fixer upper

Phillips Family Home Tour

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!

A renovation home tour



A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of interviewing Abby Jones and got a tour of the lovely home that she and her husband Stuart renovated. We are so excited to share pictures of their home and the transformation that took place in the 8 months of hard work that it took to make this house their home. 

After several years of renting, Stuart and Abby took the plunge and bought a house from a friend. The house was a project. With a rumored condemnation order on the house, graffiti covered walls, and an unpleasant smell, it was quite the undertaking. Abby shared that walking through the house for the first time, they were quickly able to envision a restoration. It had good bones, french doors, "disney princess" windows, and buried under the muck, some beautiful floors.

Original French Doors

Original French Doors



One of the biggest selling points for them was the lofted bonus room that they have designated the Prayer Room. Abby and Stuart share the prayer room with their community as a way to offer a space to rest, pray, or worship. 

I asked Abby what home means to her and she shared that to her, home means rest. Abby's desire is to cultivate a space where people come in and feel that they can be themselves. As Abby and Stuart are small business owners, work is busy, stressful, and can become consuming--home is where they unwind and get away from the daily grind. Abby said it perfectly when she said, "our home is a facilitation of community and relationship". They chose their home for many reasons but one being that several of their friends are now their neighbors. One habit they have started is meal sharing with those neighbors. After realizing that sharing the work and only having to cook one night a week would benefit everyone, they came up with a plan. 6 nights a week, a meal is cooked by one of the neighbors to feed 12 people. Each neighbor takes a night and cooks a simple healthy meal. Often times everyone ends up eating together but some nights the food is disbursed between everyone. It's become an awesome tradition that makes it easier to spend intentional time with those they love and share life with.

Here are a few of the questions I asked Abby in reference to her home.

Dining room looking into kitchen

How would you describe your style of decorating?

I would say that it has changed over the years. In 2012, when we first got married, I was more into the cozy, antique look. When we started designing this house I realized that I actually gravitate towards clean lines and more modern elements. We don't have much storage at this house and I knew I didn't want to clutter it up so we have kept things pretty minimal. One of the best decisions we made with this house was to wait to fill it. We took the time to figure out what we really wanted and saved for more quality items. We still have some antique items incorporated into our home along with our new purchases. Our dining room table was gifted to us by my parents. It was my grandmothers and I ate all of my meals around it as a child. We love pieces that have a story and meaning but also have discovered that we love to buy new things together.

What is your relationship to your belongings?

It's a bit of a mix. Some pieces have been in my family for generations. For example, I have a quilt that was my grandmothers when she first became a mom. I love the deep significance of items with a story. It's all about casting vision for what you enjoy--marrying the pieces of deep meaning with the pieces that you just really like. I love the idea of passing pieces to my own children one day. Stuart and I have been really intentional about what we keep and about what we buy so our furniture and belongings really mean something to us. 



How do you balance working from home with your home being a place of rest? (Abby is a food blogger) 

I do all my recipe testing, recipe development, pictures and video in our home. It doesn’t feel like work at this point, it mostly it feels like creating. I think I’ve tried to keep it that way because I don’t want it to feel like a chore. For me, cooking/baking is my creative outlet, it’s how I get my alone time. Creating great tasting and beautiful food is restful for me. When we lived in the old city, Stuart worked from our studio apartment but as we are both introverts, we realized that separate time is really good for us. Stuart now has an office away from home which helps us draw the boundary of being able to leave work at work and rest at home. Having the two separate spaces has been really life giving. 

How is your home an extension of yourself or your family? 

I love hosting and I love creating. Our home allows me to do those things on a daily basis. We have great lighting for being able to shoot for my food blog, we have a prayer room that is designated communal space for our friends and neighbors and we have a layout that is conducive to hosting our people. Our home, specifically, our prayer room is a reflection of what our heart is- to provide space for community, creativity, and rest. 

Thank you Abby and Stuart for letting Help You Dwell share your renovation journey and your beautiful home with our readers!

*All photos were taken by Stuart and Abby Jones