who embodied this space throughout the years,” she tells me. “A magazine editor, a civic organizer, a soprano, a restauranteur. The space was used to host musical events like a violinist from NYC, or a Greek-themed party on the lawn, or classes for women to learn about money. It felt culturally and civically compelling.” This creative history continues to inform Maison Bodega’s usage today, with Liz describing her efforts to anthropomorphize the house. “We asked ourselves ‘how can we continue in this spirit’?”

Gardner and Harris have paid homage to the building's history, while breathing new and unexpected life into its stucco facade and plaster walls. It’s been designed with refined juxtaposition; mid-renovation discoveries were left in place because of their beauty, while other details of the remodel have been finished with painstaking precision. Layers of peeling wallpaper or cracking plaster cover the walls while luxe stone, metalwork, and custom fixtures add a polished elegance.

An Art Deco curved mahogany bar imported from Paris grounds the greeting space, Bar Agnes. A 1920s Italian marble wash basin paired with a custom brass base holds dishes of delicacies, while original hardwood floors lie underfoot in the grand ballroom, discovered while removing layers and layers of tar paper. Amish-built doors fabricated to match those seen in historic photos of the building open to a second-floor balcony overlooking the garden and greenhouse below. 

Moving through the space, it can be difficult to decipher which parts of the home are original, and which have been flawlessly executed to look original. “The idea of time being made visible or palimpsest was intuitively part of the process,” Liz says. “By using living finishes: unlacquered brass or hard wax floor finishes, the goal was to make it feel like even modern additions could have been here all along. Materiality was an obsession, so designing a custom aggregate pattern for the terrazzo floors or re-creating original millwork – these details were all part of blurring old and new.”

Yet Maison Bodega is perhaps the culmination of all things she holds nearest and dearest. The space is not only a home and creative studio, but a living, evolving extension of the entire Bodega Ltd ethos: a creative playground, a safe haven, a gathering space for everything from pop-up retail experiences to carefully crafted dinner parties. When Liz opens the door to Bar Agnes, and ushers in a new crop of guests (which she does on a weekly basis), they are served perfectly-concocted cocktails and an amuse-bouche before Agnes the husky, the undisputed star of the evening, makes her way around the bar greeting guests and stealing French fries. 

Guests are ushered up the original marble staircase to the grand ballroom where the scene is always immaculately set and the ambiance and playlist carefully considered. Liz and Josef introduce themselves, the reason for gathering, and then turn their space over to whomever they are hosting. A guest chef might enter the room to describe the culinary journey guests will embark upon; a playwright might briefly address audience members before the performance begins; a ceramicist may introduce her collection. Liz will be the first person running food to the table, while Josef jets out to grab a few extra bottles of wine, and both will roll their sleeves up to tackle the mountain of dishes at the end. The nights always end with full bellies, cheeks sore from smiling, and the feeling guests experience each time they leave Maison Bodega — inspired.

With a background in journalism, a self-published newspaper, Salonnière Paper, and years of research and discovery behind her, Liz wears many hats, and has always been interested in how different design disciplines inform each other. But where can she be found when not working. “I feel like I have two modes: homebody or traveler, not much in the middle. Coherence is part of my creative practice and my little corner of the world offers peace to read, observe, generate. And Minneapolis is perfectly poised with direct flights to pretty much anywhere, so it offers the best of both worlds.”


Maison Bodega, Minneapolis © Taylor Hall O'Brien


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Taylor Hall O'Brien is a Minnesota-based photographer and writer | Follow Taylor on Instagram: @taylorhallobrien

Creative direction and styling by Liz Gardner | Florals by Kelly Dorrow


Maison Bodega, Minneapolis © Taylor Hall O'Brien

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