Kelly Dorow’s apartment does not have an entrance door per se. It would be too obvious an entry for this portal to another time and another place. Instead, Kelly greets the guests after they take the roundabout path that crosses a side street and some sort of secret garden, goes up a flight of stairs, and down a long, narrow hallway.
Once inside, a panoramic view reveals downtown St. Paul and the Mississippi River beyond. But as imposing as these views are, they are only the icing on this proverbial Marie-Antoinette cake.
May be Alice in Wonderland is the best metaphor for this rabbit hole nestled in walls clad in intricately carved wood panels and painted pastoral scenes, aged oak mahogany floors, and furniture that looks like faded adornments – weathered pine tables, a linen sofa, the pair of seductive oils paints. Much like period rooms in museums, these 18th-century architectural interiors were imported from France and Italy and installed in the early 1930s.
“When I walked in and saw the first piece, I said, ‘I’ll take it,’ Kelly remembers. “Did I care if there was running water?” Nah! “Timing was everything. In the midst of a divorce and the pandemic, Kelly was looking for a place for her and her 13-year-old daughter, Penelope, to live last August. She learned of the apartment’s existence. by developers John Rupp and Stephanie Laitala-Rupp, who rented the 1,000 square foot apartment on an upper floor of the Burbank-Livingston-Griggs House on the summit hill. The couple are longtime stewards and owners of the 1863 Italian-style mansion and other historic buildings in St. Paul, including the University Club next door.
Once Kelly had secured a home, she had to furnish it. It was then that Kismet played him a second hand. “I told him, ‘Don’t buy anything. I’m just going to empty my storage cabinet, and I know I’ll be fine, ”says Jacqueline Fortier, Kelly’s friend and interior designer, who had previously visited the house with John Rupp. So, on a hot and humid Saturday in August, the two friends spent 10 hours moving out and setting up the whole apartment. “All of the furniture seems to suggest that he had been in the house the entire time,” says Fortier. Even the collection of matte black Etruscan vases that the designer brought with her from Orvieto, Italy 25 years ago, fit the fireplace perfectly.
It is not lost on Kelly, this poetic beginning of her new chapter in life. She still has moments of pinching just watching the natural light dancing around the rooms. “The overwhelming feeling that Penelope and I both have is that we are very lucky.”