This April, the owner of The Keeping Room in Hampden will celebrate 40 years in the fabric arts business.
Toni Philbrick advertises her home decor space, The Keeping Room, as ‘a different kind of shop,’ which stays true to its name. Her store is filled with a variety of handmade hooked rugs that share space with lampshades she’s designed to compliment vintage and antique lamps she’s refurbished.
“I do so many different things in here and just about 99 percent of everything I have is something that I have made,” Philbrick said. “I do a lot of custom lampshade work. People bring me their lamps and then I correctly size them and make a shade and they can choose the materials.”
For those inspired by Philbrick’s creations she offers classes in both rug hooking and wool applique. Folks can purchase her work as well as the patterns and materials to make their own home decor and she’ll also teach you how to do it, she said.
“I love the teaching aspect of it. Just being able to pass on my knowledge,” she said. “Especially with rug hooking. There’s no right or wrong way. I can only give people tips on what I think will make it look better and to make it easier for them.”
Her shop also sells antiques, but Philbrick said she doesn’t carry as many as she used to.
Philbrick began selling her work April 1, 1980. She created Country Flowers where she sold silk and dried floral arrangements at home parties, craft shows and group shops.
“Back then this was before the dried flower craze hit,” she said.
She experimented with her home garden by growing and drying flowers she thought would keep.
“Then two years later I took a class on making cut and pierced lampshades and I loved it so much I started making more and going to auctions and buying older lamps and restoring them,” she said.
With the addition of custom lampshades Country Flowers then became Country Flowers and Accents.
In 1991 the Center Mall opened in Brewer. Philbrick opened a booth at the mall and that’s when she began to see her business grow.
“I had combined the lamps and the shades and I was refinishing a lot of furniture and antiques were very popular then. It was like I couldn’t get enough and I was extremely busy all the time,” she said.
Philbrick’s husband even started selling goods. Wayne Philbrick restored and sold antique Griswold and Wagner cast iron cookware.
“He had a lot of collectors that bought his cast iron and that part of the business grew, too,” she said.
In 2010, Philbrick decided to consolidate her several shops in Brewer, Bangor, Searsport as well as her home shop into one location.
“I just wanted one place where I could both work and sell so that’s when I leased this space here at the Hannibal Hamlin Plaza in Hampden. I moved in here and changed the name to The Keeping Room–since I hadn’t done anything with flowers for many years,” she said.
Philbrick loves to create and has put her hands to work hooking rugs since the 1960s. Though she’s celebrating 40 years as a fabric artist this spring, she said she plans to continue creating home decor for as long as she can.
“Well, my kids tell me I’m going to outlive them, so it would be great if I could be here 40 more years, but that’s not going to happen,” she said. “I’m not ready to quit yet and I still love what I do and I still love coming to work every day, so it’s not work to me. Sometimes there’s more things I need to do than there are hours in the day, but I love what I do.”
Philbrick was at retirement age in 2010 when she opened The Keeping Room. Rather than retire she continues to do what she loves. Her home decor shop is the perfect outlet for her creativity, she said. Over the years she’s designed countless patterns for hooked rugs and wool applique and continues to be a master of lampshade form and fashion.
“I can’t wait to get up in the morning and start creating,” she said.