Second Act: Timeless treasures lend personality to new home in Irish Hills

By Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Holly Blain never met a vintage mirror she didn’t like. Proof can be seen throughout the charming Brooklyn, Michigan, home she shares with her husband, Jamie, 6-year-old daughter, Natalie, and 10-year-old rescue dog, Yankee. 

The social media influencer and content creator estimates she has more than two dozen mirrors displayed throughout her home, including the 15 gilded ones that hang on a 14-foot cathedral wall in her foyer – the first thing you see when you come into the 1,700-square-foot craftsman-style ranch the family built four years ago.“ They definitely make an impact,” she says.

Blain started buying mirrors a few years ago when she picked up a couple at an area store that was going out of business. That was the inspiration for her impressive mirror wall and, she laughs, the cause of any future back issues. “They weigh about 40 pounds each,” she says of the sparkly – and heavy – home décor.

Open to the kitchen and the foyer, the living room is dressed in the same creamy whites and neutrals and punctuated with antiques. New upholstered furniture is from Wayfair.

Besides making any room look larger, mirrors add instant vintage appeal and personality to even the newest space, she explains.  “I might not be able to have an old home but I can bring the feel of one into my décor.”

All in the Family

Holly’s passion for decorating runs deep. Originally in the dental field, she moved into design when she decided to stay at home with her daughter. “I’ve always been creative and crafty,” she explains, adding that she used to go shopping with her mom as a girl – and still does, when she has the chance. “At the time, I hated it,” she says of their early forays, but eventually her mom’s love of hunting and gathering rubbed off.  “My mom had a passion for decorating… she used to rearrange the furniture once a month. She has a great eye and is always showing me what’s possible once you clean something up and give it new life.”

Holly has a knack for combining signs and other objects.

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle

Like her mom, Holly mines thrift shops, estate and garage sales and antique shops for the one-of-a-kind vintage pieces that give her rooms their unexpected style. Besides mirrors, she admits to being a sucker for brass, ironstone, stoneware, rolling pins, crocks, mirrors, baskets, and old books “to name a few,” she laughs. Her goal: a welcoming home with “a sense of coziness, comfort and joy,” she says.

She has no formal training, claiming her education is more practical than anything else. “It’s pretty much just trial and error,” she explains. Clearly it’s paid off – her home has been featured in national magazines and she’s been tapped to work with home decor companies such as Wayfair and T.J. Maxx. She also holds eagerly anticipated barn sales on her property where she sells antiques and other rustic home décor. Her Instagram account @RusticWildArrow, shows her popular vintage vignettes and what’s possible with a little inspiration and imagination. 

Sticking with a white and neutral backdrop allows her to swap items and colors with the seasons and to add fabrics and textures as she pleases. A major proponent of “use what you have” decorating, she also encourages homeowners to take a closer look at the creative possibilities in what they already own or in things they might otherwise pass by.

Subway tile in the kitchen provides a timeless backdrop for new and old white wares and wooden collectibles. Open shelving in kitchen are both practical and pretty. “I grab scissors and twine almost every day,” she says.

Favorite Finds

Repurposing is a big part of her philosophy – perhaps best seen in items such as the vintage bike that occupies a place of honor near her living room fireplace or the kitchen pantry door, saved from an old building that was being demolished. “The starburst glass caught my eye because you can’t actually see through it,” she says with a laugh. “That way no one can see the mess behind the door.”

Another favorite is the cabinet in the dining room that she found on Facebook Marketplace for just $50. The seller told her that “if she didn’t sell it, her husband was going to burn it because they had sold their house and they had to clean out the barn. All it needed was a few pieces of wood reattached and a good cleaning,” she marvels.

It helps that Jamie likes antiques and doesn’t mind going along with her when she’s on the hunt. “He collects license plates, which we hang in the barn,” she explains. “He also likes things like old fishing poles.”

The Blains – Holly, Jamie and Natalie

Practical things like sofas and beds are purchased new, but Holly’s collections clearly are the highlight of the house. “Generally I prefer things that are old,” she admits. “My mom and dad always told me I’m an old soul.”

For now, she’s enjoying her recently completed home office, which she redecorated with a spring-like floral wallpaper. She’s also looking forward to finishing their lower level walk-out, where she sees a few – surprise – mirrors in her future. Someday, however, she hopes to move her collections into a house that’s as old as they are. “My dream is a vintage farmhouse that has been well lived in with built-in character and a wrap-around porch,” she says. “We’d love a fixer-upper that we can make our own. If something were to come up I’d definitely go look.”

Holly’s DIY Decorating Tips:

-- Don’t Hesitate. “If you love something you’ll always find a spot,” Holly says -- even if one isn’t immediately apparent.

--  Circle Back: Walk through an antique mall, estate or garage sale more than once, she says. “Someone may have moved something or you might have missed something the first time.”

-- Good Bones: Look beyond the current color for a piece’s potential, says Holly. A coat of paint is transformative.