PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston September 2020

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83 J ill Brown is a country girl at heart. "I grew up in Ohio on a family farm, and some of my fondest memories a r e p l o w i n g c o r n , " she says. "I'd rather be in the country than anywhere else." So, at least twice a week, she heads to her farm in Bellville, an hour west of Houston. Brown fell in love with the charming, historic town seven years ago while hunting for a rural house to buy and renovate. The right one never materialized; instead, she discovered six acres of bucolic woodlands and meadows for sale — the perfect land on which to build a family retreat. "I wanted to build a modest family house where we could enjoy the outdoors and make lots of memories," she says. Her grown sons and their families often join her there, tending a small kitchen garden that includes a blueberry patch planted so her young granddaughter can enjoy picking berries. The house was designed by late Houston architect Reagan Miller of Reagan & André, who understood the simple and humble feel Brown was going for. "He grew up on Iowa farmland, and we were on the same page from the get-go," she says. Old American farmhouses and barns built from wood inspired the architecture, but there's also a distinct Belgian farmhouse influence, with arched windows and doors and exterior portions clad in painted brick. Brown lived in Belgium during the 1990s with her late husband, Foster Brown, where she first fell in love with the country's rustic, handmade aesthetic. She helped introduce Houston to Belgian style in 2001 with her namesake store, Brown, offering linen-covered furniture, tables made from antique oak beams, iron chandeliers, and large-scale accessories. The Ferndale Street store, which has been temporarily closed due to COVID-19 and for remodeling, is slated to reopen in early fall as a new store concept, Brown House and Wares. Brown has been using the hiatus to spend more time at her country house planning the new store; a large ebonized Napoleon III table in the library serves as an ideal surface to spread out all her work papers and catalogs. "It's where I do everything, from sourcing products for the store to sorting through European orders and wires," she says. "We even have our meals there. I love eating and entertaining surrounded by books. If people look at the titles on the shelves, they probably know more about me than I want to reveal." Tucked among books on travel, art, design, history, and philosophy are "small parts of our lives, like mom's baby shoes and rocks that belonged to Foster's grandfather," she says. "Everything has meaning." The house may be less than a AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FARM HOUSE JILL BROWN, OWNER OF HOME STORE BROWN HOUSE AND WARES, ESCAPES CITY LIFE AT HER BELGIAN-INSPIRED RURAL RETREAT. BY REBECCA SHERMAN. PHOTOGRAPHY JACK THOMPSON. INTERIORS JILL BROWN AND DAVID BRANTLEY. ARCHITECTURE REAGAN & ANDRÉ. A painting in the foyer purchased in Belgium echoes the straw-colored walls.

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