Murfreesboro’s newest addition is a “handmade artisan boutique that specializes in painted furniture,” says Polly Blair, who owns the shop with her husband, Bill.
She explained how the slogan, “Restored and new for home and you!” is so true because antique items are repurposed while new items are handcrafted to adorn a home or person.
Located at 432 N. Walnut St. in historic downtown, Blackberry House is divided into three separate rooms all intertwined with one connected theme: uniqueness. The giftables room features jewelry, clothing, paper goods, purses, baby items and handmade pincushions, while the shabby chic cottage room offers home décor and jewelry. A third room houses furniture and restyled antiques with an underlying farmhouse theme.
Blair recalled overhearing one customer last week proclaim, “This is like walking through Pinterest!” What a compliment!
Blackberry House features specialty items from nearly a dozen (mostly) local artisans, including Oh So Lovely by Mary Runger; Beulah Belle’s Boutique by Jennifer Taylor; Micucci Designs by Deneen Glidwell; Vinewood Home Creations by Josh and Emily Beasley; SteinLines by Sue Stein; Shabby Ever After by Karen Garrard; The Shabby Creek Cottage by Gina Luker; Dana Baby by Tonya Allen; Bella Vista @ Home; Sunny Tuesday by Jessica Stults; and local charity Beans for Baldies by 11-year-old cancer survivor, Preston Allen.
Everything else is handcrafted and repurposed by Blair and her handy-dandy assistant, Marisa Howard, a recording industry and photography student at Middle Tennessee State University. The two find items through estate sales and auctions and revamp them with various painting techniques.
“Ninety percent of what’s in here in one-of-a-kind,” Blair says, adding that she and Howard are inside Blackberry House every day painting and revamping items. “I take a lot of pride in this because I put a lot of work into it.”
Originally from nearby Manchester, Blair, a 20-year veteran of the interior design industry, operated a design company in Denver. After 15 years working with homebuilders and engineers, Blair decided she was ready for something new. Her experience really runs the gamut: she has worked for HGTV as a drapery room designer and even managed Hancock Fabrics in Murfreesboro. In fact, that’s how she found herself back home.
But her entrepreneurship personality kept tugging at the back of her mind, and Blair knew she had to open shop all her own. When she discovered The Knaughty Knitter was moving into a bigger location, Blair decided to open up shop inside the house. Three weeks later, she’d given the home a facelift and named it Blackberry House.
Named after her mother, Polly, via childhood memories, Blackberry House refers to years spent picking blackberries on her Manchester farm.
“I always hated doing it, but I loved having the blackberries,” Blair recalls. “As I grew up (and moved away), I’d always tell mom to make sure to have some blackberries in the house.”
And so, Blackberry House was born. Blair originally thought about opening the store in Nolensville, but decided Murfreesboro was a better choice because there are no boutiques like it nearby.
Blair credits her mom for her domestic skills. In fact, her nickname is PJ for Polly, Jr. But her DIY and crafts(wo)man skills come from her dad, Tom. She would follow him around learning how to build and take things apart. Those tomboy years earned her the nickname TJ for Tom Jr.
After losing nine people in her family to cancer, Blair swore she’d get involved with a charity if the opportunity ever presented itself. During her time managing Hancock Fabrics, she learned of a two-time cancer survivor, Preston Allen, who was 10 years old at the time. Having lost his dad to the disease, he would make trip to the store with his mom. After making himself hats to keep his bald head warm, he decided to make hats for other kids in the cancer clinic and created the non-profit program, Beanies for Baldies.
With Blackberry House, Blair now has a chance to give back. Her shop serves as a donation station for Beanies for Baldies. For every $5 donation, five hats are given to pediatric cancer patients throughout Tennessee.
In addition to its uniqueness and philanthropic efforts, the boutique serves as an outlet for Middle Tennessee artists to reach Rutherford County residents, says Mary Runger, a interior designer and set decorator who sell specialty jewelry and vintage items at the shop.
“First of all, Polly (Blair) puts so much on her Facebook – she puts so much about dealers and things that are in the shop. Her advertising it on Facebook is amazing how it’s brought so many people in,” she explains. “I didn’t know the Murfreesboro community at all, and I’ve already gotten two jobs redoing houses just because of it. It’s spreading the word about interior decorating that I do.”
She said visitors to Blackberry House can really tell her set design style by her booth displays.
Artists are encouraged to restyle their space each week to provide a fresh look for visitors. Blackberry House is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and guests look forward to something new every weekend.
Blair says she only has two policies for artists: Don’t overcrowd the space and prices must be reasonable enough that people won’t think twice about buying it.
Everything seems to be right on par because Blackberry House is selling 12-15 pieces of furniture weekly. Visit the boutique’s Facebook page to keep up with new items, or blackberryhouse.net for blog-style DIY projects.