Angela Valentine Chaffee can walk into a room, chat with the homeowner and have a plan materialize in her mind even before she leaves.
“Many people have told me, 'it’s a gift,'” Chaffee of Valentine Design says. “I get a lot of people who ask me, ‘How do you do that?’ It’s actually one of my favorite things: truly morphing into a client’s style and just really weaning their style. I take into consideration the way they use their space. Is entertaining a big thing? Do they have dogs, pets, children? Do they travel? Can I design a piece around a family heirloom?”
Chaffee insists on having the client’s style inspire her. “Half of the designers out there have a look. My living room then would become your living room. It’s a look you would hire them for. I don’t do that,” she says.
And she tries to salvage what she can.
“I’ve worked with clients who say, ‘I just want to get rid of everything.’ I’m very practical; I don’t jump to the conclusion of replacing and gutting always,” she says. “I just don’t think it’s needed. Sometimes, of course, it is.”
Photo by Rachel Nadeau
Origins in the Most Unlikely of Places
Chaffee fell into interior design by accident. Twenty years ago, she was working in the marketing department of a local company that manages senior living apartment cooperatives. She was part of a team that remodeled 200 units in four different buildings.
“It was trial by fire because they didn’t have anybody and it was a very small father and son business,” she says.
Over a period of four years, she met with residents and consulted on paint, flooring, furniture, moving and removing walls, adding bedrooms and other parts of remodeling. Then in the early 2000s, her young family moved into an old Cape Cod style home near Edina that they renovated.
“There was 40-year-old wall paper on every single wall in the house. There was yellow Formica countertops in the kitchen, blue faded carpeting literally turning pink from bleach,” she says.
She knew if she could redesign 200 units, she could definitely tackle renovating her home.
“We added out back a family room and a master bedroom up top. I did all the designing,” she says. “Once we remodeled we hosted a lot of parties for our friends. People started asking me to help them. So I started helping them and they said, ‘How much do I pay you?’ That was 15 years ago. I made a business card and my maiden name is Valentine, so Valentine Design.”
While Chaffee didn’t have any formal training in interior design, she has experience with drawing software such as AutoCAD. Since most of her clients are refurnishing and sprucing up, they don’t need professional drawings.
“I can do to-scale drawings because that’s what I did in my previous job. None of my clients need it or require it. A lot of the bigger remodels that I do, like moving walls, we have an architect come in because some of the walls are load bearing and designers don’t necessarily know that kind of stuff. So, on bigger jobs the contractor or the architect will do the drawings. And I have people who can do drawings if a client really needs it,” she says.
Neutral Taupe Trap to Navy Dream
Sue Varecka needed Chaffee’s gift.
“We were in a neutral taupe trap,” Varecka says of her home near Interlachan Boulevard. “I wanted pops of color and I wanted to be fun and comfortable on my main floor. I wanted to feel proud of my main floor, but also wanted it to be really practical and comfortable.”
Chaffee added pops of navy.
“We brought a little more life to her main floor,” Chaffee says. “We accessorized her bookcases, added more coffee table books, a lot of fun new frames, colored vases.”
Varecka says it’s easy to accessorize the space.
“I like changing out seasonally. Coral and greens, different pinks and aquas and greens in the summer. I take all the pink out for the holidays and I keep in the green,” Varecka says.
Navy also made its way into Varecka’s master bedroom.
“The master bedroom was huge. There’s got to be 10 to 15 feet between the end of the bed and the wall,” Chaffee says. "We added a fireplace, built-in shelves on either side. We added lamps. We pulled the whole thing together. It was very vanilla before. So we added the blue chairs. She loved navy. My design philosophy is staying true to what the clients love,” Chaffee says.
The master bedroom also has pinstripe gray bedding with a large ruffle from Pottery Barn Teen. Navy blue swivel chairs with nail head trim from Pottery Barn along with navy lamps to complete the look. The fireplace and built-in shelves really draw it all together.
“We always wanted a fireplace and storage,” Varecka says. “She really helped with connecting us to a contractor who did fireplaces and custom woodwork, and he was also within budget.”
That contractor was Carter Construction & Fireplaces. She told them the dimensions and the crew made the built-ins. Chaffee prides herself in using Twin Cities shops and craftspeople as much as possible.
“I have three kids and my main focus is my family. Keeping everything local so I can live and work in the community is kind of the best of both worlds,” Chaffee says.
She also reached out to Butcher Block Furniture in northeast Minneapolis for a custom tulip-base kitchen table for another Edina client, Megan Hardt.
“I had a vision of what I wanted and she helped me put it together,” Hardt says of her East Edina home. “When I’ve made decisions on my own before, I was nervous that what I would pick wouldn’t look good. I needed someone to help me get me in the right direction, and she did.”
For Hardt’s home, Chaffee decorated the entryway and main living area. Keeping all items from local stores, Chaffee placed a tan sectional with stripes in linen fabric, a rug, coffee table, shelving, custom pillows, all from Restoration Hardware, Serina & Lily, Ethan Allen, Traditions on Excelsior and Cyrus Rugs.
Chaffee says the key is always listening to the client. “My goal is to create rooms and atmospheres that make people happy and express what they really enjoy the most,” she says. “The most important quality of the home is that the owners see it as a true reflection of them, their ideas and their interests in the most beautiful and functional way possible.”
She wants the process to feel as if you have a friend in the design business.
“I used to have a tagline on my business card, ‘A friend’s opinion.’ Clients say, ‘I just need an opinion.’ You need an opinion from someone who has a good eye and can tie it all together,” Chaffee says. “My favorite part is getting to know clients, getting to understand their interests and their passions. Our homes are a reflection upon us and it’s where most of your memories are made. For me it’s important for people to feel comfortable and to truly make their house a home.”
Valentine Design believes in giving back. Chaffee donates a portion of proceeds to International Justice Mission and Hope International.