Romancing the Rustic

Julie Fiato remembers well the day four years ago when one of her daughters suggested she start a blog about decorating.

“We were all in the kitchen and my oldest daughter said, ‘Mom, you should blog.’ ” At that time, Julie had just finished painting her cabinets. She knew that blogs were about writing, but didn’t realize they could turn into a successful business. After much research, a camera gifted from her husband, and “lots of trial and error,” was born. On the site, which features her blog and an opportunity to sign up for Julie’s newsletter, she inspires homeowners to decorate inexpensively, using everything from old family photos to natural elements from the yard.

“My style is all over the canvas,” says the Lake Orion resident (and, yes, she does have red hair). “I lean toward eclectic; I don’t like to follow trends. I enjoy cozy, comfortable, romantic, rustic themes,” she says.

Julie, who lives in a 1994 traditional Cape Cod-style home with her husband, Rick, and two teenaged daughters, grew up in the Buffalo area. The couple has lived in southeast Michigan for most of their marriage and moved into their current residence in 2008.

Julie Fiato’s office (LEFT); a kitchen bar and hutch area (CENTER), ready for a Fourth of July celebration (Julie made the cake plate); and handles and knobs that were replaced with more intriguing hardware that’s been creatively transformed.

“She’s the brain and I’m the muscle,” says Rick, a lawyer for an insurance company.

It’s easy to see Rick’s brawn and Julie’s creative spirit in every room of the Fiato home. Upon entering the house, the first thing one typically notices, besides Sylvia the laid-back cat, is a gleaming wall of silver platters in various shapes and sizes, ranging from oval and rectangular to round and even heart-shaped. “I found most of those at flea markets and antiques shops,” Julie says.

Just beyond awaits a spacious family room with a soaring ceiling. Here, the couple hung all kinds of intriguing elements that inspire visitors to look from floor to ceiling. Like a masterpiece painting with several entry points for the eye, the space pulls one in with a number of features, including an old red-trimmed toboggan from an antiques shop; the word Julie Fiato’s office (top); a kitchen bar and hutch area (below), ready for a Fourth of July celebration (Julie made the cake plate); and handles and knobs that were replaced with more intriguing hardware that’s been creatively transformed, spelled out in black lettering; and vintage skis and poles, all displayed against white walls with dark wood trim.


Shimmering mirrors mingle with luxe leather furnishings, a deep-brown fireplace mantel, and a chevron-style black-and-white rug. The couple is happy to share the stories behind many of the pieces; a side table, for example, was made from a dying tree in their yard, while a multi-paned door (found in their basement) leaning against a wall holds dozens of meaningful black-and-white family photos on its glass, and a pretty gold-framed mirror showcases Julie’s spray-painting talents.

“We wanted the room rustic, so we roughed it up and warmed it up,” Julie explains. “There’s a lodge feel in here and throughout the home.” Comfortable in boots, jeans, and flannel shirts (checks are a favorite pattern), Julie exemplifies her penchant for cozy and rustic.

The bucolic aura continues outside, where a lovely pond on which two trumpeter swans often glide by beckons in the backyard and a family-style firepit for toasting marshmallows is a favorite gathering spot.

The family room (LEFT) is reminiscent of a lodge-style inn. In the foyer (RIGHT), a wall of antique silver platters and gleaming mirrors greets guests.


Not only is the home rugged, like a lodge, but there’s an unmistakable air of romance in almost every room, created by the small details — such as an old-fashioned pantry doorknob and antique photo frames. The aforementioned gleaming mirrors and shiny silver platters add unexpected touches of elegance.

On the weekends, Julie can often be found in the kitchen, cooking. She’s especially excited about the brick that she and Rick added recently as a cooktop-area backsplash. “It’s so textured; I love it,” she enthuses.

Black and white cabinetry echoes her passion for the colors black and white, as do rug designs and check-painted flooring in other areas of the home. A paper message scroll, a kitchen chalkboard, and seeded glass cupboards add to the comfortable space, as does a beautiful wood-topped island — which Julie says was formerly completely covered up. “We stripped the counter and found wood underneath. Then we roughed it up a little, of course,” she says with a laugh.

The master bedroom showcases Julie’s creative touch times ten. Note the family-photo wardrobe that Julie created.

They also “roughed up” cabinetry pulls and knobs. All of the hardware in the kitchen, in fact, tells a story. “We purchased oil-rubbed bronze handles, for example, but sanded them down to look coppery,” Julie says. Rick and a friend added the beams in the kitchen to evoke a rustic feel.

Although Julie loves rusticity, she also wanted some signature glam and sheen in her kitchen. That explains the luminous crystal chandeliers and, nearby on a dark wood post, a dozen or so shiny measuring spoons. As a result, she says, “Our kitchen is a blast to cook in. It inspires me to keep creating!” (See some of Julie’s favorite family recipes on her blog.)

“My maternal grandfather enjoyed decorating and cooking,” Julie continues, “and has inspired me from the very beginning, even though we never met because he passed before I was born.” She says she’s reminded of his creativity, though, every time she passes a vintage picture of him that hangs right outside the kitchen.

Speaking of food, Julie has inscribed the names of treasured family fare on a special bench at the foot of the bed in the first-floor master suite. “Dad’s Pot Roast,” “C.J.’s Fudge,” “Mom’s Stuffing,” and “Valerie’s Cookies” are featured, among other items.

A charming wall of family photos (LEFT) keeps Julie company in her office. The master bath (right) features a wood-planked wall that complements the master bedroom’s ceiling. To create a timeworn look, Rick “beat the wood with nails, chains, and screwdrivers.” They then stained the wood and coated it with polyurethane.

Nearby, a black-painted wardrobe showcases black-and-white photos of the couple and their daughters. “I made copies of photos and put them on with Mod Podge,” she explains. She then added new handles, and cursive lettering that spells out “Richard & Julie.”

“I turned an ordinary chest into an heirloom piece. The girls will enjoy it when they’re older,” Julie says. Perhaps the most unusual part of the master bedroom is its ceiling, which recently underwent a unique makeover. “We wood-planked (the ceiling), as well as a wall in the adjoining bathroom,” Julie explains. “I beat the wood,” Rick adds, “with nails, chains, and screwdrivers, to give it a timeworn look.” Then the couple stained it and coated it with polyurethane. After two weekends spent installing the ceiling, the couple now basks in its warmth. “And the bathroom, with the wood wall, creates the feeling of a cozy retreat,” Julie says. (Learn more about the ceiling at Julie’s site — search for the DIY Wood Planked Ceiling tutorial.)

“We’ve transformed the entire home,” she says. “The whole idea of decorating is to do what feels right for you. This feels right for us.”