Enter a historic farmhouse in West Chester

John Braxton never gave Mindy Rhodes flowers when they were dating because “that’s her business,” he said. She designs floral arrangements for weddings and other events. Instead, Braxton gifted Rhodes with bags of dog food – his business. He and his brother Dave operate Braxton’s Animal Works, a pet supply business in Wayne.

The pets have been part of the couple’s household for 13 years. Six years ago, they lived in Berwyn and were looking for a larger location for her business and their four cats, two dogs, two rabbits, a fish, and Rhodes’ horse, Spike, which she housed in Valley Forge.

Braxton searched the internet and discovered a quaint three-acre stone farmhouse in West Chester with a red barn, paddock, tractor shed, Spike pasture and space for a garden to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Braxton and Rhodes were disappointed to find the listing was under contract, but the sale failed and they were able to purchase the small farm in 2015.

Before moving in, Braxton was taken aback when his wife announced that Spike would need a “pasture buddy”. The horse ended up with two friends: the donkeys Mama and Mia.

In addition to the pasture buddies, the farm menagerie now consists of three dogs – a sheltie and two collies – two cats, four chickens, two rabbits, a fish and a duck, Lucy.

Rhodes takes care of the animals and operates the WhisperWind Studios from the farm. She converted the three-sided tractor shed into a Flower Shack. There, she designs arrangements for clients and teaches flower arranging. The Flower Shack and the adjacent lounge area with a fireplace are also rented out for parties, and Rhodes and Braxton regularly invite neighbors to join them in the outdoor space for a drink.

Rhodes artfully landscaped around the stones of the 18th century barn that once stood on the property and creates autumnal arrangements of pumpkins, squash and chrysanthemums.

Several parts of the farmhouse date from the end of the 18th century, others were added at the beginning of the 19th century. The previous owners installed the interior plumbing, which has been updated over the years. The second floor has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a studio with a Rhodes skylight.

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.

The previous owners installed wide plank pine floors on the first floor to match the original second floor flooring and in 2002 built an addition to include a new kitchen and family room with French doors opening to a patio. The pine cabinets are appropriate for the colonial origins of the house.

Rhodes replaced the gray Formica counters with swirled chocolate quartzite. Other furniture and early folk art, which Rhodes collects, came from flea markets and antique shops.

Vintage objects mingle with functional contemporary pieces sculpted by Rhodes’ late father Robert “Bo” Worth, a 1980s professor of fine carpentry at Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts).

Worth’s cherry and zebra wood pieces in her daughter’s house include a curved floor lamp, circular end table, and a fun, mirrored wood wall hanging resembling a mustached man’s head.

Rhodes, 48, and Braxton, 60, named their farm AllaFiné, in Italian for ‘finally’. “It’s not that it took a long time to find,” Rhodes explained. “It was more of the place for both of us.”

“At first it was more my dream than John’s,” she said. “Now we share it together. I love that he wants to catch bees and make his raised beds for gardening.

Braxton, who once had a five-minute commute to work, now drives 45 minutes. But, he said, “my blood pressure drops when I walk in the door. It helps, he admitted, that “Mindy takes 100%” care of the animals.

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