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Grandmillennial and the Art of the Vintage Hunt



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Story by Lee Rennick | Photography by Erin Kosko

It all started with a three-gallon hinge-lidded jar filled with a collection of vintage dice and wood tokens. That is how Julie Zubkus fell in love with hunting through vintage stores, flea markets, junk shops, consignment stores and Facebook Marketplace to find the perfect furniture and accessories to decorate the home she shares with husband, Dr. John Zubkus and their three children, Catherine, Grayson and Owen.

“Everything in this house has a story,” said Julie, “and I know where everything came from.”

Finding the perfect items for every room takes time and patience, and Julie admits she has both. She is not afraid to have a room or area in her house stay bare until she finds the right thing. Some pieces have taken as long as two years to find exactly what she was looking for. She is determined to be thrifty and frequently has pieces repurposed or upcycled.

Her style is what is now being called Grandmillennial. According to an article on onekingslane.com, the style is, “’Taking fringe, trim, chinoiserie, drapery, skirts on furniture, slipcovers, wallpaper—all of that–and updating them to be convenient for today’s 30-year-old…,’ according to interior designer Becky Boyle.” It is about a movement back to classic dinner parties and elegant centerpieces. It is about creating a home that invites company and intimate conversations bringing in antique furniture, wall paper and traditional style with a twist. It is about putting down the cell phone and the tablet and connecting face-to-face.

Rebuilding a Beloved Family Antique Collection

“My grandmother had all of these wonderful family heirloom antiques that I always loved in her home in Colorado,” said Julie, “but someone let a campfire get out of control and that home was burned to the ground along with everything in it. My desire to recreate the look and feel of my grandmother’s home is what drives me.”

Julie admits she is working with good bones. The Zubkuses purchased their home from friends Elizabeth and Brad Allen five years ago. The families had gotten to know each other well by living in the same neighborhood, and when the Allens decided to move, they sold it to the Zubkus family.

“Lori Smith did a lot of work for Elizabeth on this home,” said Julie, “and I have saved many of the really unique things that they did, especially many of the light fixtures.”

What Julie is great at doing is taking what is there and making it her own, often with the help of a group of very talented and creative people that she has found along the way.

“I have the vision,” said Julie, “but they make it happen.” Katie Craft, Debbie Kalosis and Cathy Terry have all helped Julie to pull the look she is wanting together through their talents with fabric. Craft has repurposed 10 things for her, including a bench in her foyer while Kalosis has made both indoor and outdoor cushions and pillows. Terry, owner of Bellavista Fabrics, made the beautiful window treatments. The use of fabrics continues to be one of Julie’s favorite ways to create a sense of unity in her home. As you enter the home through the front door, the formal living room lies to the right and the dining room to the left. Both open into the grand foyer, so Julie wanted to make the whole area have a sense of cohesiveness, as if they are one big room. She has accomplished this with the repetition of colors and fabrications.

The dining room walls are covered in a dusty blue jacquard fabric, which she found more of in the attic, so she used the extra fabric to line the back of the built-in bookcases in the formal living room.

Over the fireplace in the living room is a painting that came from The Peddler, and Julie found an Asian inspired print that picks up the colors of the painting. She has had this print used on the back of two wingback chairs in the living room, their matching foot rests and two Louis XV Fauteuil chairs at the foot of the elegant curved staircase leading to the second floor.

She has paired the Asian pattern with a simple green slub silk fabric on the wingback chairs, as well as on a bench located on the far side of the staircase to draw the eye around the airy and inviting space. Repeating the colors of green, blue and a rusty red in other fabrications within the space adds interconnection to the space. 

Blending Precious Keepsakes and Vintage Collectables

Having an eye for blending the old and the new, the precious family keepsake and the unique vintage find is a talent that Julie displays throughout the house. For example, in the hall that passes from the open family and kitchen area into the foyer there is a china cabinet filled with a one of a kind collection of ephemera, family photos, gifts and inherited bits. On the top shelf sits a red pottery shard box she inherited from an aunt, a vase a friend brought back to her from Greece holds a bouquet of dried flowers from a wedding that took place many years ago, and family photos are displayed in vintage frames.

Upstairs there is another cabinet filled with precious memories. This cabinet houses artwork that her children have made over the years, as well as a number of painted porcelain tea services, including one that has delicate yellow roses that was used by Julie when she was a little girl.

Creating an Eclectic Collection of Art

Just as Julie strives to find the perfect piece of furniture and gathers favorite collections of decorative pieces, she has also pulled together an eclectic assemblage of art that comes together to create a singular look throughout the home. In the recently remodeled kitchen she has hung two old paint by number pieces that she found in an antique store near the Opryland Hotel. Another beloved piece of art is the painting they commissioned of their recently deceased Boykin spaniel by Central High School student Brady Loughry.

A piece painted by Julie of the Rutherford County Courthouse bell tower when she was with a bunch of friends at Faithful Strokes repeats themes and colors that can be found in antique oil paintings she has found and placed throughout the house.

And in the master bedroom there is a painting of Scarritt-Bennett Center near Vanderbilt where
John and Julie got married. John was completing his fellowship at Vanderbilt Medical Center, which was here Julie’s brother worked as a nurse, and they met through her brother. At the time, she was a teacher with Metro Nashville Schools, but after John completed a fellowship in oncology at Vanderbilt, they moved to Murfreesboro where he got a position with Tennessee Oncology.

“We moved into our first house in the neighborhood in 2003,” added Julie, “and into the former Allen house in 2016.” 

Remodels and Additions to the Home

They have recently completed the remodel of their kitchen and the addition of a back patio. Julie always wanted a farmhouse table like the one her grandmother had, and she found one when they were living in their former home, but she wanted to have it outside at this one. They built a large wraparound back patio that accommodates the table and a number of other seating and entertaining areas. There are even two swings looking out over the pool and spacious, verdant yard.

Like with the rest of the house, time was spent thinking out the many outdoor entertainment spaces to accommodate comfortable seating areas for today blended with a dash of yesterday’s sophisticated charm.

It is the back yard where they will open their home to the 2021 Charity Circle Patron’s Party. Planned to occur in 2020, COVID-19 had the event taking place online last year. With lots of space to spread out both under the new patio and out into the yard, party guests will enjoy being able to see friends face-to-face this year.

Zubkus Home Site of Duck Ball Patron's Party

The Patron’s Party for the 54th annual Charity Circle’s Duck Ball will take place on August 28th in the early evening at the home of Dr. John and Julie Zubkus followed by the ball at Stones River Country Club. While these events were on different nights for many years, this year the organization is going back to their original format for the Patron’s Party.

Under the new patio and a tent in the Zubkus back yard, participants will enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in a style reflecting what the Zubkus Grandmillennial home is all about -- friendship and community in a traditional style.

Charity Circle of Murfreesboro is a 501 (c) 3 organization that was founded in 1910 by a group of women who wished to help the poor with basic needs and services. During World War II the organization refocused on child care and community recreations. Over the years they have created and funded many programs in the community, including the precursor to Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation.

The organization raises money through a number of events, including Caroling Parties and their flagship Duck Ball. For more information about the 2021 Duck Ball and Charity Circle, visit their website at charitycirclemboro.org.

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