Coming home to a historical farmhouse in West Chester
The couple named their farm AllaFine, Italian for “at last.”
John Braxton never gave flowers to Mindy Rhodes when they were dating because “it’s her business,” he said. She designs floral arrangements for weddings and other events. Instead, Braxton gifted Rhodes sacks of dog food — his business. He and his brother Dave operate Braxton’s Animal Works, a pet supply company in Wayne.
For the 13 years they have been together, pets have been a part of the couple’s household. Six years ago, they were living in Berwyn and looking for a bigger place for her business and their four cats, two dogs, two rabbits, a fish, and Rhodes’ horse, Spike, which she was boarding in Valley Forge.
Braxton searched the internet and discovered a picturesque stone farmhouse on three acres in West Chester with a red barn, a paddock, a tractor shed, a pasture for Spike, and space for a garden to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Braxton and Rhodes were disappointed to find that the listing was under contract, but the sale fell through, and they were able to buy the small farm in 2015.
Before they moved in, Braxton was taken aback when his wife announced Spike would need a “pasture buddy.” The horse ended up with two buddies: donkeys Mama and Mia.
As well as the pasture buddies, the farm’s menagerie now consists of three dogs — a sheltie and two collies — two cats, four chickens, two rabbits, one fish, and a duck, Lucy.
Rhodes tends to the animals and operates WhisperWind Studios from the farm. She converted the three-sided tractor shed into the Flower Shack. There she designs arrangements for clients and teaches courses in flower arranging. The Flower Shack and the adjacent seating area with a fire pit are also rented out for parties, and Rhodes and Braxton regularly invite neighbors to join them in the outdoor space for drinks.
Rhodes artfully landscaped around the stones from the 18th-century barn that once stood on the property and creates autumnal arrangements of pumpkins, gourds and chrysanthemums.
Several rooms in the farmhouse date from the late 18th century, and others were added in the early 19th century. Previous owners installed indoor plumbing, which was updated over the years. The second floor has three bedrooms, two baths, and a studio with a skylight for Rhodes.
The living room was once the kitchen, and the large stone fireplace was used for cooking. The dining room has a smaller fireplace, as does the music room where Rhodes, an accomplished pianist, singer and songwriter, gave piano lessons before the pandemic. The former summer kitchen is now Braxton’s office.
Previous owners installed wide-plank pine floors on the first floor to match the original flooring on the second floor and in 2002 built an addition to include a new kitchen and family room with French doors opening to a patio. The pine cabinetry is appropriate to the home’s Colonial origins.
Rhodes replaced gray Formica counters with swirled chocolate quartzite. Other furnishings and the primitive folk art, which Rhodes collects, came from flea markets and antiques shops.
Vintage items blend with functional contemporary pieces sculpted by Rhodes’ late father Robert “Bo” Worth, a professor of fine woodworking in the 1980s at Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts).
Worth’s cherry and zebra wood pieces in his daughter’s home include a curved floor lamp, a circular end table, and an amusing wood and mirrored wall hanging resembling a mustached man’s head.
Rhodes and Braxton named their farm AllaFiné, Italian for “at last.” “Not that it took a long time to find,” Rhodes explained. “More like this was the place for both of us.”
“In the beginning, it was more my dream than John’s,” she said. “Now we share it together. I love he wants to get bees and made his raised beds for gardening.”
Braxton, who once had a five-minute commute to work, now travels 45 minutes. But, he said, “my blood pressure goes down when I get in the door.” It helps, he admitted, that “Mindy does 100%” of the caring of the animals.
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