Upon first encounter, several observations come to mind: colorful and fascinating, warm and inviting, and all at once elegant, high-spirited and fun. It’s easy to describe this home, and the homeowner, in identical terms, because the interiors so perfectly reflect the lady of the house.
Millie Cain saw her home for the first time quite by accident, just driving through the neighborhood. “I had returned from Kansas City the year before, where I had been caring for my mom before she passed away,” she explains. “My heart was low, I couldn’t find a house and everything I owned had been in storage for a year. I just said, God, you‘ve got to help me find a home. And one day, I was traveling down this street, a route that I never took, and I saw the for-sale sign.” Captivated by that brief glimpse, Cain turned around in a church parking lot and pulled right up in the home’s driveway. “I walked around the house to the back patio and suddenly the church bells started to play this beautiful song, Great is Thy Faithfulness,” she recalls. “So I had just lost my mother, and I’m asking God for a sign, when I heard the church bells. I thought to myself Well, you don’t have to beat me over the head. I get it! This is my house!”
When Cain first walked through the door, she loved ‘the bones,’ although she had a vision that would change the interior dramatically. Utilizing her background as a designer, her degree in fine arts, and a natural eye for color and scale, she transformed the center-hall ranch into a jewel that beautifully showcases her fine antiques, art and mirrors. Her longtime friend and fellow designer, Alan E. Brainerd, collaborated with her on the re-do adventure. “Even with my professional experience as a designer, I think it’s very important to have another set of eyes, someone who can take a fresh look and who can listen to your ideas,” Cain says. “In your own home, sometimes you’re just too close to everything. Alan and I have been friends for so many years—we have tremendous love and respect for one another.”
Indeed, the two friends know one another so well that they can finish each other’s sentences. Brainerd remembers the year Cain bought the mantle in her dining room. “It was left behind in a home Millie bought in ’75, and it’s been with her ever since—every apartment, every house. She moves more than anyone I have ever met!” When asked about the gorgeous oval desk in the living room, Brainerd describes it with textbook precision. “It came from a shop on Cherokee Street—it’s Victorian, about 1870.” The desk, perfectly situated at an interesting corner angle and framed by wingback chairs in brightly-hued upholstery, has a single drawer that extends the width of the piece. Nearby, a beautiful mirror from an antique shop in Washington, Mo., reflects light from the expansive picture window. “When I saw that mirror, I had to have it,” Cain declares. “I love the rounded corners and the stylized fleur-de-lis top. We don’t know how old it is, only that it came out of a Victorian-era home.” The mirror hangs above a century-old three-tiered cake stand she found at a Selkirk’s auction.
Cain’s home is filled with memories and stories, including an adventure to acquire a certain seashell, now part of a dining table centerpiece. “I was in Florida and had walked out to a sandbar to get this shell, when the tide came in quite suddenly.” When the water reached her neck, the diminutive but determined Cain held the prize above her head as she ventured back to safety.
With perfect timing (and a perfect play on words), Brainerd sums up her adventure: “That’s Millie. She was going to have that shell, come hell or high water!” LN