By Elaine Matsushita
Ah, I’ve made it. Though my route was circuitous, I am here. And, despite being late, I’m calm! Just stepping out of my car and taking in the fall air and the expanse of openness surrounding Debra Phillips’ home in Wayne does it.
If I’d gotten ready the old way–looked at a map before hitting the road instead of relying on my GPS–I might have gotten here quicker. There is a lot to be said for the old ways.
Debra’s home speaks volumes to this point. Debra is the owner of Scentimental Gardens, the landscape design and home/garden shop in Geneva (you must visit if you haven’t before), and SG too, a select consignment shop in St. Charles.
Her home, in addition to loads of charm, is filled with history and a actual clues as to its past lives.
Today, this is the master bedroom. But once it was a little dress shop run by Abbie Louise Legg. Back in the ’30s.
How does Debra know? While redoing the house room by room with her talented husband, Steve (not, shockingly, a carpenter by trade–far from it), they found one of Abbie’s little Town and Country Clothes shop cards. And when working on the upstairs bedroom, Debra harvested straight pins that had been stuck in between the floor boards for years. That’s how she figured out where the dress shop’s sewing room was.
She also found old house plans in a wall that showed the front door once was on the opposite side of the house.
Today, when you enter the house on the west (not east) side of the house, you are greeted by a hallway with a subtle magic: faux bois.
A few steps lead you to a little seating area and the new old kitchen.
Yes, though it looks old, the kitchen was created by the Phillipses knocking out a wall, building a beautiful wooden surround (the medallion at the top is the cornerstone of a pub in England from the 1400s) for the gorgeous black Aga stove that has a field of sheep (courtesy of artist Stephanie Fania) overlooking it.
Stephanie also painted a beautiful pear still-life that serves as a gorgeous visual echo to a trio of fruits atop a kitchen cabinet. Everywhere throughout the Phillipses’ home are lovely vignettes.
Oh, let’s get back to the vignettes and story-filled eye candy. There is so much–let me show you some of my faves.
Have I mentioned Debra’s thing for lamps? She has the most interesting ones at every turn. And her love of dogs? There are plenty of breeds in all sorts of media–but the two best are Cooper and Wolfie, the two Corgis who opened the door for me! (Sorry, my photos of them aren’t making the postable grade… )
This brood is an old wooden sculpture from Tibet that Debra had mounted.
The monk, at left, is a piece from Ecuador. “It takes me back to the market and what we were doing that day,” Debra says. Brass bookends caught my eyes and heart. And, at right, half of a pair of sconces Debra had made by taking a New Orleans streetlamp and cutting it in half. Brilliant!
Another fave of mine sits between the reading room and the conversation room. It’s an old piece from a French pharmacy, with oodles of drawers (which are one of my loves) , a marble top and great overall patina.
Taking note of the color palette in her home, Debra says: “My look is more masculine and cozy. It’s a great fall house.”
We agree. (Note the barn above. It was built by hubby Steve. By himself. Over five years. Wow!) But I think the Phillipses’ home must be a great home any time of the year.
1) Just about anything can be turned into a fabulous lamp. Use your imagination.
2) Look at old textiles as potential pillow covers. Again, use your imagination.
3) Befriend time. Or: Slow down. “All the things I have here didn’t happen in one excursion,” says Debra, who has led garden-and-antiquing tours to London for 13 years.