By Shilo Urban
Photos by Meda Kessler
In turning her home into a pop-up wonderland, bon vivant Traci Miller embraces a botanical style sparked with a bit of magic
Traci Miller twirls around her house with a glass of pink champagne, an earthy-glam-boho queen in her natural habitat. Like the bubbles in her wine, Traci’s effervescence creates a feeling of celebration.
Easy laughter hangs in the air. Salted chocolates await nibbling and the aroma of coffee floats from the kitchen. Vibrant greenery mingles with terra-cotta and wood containers, and a spotted dog strolls past giant plumes of feathery dried flora. Guests ooh and aah over tables stacked with quirky ceramics, tiny cactuses and handwoven baskets. Almost everything, minus the dog, is for sale. Welcome to Terramania: half party, half home show and wholly entertaining.
Several weekends a year, Traci welcomes friends and strangers into her McKinney home for socializing and shopping. “I’ve always had a love of entertaining and making people feel welcome,” she says. Furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic when she lost her job accessorizing model houses for builder Highland Homes, she lost her main creative outlet. “I had a lot of time to just think. What am I good at? What do I love?” The downtime ignited an idea that had long flickered in the back of her mind: a business that combined her love of entertaining and decor. She launched Terramania in March 2020.
She had learned the ropes of the design industry while working for Marcie Henehan at Unique Unique Design, a decor boutique (now closed) in downtown McKinney. Marcie became a mentor. “I just soaked up everything from her,” says Traci. “Marcie had been in the business for so long, and she had so many friends in the business.” They shopped at Dallas Market Center together and traveled to the Round Top Antiques Show. “She showed me where to go and what to do.”
Marcie introduced her to the idea of hosting pop-up home shows. “I used to go to her house and literally everything would be for sale. Her husband would come home from work and the couch would be gone, the light fixtures would be gone, the bed would be gone. The salt and pepper shakers. She would flip her whole house two or three times a year. I was like, ‘WHAT?’ I’m never going to go that far. But I learned from her to open your home, and I thought: ‘I could do that.’ ”
Traci’s artistic talents were obvious early on. “As a child, I would sit in church and just draw on my church bulletin the whole time,” she says, laughing. “I was always making things; I was always coming up with something to do.” She painted T-shirts and braided friendship bracelets. “I remember going flea market shopping with my mee-maw and digging through the buttons. Then I would hot-glue them together and turn them into pins.” She saved her Christmas money to redecorate her bedroom in Laura Ashley style with ’80s mauve and plenty of paint pens.
She took up charcoal drawing and oil painting at Louisiana Tech, where she met her husband, Andrew. Her degree in art education was followed by two years as a middle school art teacher. Children followed, a boy and a girl, who are now in college. “I stayed at home but always had my hand in painting or doing murals in nurseries.” Once, Andrew returned home to find their white stairwell transformed. “I wanted a black stairwell,” Traci says, giggling.
Impromptu celebrations happen year-round. “I love hosting a good theme party. I love picking a movie and decking my house out.” Her business throwing girlfriend birthday parties didn’t survive the 2008 financial crisis, but it did awaken her entrepreneurial spirit.
That spirit reawakened with Terramania, buoyed by a big dose of encouragement and support from her husband. The couple began hosting weekend home shows last autumn. “We started with friends,” she explains. “It was just like throwing a party, I just decorated the house in this whole theme. That was so natural to me.” Word spread and soon complete strangers were dropping in and often staying for hours, much to Traci’s delight. “They put their stuff in the car and then they come back and hang out.”
She changes up the merchandise for every show, so there’s always something new to discover, including spaces for shoppers to do things such as pot their own plants or design colorful beaded palm leaves. Long stems of faux pampas grass and pussy willow fill the dining room, and the empty vases beside them beckon shoppers to create dramatic arrangements. From her living room to her back patio, sofas are plumped with pillows and tables are stacked with funky, organic finds and vintage pieces. “I love the earthy vibes,” she says. “I love all the crusty things and nature.”
Extra stock fills the garage and second floor, so she’s always ready for the next show. The Millers also take Terramania on the road to nearby festivals, where they set up a booth custom-built by Andrew. Some products are available to buy on her website, but she’s not a fan of online shopping. “I could sell stuff on Instagram all day. That’s so boring. I want hands-on. I want to talk to people. I want to create memories and moments,” she says. “You’ve got to have fun.”
Eventually, she’d like to have a retail space of her own where she could host creative workshops and sell goods by local artisans. For now, the home shows will continue, the champagne will keep flowing and Traci will keep laughing as strangers become friends in her kitchen. “When you’re with each other talking and shopping and having fun, there’s a magic that happens,” she says. “That’s what I want people to feel when they walk in the door.”