Model Environment

A local boutique owner practices what she preaches.

Mary Rhoads helps indecisive shoppers daily at Simply Elegant Home in Media. “A lot of shoppers don’t know what they like,” says the owner of the year-old home accessories boutique. “That’s our biggest challenge—guiding someone into what their style is and what they like.”

Serving pieces from Rhoads’ Simply Elegant Home boutique line the kitchen island. Rhoads herself is just the opposite. “I’m an extremely definitive person,” she says. “I know what I like—and when I see something I like, I buy it.”

And she’s not just talking about small purchases. When Rhoads expressed interest in moving from her home in northern New Jersey to Pennsylvania, a realtor friend took her to the Traymore development in Rose Valley. A collaboration between Main Line luxury homebuilders Chip Vaughan and Bill Sautter, Traymore’s carriage homes emphasize craftsmanship, from beautiful crown molding and woodwork to granite countertops in the kitchen. The neighborhood is just across the street from the historic Hedgerow Theatre on the former Saul estate, where the original manor home has been preserved, along with a studio, water tower and other historic buildings. The adjoining Saul Wildlife Preserve offers acres of open space.

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“It was a year before I was prepared to move when the realtor first showed me this place,” says Rhoads. “The moment I saw it, I knew I was going to live here.”

It was the first property they looked at, and Rhoads’ realtor wasn’t convinced. “She said, ‘You can’t buy the first place you look at—that’s ridiculous. People don’t do that.’”

Two years later, Rhoads has no regrets about her decision. She’d appeased her friend by looking at other properties, but none compared to the first. “I couldn’t see myself living anywhere else,” she says.

Traymore’s carriage homes are comparable in size to their single-family counterparts. “I needed space, especially since I have a dog,” she says. “I didn’t want to feel like I was living in an apartment, and I wanted to be in a community where all the external things were taken care of. I didn’t want to be responsible for hiring a gardener and landscaper.”

Rhoads started from scratch with her décor. “I decided to bring only the things I truly loved into the new space,” she says. “For me, it was better to give it up, because I only wanted the things to enhance where I wanted to go with my style.”

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To Rhoads, every home calls for its own look. “My previous house was Georgian and much more formal,” she says.

In her new space, she wanted to be more relaxed—and less cluttered and stuffy. Rhoads traveled the world for much of her previous career in the retail clothing business. A vintage serving bar from Los Angeles and antique side chairs from Palm Beach, Calif., found their way into her living room; Parisian copper cookware is displayed in the kitchen; and antique vases and jars from Hong Kong enhance the breakfast area.

“I’ve always brought pieces back from wherever I traveled,” she says. “I like to incorporate them into my home.”

The more relaxed aesthetic called for softer colors. Rhoads’ former home had plenty of green, burgundy and navy. Here, she went with neutral creams and beiges on the walls, with pops of color provided by the accessories. The open floor plan on the first level of the house makes entertaining easy. To differentiate the living room from the adjoining kitchen, Rhoads opted for a coffered ceiling. “I think it really makes the room,” she says.

The kitchen boasts stainless steel Viking appliances, plus a six-burner commercial range. “I cook a lot, so that was something on my wish list,” she says. “It’s something I use frequently.”

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A mocha glaze gives the white cabinetry extra dimension, while a large island in the center of the room holds the primary sink. “When I entertain, I serve hors d’oeuvres off the island and eat in the dining room,” says Rhoads. “It’s a great place for getting together with friends.”

The island’s warm pecan wood base works well with the breakfast-room table. In warm weather, an outdoor deck off the breakfast area is perfect for big parties. On the breakfast table, Vietri tableware in an “Old St. Nick” pattern conjures the spirit of the season. “It was a top seller in my store last year,” she says. “It’s very cute and whimsical.”

Even so, Rhoads keeps her holiday decorating to a minimum. “No over-the-top swags hanging every which way,” she says—just subtle holiday touches like wreaths, candles and Christmas balls in hurricane vases. “Although red and green are the traditional colors, I also use lime-green and turquoise because they complement my colors here,” she adds.

Mary Rhoads really thought she was downsizing by moving from a single-family residence. As it turns out, her carriage home is more spacious than she anticipated. The second floor has a large master suite with a sitting area and an en-suite master bathroom, plus two bedrooms joined by a Jack-and-Jill bath. The lower level is finished and has a walkout to the backyard. “I use the lower level for storage, and I also have an office down there,” she says.

These days, though, Rhoads spends most of her time at Simply Elegant Home. “When I moved here, I had no idea that I was going to open a store,” she says. “It’s the perfect location, only a few minutes from my home.”

Rhoads has always enjoyed shopping in home stores. “I think your house should be a reflection of who you are,” she says.

Rhoads sees Simply Elegant Home as an “environmental-enhancement-type store.” It offers gorgeous accessories, from select furniture pieces and artwork to floral arrangements and tabletop items.

“There’s a very distinct similarity between my store and my home,” says Rhoads, who doesn’t adhere to a definitively modern or traditional style. “It’s a transitional type of décor, a mixture of styles. I think that’s what transitional means: buying things that you love, and somehow they all work together. It’s what I do, and it’s what I encourage my clients to do.”

Vaughan & Sautter Builders, 347 E. Conestoga Road, Wayne; (610) 964-1813,
Interior Design: Simply Elegant Home, 7 E. State St., Media; (610) 565-4007,

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