{  our rather personal story, because so many of you have been kind enough to ask  } 

A winding journey that led us Home.  

Isabella Sparrow - originally called The Gardener’s Cottage way back in 2004 - began as a little booth I had at an antique co-op called The Screendoor in Asheville, North Carolina. My space was populated with rustic farm finds and useful make do’s that I came across at Saturday sales way out in Bryson City, where I lived and owned a little cabin business along the edge of a creek.

Western North Carolina make-do’s reminded me so much of the useful objects of rural Europe and Ireland ... and it was the combination of Europe’s early influence on me, paired with the influence of Appalachia in my early to mid-thirties that formed the simple aesthetic that became Isabella Sparrow. Make dos are in fact the heart of it — those old things that were made by hand long ago to serve a very specific purpose or solve a problem. An old wood dough bowl, worn from 100 years of continuous use and repaired with a hammered piece of metal to cover over a split was just the kind of thing that could always enchant me. A farm caddy made by hand of precious hemlock to fit just the things the maker needed to carry for his trade ... or a bundle of well cared-for French bed linens, sewn for a second use into a market sack ... or ... anything at all made of old zinc! Or antique garden things! ANTYHING old for or from the garden. My antique booth back then was made of all of what you might know me to still love now ... and all of what you’ve probably seen as. regular elements in my shop over these last 10 years.

Isabella Sparrow (renamed with an unused girl’s name after my dear son arrived as a son)  continued with that rustic, hand-hewn aesthetic into its transplanted-to-Pennsylvania version in an antique booth at The Milkhouse (circa 2009j. which was a multi-dealer antique mall that I bought from it’s former owners in Glenmoore, PA, quite close to where my Wasband and I had landed when I moved up here with him from WNC.  (I sold that business in 2013 and it is now in the kind and capable hands of Cricket’s Garden Market and is VERY much worth a visit!) I was also one of the original group of vendors at Clover Market when it was in Ardmore during the six months of Spring and Fall starting in 2010 ... which is partly how I realized that I might enjoy having a shop much “closer in” and closer to all that I loved about Philly, rather than being so far out and so removed from any sort of village of friends or community of neighbors. 

Thanks to those realizations, Isabella Sparrow as it’s own shop, began briefly in Bryn Mawr in 2013 ... but moved to Chestnut Hill just nine months later (as soon as we found the right spot) because it was actually THIS charming village that brought me to Pennsylvania in the first place! 

Four years later, Chestnut Hill has truly become a village that I can earnestly call Home. It feels like that place I’ve longed to find in America for almost all of my adult life. It is more than just a place to locate my business. (I moved my residence here first actually.) It’s that community that I was hoping for. It’s where I live and work (just 2 blocks apart) but also where so many good friends live,  where I buy just about everything I consume, where I have conversations on the sidewalk with neighbors and “strangers”,  where I eat out ... or order in, where I know almost every dog’s name (even if I forget the names of their people) and where I hope to live out the rest of my grateful little life. 

And yet ...

this life still keeps me moving, even if it’s just within my own neighborhood now. 

We stayed in that first perfect, but very LARGE storefront until the Summer of 2018 ... when it was becoming increasingly apparent to me that the design side of my work was rapidly taking more and more of the time that I used to give to hunting for antiques and vintage goods to fill the shop. Without enough time to do justice to both ... and with garden design beginning to fully blossom as the very favourite part of my work ... a retail-downsize was in order. And as luck would have it ... a little place that I have ALWAYS adored in Chestnut Hill (the old barber shop) opened up for me just at that perfect moment.  

And so I listened to my life again, because life always seems to talk to me about “perfect moments” ... that can be lept onto and ridden ...  if I am quiet enough to here them coming and if I make myself open enough to be READY. :-) 

I reopened my new and much smaller shop this past September, after having the pleasure of creating a beautiful garden out of the whole surrounding courtyard space ... which I love so much that it makes me tingle.  I think it’s possible that this latest work-leap has landed me in a place that makes me feel as happy as I have ever been in my work life ... even considering how happy I have ALREADY been. And there are just no words to convey the level of gratitude I feel over that. Or the level of gratitude I feel for YOU, if you’ve been with me for any part of the road that has led to Here. 

This shop has been an always-changing, but consistant collection of all the things I love the most for styling rustic, practical, but somehow still luminous interiors using time-worn and useful things. But it’s also always been a place to talk openly, and sometimes deeply with new friends and old ones ... and to feel as if there is a kindredness among people who are drawn to what is simple and beautiful. 

As small as this new space is ... i hope it is still precisely that. :-) 


{ with love from here  ... hunter~gatherer, stylist, designer and epic dog-lover, hillary o'carroll } 

{ our new location in the garden courtyard, near the iconic candy and cigar shops }

{ front window in the Spring of 2015 on Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill, Pa. } 

{ inside the Bryn Mawr location in 2013 } 

Isabella Sparrow at Clover Market in 2012
{visit theclovermarket.com for details about upcoming markets in Chestnut Hill & Bryn Mawr}

email | isabellasparrow@yahoo.com    tel |  717-327-7285