Two Designers Answer a Challenge with Their Own Styles

Designers are wizards of sorts—summoning beauty with pops of color and texture, statement pieces and a vast knowledge of classic designs and current trends. The magic comes when ordinary spaces are transformed—offering beauty, functionality and sanctuary to homeowners.

Southwest Metro Magazine put two local designers to the test, and they were up for the challenge. We asked Sara Trosen from Madison House Interiors and Amalia from Amalia G. to come into our photo studio and each design a space around the same chair, a challenge that likely comes up in their everyday work when clients have a beloved item that they hope to incorporate in their new space.

Through the process, we also learned more about how each woman got her start, what sets these designers apart in their craft and their go-to design styles.

The Space: Eclectic Blue
Antique meets Bohemian

Trosen and her team at Madison House Interiors blend bright blues with antique features and intricate patterns to create this comfortable, stylish look. “When designing this space, we thought about our ideal client and what they love—a bit of color, with an updated traditional style that remains fresh,” she says. Trosen brought in other vintage pieces to complement the antique vibe of the chair, including a custom console table made specifically for the challenge. She also notes she and her team did not design the space solely around the chair. “After taking some time to look at the chair and study the characteristics, we decided to take it in a slightly more global direction, except make it friendly for today’s home and lifestyle,” she says. “We thought, ‘What if this was our client’s chair?’ We certainly wouldn’t have to design the entire room around it! The chair doesn’t have to be the star, it just needs to fit in and look cohesive with everything else.” The colors and patterns complement each other in a way that mirrors Trosen’s eclectic style. “A dash of antique, a sprinkle of Bohemian, but all remaining comfortable for a Minnesota lifestyle,” Trosen says of the space.

Trosen’s design appears effortless in its comfortable, unique style, but she admits the design challenge was, well, challenging. “Honestly, that chair was a bit of a head scratcher! It was a bit small and dark,” she says. “But we thought that if that chair was perhaps our client’s beloved chair, we would be happy to work around it. [It] does have a vintage vibe and sometimes when you are working a bit more vintage look, you can be a little eclectic—not too matchy.” Her attention to detail with the design challenge no doubt transfers to her work with clients—from blending  different patterns to creating custom materials.

The Designer: Sara Trosen (and team)
Madison House Interiors

Trosen began her journey as an interior designer in 2001 when she graduated from Minnesota State University Mankato with a degree in interior design. Directly out of college, Trosen became a design assistant for Gabberts, and “I learned more in those three years [at Gabberts] than my entire formal design education,” she says. Later, Trosen worked at a design studio in Excelsior and, in 2013, after spending time at home with her three kids, she decided it was time to open her own studio, Madison House Interiors.

The interior design business seems to be a natural fit for Trosen, and her love for design is obviouis. “The way the fabric, colors and textures work along with the furniture shapes is like a recipe, everything working in perfect harmony together,” she says.

Trosen tailors her design style to the client, but she describes her own personal style as “quirky.” “I love a silly painting or fun lamp and lots of color for my own home,” she says.  “We have worn woods and leather upholstery, with interest coming in the shapes of the furniture, art and draperies. For my clients, I am careful to delve into what they find is beautiful.  We all have different ideas of beauty.”

Trosen enjoys designing for clients who are “treating themselves”—after change in their lives, such as becoming empty nesters or recently single. “They deserve to have the home of their dreams, just for them.”

TraceWest custom console table: $1,200
Blue lamps: $400 each
Upholstered chair: $769
Art: $530
Cube ottomans: $220 each
Pillows: $110 each
Rug: $699

The Space: Global Essence
History avec style

Amalia’s space is a fusion of history and style. “When designing around a specific item, it’s important to consider its history, so that the piece feels natural in its environment,” she says. “This particular chair is a 20th century version of a curule seat—used by dignitaries, royalty and pharaohs.” Although the two spaces created in the challenge are very different, Amalia also found global inspiration when designing her space. “Knowing that a foldable version of the curule seat came to Africa with the first safaris in the 18th century, I thought it would be nice to pair the chair with pieces that complemented the role it played in early African expeditions,” she says.

The designer’s style is evident as she combines the antique look of the chair with more modern and classic pieces. An array of patterns, including a trophy grade zebra rug, give the space a fun but sophisticated look. “I love the hunt and the details involved in creating smart spaces that are united by proportion,
texture, color, light, old and new.”  

The Designer: Amalia
Amalia G.

At the young age of 14, Amalia became enamored with clothing design. “I scoured thrift shops for unique textiles, buttons, fur and leather that I repurposed into one-of-a-kind garments, handbags and jewelry,” she says.

This passion continued to evolve, and she went on to study clothing design in college. To help cover her expenses during school, she began refurbishing furniture and designing bedding and window coverings for clients. Her knowledge of fashion transitioned seamlessly to the realm of interior design, and in 2000, Amalia opened her own design studio, Amalia G. She later expanded to include custom home building and remodeling services—blending the three together into a “concierge-style philosophy,” she says.  

Amalia enjoys working with many styles but has natural gravitation toward the modern and classic, “environments that feel collected, well edited, comfortable and sophisticated,” she says. Amalia draws inspiration from nature, color, texture and also styles frequently found in Paris. “I love [the energy of Paris] and the way the French celebrate their architecture, appreciate their antiques and so beautifully juxtapose pieces of history with modern art and furniture.”

Trophy grade zebra rug: $5,900
Sisal rug: $600
Chest: $3,750
Horns: $500
Feather necklace: $400
Glass cylinder: $50
Trade beads: $200
Tonga basket: $250
Ostrich eggs: $300
Framed antique kuba cloth,
Zaire: $2,000
Contemporary art: $1,950
Stool: $150