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Do you prefer Novelty or Familiarity?

Do you prefer novelty or familiarity?

Some people love going to the same restaurant and ordering the same meal, because they know exactly what to expect. They’ll re-read a dog-eared copy of a beloved book, and they’ll catch a long-beloved movie any time it’s airing on TV.

Others live for novelty: If the server offers a second round of drinks, they’ll order something new, even if they enjoyed what they had before—simply for the joy of mixing things up. They’re always taking a new class, joining a new club, or trying a new workout.

Neither approach to life is inherently better than the other. And of course, most people don’t adhere 100% to one side or the other in every area of life. We’re all dynamic blends of various tendencies. And yet, research suggests that we each lean heavily toward either novelty or familiarity.

These tendencies aren’t always as obvious as they might seem. You could go to the same restaurant every Friday night for thirty years and still be a novelty seeker because you’re always trying something new. And you could do a new workout every week and still be a familiarity seeker because you always finish it up with a swing through the steam room followed by a double espresso.

Which type do you think you are? And what lifestyle choices do you make to cater to that tendency? Would you ever push yourself to explore the other tendency?

What about the other people in your life? Which side do they lean toward? Novelty seekers can help familiarity seekers push out of their comfort zones and explore new experiences. Familiarity seekers can help ground novelty seekers and give them permission to dive deep into their authentic preferences.

Understanding our tendencies can help us get more out of life and spend more time doing things that bring us joy. And whichever way you lean, that’s what we’re all looking for.

How do you go about making a change?

Sometimes, your social life needs a boost.

Perhaps you’ve moved to a new place.

Perhaps you’re getting out of a relationship or want to get into a new one.

Perhaps you’ve decided that your social network is toxic or not conducive to the lifestyle you want to lead.

Or maybe you just want to meet some new, interesting people and get out more.

How do you go about making a change?

You could smile at strangers in coffee shops and hope they take it as an opening for conversation as opposed to a moderately creepy invasion of their personal bubble.

You could up your effort at water cooler chat at work, hoping to morph professional acquaintances into confidants. (No risk of fallout there, right?)

You could try an app.

Or you could take deliberate steps to put yourself in a warm environment with likeminded people and promising social prospects.

If it weren’t clear, our vote is for the last option. Remember how you used to make friends at school? It happened organically, because you were in the same place at the same time, taking part in the same activities. Imagine replicating a similar scenario—but remove all the adolescent angst, and instead of AP Physics, the activities you’re participating in are voluntary and enjoyable. (No offense intended to Physics. We think Schrödinger is a hoot.)

Places like that exist. We happen to know a couple of them. And in between meeting new people, you can get work done, get a workout in, take a class, sip a cocktail, read a book, grab a bite to eat, or even form a club of fellow physics fans. We can’t wait to meet you.

Don't Give up on Your Bucket List

What’s on your bucket list?

Eat green curry in Thailand?
Run a marathon?
Golf in St. Andrews?
Finally finish War and Peace?

Most bucket lists involve big, once-in-a-lifetime goals.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Bucket lists are great.

But so many bucket list goals feel lofty and unattainable—and we give ourselves permission to avoid a sense of urgency because we “have our whole lives” to accomplish the list.

And then time passes, and they don’t get done.

We’d like to propose a seasonal bucket list—in addition to the “life” bucket list. These can be smaller goals with a higher sense of urgency and a specific timeline.

Each year, you could have four bucket lists, one for each season. The lists can change from year to year.

Your summer bucket list might include:

  • Get on a boat at least once
  • Eat a S’more
  • Read a mindless book

Fall could involve picking apples. Winter could be making a snowman, going skiing, or bundling up and going somewhere beautiful to watch a (late!) sunrise. Spring might be a weekend away or a road race.

The list is up to you. The important thing is that they’re things you enjoy (not things that you feel like you should do or need to do—that’s a to-do list, and that’s not what we’re talking about). They should also be things that are reasonably attainable given your lifestyle, budget, and any other constraints.

A seasonal bucket list will add meaning to your days and a sense of accomplishment, and it will also infuse enjoyment into your life—especially into seasons that you might otherwise dread. (Hi, winter.) Tell us what’s on your seasonal bucket list!

Consider Your Energy

We absorb the energy of the spaces around us.

Take a moment to consider the energy around you right now.

  • Does it make you feel inspired?
  • Calm?
  • Wired?
  • Distracted?
  • Annoyed?
  • Sleepy?

The energy is a combination of the people (or lack thereof) around you, as well as the space itself—the light (natural? Fluorescent? Candle? Not enough? Too much?), the temperature, the aesthetics, and even the comfort of the place you’re sitting (or the floor you’re walking on).

Perhaps you think you work well in crowded coffee shops because you like the chaos. But there are different versions of chaos. Does it work better if the people around you are always different and strangers? Or regulars? Does it matter if people are like-minded?

Maybe you think you don’t care too much either way. But there are subtle cues indicating that we’re all affected.

Are you drawn to sun-filled patios in the summer and big chairs next to cozy fireplaces in the winter?

Are there certain places you gravitate toward when you want to feel engaged, focused, or relaxed?

There’s a reason we don’t try to do our taxes in the play area ball pit of that golden arches restaurant.

Setting is important. Energy is important.

Think about the activities of your daily life. Now think about the energy of the places where you do those activities.

Is it a match?

If not, can you make a different location choice? It just might change your life.

3 Fitness Motivation Tips

Many of us want to make healthier lifestyle choices, but struggle to find motivation—especially when it comes to starting and maintaining a fitness regimen.

If you’re one of those people, give yourself some grace. Your intentions are in the right place. Research shows that willpower is a finite resource—we have a limited amount in a given period of time—and if you use it up (on not cutting people off in traffic, on not raising your voice to your children, on not telling your boss what you really think), you’ll have to restore your reserves before you can will yourself to do something extra, like engage in a workout.

But what if you didn’t have to rely solely on willpower?

What if you could deploy tricks and strategies to make it easier?

Here are a few ideas:


Eliminate hoops

The fewer (proverbial) hoops you have to jump through to get to your workout, the easier it’ll be to get it done. Striving for morning exercise? Lay your whole exercise outfit out the night before. (Maybe even sleep in it.)

Choose a fitness facility that’s convenient to work, home, or in between. Bonus points if its location allows you to tie it in with another activity, such as breakfast, getting some work done, or even happy hour.


Find an accountability partner

It’s easier to hit a 6:00 a.m. workout class if a buddy is counting on you to be there with them. Don’t have a workout buddy in mind? Join a group fitness class and find a new workout buddy.

The ultimate accountability: make an appointment with a personal trainer. Pay in advance. With your integrity and your investment on the line, you’re more likely to show up.


Make it fun

Too many of us associate exercise with pain at worst, and an unpleasant obligation at best. Yet, when we were kids, we probably loved exercising—even if we didn’t think of it as exercise at all. You can reclaim that spirit of fun and joy in movement. All you need to do is find something you truly enjoy doing. If you like it and look forward to it, you’re much more likely to do it.

Throw out what you think you “should” be doing and experiment. Maybe you’ll get hooked on spin, or yoga sculpt (or gentle yoga), or weightlifting, or swimming, or tennis…the possibilities are endless.  Don’t stop until you’re in love.

How to avoid needing a vacation AFTER your vacation

Why do so many of us return from a vacation feeling like we need a vacation? It’s a common occurrence—the very thing that was supposed to make us feel relaxed and refreshed ends up leaving us feeling drained and exhausted.

What’s the solution?

Ask yourself what you really want and need out of a vacation.

You want a break, yes? But what does that mean to you and your family?

Ask yourself if perhaps the vacations you’re planning are setting you up for exhaustion rather than renewal.

If you want to eliminate the headaches of your daily life, are you really serving your purposes by sitting in traffic for hours on Memorial Weekend, or heading to a cabin that requires you to buy groceries, pick up gas for the boat, clean out cobwebs, and mow the lawn before you can even put your feet up?

This isn’t just about cabins. We have nothing against cabins. This sort of thought process should apply to any vacation you’re considering. Or, said better, any time you think you need a break.

What if, instead of putting all your proverbial eggs into one basket with a big vacation, you took a break any time you needed it? Maybe that means more dinners away from home, where you don’t need to do the planning or clean-up. Maybe that means hosting a big group of friends out for dinner, where none of you need to travel very far. Maybe that means taking a PTO day to fit in a workout, a massage, and hours to linger over hot coffee and the paper (or a cocktail). Maybe taking the kids to a high-quality local pool on a regular basis would actually serve up all the benefits and none of the headaches of a weekend at the lake.

It’s food for thought. Whatever you choose, make sure that the break you design is truly positioned to give you a real break.

Feel like a VIP - No secret passwords required

We have a sneaking suspicion that some of the properties associated with Commonwealth Properties had some VIP/insider tendencies long before we got involved with them. Case in point: The Commodore Bar and Restaurant used to be the go-to spot during the Prohibition era, and reportedly operated a successful speakeasy in the basement. You might find out via word of mouth, and you probably had to know a guy (or gal) or a secret password to get in.

What’s it like to be an insider at Commonwealth Properties today? Now it’s legal—but it’s still very…rewarding.

And we mean that in the literal sense. Have you heard about our rewards program? Perhaps you’ve noticed someone at W.A. Frost or the Commodore Bar and Restaurant pulling out a sleek card along with their payment. That means they’re a reward member, and they’re earning points for every time they dine with us, stay with us, or celebrate with us.

Points can be exchanged for money to be used at any of our sister properties. In addition, you’ll receive special gifts for your membership anniversary and your birthday, along with exclusive access to special promotions.

There’s no fee to join and no obligation of any kind. Anyone aged 21 or over can register online or complete an application in person.

We like to think of all of our guests as VIPs, but this adds a little something extra. And again, this time it’s totally legal. Come feel like a VIP, no secret passwords required.

Join Commonwealth Properties Rewards HERE

For more information about the rewards program visit our website at

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How to Network

You’ve heard it before:

To get ahead in life, it’s all about whom you know.

A good network is incredibly potent. And it’s not simply the size of your network—quality beats quantity, every time.

What counts as a high-quality network?

It’s having connections and relationships with people who help you live the best possible version of yourself. And don’t think it’s all about asking for favors. Sure, a good network includes people who can help you discover and capitalize on opportunities—or introduce you to someone who can—but it’s more than that.

A good network includes people who will push you, inspire you, and help you feel a sense of belonging. And a good network will also give you opportunities to push and inspire others.

For many people, “networking” induces shudders. Many of us relegate networking to the realm of active job seekers. We think that’s very myopic. We encourage everyone to constantly evaluate, evolve, and invest in their networks.

When you have a high-quality network, you don’t need to wait until you’re desperate for an opportunity. You’ll be constantly paving the way for opportunities—and also authentic relationships and support.

How do you improve your network? Find your people. Meet them where they are. Start spending time in spaces that facilitate connections. (Psst—your couch is great, but your network isn’t there.)

Spotlight on Tudor-Revival Architecture

Tudor style dates back to medieval times. It’s strongly associated with the House of Tudor, whose most famous monarch was Henry VIII. (He probably spent more time getting in and out of marriages than appreciating good architecture.)

The style was marked by frequent use of low arches, large windows, big fireplaces, and long galleries. While brick and stone masonry were common in construction used for nobility and clerical purposes, commoner classes often used pronounced timber framing on Tudor-style buildings, particularly on the upper levels.

Tudor was eventually replaced with other styles, but enjoyed a strong resurgence in the 19th century. The Tudor-Revival style borrowed heavily from traditional Tudor architecture but also blended in elements from Elizabethan and Gothic traditions.

University Club of Saint Paul

University Club of Saint Paul

Tudor-Revival architecture often features roofs with steep pitches, soaring chimneys, and large interior pillars. Tudor-Revival style is typically expensive to build, though there are more modest examples featuring timber framing in lieu of stone, and even thatched roofs.

Built in 1913, the University Club of Saint Paul’s Summit Avenue Clubhouse is a prime example of grand Tudor-Revival architecture. Perched high on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River Valley, the building’s grand façade, steeply pitched dormers, and low-arched door have made it a landmark. The Club’s interior features classic millwork, characteristic arches and multiple fireplaces.

University Club of Saint Paul

University Club of Saint Paul

The University Club is certainly one of the grander historic buildings in St. Paul, and that’s no accident. The Club owes its design to architects Charles A. Reed and Allen H. Stern, who also designed New York City’s Grand Central Station. (Fortunately, the University Club is a little quieter.)

Are you a regular?

Even if you’ve never watched the show, you can probably sing a long to part of the Cheers theme song: Where everybody knows your name; and they’re always glad you came.

It’s an ode to being a regular somewhere.


Where can you go where everyone knows your name?

Where can you go where they know your favorite bite to eat, or your favorite drink—how you take it?

Where can you go where you know you’ll see friendly faces who are always game for a chat—but who’ll also be able to tell when you need a quiet moment to work or reflect?

In previous generations, it was common to be a regular somewhere. Things changed. Social and recreational clubs went the way of top hats and pocket watches. Restaurants and bars became flashes in the pan, closing before anyone could get used to the menu. And we all began to recede behind our screens, favoring electronic communication.

If anything, this shift has made “being a regular” feel even more special. These days, it’s a novelty to find yourself in a social environment with likeminded people, especially when it also includes staff who know who you are and actually care.


Where are you a regular?

Why you should celebrate small holidays

When it comes to big holiday celebrations, most of us fall into one of two camps: We can’t get enough, or we can’t get away fast enough.

Either way, there’s bound to be some dissatisfaction. Do you loathe the pressure, expectations, and work involved in holiday celebrations? Or do you live for the festivities and feel major letdown when it’s all over?

Whichever camp you fall into, we have a novel idea:

Celebrate minor holidays.

Grandparent’s Day. National Doughnut Day. You name it, there’s a day for it.


Here’s why:

If you love holidays, celebrating minor holidays will provide additional opportunities for celebration. Shrink the lulls between the revelry.

If you find holidays overwhelming, focusing on minor holidays takes the pressure off. Making a big deal out of Arbor Day? No need to make an elaborate meal or find gifts. Grab a loved one or two and plant a tree. Perhaps have a picnic. Focusing on Women’s Equality Day? (August 26th.) Join a few of your favorite women for dinner or drinks and toast to the fight that your foremothers put forth. When you have several successful minor holiday celebrations under your belt, the big ones might not seem so scary (and you might even feel less pressure to go all out).

At Commonwealth Properties, we’re in favor of any occasion for celebration. We host a number of holiday-related events (for both major and minor holidays), and we encourage our members and friends to use our extraordinary spaces as backdrops for their own celebrations.

Which minor holidays do you celebrate?


Moving to Italy for $1.24

Dreaming of leaving it all and moving to Italy?
What’s your housing budget?
How about $1.24?

No, that’s not a typo—one American dollar and twenty-four cents.

What do you get for that couch-change price? An entire house in a quaint Italian village called Ollolai, which is located on the breathtakingly picturesque island of Sardinia off the western coast of mainland Italy.

There are 200 houses available. (Note: Don’t go quitting your job—they were on sale for a limited time and as of press time, none may be available.)

So what’s the catch? Okay, there is a catch.

Each of the houses are in dire need of repairs. In fact, the entire town is in the market for a serious facelift. Owners can indeed purchase one of the homes for 1 euro (the equivalent of around $1.24 in USD when the offer went live), but should expect to shell out some serious cash over the next few years to cover repairs.

The city is willing to provide significant grants to new owners to offset the cost of repairs. Those grants will cover between 20 and 60 percent of the overall repair costs, but new owners should still expect to shell out around $25,000 in repair costs over the next few years. Owners will be permitted to sell the properties after five years of ownership.

Why is this happening? The town of Ollalai used to be a bustling hub. It was long considered the “capital” of the Barbagia region and has a lot of pride and tradition. In fact, the town’s mayor, Efisio Arbau, says the town has “prehistoric origins.” (And we thought Commonwealth Properties focused on historic spaces!)

However, over the last five decades, Ollalai’s population has dwindled by half. That exodus has resulted in lots of abandoned homes, and an insufficient population to properly sustain infrastructure.

Rather than give up, Mayor Arbau decided to get creative. He dreamed up the 1-Euro-For-A-House (Case a 1 Euro) deal to breathe new life and funds into the town.

We applaud Mayor Arbau for his ingenuity and his appreciation for historic preservation. As they say in Italy, Bravo!

160 Years Minnesota

In 2018, Minnesota celebrates 160 years of statehood. We think we look pretty good for our age.

What was Minnesota like 160 years ago? In 1858, the population estimate was somewhat more than 150,000. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s a massive increase from the estimated population of 6,000 just 8 years earlier in 1850. (Of course, that’s nothing compared to what happened next. The population was 439,000 by 1870 and tripled again during the next two decades.)

In 1858, the “founding population” was made up largely of people of New England origins. In fact, Minnesota was dubbed the “New England of the West.” (Though it’s important to note that a subculture of the Sioux, the Dakota people, called the area home long before New Englanders showed up.)

160 years ago, Minnesota showed major promise. Its location at the headwaters of the Mississippi provide ample opportunity for trade. And yet, the railroad boom that would transform this area was still a few years off. Still, that didn’t stop a few intrepid investors from setting down (lavish!) roots in the area. An 1859 photograph of famed Summit hill shows six houses. One of them, at 312 Summit Avenue, still stands today.

Burbank Livingston-Griggs Mansion

Burbank Livingston-Griggs Mansion

Another early residence that still stands today is the Burbank Livingston Griggs mansion, located at 432 Summit Avenue. Construction began in 1862, in spite of an overall slump in construction during the Civil War. The Burbank Livingston Griggs mansion remains one of the finest examples of Italianate architecture the region. (While 312 Summit Avenue is a single family private residence, the Burbank Livingston Griggs mansion is currently divided into three units and is available for leasing inquiries, so you could theoretically experience nearly 160 years of Minnesota history in your own home!)

Interested in learning more about Minnesota history as we approach another milestone birthday? Schedule a walking tour of Summit Avenue, visit the Minnesota Historical Society, or chat up one of the many history buffs who relish spending time in some of the state’s most treasured, iconic historical spaces. (We happen to know a few.)

Do you have a happy place?

Do you have a happy place? And can you have more than one?

We think so. Disney might lay claim to the term “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but we believe that everyone can—and should—have a few different happy places. And everyone should have a happy place that’s readily accessible. It’s fine if one of your happy places is at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro or a meaningful room in a building that was torn down years ago. You can still travel to those places in your mind. But it’s helpful to have a place you can realistically go to whenever you need it.

And some people have happy places that are strictly associated with other people or beings, such as: “My happy place is with my nephews and my dog at the park by our house.” That’s wonderful, too. And, yet, still, we want to make the case for reserving a happy place that is only contingent on you.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be deeply meaningful. Perhaps it’s a certain chair in your living room that catches afternoon sunlight just right for a few minutes on wintry days. Maybe your happy place switches to your garden in the summer months.

We know more than a few people whose happy places involve sitting by the fireplace with a hot cup of coffee in either the University Club’s Fireside Room or in the lobby of the Saint Paul Athletic Club.

Maybe you already have a few happy places but you haven’t labeled them as such. Simply cultivating those positive associations with a space can have a powerful impact on your mood and perspective whenever you enter that space.

Where is your happy place?

Do you have a community? Who's in it?

As we increasingly live our lives through a virtual sphere, the notion of “community” has shifted. Are you closer to your neighbors, or to people on Facebook?

Do you interact more with family, or with an online community of people with shared interests?

Virtual relationships aren’t inherently lacking. In fact, the Internet in general—and social media in particular—have enabled people to reconnect or establish connections with people who would otherwise be too far away. And there’s something for everyone. Fascinated with 17th century Belgian poets? There’s a group for that online, surely.

The problem, however, comes when the internet offers your primary—or only—community.

What other communities do you have?
How about people in your neighborhood?
Do you have a neighbor whom you’d trust to watch your house?
How about one whom you’d trust to watch your children?

Do you meet up regularly with a book group? People from work? Other parents at your kids’ school? People from your institution of faith?

Study after study confirms the importance of real, face-to-face, in-person interaction and community support. But what if you don’t have a strong community? Perhaps you’re retired or your co-workers or neighbors are private (or unpleasant). Perhaps your family lives far away.

If you don’t have a built-in community around you now, it’s never too late to find one. And community comes in many variations. We’ve made a conscious effort to cultivate community at Commonwealth Properties. We set the stage, but the people who enjoy our properties are the ones who bring community to life. With happy hours, member nights, clubs, classes, and space for grand parties and intimate gatherings, your new community is waiting.

Achieving your New Year’s Resolutions

The statistics on New Year’s resolutions are dire. We start out the year with great expectations, but the majority of us have abandoned our best-laid plans by mid-February.

Are we really all that unmotivated?

Or are we simply making it too hard on ourselves?

It’s important to put ourselves in environments that facilitate our resolutions. Make it convenient. Make it pleasant. Make it easy.

It helps to make our resolutions concrete and actionable.

A few ideas to get you started:

Instead of simply saying: “I want to work out more,” join a fitness facility that you enjoy spending time in. Hire a personal trainer and schedule regular appointments.

Instead of saying: “I want to spend less time behind a screen and re-ignite personal relationships,” get out of your routine and start scheduling plans to meet up in person.

Instead of saying: “I want to learn more,” join a club or a class that aligns with your interests.

Resolutions don’t have to be earth-shattering. Small adjustments add up. What will you change this year?

Match Your Workout Patterns with Your Personality

What’s stopping you from exercising regularly?

You might think it’s your schedule or your energy level.

But what if it’s simply a personality quirk—and there’s an easy fix?

Gretchen Rubin is a writer who studies happiness and habits. She developed the Four Tendencies to describe four primary personality types.

Upholders are easily able to meet both internal expectations (those they set for themselves) and external expectations (those that other people or outside forces set for them).

Obligers are easily able to meet external expectations but struggle to meet internal expectations.

Questioners are only able to meet an expectation if it is justifiable, makes sense to them, and alternative options have been researched and considered.

Rebels struggle to meet both internal and external expectations.

If you’re an upholder, you’re probably already committed to your routine. But if you’re not, you might need to approach exercise a different way.

For example: If you’re an obliger, simply planning to exercise isn’t enough. You need accountability. Consider hiring a personal trainer and scheduling appointments. That way, if you skip an appointment, you’re not just letting yourself down—you’re using up someone else’s time, too. You could also find a workout buddy. The two of you could plan to attend a group exercise class together or even share a personal trainer.

If you’re a questioner, you might benefit from trying several different types of exercise strategies to find one that makes sense to you. You won’t be able to force yourself to do exercise that feels ineffective. Bonus: a good personal trainer can help explain why certain strategies make sense. 

If you’re a rebel, you’re going to need to make it fun so exercise feels like a choice instead of an obligation. Try playing a sport like squash or basketball, or try a new, novel group fitness class.

Which type are you? You can take the quiz on Gretchen Rubin’s website. Once you understand your motivations, it can be easier than you might think to develop a new habit.

Spotlight on: Richardson Romanesque Architecture

Aside from being a delightful tongue-twister, the Richardson Romanesque architectural style is an offshoot of the Romanesque revival style. Romanesque style dates back to medieval Europe, and while it is typically associated with Italian tradition, its influences span from Italy through Spain and even southern France.

The Richardson Romanesque style is attributable to Henry Hobson Richardson. He is the architect behind the famous Trinity Church in Boston, which was made in the style that bears his name.

One of the signature architectural elements of the style is a semi-circular arch that can often be seen above doors and windows. Buildings in this tradition also feature heavy stone construction and often include contrasting colors.

Richardson Romanesque style most popular between 1870 and 1895, which was right around the time that an influx of money from booming industry enabled some local titans to build their statement homes. The James J. Hill house, built in 1891 is a famous local example of the Richardson Romanesque style applied to a private residence.

The style was more frequently used for churches and larger buildings, perhaps due to the “grandness” inherent in the design elements. The Dacotah Building, located on Selby Avenue in Cathedral Hill, is a classic example of the style as it applies to a commercial building. The Dacotah Building was constructed in 1879 and has been painstakingly preserved, retaining much of its original architectural integrity. It currently houses a restaurant on the main floor (W.A. Frost) and office space on the upper floors.

Spotlight on: Italianate Architecture

Italianate architecture arrived in Britain in the very early years of the 19th century. It meandered across the pond to the United States a few dates later and remained extremely popular through the late 19th century.

Italianate architecture draws from the Italian Renaissance style, also called “Neo-Classical.” Italianate architecture differs from Victorian architecture (which was popular around the same time) in a few notable ways. At a most basic level, the Italiante style relies more heavily on sharp edges, robust shapes, and cleaner lines than the more ornate, delicate, and rounded features of the Victorian style.

While both Victorian and Italianate architecture often included dramatic towers, an Italianate building might well have a squared-off tower, whereas a Victorian-style building is more likely to feature a rounded “turret.”

Can’t decide which you might prefer? There’s also a style that blends Italianate and Victorian architecture, which can famously be seen in the “Painted Ladies” houses of San Francisco.

The Burbank Livingston-Griggs Mansion

Here are a few key features of Italianate architecture:

·         Stone construction, or wood made to look like stone

·         Roofs that are either flat or feature a very low pitch, often with pronounced, overhanging eaves supported by corbels.

·         Balconies with dramatic railings (either wrought-iron or stone)—think Juliet’s famous balcony scene.

·         Decorous framing around windows (also known as “architraving”)

The vast majority of the Twin Cities were built after the heyday of the Italianate era, but lucky visitors to Saint Paul can stroll by a noteworthy example on Summit Avenue in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. The Burbank Livingston-Griggs Mansion is one of them is one of the finest examples of Italianate architecture in Minnesota. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was originally built for wealthy businessman James C. Burbank. The mansion is a private residence (sorry, no public tours!) but is divided up into separate units and is available for residential inquiries.

The Balance of Office Space

Increasingly, business isn’t conducted within formal office environments on a traditional 8-5 schedule. Perhaps part of your team telecommutes. Perhaps your company supports flexible work schedules. Perhaps your company relies on a lot of contractors and specialists who come and go as needed.

More and more business leaders are discovering that it doesn’t make sense to hold on to a large, exclusive office space, let alone a standalone building.

Perhaps you’re an independent specialist who tries to work from home—or whatever coffee shop is most likely to keep noise levels to a dull roar.

Are you ready to rethink?

If you’re a business leader who’s spending too much on a large office space that doesn’t make sense anymore, you don’t have to abandon the office environment entirely and send everyone home. You have options.

And if you’re an independent professional who needs a better place to conduct business, you have options, too.

Spending focused time together, in person, is still important. Why not choose something flexible, that’s more formal (and less distracting) than your living room, quieter and more professional than the neighborhood coffee shop, but without the commitment and overhead of a traditional office building?

The University Club and Saint Paul Athletic Club can accommodate everything from an informal coffee meeting (without the hubbub of a crowded coffee shop) to a formal meeting complete with A/V and catering.

Impress your clients. Bring your team together for some focused, collaborative time as often as you need to. And if you do still need dedicated office space, Commonwealth Properties has options in a wide range of sizes.

Let’s meet to talk about it. We know a good place.