Ranch reborn: Creative St. Clair Shores homeowner transforms her space

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to the Detroit News

It wasn’t exactly her dream house. And it definitely needed work, Holly Moyer says of the unassuming 1955 St. Clair Shores ranch she and her husband, Michael, bought in 2012. “It had been a bachelor pad for many years and hadn’t been updated since it was built,” she remembers. “Almost everything needed to be replaced and the kitchen cabinets were falling apart.”

But the price was right and there was room for the Moyers’ blended family of six, which includes two 17-year-old teenagers, a 12-year-old, a 6-year-old, two rescue cats, Emma and Gazpacho, and a rescue Boston Terrier/Boxer puppy named Lilah.  “I was very pregnant at the time and nesting,” Holly explains of the family’s unexpected purchase. “But it was odd to find a ranch that had four bedrooms and two baths so we jumped.”

Once the approximately 1,500-square-foot house was theirs, Holly moved quickly to put her creativity and DIY skills to work to transform the house into something closer to her dreams. Not for her the mid-century modern look that’s so popular at the moment.  The 30-something design devotee describes her style as “vintage chic with a little bit of Boho glam,” adding that she loves nothing more than the thrill of the hunt, and scouring antique shops, estate sales, church rummage sales and even local curbs for unusual and one-of-a-kind pieces that put her personal stamp on her home.

A mantle over the fireplace is home to several repurposed pieces.

A love for and appreciation of anything old is in her blood, she says. A longtime Eastsider, Holly grew up in a 1909 English Colonial, one of the first houses built in Roseville, she says. Her parents were curb shoppers, pickers and vintage fans long before it became trendy, she remembers. “I got it from both sides,” she says with a laugh. “My father finds the most amazing things. They worked in tandem.” She credits her mom for her ability to see the possibilities in an older item, including some others may have left behind. “She was always finding great pieces and then redecorating the whole house around them. I think that’s where my love of old things started.”

Holly grew up helping her mom and others decorate. “I was always artistic. She would ask me what colors to paint,” she says, adding, “Luckily we have totally different decorating styles so we don’t go for the same things when we shop together.”

Eventually she parlayed her interest and ability into a small business, opening a St. Clair Shores shop that featured vintage and repurposed pieces. “I employed 20 local artists, all of whom were pickers and makers,” she explains. “We had lots of salvage and architectural pieces.” She closed in 2018 when the landlord sold the building but is currently considering reopening if the spot if right.

A mantle over the fireplace is home to several repurposed pieces.

In the meantime, she is enjoying finishing up her own home, something she says is a work in progress. The Moyers remodeled the small kitchen and bathroom, but most of the transformation has been through decorating.  Holly opted for a black-and-white palette, she explains, to add cohesiveness to small spaces and because it’s classic and easily changed. “You can’t go wrong with black and white and it gives you the ability to add pops of color.”

She’s not afraid to play design musical chairs if it suits the family’s lifestyle, including converting the traditional front living room into a roomy dining room off the kitchen. The family room on the back of the house serves as their main living space and overflows into the enclosed sunroom behind it. “I would live out here year round if I could,” Holly says of the three-season space.

Furnishings are an eclectic combination of ages and styles, which Holly believes is part of the charm. Old things appeal to her for a variety of reasons, she says. “I appreciate the craftsmanship and the quality in vintage things,” she says. “You won’t see me buying from a big box store. If I buy anything from Pottery Barn it’s because I got it at Salvation Army.”

Like her mom, she believes one fun find can inspire a room. Weaknesses include chandeliers, architectural salvage, vintage lamps (luckily for her Michael is an electrician), books, linens and old mirrors. “I’m obsessed with them,” she admits. “If I see one in a thrift store I can’t leave without it, especially if its chippy and cloudy.” She points to the $100 vintage fireplace mantel in the family room as a favorite treasure and focal point. “It’s lived, and it tells a story,” she says.

She recently redid the master bedroom after discovering a blue-and-white coverlet for $4 at a Grosse Pointe church rummage sale. “I get so bored when everyone has the same pillow or the same sign,” she says. “I don’t want the same thing everyone else has. Vintage is a treasure hunt and it allows me to use my creativity. The picking and the discovery is a bit part of the fun.”  She loves perusing design books, magazines and online sources including Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration, and credits HGTV’s Nicole Curtis, a Michigan native, and Patina White’s Beth Schaleben as kindred spirits.

Words of encouragement found throughout the house include signs like “There is always something to be thankful for,” in the dining room, “Be A Good Human,” over the sink in the kitchen and “Don’t Give Up” in the family room. They’re more than lip service, she says.  “Our son was bullied in the 8th grade and is a suicide survivor.” She started tucking positive words and images around the house for everyone’s benefit. “When you come from a good, happy home you are able to carry that with you through the day and, hopefully, use it to help other people,” she explains.

She believes younger people are waking up to her style of shopping and decorating. “I have so many ask me how I did something or where I shop,” she says, adding that she finds inspiration all around her.

She enjoys helping others maximize their own homes and collections through her business, Gypsy Dreams Design Co., and making online project tutorials. “A lot of time people have good stuff, they just don’t know how to put it together.” Her tips for shopping vintage? “Buy the best quality you can afford,” she says. “Buy in bulk and you might get a discount.” She also advises building your decor around things you love and being open to serendipity. “I find a lot on the side of the road,” she says “It’s good for the budget and the environment and keeps things out of landfills.”

Holly Moyer stands in the kitchen of her St. Clair Shores home, October 17, 2019.

Her ranch has come a long way since they bought it, she says. “It’s not necessarily my architectural style, but for now, it works.” And that one day dream house? “My family is originally from the South, and someday I would really, really love an old plantation-style home with a big balcony.”