Photos by Daryl Calfee
All Belinda Kelly wants for Christmas is power tools and vintage furniture.
Walking through the pink door of Belinda’s home explains why these are a few of her favorite things. The mid-mod furniture rehabber and decor DIY-er has managed to bring both a heaping handful of holiday magic and modern style to her once unassuming 1950s brick house in Campbell County. But the transformation couldn’t have happened without her trusty tools.
“We bought it from the original owners and builder, which was really fun,” she said. “They had maintained it really well but it visually still looked like it was 1959. Which is what we wanted actually, we wanted something that was well maintained but we could come in and make it exactly what we wanted. So we were super happy to find it.”
The home is the second fixer-upper for Belinda and her husband, Ian. Their first home was in truly rough shape when they bought it and, without much in the way of reno resources, Belinda decided to take matters into her own creative hands.
“My husband wasn’t super into building things when we first married but I was like, let’s get some power tools! We can totally do this! And he was totally down,” she recalled with a laugh. “When we bought our first home, I had just had a baby and I’m looking around this house and we didn’t have stuff to fill it and I thought, this feels sad. So I started picking pieces up and refinishing them or painting them, finding things that I liked and changing them to make them more of what I wanted, for less.”
Before long, Belinda’s talent for hunting down that perfect piece in imperfect shape led to not only lovely furnishings for her own home but also new opportunities as others began to take notice. She began selling her refurbished furniture on Facebook Marketplace, gained a following on Instagram (@belinda_fern), and started getting asked by followers and friends alike to help them design their spaces.
“It turned from selling to also people saying, ‘I like the style of your house, can you help me decorate? Can you come help me with my Airbnb? Can you help me design this space?’ So it’s turned slowly into me doing things for other people, from designing to decorating, redoing furniture to furnishing places, and things like that. It’s been a really fun creative outlet,” Belinda explained.
With more experience under their tool belt, the Kellys bought their current house and second fixer-upper. Dark wood walls, walled-up rooms, and centrally located stairs to the basement posed some unique challenges. Belinda focused on the positives she saw, like the original brass hardware and the mid-century style front door, and decided that—once again—it was power tools to the rescue.
“We took down a bunch of walls, took out a couple of doors,” she recalled. “We built the [stair]railings and installed those [around the newly opened stairwell]and built the cabinets on the other side. I love it now. It turned out to be one of my favorite things about the house.”
With the small footprint now much larger and brighter on the main floor, Belinda shifted her focus to the kitchen, where she painted the cabinets and backsplash, built a cabinet to surround the refrigerator, added new pulls, sewed curtains for the windows, and installed new IKEA countertops.
Unsurprisingly, Belinda’s hands-on approach to life has rubbed off on her son, who has been around the couple’s numerous projects since he was born.
“He has his own little hand tools and he will come and do things with us. He is definitely interested in building things, he is constantly creating things out of cardboard, and has shown interest in the projects we are working on,” she said.
As evidenced by the carefully curated pieces and the “where’s all your stuff?” vibe, Belinda has given thought and intention to each part of her home. Neither sparse nor superfluous, each room is warmly but precisely styled, with a place for everything and everything in its place.
“I like things a little more minimal than probably most people. I’m not a hard-core minimalist at heart but I like things to be pared down and feel like they can breathe and be uncluttered,” she explained. “This is also why I like the streamlined feel of mid-century pieces. They have a lot of clean edges, there aren’t a lot of extra curves and things like that going on. They just feel nice and modern, which appeals to me.”
This love for mid-mod style did pose a bit of a challenge for Belinda when it came to holiday decor. With a husband she describes as a “Clark Griswald Christmas lights” kind of guy and a son still young enough to appreciate the wonder of the season, Belinda has invested in discovering items and ornaments that she loves.
“I definitely lean a little Scandinavian anyway, so I started searching for Scandinavian Christmas decor, which is a lot of reds, which I don’t normally do, but I do like little touches of red at Christmas, and little ceramic houses and little trees. So I feel like I’m finally finding what I really like, which is kind of a mix of a bit traditional but also a bit more modern. I really like how it looks this year,” she said.
The one departure from her “less is more” mantra is the tree, which is strategically busting at the seams with ornaments that somehow appear both artfully placed and perfectly at home on each branch.
“It’s big, it’s got lots of stuff on it, [my son]loves to stand and look at the different ornaments and pull them off, and sometimes the dog pulls them off too!” Belinda said. “It’s different than I would normally lean if I were to go pick something, but I actually really love this tree. It has a lot of family ornaments. I really like that we have handmade ones that my husband’s grandmother made and stuff my son has made. It all gets thrown on there.”
Included among her favorite ornaments are those her son has created over the years and one that a friend made for them the year Belinda and Ian got engaged. Traditions in the Kelly household are simple but memorable: making Christmas crafts and an abundance of cookies, plus an annual voyage to Busch Gardens Christmastown. The presents under the tree are carefully chosen, reflecting their home as a whole.
With stockings hung by the chimney with care, no power tools in sight, and unfinished furniture projects tucked away in the basement (for now), Belinda enjoys pressing pause on all of the busywork so she can be present for her family during the memorable holiday season.
But when the New Year arrives, she already plans to add a new skill to her list: “I really want to learn to weld.”