A Woodbury local shares her home renovations and designs with thousands online.
Jenny Virkus knows a thing or two about interior design. She did not attend college for the study and is not in the field of interior design; instead, she has learned the art through her four home renovations, most recently of which is in Woodbury’s Wedgewood neighborhood.
“We lived in St. Paul and bought an old 1910 Victorian-era home. It needed a lot of work, and that’s when I dove into design and home renovating,” Virkus says. After digging into what it takes to restore an old home, while bringing out its original character, Virkus says she began to get into the home décor side of things.
After the Victorian home was completely renovated, the Virkus family purchased the neighboring double lot, which they split to build two houses. “I designed both houses and that was really fun for me,” she says. Although the plan was to sell both homes, Virkus and her husband Steven both fell in love with one of the homes and moved into it. “It fit our family at the time … [However], we weren’t thinking clear … We loved the house, but we knew we wanted more,” she says.
In 2017, after listing the home—the third renovation under their belt—the Virkus family moved back to Woodbury, as they had previously lived in the Wedgewood neighborhood in 2010. Knowing their love for the Wedgewood neighborhood, the family decided to search for a home in the area.
“The homes are well built, they have good size rooms and the yards with mature trees are amazing,” she says. Their “new” home, a 1990s build, featured a larger yard, an interior painted with green and orange walls, golden oak flooring, original tiling and gold lighting.
“It felt like we hit the jackpot, but it was the most hideous house I’ve ever seen,” Virkus says. “Our vision was clear and when we walked in this one, just from the entryway, we knew this was the one. Now we’ve been here for four-and-a-half years.”
During that time, the Virkus family had been renovating and redecorating their home; but when the COVID-19 pandemic led to statewide shutdowns, Virkus began looking for a creative outlet. “I was so inspired by other Instagram accounts … I thought if I could inspire two people, that would be great,” she says. “I didn’t even know what Instagram was, but I started doing it more.”
Although Virkus began posting home décor and design on her Instagram account, @making_highview_home, during her first renovation, she took it to the next level during lockdown. In September 2020, her hundreds of followers turned into 10,000. Today, her Instagram boasts 80,000 followers.
“It’s a little surreal,” Virkus says. “I never thought this would turn into what it has …”
On the Instagram account, Virkus shares her décor ideas as inspiration for who follow her; she also shares do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. And since Steven owns a general contracting company and Jenny is familiar with interior design, the two have worked hand-in-hand for nearly every part of the renovation/redecoration.
“We are fortunate because [Steven] is an exterior contractor … So, when we want to do a project, he knows people,” Virkus says. Their DIY projects have included gutting and redoing the entire kitchen, painting and wallpapering the entire home, and most recently installing built-ins and a desk into one of their daughter’s room. She says, “I draw it all out and we work with a cabinet maker that my husband knows, so he brings it to life for me … I more or less tell someone, ‘This is what I want. How can we do it?’”
Although the couple has had their fair share of DIY assistance, one project that Jenny takes credit for is their refinished staircase.
“It was a giant, golden oak staircase. We refinished all the wood in our house, [but] our staircase was still golden oak,” Virkus says. Although she recalls looking into contracting the work, it was out of budget. So, she started researching and watching YouTube videos on the process. “Finally, one Sunday morning, my husband was sleeping still, and I got up early and just started doing things,” she says.
From sanding and using gel train to sealing the stairs with poly, it took five months to refinish the steps alone. “We have three little kids, so I couldn’t do everything all at once,” she says. Now that the project is finished, she says it’s been the most impactful for their home.
Although the renovations are mostly complete, Virkus says this is just the beginning. She says, “Within the next five years we want to add a pool house … If we stay here for the long run, we would like to add an addition off the back of the garage for a bigger mud room and a designated laundry room.”
Although the Virkus family is 90 percent sure it is their “forever home,” she still loves the idea of moving and renovating another home.
“Now that our girls are older, and they know this house, [it’s] important for them to grow up here … I don’t want to move again, since this is their home and this is what they remember,” she says. “I don’t know what the future holds for our house, since we change our minds for what we want to do and how we want to live here. [But] this will be it. We love it. And as our family grows, so will the way we use our home.”
Although easier said than done, do-it-yourself (DIY) projects can be a straightforward and enjoyable way to update parts of your home without the costs of hiring a professional team. For Jenny Virkus, DIY décor is the way to go—here are a few console table styling tips straight from Virkus.
Start with a focal point. Begin console table styling with a focal point, like a mirror or oversized framed artwork—you can also combine the elements. “For example, use a round mirror and layer it with a piece of artwork that sits on the table and leans against the mirror,” Virkus says. “You can also do the same with two pieces of art.” Start with a larger piece of artwork in the back and layer a smaller, coordinating piece in front of it.
Create layers. Layers can be created with coffee table books, but also with vases or trays. Virkus says, “Use a larger tray, layer it with a pretty bowl then place decorative accents, like moss balls or wood beads, inside the bowl.”
Ground the space. This can be done in a variety of ways. “We love to use large vases, pots, vessels and bowls,” Virkus says. “Depending on the size of your console table, an oversized dough bowl to two different sized pots would be a great choice. We also love to use decorative baskets for console tables …”
Add height: Stacking items on books can instantly elevate your design. “For example, stacking two books under a lamp or a decorative object can change the entire look of your console table,” Virkus says. Or add height by using large vases with tall stems. “Not only does this add height, but a gorgeous vase and florals add beautiful texture and softens up your décor.”