Create a Beautiful Space: The Stylish Life of Adam Steffens

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stranger once approached Adam Steffens and, after identifying herself as a medium, told him, “Make sure you always live in a beautiful space. It will make you be more successful in the rest of the areas of life.” It was an astute statement that would prove to be true.

When the Noëlle Floyd team met Adam at the door of his home in Wellington, Florida, there was none of the tension that sometimes accompanies the meeting of strangers. This grand prix dressage rider smiled, gave out hugs, and welcomed us indoors with open arms. He gave a tour of his beautiful home, a place he has designed to make him feel relaxed and comfortable, and in turn made his guests feel the same.

Adam is 29 years old, an age when many young people are simply toying with the idea of buying their first house or barely settling into home ownership. He has not only bought, refurbished, and sold a house in his home state of Minnesota, but purchased and designed his current home to suit his own tastes.

For Adam, who exudes cool confidence and effortless professionalism, style is more than how you look, but how you feel. From the clothes he wears to the beautiful living space he has created, the aesthetic he seeks in his daily life is one that feels always like home — a place where he can feel peace and enjoy the elegance of life.

I have to have a clean, beautiful space to live in. It helps me feel more inspired and relaxed. Just like with clothes, they say if you dress your best and present yourself the best in public or your job, it makes you more successful in the rest of your life,” Adam says. “My mom always told us, ‘don’t even go to the grocery store not put together. You never know who you will meet.’ We were always told us to present ourselves the best way.

“Anyone that knows me, they’ve never seen me out of a collared shirt or a turtleneck. My clothes are also like my house — simple, basic, and classic.”

Adam grew up outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in Maple Grove, which he describes as a “hidden gem of a city.” Knowing the area is somewhat obscured by the rest of the country’s assumption that it is never free from a blanket of snow, Adam lights up when recalling his hometown. “Minneapolis is known for art, some of the best liberal arts, ballet, orchestra, symphony. It’s the best in the country next to New York City. It’s very earthy. Everyone is very calm. It’s a quiet place — and non-judgemental.”

Showing promise in the dressage ring from a young age, Adam started traveling to Florida to train in the winter when he was just 16. He landed a working student position at Still Point Farm, after which he was slated to move to Los Angeles, California, where he’d been accepted into the fashion merchandising program at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. He deferred, wanting to go to Florida for one more winter. “And here I am,” he muses, having never made it to California. “I got a good job working for Oded Shimoni and stayed with him for three winter seasons. Four years ago I moved back down here full time.”

Adam continued to spend winters in Florida working for Oded. When weather conditions improved in Minnesota, he would return home to save some money and work on a special project — a little cottage by Lake Minnetonka that he bought and restored — that would ultimately afford him the resources to move permanently south.

Adam has a keen eye for design but he’s had practice. In fact, it runs in the family; his dad has a construction company and his mom is in real estate. Growing up, he watched his parents and uncle take on housing projects, building or restoring them before selling. Adam and his sister, who is a real estate agent in Palm Beach County, inherited the passion for beautiful homes.

Adam dreams of spending more time satisfying his creative side by restoring or flipping houses and helping others develop their ideal interior, a feature that has brought him so much joy in his own life. “As I get more financially independent I would like to start to do more [in real estate and design]. Get my hands in something other than horses eventually.”

Hearth and Home

After selling his reinvigorated cottage, Adam bought his open concept Wellington house and set to work making it a home using furnishings and paintings that hearkened back to his childhood and the trendy town of Maple Grove. “This house had great bones inside. I just did the furniture, paint, and design. I renovated the backyard, added a pool, did the landscaping. I will start to change small things inside one project at a time.”

A little bit of Wellington and a whole lot of Minnesota breathes life into Adam’s home. In a sweet nod to the North Star State, every single piece of furniture comes from Minneapolis. “One of my favorite stores growing up was Room & Board. I always wanted furniture from there. You [can choose] the style you like and customize the size and fabric. I did that, had it all made and manufactured in my hometown, and shipped it here from Minneapolis.”

"Playing piano has been helpful with the riding; it makes you hear rhythm."

Adam’s parents played a part in furnishing the home, too, adding their own comforting, familial energy to the abode. Adam played piano competitively through high school, and the Weber grand piano in his living room is the same one his parents bought him after his first Minnesota state piano competition. “My dad shipped it down to me here and I’ve started to play again.

“Playing piano has been helpful with the riding; it makes you hear rhythm. I tend to want to rush through things. My teacher always used to say slow down and take your time. I think about that riding, too. Take it slower, work through the problem, and keep practicing.”

In the same room, a gift from Adam’s mother is displayed where it can’t be missed — a huge Hermès scarf set in a frame. Knowing he was looking for a piece of art “to depict the Wellington lifestyle,” Adam’s mother discovered the scarf in a consignment store in Minnesota and gave it to him for his birthday. He had it framed locally by a specialist who said she’d never seen an Hermès scarf of that size.

In addition to the scarf, black and white canvases hang on the walls, bringing a pop of drama to the sleek, sophisticated interior style. “With the house artwork I wanted it to be very simple, classic, and equine-inspired,” Adam says. “There’s a sequence of pictures in my house from Philippa Davin. She did a photoshoot of my horse and I for a magazine. She had these pictures she took of [my horse Romulus] walking out of the arena … There’s a piece of spit and lots of motion in the picture. The sunlight hits his whiskers … it’s a really interesting piece.”

Between the equine art reflective of his passion for riding and the Minnesotan furnishings that are an ode to his upbringing, Adam’s style is so keenly directed to highlight the features of his life for which he is most proud of and connected. That kind of self-possession and understanding is a trait that often takes many years more than his age to fine-tune. Yet he’s managed to build, while still in his 20s, a home and lifestyle that suits him exactly. And he has even more to give.

Riding the Wave

After those years of hoofing it to Florida every winter to work and ride, Adam has settled full time into the equestrian business. He rides for Five Rings Farm and teaches a small group of clients after hours. Having recently achieved competing at the grand prix level, he’s right on the cusp of being one of the dressage world’s leading breakout riders.

“I have lots of goals with the horses,” Adam says. “My mission is to be on a U.S. team someday and be able to develop young horses to grand prix well. It’s one thing to ride them, it’s another thing to make them.”

He’s getting valuable lessons both in riding and life training with U.S. Dressage Technical Advisor Debbie McDonald. “She such a good mentor,” Adam says. “Riding with Debbie has been life-changing. She’s a little person. She’s really quiet. And I’m a huge person; I’m almost 6’5.” She’s really helped develop me to be quieter and harmonious and not force things to happen but develop them. She’s always there for us if we need to talk to her. She’s very straightforward, doesn’t sugar coat things. She says it how it is and expects and demands a certain quality.”

With a strong support system and top-shelf training, Adam was well on his way. Sadly, he suffered a devastating setback when he lost Zikomo de Grand, the gray gelding pictured with Adam on this page. We photographed Adam just days after his FEI grand prix debut. Zikomo passed away a week later.

"I felt like I could have ridden him through a ring of fire."

“He was really amazing. We were together for 3 ½ years training under Debbie. We brought him from being a really spooky, nervous horse. By the end he was so trusting with me. I felt like I could have ridden him through a ring of fire. We were so connected,” Adam says.

“He was owned by Jean Vinios and she provided me with all the opportunities on him. She’s a very, very generous owner who I will be forever grateful for.”

Adam brags on Zikomo’s accomplishments, which included seven wins out of nine appearances at the Intermediate II level last year. “It’s going to take a very special animal to fill his shoes … Luckily this horse really catapulted my career. It really was a wonderful experience. Without him I would not be in the same place I am. All of us, his owner, groom, and I are eternally grateful for the time we had with that horse.”

Don't let grief hold you back.

Without Zikomo, his next steps are unknown, but he’s not going to let the tragedy pull him down. Quite the opposite — he finds the uncertainty of his future motivates him to create opportunities. Inspired by what he learned from Zikomo, Adam would like to focus his career on working with young horses and bringing them up the levels of the sport.

“My parents are both self-made, extremely hard-working people, so it was important for them for me and my sister, who used to ride, to figure out how to stand out on our own two feet and make things happen for ourselves. It makes you appreciate more and work really hard.

This is a very expensive industry. You have to make opportunities for yourself. I understand there will be highs and lows and I have to keep pushing through,” he concludes. “It’s not about making tons of money. It’s about riding the best I can and learning the best I can. Eventually that will all come.”

There is an unavoidable ebb and flow to life, the strength of which Adam has recently experienced. No one is immune to disappointment, but we hope, of course, that the positive experiences outweigh the difficult moments. What gets us through it all is inner fortitude bolstered by a supportive family and healthy home life, which is defined not only by our relationships but the energy captivated by our most treasured possessions. On that front, Adam is several steps ahead.

Read this next: Dress to Impress (Yourself): How the Clothes You Wear Affect Your Psyche

Photography by Pooya Nabei for NoelleFloyd.com.

Written by Leslie Threlkeld

Having grown up on horseback, Leslie Threlkeld, Managing Editor at NOËLLE FLOYD, treasures her career in the equestrian industry as a writer, photographer, and eventing technical delegate. Leslie thrives on frequent travel but never tires of returning home to the serene mountains of North Carolina.