Isles Studio. Photo by TJ Turner.
After nearly a decade of running Colibri Home and Garden in Minneapolis, Jeff Bengtson was hit hard by the recession and closed his business in 2007. Bengtson went to work for other retailers, most recently as Martin Patrick 3’s home furnishings manager—until that familiar itch returned. “I thought to myself, I’ll never do another retail shop,” he explains. “But it gets in your blood, and it’s more rewarding to live your own dream.”
Like Colibri, Isles Studio focuses on goods for the home and garden, from furniture and tableware to birdbaths and marble busts inspired by classical sculpture. It also stocks a selection of gifts, including coffee table–worthy design and natural history books, notecards, and luxe candles.
With his new store, Bengtson has evolved the home-and-garden concept to incorporate his lifelong fascination with natural history, via a collection of taxidermy, from peacocks to pelicans, plus specimen artwork featuring snakes and insects, castings of dinosaur skulls, and genuine coral. (Bengtson notes that all of the animals died of natural causes, and that the coral is vintage—harvesting damages marine habitats and is now illegal.)
“I’m a serious nature lover,” he says. “Nature and natural history is about the most beautiful thing to surround yourself with, especially if you live in the city.”
While Bengtson admits the Lake of the Isles area is not exactly a retail mecca, he selected the location because of the beauty of the neighborhood, its demographic, and the studio’s charm—plus it offered an opportunity to build a garden out front. Filled with planters, statues, and foliage, it’s poised for a grand debut this summer.
Isles Studio, 1311 W. 25th St., Minneapolis, 612-999-4680, islesstudio.com