If you want the clearest sense of Hillary O’Carroll’s design aesthetic, visit Isabella Sparrow. Her Bryn Mawr shop’s rural charm is implicit in its ironstone tableware, baskets, grain sacks, and hand-woven textiles. “Each thing, object and element must be useful, but also beautiful,” says O’Carroll. “It’s even better if the object has a story.”
Personal decorating style: It’s guided by a deep regard for uncomplicated rural simplicity and a desire to create a pure expression of personal identity in the environments we choose to occupy.
Favorite room in her house: I’ve recently moved from a farmhouse in Chester County to a Victorian twin in Chestnut Hill. It’s all a work in progress. More than any other room so far, I love my bedroom. It’s very understated, with only carefully added elements. Because of that, it’s so serene to me. There’s nothing in it that I don’t adore.
Most prized possession: I have the most incredible 200-year-old handmade grain chute on legs that I use as a side table. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more lovely wood in all my life.
Designers who inspire her: I’ve been inspired more by the farming people of Europe and early America than by anyone who would officially be called a designer. But if I had to offer one, I might say J. Morgan Puett, for the almost-intoxicating feeling of living character imbued in every project she touches.
Favorite design advice: Keep what you love. Let go of what you don’t.
Colors she can’t design without: I generally work with a very “neutral” palette of whites and grays, coffee tones and slate.
Favorite room to design: The kitchen, which is ironic because I don’t cook—but I love to create beautiful spaces where other people can. I imagine how and where people will gather to talk, to feast, to linger, to be a family together, to connect. And for most of us, all of that happens daily in the kitchen.