Sunday, 26 February 2017 06:53

It’s Personal

Written by  Emily Hart

Creating Homes that Reflect Our Personalities Takes some personal touches.


Image of a red modern sofaOne of the greatest expeditions during my childhood was my first trip to the attic in my grandparents’ home. Behold the trunk packed with my great-grandmother’s linen petticoats, a dressmaker’s dummy standing guard, antique furniture with unknown purposes, and odd bits of hardware even the Barnes Foundation didn’t have! I was certain the spare crystal doorknob I found was once owned by royalty.

Every piece told a story. Every object held meaning for my family.

Throughout the Brandywine Valley, pieces like those are being used to create unique, personal spaces in homes. Local designers and shops are helping families pair the best of new and old, let go of what doesn’t bring joy, and imaginatively reflect their personal stories to share and enjoy throughout the rooms in their homes.

So, how do we design a unique space that doesn’t resemble a corner of an attic?


Your House, Your Castle

Walk into worKS, a new home-goods store in Kennett Square. Like the rooms of the castle in “Beauty and the Beast,” every nook holds something enchanting: hand-thrown bowls by Pam Lau, vintage barware, and a suspended sofa swing by Chairloom, a company that transforms wooden frames (theirs or yours) into functional works of art with dazzling upholstery. And who wouldn’t want a home with a sofa swing?

Feast your eyes on the forged steel cooking pot formed with morning glories and a rose. That piece alone—by fine-art blacksmith Rob Sigafoos—could make your silverware rise up and sing. Just another possible focal point for a room.

Six years after opening vintage furniture and accessories shop Scout & Annie on State Street, owner Tara Dugan added worKS to the Kennett Square map last September. Dugan’s dream was to bring together “a tremendous body of talent here at home and in the Philly region” to spark creative ideas and business.

She did just that, providing a unique shopping experience for a community that relishes works by special artists, artisans and dealers.

Visiting the shop—with a magical swag of twinkle lights overtop vintage clothing, hand-tooled leather goods and usable artistic treasures—was such a delightful experience that I told Dugan good-bye three times before finally dragging myself back to the car.


Modern furniture - living room

New Rules of Design

“Traditional design and decorating rules have been replaced by the exploration of people’s own design aesthetic,” said Dugan. “Individuals don’t want to feel like they’ve walked into a catalog picture. They’re going with what works best for their family and what speaks to them.” No one is trying to emulate that bland hotel room or model home feel.

Katie Groves, co-owner of Studio 882 in Glen Mills, concurs. People are curating their own home collections by weeding out generic items and creating statements with pieces that express their personality, lifestyle and sense of beauty.

It’s not unusual to see people using mid-century pieces next to Early American heirlooms. And they’re mixing colors and patterns that make sense with room proportions, often with the help and experienced eye of designers.

What’s new for spring? Influences from the fashion runway—stripes in fabrics and finishes; bringing the outdoors indoors—warm wood grains and bamboo; and geometric details in furniture, lighting and mirrors, says Groves.

What’s always in style? Furniture that is functional and beautiful, that fits the owners and their space.

For that reason, nearly everything in Studio 882 can be customized to suit individual tastes and needs. Possibilities are virtually endless, and you can specify the length of a chair’s arm, the wood of a table or the fabric of a sofa.

In fact, at the store’s new location, Groves designed the fabric wall—104 feet long and 10 feet high—to hold 8,400 fabric samples. If 8,400 samples aren’t enough, Groves says with a smile, even more are in a back room.

If so many options overwhelm you, designers are there to help with room configuration, combinations of new and existing furniture, measurements, color consultations, selection of flooring and accessories, and more.

The operative word is help, not take over.


Bed and night tableMake a Statement

For decades HL Chalfant has been a Brandywine Valley go-to for furnishings that make viewers catch their breath and smile. Look no farther than the West Chester gallery for showpiece antiques—statement pieces that just might increase in value—to integrate into home furnishings from more recent periods.

Whether it’s a rare collector’s item or a work of art that represents the best of Chester County, you’ll find treasures here—from clocks and weathervanes to a  Nakashima table or Chippendale highboy that steals the spotlight in any room.

Recently Chalfant sold a rare, old, Chester County-made spicebox decorated with inlaid wood vines and berries. Whether new owners use it simply for décor, or to store jewelry or other treasures in its many little drawers, the exquisite piece has stories to tell for generations. And it adds a magical touch to any space.

In Greenville, Delaware, the shop Somethings Unique is a garden of ideas for the home.  Open the doors to its glorious open staircase surrounding a chandelier and bordered by paintings. Wander among corners and crannies with clean lines and accents.

This is the place for inspiration to create spaces for entertaining—with a new dining table or sofas and chairs—or for stealing private moments—a romantic bedroom or a luxurious leather chair for curling up with a book.

In addition to two stories of furniture, you’ll find plenty of accent pieces—linens, decorative pillows, chandeliers and more.Want advice? The staff can add the perfect touch or help with design services.

Take a moment from looking up and remember the importance of the floor beneath your feet. A rug can make a room. A visit to the Aras Rug Company in Malvern to clean or restore a cherished carpet might be the answer to your favorite space. The right rug can define a space, anchor a room or take you on a magic ride!

If bringing the outdoors indoors or vice versa reflects your style, create a Zen garden on your desk with suiseki—rare and valuable naturally formed stones—from HL Chalfant. 

With the help of Terrain in Glen Mills, dress up your front door with a distinctive seasonal wreath—they’re not just for Christmas anymore. Announce your style with a wreath made from shelf mushrooms and moss, reindeer moss, pussy willow, dried rye or lavender.


Repurpose, Re-imagine

If fun and funky is your thing, pay a visit to Old Soul Décor in West Chester. Carrying one-of-a-kind vintage goods and conversation pieces—an antique pie safe, a pair of low marble-top chests, a Danish modern side table and Louis Vuitton sneakers and luggage while I was there. Every trip to the shop is a unique visit sure to help you find your trademark piece.

Release your imagination as Old Soul lets you go to town with your creativity. If you want a helping hand, owner Krystal Reinhard also offers design services.

For more fun and truly unique additions to your home, you may choose a piece of art or furniture made of repurposed materials from the Merchant of Menace Re-imaginers Gallery in the village of Marshallton, outside West Chester.

From furniture crafted from New England barn wood and animal sculptures from antique tractor parts to magical armoires and tall case clocks bursting with personality, each piece is distinctive. And each could be the centerpiece of a room.

The design, furniture and furnishings of our homes express who we are and what we love. Let your home tell your story.