People always ask me to name the favorite part of my job. That’s a no-brainer. I love to write about homes and gardens. The next thing they’re always curious about is how we find the properties we share with readers. Sometimes it’s easy. Builders, decorators, landscapers and even homeowners will reach out and ask if I’d be interested in seeing their latest projects. I never turn down an opportunity to go on a scouting adventure. I don’t know if people can appreciate the talents and creativity we have access to in Lancaster County.
On the flip side, I also do some sleuthing. I take in as many home and garden tours as I can. If something “speaks” to me, I’ll contact the homeowners and ask if they would be open to the idea of having us do a story about their homes or gardens. Many are appreciative of the professionals they worked with on the project and agree to do it as a thank-you to them. Still others are flattered and agree to share their properties. Some have reservations, so we work out an agreement that their names will not appear in print and even the vaguest reference to location will not be divulged.
I found Matthew Sware and Rachel Sommer’s house through the Strasburg Heritage Society’s Holiday Home Tour. (If you’ve never been on the tour, put it on your schedule for next year; it’s wonderful.) I loved their house and figured I’d just look them up in the phone book and give them a call. That was easier said than done! I couldn’t find a listing for them anywhere. So, I started googling their names via the Internet. Bingo! First, I found their engagement announcement and immediately recognized them.
Then, their names turned up on LinkedIn. I tracked Matthew down at his place of employment. I began our phone conversation by identifying myself and apologizing for calling him at work. I asked if his house was on the Strasburg home tour. “Yes, it was,” he replied with a sentence that sounded more like a question. Then, I filled him in on the purpose of my call. Feeling relieved (and flattered), he said, “I was afraid of what you were going to ask me next!” The shoot was totally entertaining, as Matthew shared a wealth of information about 18th-century building practices.
I think my fascination with home stories started when I was a little girl, and we would take a night at Christmastime to drive around and look at the lighting displays. I also remember loving the room displays that were on view at Armstrong’s “Quonset hut” along Harrisburg Avenue. I never tired of looking through the magazines my mother received, especially Southern Living, which always had gorgeous home and garden features.
After college, my sister (who operated a custom drapery business) and I both settled in Virginia, so we’d get together to take in the home and garden tours that were held in DC, Northern Virginia and Richmond. We also developed a habit of riding around at night so that we could see the interiors of houses. Our favorite haunts were Georgetown (DC) and The Fan district of Richmond. The home decors we managed to see were just spectacular! Our husbands thought we were a little nutty, but we enjoyed our shared hobby.
As you might imagine, HGTV is must-see TV for me. My current obsessions are Love It or List It, Flip or Flop and Fixer Upper. My love affair with HGTV started with a show called Trading Spaces, which helped to launch the TV careers of Doug Wilson, Genevieve Gorder, Ty Pennington and Vern Yip.
I actually met Vern Yip when I went to the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas about 10 years ago with Cathy Kornfield (who was doing PR for Yorktowne Kitchens at the time) and designer Linda Newman Brown. We went to a party that Mohn was sponsoring and featured Vern as the celebrity guest. Cathy dragged Vern over to our table and introduced us. I was so starstruck that to this day, I can’t remember a word I said to the man!