Before Karen Helme started selling antiques and unique pieces for homes, she devoted many pleasant hours to shopping for them.
Helme, who owns Found in Centreville, is trained as an interior designer and focuses on helping clients create special spaces that reflect their personalities. “I got sad leaving wonderful things behind when I didn’t have a client for them, so I got into retail,” she says.
Throughout the Brandywine Valley, boutiques and one-of-a-kind purveyors sell home goods that are steeped in history and inspired by futuristic visions. The materials from which these pieces were crafted include rustic barn wood, polished brass, muted milk paints, brightly colored fabrics and more.
At Found, Helme offers finds like a clubby leather Ralph Lauren sofa “worn to perfection,” a ballroom chair resplendent with a silk seat and a gilded cane back, Venetian mirrors, and a silver candelabra. “I sell things that make your house look like a home and not a chain-store showroom,” she says. “I’d much rather see someone buy a mahogany dining table from the 1940s than a new table that’s not of the same quality.”
The shop is set up in a series of rooms, each with its own vignettes. It’s a homey, welcoming place. Visitors can pet Henry, Helme’s golden retriever puppy, as they browse original paintings by area artists Barbara Neville and Janeice Silberman. “I love to show people how art can fit into their décor—ideas like putting a painting on an easel and placing it on a chest of drawers,” she says.
Helme has been selling at Found for 10 years, yet she still finds it difficult to part with her favorites. She sighs as she unpacks a shipment of antique picture frames cut down into tiny boxes embellished with beads. “I love them so much I don’t want to sell them,” she says. “I want to keep them all.”
At the Brick Garage in Kennett Square, prospective shoppers are waiting for owner Jan Geddes to pull up at the door. The 5,000-square-foot store is open only by appointment and for special events. “When people see my van, they literally come running over,” she says.
Inside, the store is chockablock with wooden carpenter boxes, giant bronze garden urns, fine china, dollhouses, and other vintage pieces and architectural elements. Pack Rat’s Place, a store within the store, is devoted to antiques. “We have enchanting estate finds,” Geddes says. “I don’t acquire something unless I really like it.”
Interior designer Kate FitzGerald-Wilkes of Timeless Design in Landenberg often heads for the Brick Garage when she’s looking for something whimsical. Tracking down just the right item is an integral part of her job.
For pieces with a more rustic character, she shops at Brandywine View Antiques in Chadds Ford, a three-story, 10,000-square-foot emporium in an expanded 1807 Federal-style farmhouse. It’s a popular destination for shabby chic antiques, salvaged goods, handmade accessories by local artisans, and long-burning candles. “The owner, Lisa Vonderstruck, is forever bringing fabulous finds back from her travels,” says FitzGerald-Wilkes.
Somethings Unique in Greenville is a valued resource for custom furniture, offering such high-end fabric choices as Kravet, Clarke & Clarke, Robert Allen, Lee Jofa, Pindler & Pindler and Duralee. “They have a beautiful showroom—the place to go for Lee Industries upholstery pieces,” FitzGerald-Wilkes says.
For great prices on high-end furniture, FitzGerald- Wilkes goes to Pala Brothers in Wilmington. The tried-and-true destination has been family-operated since 1953. “They carry many of the best furniture brands, such as Baker, Henkel-Harris, and Hancock & Moore,” she says. “And there are great deals to be had on floor samples.”
FitzGerald-Wilkes has worked with Spring House Furnishings in Chadds Ford to produce custom tables crafted to her specifications. Spring House also makes upholstered furniture and has been crafting barn doors for homes for more than 10 years. “That’s way before HGTV,” says owner Ann Joyce.
Many of her pieces are made from wood reclaimed from 18th- and 19th-century barns in Pennsylvania. Each plank is selected by hand and finished in traditional methods using natural oils, pigmented waxes and milk paints. The colors on each piece are unique, roughly mixed from various hues to create a subtle multicolored effect. Varnished pieces are sanded between multiple thin coats. “You have to be authentic, and you can’t do that with items that are mass produced,” Joyce says.
Interior designer Nile Johnson of Kennett Square calls McLimans Furniture Warehouse “the best hidden treasure in town.” McLimans sells pre-owned high-end furniture, which Johnson then weaves into designs to give interiors a sense of evolving over time. Recent inventory includes a pristine seven-piece Hunt Country cherry dining set, a walnut Henredon nightstand, and a Kittinger mahogany coffee table. “Creating interiors that have been layered with different pieces that are diverse in style or period is what breathes life and depth into a space,” says Johnson.
At Old Soul Décor in West Chester, the vibe is quite eclectic, showcasing antiques, mid-century modern décor, art, rugs, lighting and more. Owner Krystal Reinhard, an artist and a designer, consults on decorating. “My design aesthetic is mixing old and new, high and low,” she says. “I want people to be able to use pieces they already have, and then pick out something new that can change a room.”
Reinhard compiles her inventory from estate sales and antiques dealers. Lately, she’s been adding to her signature Vintage Line, which includes chairs, settees, trunks and other pieces, all of them re-covered in cowhide, grain sacks, antique textiles and linen. “They have beautiful silhouettes and frames constructed from solid wood, not MDF,” she says. “You won’t find anything else like them.”
McLimans Furniture Warehouse
The Brick Garage
Pala Brothers Furniture
Spring House Furnishings
Brandywine View Antiquesbrandywineview.com
Old Soul Décor