Photos by Holly Hunt, Vladimir Kagan, International Market Square
From changing the way the United States made undergarments to transforming the way the Midwest decorates, this building has a storied past. International Market Square (IMS), located on Minneapolis’s near north side, started as the home to Munsingwear, the founder of Penguin shirts and union suits.
In the 1920s, Munsingwear was the largest employer of women in the state of Minnesota. By today’s standards, the working conditions were difficult. They included long days, poor heating and cooling and dangerous machinery. But in its day, it was considered a forward-thinking employer as evidenced by opening a library branch in the building and offering free medical and dental care. In the 1950s, Munsingwear introduced new clothing lines that kept it running for several more decades. But, as the years went by and industrial jobs made their way overseas, this landmark lost its edge. In 1981, the factory shut down.
Enter the creators of International Market Square, who saw possibility in this tired, boarded-up factory. The building quickly went from losing its edge back to being edgy.
The outside of IMS still looks much as it did in 1915 and the inside retains its original charm.
This vacant warehouse, with its wood floors, large atrium and brick walls, was perfect for its new tenant. In 1985, it became Minnesota’s largest renovated building. The open atrium bathes the building’s interior with natural light. D’Amico serves up lunch in the courtyard. It’s hard to imagine that this was once a stifling factory. It looks like your favorite coffee house on steroids. Give me a latte, Wi-Fi, a comfy chair and I may never leave. Long before the industrial style became a thing, IMS embraced its history and made it cool.
Today, IMS houses over 170 unique businesses. The businesses offer hand-made light fixtures, fabrics of every texture, color and material, along with sleek, contemporary furnishings and classic furnishings that never go out of style.
However, this building is only open to the trade, but that doesn’t mean the average customer can’t access this building. Just grab your favorite designer and you’ve landed yourself an invitation to IMS.
On my most recent visit, I sat down with two friends. The first, Karen Ellman, owns showroom CFG, filled with beautiful contemporary furnishings. I asked her to tell me about some of her best-selling items. “Motion. Motion desks, motion chairs, motion sofas. People love their high-tech furniture,” she claimed. “And animal hides. Both real and faux are also selling well.” To illustrate her point, she showed me this brushed steel ottoman with a hide cover.
When asked about today’s hot colors, she stated that very neutral colors with some blue are hot in upholstered furniture. To check her facts, she pulled out her most recent orders. Eighty percent were in the gray and taupe tones and 20 percent were in blue.
Beige sofa, blue chair, brushed stainless and *aged* rugs are all popular items at the CFG showroom.
And Finally, Ellman pointed to her rugs. She claimed that antique rug styles were making a resurgence. What makes them current is that they look like they’ve been “well-loved and worn.” (Huh. Well, worn makes it look current. Now there’s an oxymoron.)
Next, I visited with my lifelong friend, LeAnn Paterson. She has been in the design business for, as she said, “Who’s counting?” When asked what she sees throughout the building, she claimed a little bit of everything. “Rustic, mid-century modern and Hollywood glam are all in vogue.”
When asked to explain Hollywood glam, she said, “Look for mirrors, smooth texture, rich fabrics, silks and softer colors like pink, blue, silver and brushed brass with very little wood.”
When asked to describe rustic, she said, “Mix old west, Adirondack and prairie styles together. It has raw metal and wood and cozy furniture that leans masculine. If it were a personality, it would be rough around the edges.” The rustic style is still on-trend. Pair comfy furniture with raw wood, then mix in some metal and there you have the current version of rustic.
After visiting with friends, I let my eyes wander to items that caught my interest.
I’ve been accused of making my house look like a natural history museum. I can’t help it. I find rocks, bird nests, drift wood and feathers fascinating. When I traded in my last car, we found no less than 15 rocks in cup holders, so it may not surprise my friends that I dig the nature-inspired finds.
The feather wreath, framed like a museum quality artifact, was found at Holly Hunt.
This table base made not just of raw-edge, but a trunk makes for a great conversation piece.
The agates, used as artistic accessories, were found at CFG.
Rugs are so versatile. They define a room, create warmth and provide interest. Several vendors have dedicated complete showrooms just to rugs. Regardless of your style, you’ll find a rug to love at IMS.
Throughout IMS, I saw ikat, tribal, traditional, muted tones, vibrant colors and abstract designs.
If you really want to create a home that is unique to you, choose your own fabric for upholstered pieces, draperies and pillows. IMS is a great resource for fabrics. Sure, the internet is filled with images of fabric, but there is nothing like touching a full-sized piece to inspire the imagination. Whether you are looking for muted texture, vibrant silks or traditional houndstooth, you’ll find samples to spare at the many fabric vendors.
This picture in the KDR showroom shows just one aisle of fabrics it displays.
This bedroom uses no less than 11 patterns of a similar blue. When the same hue is used, the patterns soothe rather than compete. All fabric and wall coverings in this photo are from VillaNova found at KDR.
Hand-Made Light Fixtures
Think of these hand-made light fixtures as functional art. Are you an average cook? Who will notice when illuminated by these statement pieces? These creations boast cool white tones, warm copper tones and rainbow colored fixtures. All are from Bahir Lighting.
Can you say “oo-la-la?”
Holly Hunt has one of the largest and most diverse showrooms at IMS. They carry traditional pieces of heirloom-quality tables, side chairs and chandeliers.
Recently, they added more outdoor furniture. These outdoor pieces are so comfortable, stylish and well-made that many clients are now pulling them indoors to be used during the other nine months of the year. As representative Tate Libera Swanson claimed, “Outdoor furniture can withstand a girl’s night with wine, kids with grape juice and the family pet.”
These pieces, available at Holly Hunt, showcase the detail in today’s traditional furniture.
They also carry a wide variety of mid-century modern pieces, recently adding the museum quality line of Vladimir Kagan. This line has been making classic pieces since the late 1940s.
Overwhelmed by the internet options? Worried that the quality, color or finish isn’t what you’ll want? Grab your favorite decorator and take a trip to IMS. Sit on that sofa, touch the fabrics, find the unusual and watch out for the local ghost, Basil. Did I forget to mention the ghost? Oh well, maybe I will in the next article.
Circa 1968. Back (Way back, before IMS existed): LeAnn Patterson (back left) and Kari Langsendorf Rasmus (front second from left)
For more information, please contact:
Kari Langsdorf Rasmus