|Roses abound in Jill Garber's home|
by Janet I. Martineau
Roses. Mirrors. And countless collectibles.
Those are the images that endure after visiting the tucked-from-view Hope Willow Farm home belonging to Jill Garber and her husband Mike Kavanaugh.
That and the graciousness of Garber herself, who has transformed her Thomas Township dwelling into an atmosphere evoking the Edwardian era of “Somewhere in Time” juxtaposed with a contemporary California seaside cottage.
“I am romantic and sentimental,” admits Garber, the sister of Saginaw Spirit/Garber Management’s Richard J. Garber.
“I like to create sentimental vignettes and nostalgic displays,” she says of the French furniture, vintage linens, Hollywood costumes, rose-motif wall paper, English porcelain, sterling silver perfume bottles, limoges china, and cut crystal powder jars.
“And I like to collect -- to buy and sell. I started collecting when I was age 10 or 12, with my allowance; the first thing I bought was a stained glass lamp at a barn sale.”
|The mantle festooned with trees|
Every room has at least one mirror in it to increase the sense of space. The oak flooring is created to look like driftwood -- hence the seaside beach house palette.
And this time of year, added to all that is Christmas galore -- including bottle brush trees, vintage glitter houses, and 100 velvet-trimmed egg shell ornaments she and her grandmother made when Jill was around 7.
Garber’s home is on the 2011 Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra Holiday Housewalk tour this year, one of seven Saginaw County and Bay County homes and condos open to visitors on Thursday, Dec. 1.
“For the tour, expect the unexpected,” says Garber, the owner of Le Noveaurose and Jill Garber Design. “The house will look like a Christmas package.”
But first a word about the nine-room structure itself -- situated beside a pond, 10 miles from downtown Saginaw, at the end of a quarter-mile winding driveway, with 50 acres of farm fields surrounding it.
|The egg shell ornaments made by Jill and grandma|
The original two-bedroom wooden bungalow and its garage were built in 1914 on a lot where the Covenant medical complex now stands in downtown Saginaw, says Garber.
One day, in the 1980s, her widowed mother Geraldine spied the house and garage, knew they were slated for demolition during the hospital expansion, bought both, and had them moved down State Street and over the bridge to what was then a remote location on Summerfeldt Road.
The family had, in the 1960s, bought an old farm house on the property as a weekend retreat and working on it became a family project “to keep the family close and us kids busy.”
Her mother, says Garber, “was a Katharine Hepburn type of person” who remodeled homes, painted oils, worked as a costume designer in Los Angeles, was active with the Saginaw Art Museum “and taught her (three) kids and grandkids how to use tools.”
Over the years mom greatly changed the look of the transplanted bungalow as did Jill, when she returned to Saginaw in 2004 after 30 years of working in California. Rooms were altered, added and remodeled, with Jill making sure “every single room is open to the outside” as well as colorful with a “garden feeling. People often remark to me, ‘it’s so colorful in here.’
|One of the many trees in the house|
“I like to say mom created the space and I created the environment people will see on the tour,” says Garber. “I created a Jill’s World that hopefully makes people feel good, brings the sun into their lives.”
Everything is “real (and mostly antique) stuff,” says Garber, from found treasures like a portion of a carousel to things passed down through the family to a a 58-pound mounted tarpon Jill caught in Florida when she was 16 to a Sophie of Saks dress from the 1940s.
“My mom was a collector too -- antique pottery, art, oriental rugs. My grandmother as well. And I brought a lot from my home in California, but you have to realize I lost all the breakables I had collected through the years in the California earthquake of 1993. So people will see I lost no time collecting again.”
Just inside the front door is a black walnut inlay on the oak floor, reading Hope. That was, says Jill, her mother’s middle name and her daughter’s way of creating a double meaning to “keep Hope alive.”
Tickets for the SBSO Holiday Housewalk are $17 in advance and $20 the day of the event. They are on sale through the symphony offices, Meijer stores and a variety of other venues around the two counties.
The houses and condos are open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. that day. Bus service is available ($20 additional, limited, lunch stop included, call 755-6471). Ticket holders also are invited to enjoy a buffet lunch ($13) or a from-the-menu dinner at the Saginaw Country Club, 4465 Gratiot, and the Bay City Country Club, 7255 South Three Mile Road, the day of the housewalk (reservations advised).