Meet the fabulous Phillips family! Dan, Brooke, their 4 kids and their awesome dog. I sat down with them a few weeks ago and had a great conversation about life, love, and making a home. This home tour is a bit different than our usual tours because in a few weeks they will be moving to a new home. We wanted to capture a small piece of the beauty and love in their fixer upper before they said goodbye to it. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into their life. All photos were taken by Haley Kennedy.
How long have you all lived in this house?
We bought the house in November of 2016. (It’s a wild story!—read more about it here on Brooke’s blog.) The home had been sitting empty for about six years and we affectionately coined it the “Phillips Family Fixer Upper” and set to work making this gem of a home into all it could be. We did a major overhaul on the kitchen by removing a wall, adding the island, new countertops, and open shelving. We took it back to the bare bones and simplified. It’s made me realize how freeing it can be to have only what you need. Aside from the kitchen, we restored all of the floors, resurfaced just about every wall in the house, added ship lap in a few rooms, and created a breezeway in order to make the office and master bedroom wing function better. We strategically added walls to create a better flow and layout for our family. We did a lot of the work ourselves with the help of family and friends.
How would you describe your style of decorating?
Brooke: It’s collected. I don’t really know how to describe it other than by saying I don’t follow trends. If anything, I look back to what history has shown us is beautiful. If it was beautiful 100 years ago and still is today, then great! I look around and look for natural textures and use them collectively. I don’t like synthetics or reproductions. It’s more true when it’s been found and discovered rather than copied. When I’m working with a client I always say “Tell me about YOU! You don’t want a carbon copy of a Joanna Gaines’ house. Tell me about YOU! Let’s see what you love and figure out how to use it in a tasteful and beautiful way.” In order to have the richest experience in your home, an item either needs to be useful, beautiful, or sentimental. Ideally it would have all 3, but at least 2 or you shouldn’t have it.
Another major thing I use help create a space is that I want to touch on all the senses when decorating. I pay close attention to the textures felt, the sounds heard, the mood they want, the smells that create memories. Did you know that smell is the only sense that’s initially processed in the brain and the limbic system? Smells can cause a feeling! Dan helps me think through what’s really functional. He grounds me. He comes up with the best ideas because he’s so logical. I think of myself as the creative but he is creative too, just in a different way. He takes my dreamer self and helps me make it a reality in a practical way that’s so much better once it’s been thought through.
Dan: My style is practical and comfortable. If it makes me decompress— that’s my style. I don’t like things to be too put together. I like things that make me exhale. I like dark woods, brick, masculine and earthy things—with a touch of woman— got to have a woman’s touch.
Backstory on how Brooke got into design:
When I was a little girl and my friends were buying toys, I was buying antiques. For my first job I painted horse fences and I took all of the money I made and bought an antique. It was a settee to go at the end of my bed. I’ve loved design for as long as I can remember. Jumping ahead in time— while my friends were in college, I was having babies and Dan was a pastor. I have always decorated peoples homes— but I did it for free. I did big homes and small homes and operated an art boutique for a period of time. When we moved to Knoxville and Dan transitioned from full time ministry to teaching and coaching football he said “Babe, you are going to have to get a job or charge people for what you do.” I went and got a job as a barista at a local place in Knoxville. One day the manager looked at me and said “Brooke— what are you doing here? Why are you serving coffee?? Go do what you do!” So I started my company 3 years ago. It started with one friend and then a few more friends hired me and now here I am!
You have some really amazing pieces in your home, what is your relationship to your belongings?
As sentimental as I am, I don’t hold on to things just because it was my grandmothers or because it has some memory attached to it. However, I love to hold on to things that are sentimental and use them in artful ways. Most importantly, I want my belongings to tell our story. I want reminders of where I’ve been or what I’ve been through. But I also have 4 kids and dog— a million things have been broken and I can honestly say I don’t get mad when things break—it’s just not worth it. I’ve either glued them back together and put them right back up or tossed them and moved on.
Do you have a style or home philosophy?
Everything here is rescued. Whether we spot a chair on the side of the road or hunt estate sales for the perfect armoire, there is a frugal-ness to what we do. You don’t have to spend a million dollars to make a beautiful space. You also have to remind yourself that a home is not built over night— its built over time. Without patience there is constant frustration— allow a space to be empty and wait for the right pieces.
So how do you decide what to purchase?
Wait! wait! wait! Certain pieces can change a room and are worth waiting for. Ask yourself, “Is this something that’s going to be with my family for years or generations?” If it is, it’s worth the investment. Build around your investment pieces frugally. Over the years I’ve found that it’s very difficult to buy good quality new furniture— the good quality pieces will cost you. Good quality new items are outside of 99% of the budgets that I typically work with. You have to look beyond the furniture store. I’ve learned to use furniture in a lot of different ways— ask yourself how versatile a piece is when you are considering it. Stay away from synthetics and go for things that are real. Do you love it? After a week are you still losing sleep of the dresser that you didn’t buy? If you are then go get it!
I will say this—As women, we look at magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram and either we live in envy over it and don’t have peace or we say forget it and give up. Often times people are in one of those camps. Have you given up and stopped caring about your home? Have you gotten obsessed with perfection and constantly worry about things getting messed up? Wherever you find yourself, there is a medium between those two extremes— that sweet spot where you find contentment. The goal is for your home to work for you and your family- it doesn’t have to be perfectly decorated. A home that you love and enjoy is easy for other people to love and enjoy.
What does home mean to you?
Dan: It is my refuge. It’s where I recharge, get encouraged, decompress. I don’t function well when I don’t get enough time at home. Home is where love happens. Everything I love about this home is because I love the people who live here.
Brooke: Home is a place where you receive love so you can give it. Just the physical home itself gives off that feeling. We’ve lived so many different places and they each served such a purpose. Not all of them were pretty… but they were all a home. When I came to this house- I could feel love.. I could feel that there had been a family here.
When people come into your home, what do you hope they feel?
Dan: Creating spaces that people want to be in is Brooke’s specialty.
Brooke: Our house is an emotional place for people. I want them to feel like they belong here and can be comfortable here- be themselves. All their problems, all their quirks, can just be here— you don’t have to become something or someone else to walk in our door.
Thank you so much Dan and Brooke for welcoming us in and sharing part of your story!