Students help redesign historic Pillsbury Castle
Located in the heart of Minneapolis’ Whittier neighborhood, the Alfred F. Pillsbury House, or “Pillsbury Castle,” is a testament to architectural history. It’s also the first house in seven years to be named an American Society for Interior Designers (ASID) MN Design House. As part of the process, ASID invited University of Minnesota interior design students from the College of Design to partner with professional designers in preserving and transforming the house.
Constructed in 1903 by F.G. McMillan and designed by architect Ernest Kennedy, the Pillsbury Castle is a two-and-a-half-story mansion built of Platteville limestone. The house has more than 20 rooms, many of which are being redesigned as part of the project.
“This is an opportunity for our students to work on a real-life project with historic significance,” says interior design instructor Anne Farniok, faculty advisor for the students’ work. “It is also an opportunity for the students to meet many members of our local residential design and construction community.” Farniok worked on the last ASID Design house in 2016 and found it an incredible experience for her students.
“One of the most exciting moments was the first time I stepped foot in the house,” says junior Catja Peterson. “I was in awe. I could not keep my jaw from the floor.”
Peterson has worked closely with professional designer Mike Rataczak, owner of Mike Rataczak Studios, to reimagine the home’s primary bathroom and dressing room. “Mike is a brilliant designer and has taught me so much,” says Peterson. “My work with him has consisted of attending client meetings and learning about the project and home as well as creating the final renderings of his designs for presentation. It has been a great experience and I made lots of great connections through our meetings.”
Another student working on the project, junior Anneka Salstrom, was paired with designers Shane Spencer and David Wehrspann to assist with the development of the home’s basement, which includes a speakeasy, wine cellar, and billiard room. “I helped make renderings of the spaces and provided my opinions,” says Salstrom. “The experience of working with [Shane and David] was very cool and a great learning opportunity.”
In total, 12 students were partnered with professional designers to work on rooms throughout the home. In addition to these professional partnerships, a subgroup of the students—Lucia Jurado, Peterson, Salstrom, Hannah Schneider, and Gage Vizecky—worked on the playroom and family room on the third floor. Peterson and Salstrom worked together and had their design chosen by the clients for the playroom. Schneider and Vicezky provided options that were combined for the final family room design.
“It was incredibly validating for us as students, working on a real project, with only the guidance of our professor, to have our design selected for the playroom,” says Peterson.
Although the additional work that has come with the project has at times been challenging, both Peterson and Salstrom say it has been worth it. “It has been the most amazing experience and I am forever grateful,” says Peterson.
“The entire project has been a blast and an unbelievable opportunity,” agrees Salstrom.
See the students' work come to life when the newly renovated home opens its doors to the public this summer.