HOMEFRONT | in residence
When Cari Cucksey and her husband, Vincenzo “Vince” Iafano, first were considering whether to purchase an old bank building in Holly, they were under the impression that the structure dated back to 1919. “That’s the date that is etched on the limestone on the front,” Iafano recalls. “And that’s the date that was on the closing papers,” Cucksey adds. As it turns out, that’s when the building’s new façade was created; the building itself actually dates back to the 1860s.
Leave it to the couple to discover their building’s roots. Cucksey, who was the host of HGTV’s Cash & Cari, is a history buff and estate-sale expert, while Iafano is a builder. Together they purchase, rehab, and sell houses.
To answer the question regarding when the old bank was constructed, “We started digging and discovered the actual date of when it was built,” Cucksey says. “Holly is like Mayberry,” she adds, referring to the 1960s Andy Griffith Show that took place in a fictional small town in North Carolina. “We went to the Holly Historical Society and there’s a book there with pictures, so we (were able to) figure it out.”
Before the couple purchased the building in 2015, it had been a bank and many other things, including a millinery shop and a Pilates studio. Cucksey and Iafano transformed the space and it’s now a special event and wedding venue (read more on The Holly Vault in the accompanying story).
“I mix a variety of styles and periods, and tie it all together with accessories and color. I can’t imagine living any other way,” says Cucksey, who’s been a lover of vintage accessories and antiques since she was a child. “I grew up in a 1908 Sears Roebuck Kit home in Fenton,” she says. “My parents were into antiques and my grandfather, in Lake Orion, was what I like to call the ‘first American Picker!’ We called him that because he was always rehabbing and repurposing. I grew up around this type of lifestyle; it’s second nature to me.”
As for Iafano, who was born in Italy, his parents were minimalists. “You could eat off my mother-in-law’s basement and garage floors,” Cucksey says. “Vince wasn’t exposed to this vintage world I’m in. When we started dating, I remember being in the car and asking him to pull over. He thought I was going to get sick, but I had spotted something really good on a curb and I needed to check it out,” she says. Adds Iafano: “And I’m like, we’re going to put that in my new car? Today, I find that I’m the one pulling off to the side of the road, taking pictures, and sending them to Cari to see if we should grab it!”
Iafano was retired (he formerly owned a concrete company with about 200 employees) when he met Cucksey 11 years ago, “But I’ve been reinspired,” he says. The two are now buying old houses and flipping them. They also purchased the old Holly High School, and plan to turn it into a boutique hotel and event venue.
In their downtown Holly abode, you’ll find everything from a massive collection of vintage Fiestaware to huge doors from a Grand Rapids carriage house to a dowry chest from the 1700s. Mid-century chairs and a table fill one section of the kitchen, while an antique dining room table is located nearby. A guest bath near the home’s entrance features a vanity made of different-colored vintage woods that complement the floor perfectly. “We found the vanity in Omaha,” Cucksey says. In the foyer, an inlaid-wood console from the 1700s that the couple picked up at an estate sale in Michigan looks right at home. Off the entryway hall is Cucksey’s office and a dedicated fitness room, replete with a Velocity bike. “I put my iPad on there and I’m off,” she says.
“We have everything from Mid-century Modern to Art Deco to antiques,” she explains. Free-spirited and happy-go-lucky, the well-curated home paints a picture of the homeowners, to be sure. The furnishings and collectibles, in fact, speak to the soul of the residents. As they share the background of storied pieces, their faces light up. Walking down one hallway, they point out a collection of black-and-white photos, all framed in brightly painted turquoise, orange, and green antique frames. “The frames were my great-grandparents’. They’re wood and weren’t in great shape, so I didn’t feel bad painting them,” Cucksey says. A lot of the photos are of the couple and tell a veritable love story.
Across the hall is their daughter’s room, embellished with an antique dresser and child-size hutch, a butterfly-themed rug, pink walls, a crystal chandelier, softly-tiered white draperies, and a darling Bratt Decor canopy crib-bed, all fit for a princess.
The master bedroom features a colossal wood bed. “It’s a solid mahogany reproduction railroad baron bed,” Cucksey explains. Adds Iafano: “Behind the pillows there’s a piece of wood that you can flip up and, behind that, store valuables. We haven’t been able to figure out how to open it.” The windows are adorned with draperies, on which are sewn larger-than-life fabric flowers. “We used them in our wedding at Misty Farm (in Ann Arbor), at the barn entrance,” Cucksey says. A couple of dressers in the room came by way of a “guy showing up in the parking lot of our warehouse and asking us if we wanted them,” she adds. “They’re probably 1930s; we sanded them down and really like them now.” A huge walk-in closet that goes straight back and then curves is full of Cucksey’s clothing, “but a lot of Vince’s, too,” she says, laughing.
Most of the furnishings and accessories that have been refurbished feature paint from RePurpose Paint, a company owned by the couple (repurposeshop.com). “It’s a universal paint,” Cucksey explains, “and can be used for everything from crafts to walls.” Looking out from the great room and dining room, one can take in views of charming and historic Battle Alley and its antiquated architecture. Come warmer weather, the family enjoys sitting outside on their deck, which also provides great views of downtown Holly. Iafano used salvaged wood from a barn for the flooring in the covered porch area, while a wood alternative (Fiberon decking) was used for the outdoor portion. An intriguing door with 100-year-old wavy glass is an attention-getter. “We had the doors built with salvaged windows, and the walls of the porch have the same vintage windows with wavy glass,” Cucksey says.
Cucksey and Iafano are always working on projects. They’ll soon renovate a 1940s carriage house on Holly Road. “It’s going to be really great. The plans are already drawn up,” Iafano says. Adds Cucksey: “We don’t let the grass grow under our feet!”
You Can Bank on it — This Couple is Busy!
When Cari Cucksey and Vince Iafano purchased an old bank building, First State and Savings Bank in downtown Holly, the space was undergoing a renovation and was approximately 50 percent complete. The enterprising couple finished it, and turned it into The Holly Vault, shown at right. The building — one open venue that includes several rooms within — encompasses what was a former hardware store located next door and offers everything from intimate spaces for wedding showers to large areas for dinners and dancing. (The couple lives upstairs in a renovated space; see accompanying story above.) Of note is a unique old door that was discovered in the walls. “It was embedded, and we dug it out and put it on a barn slider. It would have been the back door to the hardware store,” Iafano explains. “The space was so dingy,” Cucksey adds, before the two transformed it.
“We wanted a rustic but elegant feel, and temperature-controlled,” Iafano explains. With crystal chandeliers, antiquated walls, and beautiful floors and millwork, the space is unique. The bar’s most striking feature is the massive, historic bank vault door. “I can’t imagine how they got that here; it must have come in by railroad and then horse-drawn carriage,” he says.
The Holly Vault is now booking into 2020 for weddings and special events. The couple plans to renovate a 10-bedroom bed-and-breakfast just up the street, where garden weddings will be held. If that’s not enough, the pair will soon open a beer garden on the patio just outside The Holly Vault. “There are quite a few moving parts,” Iafano says with a laugh.