Designing from the Hart

From an early age, Monica Hart seemed to have a natural understanding of proportion and spatial arrangement.

Monica Hart’s 15-Year Journey in Crafting Beautiful Interiors

Photos by Josiah Kopp, Jill Ochardt-Blaufuss, & Monica Hart

From an early age, Monica Hart seemed to have a natural understanding of proportion and spatial arrangement. The interior designer grew up in the small town of Karlstad, MN, finding unique opportunities to feed her ever-growing creative appetite.

During her formative years, Monica took a home ec class, which sparked her interest in interior design. Her home ec teacher recognized her potential and passion for interior design and invested in Monica’s passion, creating a special curriculum for her. This tailored program included touring homes in Karlstad, kickstarting her passion for home interiors.

Monica later attended NDSU for interior design. Students in the interior design program were required to complete a 320-hour internship, and Monica spent her internship at a hospitality firm named Ste Marie Design, which specialized in designing hotels. Upon graduation, Monica faced a challenging job market in the interior design industry, so she pivoted, working at the NDSU Alumni Association until an opportunity arose.

Monica’s time at the Alumni Association helped her make valuable connections, and soon, an opportunity arose at Ste Marie Design, where she had interned. Hart joined their team, handling CAD work and design. Some of the most notable projects she worked on were with Marriott International, developing new standards for the hotel chain. Unfortunately, the 9/11 attacks severely impacted the hotel industry, leading to the loss of contracts and eventually, her job when her employer closed the Fargo office.

This period of unemployment proved to be a blessing in disguise for Monica, as she joined forces with a local builder, handling CAD work, floor plans, and client interactions. Following this experience, Monica joined a design center, Completely Home, gaining experience in new construction projects and the retail side of design, including furniture and flooring.

After five years at the design center and expecting her third son, Monica decided to start her own business, Monica Hart Interior Design. “I thought to myself, ‘You know what, I’m at the point where I have such a long client list,’ and I had a waiting list, referral list, and I felt I’d gained so much experience,” she said. “So that’s when I decided to start my own business. I’m really grateful for all of the experiences I had to get me to where I am [today] in being a business owner.”

Fast forward to August of 2023, Monica celebrated 15 years of Monica Hart Interior Design, a truly astounding milestone. And not to mention, she has created some beautiful living spaces in the Red River Valley in those 15 years.

Monica’s Resumé at a Glance

  • 15 years in business
  • Voted Best Of Red River Valley (Interior Design firm) in 2022
  • Over 600 homes and businesses designed in her career
  • First female president of the Home Builders Care Foundation in 2018
  • Earned multiple awards and has been featured in several publications

What’s Your Style?

“You know, it’s so funny—everybody asks me, ‘What’s your style?’ I don’t have one, and when you look at my portfolio of projects, I feel like that is pretty evident; I think all of my projects look pretty different,” Monica said. “Because my philosophy is that whatever my style is, shouldn’t be reflected in my clients’ projects, it should be a reflection of my client. And to me, that’s what a good designer does.”

So, in a way, Monica’s niche in the local interior design industry hasn’t been to form her own style per se, but rather to listen to the desires of her clients and strive to bring their vision to life.

Advantages of Working with Monica Hart

Working with Monica Hart comes with distinct advantages, centered around her client-focused approach and thorough interview process to truly understand their expectations and needs. “If a client comes to me and says, ‘I don’t really like what’s trendy, I have my own thing that I like,’ Then I would be a good choice for them, because I’m going to listen to them,” Monica said. “I do an extensive interview with my clients; I ask them a lot of questions. I have them show me a lot of pictures of their current home—things that are important to them, and that’s how I come up with that end result for them.”

Monica believes in building a personal connection with her clients, which she views as essential to an overall successful project. “I like to get to know my clients personally, because I feel I have more of a successful outcome if I get to know them,” she said. This personal touch not only enhances the design process but also ensures that the final product truly reflects the clients’ personality and desires.

Understanding a client’s learning style is another aspect Monica considers vital. She understands that different clients have varying levels of comfort with design elements like floor plans and visual aids. She tailors her communication and presentation style to suit each client’s understanding, ensuring clarity and avoiding surprises at the project’s conclusion.

Products & Services Monica Offers

Monica Hart Interior Design offers a comprehensive range of interior design services and products, each tailored to meet her clients’ unique needs. Her services include full interior design, space planning, creating detailed drawings and elevations, and helping clients with material selections.

In terms of products, she provides everything from bedding, wall coverings, and blinds to artwork, and other decor. While not primarily a retail business, these products are available for her clients.

An interesting development in her business is the sale of Christmas trees and staging holiday decor. Monica noticed a trend of clients wanting to refresh their holiday decor, so she began including these services—and it’s been a huge success, and perhaps, what you might call one of her niches. “I would have several clients come to me and ask if I could find them a really big tree and big ornaments. So I started selling Christmas trees and Christmas decor. I would have never guessed [that this would be something I’d be doing],” she said. “It’s been a huge part of my business.” This service extends to both private clients and businesses, particularly in the November and December months.

Examples of the custom patio furniture Monica Hart offers to clients

Additionally, Monica ventured into selling custom patio furniture, a decision inspired by clients’ desires to have outdoor furniture that complements their homes’ exteriors and interior color schemes. She works with several vendors to offer these custom solutions.

But she hasn’t stopped there; Monica also sells her own line of indoor furniture. Produced by a small, family-run business with over 60 years of experience, her furniture line carries its own tag, making it a “Monica Hart original.” While she doesn’t have a retail outlet, these products are available to her clients and followers through Facebook.

The ‘Hart’ of Interior Design

To Monica, being an interior designer is more than just creating visually appealing spaces; it’s about enhancing people’s surroundings in a way that is functional, practical, safe, and aesthetically pleasing. “Safety and function always come first,” she said. Monica applies her expertise not only to commercial projects, where adherence to codes is crucial but also to residential projects, where individual needs and health concerns play a significant role. She considers various factors such as allergies, arthritis, or specific needs of children with autism within her design choices.

Additionally, Monica acknowledges the impact of interior design on mental health. She recalls working with several widows, helping them transition their homes into comfortable spaces after the loss of their spouses. “That means a lot to me… to make people comfortable in their homes,” she said.

Why Fargo is a Great Place to be an Interior Designer

When it comes to Fargo, Monica says the area is the perfect community for her business. She loves Fargo’s balance of being large enough to offer great restaurants, arts, and entertainment, yet small enough for a sense of community. “We’re big enough to have [all of that], but we’re small enough that people know one another,” she said.

The support within the local design community is something Monica also cherishes. She is friends with other interior designers in town and draws inspiration from them. She appreciates that Fargo is sufficiently large to support multiple designers without feeling competitive.

Did You Know?

Monica Hart has her very own custom furniture line through Monica Hart Interior Design! By partnering with local crafters, she can design and provide exclusive, custom pieces for any project.

The Importance of Safety in Interior Design

For Monica Hart, safety is a paramount concern in interior design, an aspect of design that doesn’t get talked about enough. Everyone wants a beautiful and aesthetic space, but Monica wants to make sure designs have safety in mind. One example she gave of a common safety risk is wood treads on steps, a popular aesthetic choice but one that can pose safety risks like slipping, due to their lack of grip. Monica acknowledges the appeal of wood treads but cautions against their use in homes with young children, older adults, or elderly visitors. Instead, she recommends carpeting or runners added to wood steps to mitigate any safety risks.

She feels a strong sense of responsibility as a designer to prioritize safety, even when it means advising against popular trends. “Sometimes I see trends, and I think to myself, ‘oh my gosh, this is just not a good trend—it’s not safe, I’d never recommend this to a client,'” she said.

“I always give them alternatives, if that is absolutely what they want.” This approach allows her clients to make informed decisions while ensuring they are aware of potential hazards.

Hart also applies this safety-first philosophy to material choices, such as advising against real wood flooring in high-wear areas like mudrooms. She points out the practical issues, like damage from dirt, gravel, or water from boots, and recommends more durable alternatives like laminate flooring.

Featured Projects from Monica’s Career

Commentary from Monica Hart

Unique Contemporary
West Fargo, ND

“This was a new construction home designed by architect Dan Elton and built by Fiske Construction. I met with the clients every week for 15 months! We worked on every detail together forging a creative and fun relationship. This home boasts an incredible floating staircase, a three-season room that overlooks a pond, a lower-level reading nook, and a home bar and theater area that can be closed off from the rest of the lower level by sound-deafening electronic drapes. This was one of the most fun experiences I have had working on a project!”

Serene and Casual Lake Home
Pelican Lake, MN

“This was a teardown and remodel headed up by Craftwell Architecture and Construction. My team planned every piece of furniture and accessory for a busy family with comfort in mind. All materials were chosen with wet swimsuits, sandy feet, and plenty of visitors as important selection factors. Custom furniture from Stickley, HOM Furniture, and even a custom line made by Monica Hart Interior Design were part of the beautiful yet functional choices! Custom bedding and patio furniture were all through Monica Hart Interior Design.”

Modern Rustic Lower Level
West Fargo, ND

“This lower level was unfinished and awaiting to be the perfect entertaining area. Multiple seating areas in the main family room can easily seat 16 with plenty of room for others to lounge. The nearby bar seats another eight and leads to a barrel-vaulted wine room. We sourced the furniture through HOM Furniture.”

Top Shelf Tavern
The Lights, West Fargo, ND

“Our team chose all the selections for a new local tavern that would invite people in and make them want to stay. The warm tones from the woods and faux leather wallcovering coupled with natural brick, beige, and navy accents make for a classic and welcoming environment.”

Monica’s Tips for Home Improvement

  1. “Invest more in the furniture that will be used often: You want a good quality piece of furniture that will hold up and look great for as long as possible. Then spend less in areas that aren’t used as often.”
  1. “Customize your furniture: That doesn’t necessarily mean more money—it just means more time. Choose an upholstery that will work well for your family, especially if you have kids or pets. Find a heavy-duty upholstery with a fabric that won’t show pet hair or something that cleans up well if juice is spilled. You may have to wait a couple of months, but it is worth it to get something that will function well for your family.”
  1. “Hire a professional to help with paint and flooring: If you’re going to invest in an interior designer to help with any aspect of your project, I recommend choosing paint and flooring selections. These are items that appear large in a home—be confident in the choice you make when updating or building!”

Monica’s Local Recommendations for Home Improvement

“I love working with Kathy and Todd at Valley Lights. They are knowledgeable, trustworthy, and have the best customer service!” – Valley Lights

“I especially enjoy working with Brien Weiser. He is so helpful, reliable, and has fantastic customer service.” – Carpet World

“I love Stickley Furniture! Working with Sheila is great. I know my clients are getting a beautiful quality product that is custom to them and Sheila is on top of our orders and making sure the eventual delivery will be seamless. I also use InterOffice for commercial projects. I work with Melissa to select furnishing that will be durable, timeless in design, and work within my clients’ budgets.” – InterOffice

Q & A

On your website, you said, “While I love being an interior designer, I love being a mom even more.” What do you love most about being a mom?

Being a mom and wanting to be a present mom is what made me choose to start my own business. I am at 99.9% of my kids’s activities—usually in the front row cheering the loudest! I have had all three of my sons help me and my business in one way or another, whether it was helping unload boxes, breaking down those boxes, shredding documents, helping with installs, etc. I love that they get to see their mom running a business and working hard, yet knowing they always come first.

As a female business owner and a creative, what do you hope to demonstrate to other women in business or those with a dream of owning a business?

I am happy to support other small businesses—especially those that are women-owned. I know what it is like to need help from others, whether it is answering a question or sharing some advertising on social media. Our little city is big enough for all of us and our different types of creative businesses—I love to see others succeed!

From serving in church to serving in the FMWF Chamber, why is giving back to the community important to you?

It is so important for me to give back to the community that has supported my business for 15 years. I am grateful to the individuals and businesses that have given me business and referred me. In turn, I enjoy volunteering in our community, whether it is serving on the board for the Building Industry Association of the Red River Valley (formerly Home Builders Association), volunteering at local schools, serving at church, or helping with events and fundraisers for different causes. I count my lucky stars every day that I am part of such a wonderful community!

You said, “Life is busy and I love it that way.” When you do need time to recharge and refresh, where do you go?

We have a happy place in the mountains in Colorado. We have an investment property (a little ski condo) in Silverthorne, which we call our little slice of heaven. It is so peaceful and incredibly beautiful in that area. We also enjoy eating at fun restaurants and exploring the different ski towns—especially in the summer—and marveling at the breathtaking views. It is the perfect place to relax, rejuvenate, and be inspired!

How to Support Monica
Instagarm | @monicahartinteriordesign
Facebook | /monicahartinteriordesign
Twitter | @monicahartinteriordesign


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