For a recent Fashion Week MN event, interior decorator Richard Anderson donned plaid shorts, a plaid shirt in a different pattern and tie-on shoes. He managed to make a cohesive ensemble from the competing pieces by using a color palette of red, white and blue.
When the fixture in the Twin Cities style scene isn’t making a fashion statement, he’s making an impression with the seasonal decor and floral arrangements he creates as the owner of Richard Anderson Designs.
Those who tuned into HGTV in its early days might recognize Anderson from “Decorating Cents.” Those who enjoy Twin Cities nightlife might recognize him from his stage work as a drag queen.
Anderson’s eclectic personality and decorating finesse is apparent in his modest south Minneapolis home, which is outfitted in a grand style. The decor is a mix of items he has designed or purchased over the years, as well as family heirlooms and pieces from around the world given to him by friends.
Somehow, he makes it all work together.
“I prefer things with a little bit of imperfection,” he said. “There’s a way to do things imperfectly. Nothing’s symmetrical. Everything should work together like in a still life.”
When it comes to landscaping and layout, Anderson’s philosophy is “everything is from the inside out.”
He decorates his yard the same way that he would his home. The outdoor spaces flow from one to the next with ease. A chair-and-table set is topped with a straw umbrella, which gives a tropical, happy hour vibe. Beyond that, a wrought iron trellis with immaculately pruned vines arches over another seating area primed for a composed tea party. A side deck has fountains, Romanesque statuary, potted plants and candles for a distinctly Zen feel.
Garden paths lead to an eclectic mix of flowers and plants, from coral, hot pink and red dragon wing begonias to orange canna lilies and bright yellow sunflowers, some even taller than Anderson’s 6-foot frame. Stone statuary — including a tall sculpture of a lantern from Anderson’s maternal grandmother — and fountains add to the outdoor oasis.
The setting is also perfect for his dog, Angel Maria, a Belgian Malinois mix, to roam.
Once inside, it’s easy to see that Anderson pulls out all of the stops here, too.
The kitchen, which boasts orange vintage wallpaper in a classic Italian pattern, serves as a cozy backdrop to the dining area.
“I would say my decorating style definitely has some European and American bohemian to it,” he said. “I like a room to feel warm. It’s homey to me.”
In the living room, an 1813 settee Anderson had reupholstered and restored by Carter Averbeck of Omforme Design coexists with a Burrow coffee table and medieval parlor chairs. Hanging above the fireplace is a grand mirror that Anderson guesses dates from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Above that, the face of a whimsical figure with antlers looms.
The guest bathroom is all about repurposing —a nod to the HGTV show Anderson was on — while another bathroom is showered in brocades for a glam style.
To Anderson, elegant and grand can be mixed with fun and funky.
“If you look around, there’s also a whimsy to it. I mean, you’re in my living room sitting in a 19th-century chair decorated with a koi fish pillow,” he said.
Anderson’s love for styling extends to fashion.
“That’s why I have too many closets full of way too much clothing,” he said.
His style changes with the times and what’s inspiring him at the moment, he said. When he lived in New York in his late 20s, his dress code was avant garde.
These days, “I’m often inspired by military and street styles,” he said.
Anderson’s drag queen persona Miss Flowers has her own style.
Since making a splash on the scene three decades ago, Miss Flowers has become a fixture in the Twin Cities, regularly hosting events such as an annual party during Pride and shows at Varsity Theater, in which contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are guest performers.
Anderson dedicates a room in his home for his drag queen wardrobe, wigs and makeup. There are feather boas, blond and neon pink wigs, ’70s and ’80s punk outfits, gowns and so much more. Like Anderson, Miss Flowers’ style has evolved over the years.
“When she was young, she was a nightclub girl in slip dresses and combat boots,” Anderson said. “The older version of her is somewhere around [interior designer and fashion icon] Iris Apfel and Elizabeth Taylor.”
Rooted in tradition
Anderson, who grew up in Chaska and Prior Lake, said his love for gardening, decorating and fashion started at an early age.
“My country grandma introduced me to gardening. She was a farmer’s wife in Chaska and she had exquisite taste. Decorating was a big deal,” he said. “She was also a costumer.”
He became the kid neighbors hired to decorate their Christmas trees. As a teenager, he started styling window displays for shops at Burnsville Center and Eden Prairie Center.
His love for gardening and decorating evolved into working at floral shops, designing arrangements. Anderson eventually moved to New York, where he worked for event planner to the stars, the late Robert Isabell.
His made-for-TV personality led Anderson to become a fixture on HGTV’s “Decorating Cents.” The popular late-1990s series, hosted by Joan Steffend, encouraged homeowners to spruce up their spaces for under $500.
“Working with Joan Steffend was a dream and the entire crew became family and we continue to keep in touch,” he said. “The show really piqued my creativity because it was turning pumpkins into carriages on a budget.”
At 57, Anderson continues to do what he loves, decorating homes seasonally as well as creating displays and decor for retailers and restaurants.
His work can be found at dining hotspots such as at Meritage in St. Paul, Cov in Wayzata and Edina, 6Smith in Wayzata and Baldamar in Roseville.
For Anderson, the holidays are his favorite time of the year because it can be over the top. He’s already envisioning how he’ll decorate for his clients.
“My clients — both residential and commercial — really want to go big this year. They feel like Christmas 2020 never happened in a lot of ways, so they really want to go big,” he said. “That’s definitely in my wheelhouse.”