A Twist on Tradition
Michael Wyrock and Justin Maine have a strong understanding of how personal decorating a home can be. As the creative minds behind Nistenhaus Design, they help clients create spaces that reflect their personalities and lifestyles. In their own home, the couple enjoys experimenting and subverting expectations. That philosophy extends to their holiday decorations as well, which combine bright metallics, fun retro elements and, of course, a personal touch.
What do you like about living so close to Cherokee Street?
Michael Wyrock: Our house is off the main strip, but we’re still close to everything. Justin and I aren’t native St. Louisians, so we didn’t have preconceived notions of the area. We situated ourselves in the place we found the most interesting. There’s always a wide variety of things going on, and there are great restaurants and shops. The house is only 5 minutes from our studio space, which is convenient for work. It’s a really good location.
Have you done any major renovations?
The majority of the changes we’ve made have been superficial. The house is more than 100 years old, and about a year before we bought it, the previous owners did a complete remodel. It’s been a very good first home for us. We’ve gotten to take the design where we want without having to worry about major projects. There’s a nice balance of having enough to do but not so much that it’s overwhelming.
Did the age of the house impact your design approach?
The floor plan is very modern, but we didn’t want to just follow trends. Our goal is to find what best suits the assets the house already has. Because it’s older, things work differently, and sometimes, you have to listen hard to what a space wants to be. By doing this, we’ve been able to create a much warmer and more inviting aesthetic.
Does being designers add extra pressure with your own home?
We often get asked if there is conflict since there are two designers in the house, but we don’t see it that way. After all, we already run a business together. Our home is a laboratory for us to try things we don’t always get to do with clients. We get to experiment with new things and explore without asking anyone else’s opinions. Everything has been out of want rather than necessity, so we can feel good about what we’re doing. This house has given us a lot of opportunities to be creative, and there is an entire third floor we haven’t touched yet.
Do you have a favorite room?
The room I like the most is probably the one we spend the least time in. I love the living room at the front of the house. It has a very distinct mood to it, and the light in the space is interesting. We probably are in the kitchen and family room the most. They’re laid out very efficiently. We packed about as much furniture as we could into a small space while still being able to entertain and do what we want.
How do you approach decorating for the holidays?
People often worry about where they are going to put their Christmas tree, and it impacts how they arrange their homes all year. We wanted to take the opposite approach. We actually swapped the furniture in our living and dining rooms when decorating. It gives the home a different feel for the holidays, and the whole space will feel new when we switch it back in January. Some people want Christmas to be very fresh and polished, but for me, it’s about nostalgia. A lot of decorations in our house are from the 1950s and ’60s because that’s what I remember my grandparents having in their home. When items have history, people get caught up with them and want to engage more. They don’t just gloss over them. Even if something doesn’t seem interesting on its own, it can start to tell a story as part of a collection.
Any items with fun stories?
The holidays always have been something I enjoy. As a kid, I constantly drew Christmas trees. One year, my grandmother gave all of the grandkids special gifts that represented them in some way, and I received a glass Christmas tree. It’s in a cabinet with other items from my grandparents, including a framed print that was made by my great-grandfather. This year, I created prints with Santa and Krampus. We didn’t decorate much for Halloween, so they add a little haunted, devilish effect for Christmas.
Do you have any favorite holiday traditions?
We really enjoy entertaining. Starting in October through the end of the year, we like to host a lot of dinner parties and small gatherings. I also enjoy all of the cooking and baking in mid-December. Normally, we’re out of town and visiting family, but as we’ve gotten older, we’ve been staying home more. We’ve started creating our own traditions, which is neat.
Photos: Suzy Gorman