Inside a light pink house on Ashley St., Tanya Luz has created her own vintage sanctuary. After more than two years operating out of the barn next to Schmidt’s Antiques in Ypsilanti, she’s moved her boutique, Muse Atelier Vintage, to downtown’s western edge. It carries a thoughtfully cultivated selection of vintage clothing (mainly dresses), glittering jewelry and accessories (from 1970s chunky statement necklaces to elegant glittering rings), and lush home decor that Luz uses to furnish both the shop and the Airbnb she runs upstairs.
The antique furniture blends in so well with the store’s vintage feminine aesthetic that Luz says it ends up hiding in plain sight: “It looks like a set, so the actual [merchandise doesn’t] stand out to people.” Only a few things in the store aren’t for sale. A number of Victorian doorknobs on bronze plates, once used as samples by travelling salesmen, are now hung with necklaces, and old sewing cabinets meant for bobbins are filled with smaller jewelry pieces. An art deco fireplace screen has been turned upside down to use as a rack.
From 2010 to 2013, Luz ran a wedding cake service before she was forced into retirement by ongoing chronic health issues coupled with the physical strain of the job. A year later, when she began thinking about working again, her friends and family encouraged her to follow another passion: “They said, ‘do what you already do: you dress us, you throw parties, you love to find deals!'”
The 3,000-square-foot barn on Michigan Ave. proved to have some physical challenges of its own, and Luz decided that such a large space wasn’t sustainable for her. Again, she says, her community made the difference: “It was friends and customers and people who’d been following me, who all kind of rallied and said, ‘no, we don’t want you to close.’ They’re the ones who came and painted and moved and helped me open. I’m gonna cry thinking about it.”
When she called her old Ann Arbor landlords, brothers Ben and Andy Curtis, just to see if they thought moving back downtown would work, Ben immediately offered her the house on Ashley.
“Ben and Andy are townies,” she says, “and they really felt strongly that Ann Arbor needed another store. They’d been holding out and hoping someone like me would come and open what used to be an Ann Arbor staple, which was the quirky, artsy [shop] … I said, ‘how do you feel about me painting it pink?’ and they said ‘whatever you want!'”
The Curtises, as well as a host of Luz’s friends, family, and customers, worked to tear out the kitchen, repaint, build display tables and counters, and put up crown molding throughout the house.
To cap the house’s pink makeover, Luz plans to put an eight-foot-tall crescent moon, made by an artist friend, on the roof. The house came with a fountain-turned-fairy-garden out front, created by Ben Curtis and his daughter, and the small offerings scattered across the garden’s flat rocks add to the charm. “I just love the magic of it,” she exclaims. On the front porch is a gigantic ornate frame with a blown-up photo of a pink floral bouquet inside. Luz encourages passersby to take selfies. “I wanted people to go ‘what’s this?’ when they walked by.”
Luz is excited not only about her work (she says she finds items everywhere from Facebook to France) but about her customers. She offers free styling appointments where she will handpick outfits and accessories and takes pride in having styled women with cancer, women with eating disorders, trans women, and plus-size women. (Muse carries sizes through 3X: a rarity for a downtown boutique.) “I find it so rewarding to help someone figure out how they feel most comfortable,” she says.
The therapeutic aspect means a lot to her: “I joke that it’s ‘ministry through glitter,'” she laughs.
Muse Atelier Vintage, 336 S. Ashley. (734) 972-6682. Wed.-Sat. noon-7 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. Closed Mon. & Tues. museatelier.com