Just getting a glimpse into the historic cream-city brick home Kathy George chose as a backdrop for her home goods collection makes a trip to this unique Lake Geneva store a treat in itself.
As you walk through the enclosed porch and into the parlor at Brick & Mortar Home, 832 Geneva St., you are not only drawn to the craftmanship of the home, but also to its furnishings and decor. It is both inviting and designed to make visitors feel a sense of belonging.
“The best compliment we get is when people say, ‘I would like to live in this home,’” George said. “We want it to be a place people would want to call home.”
Born in Crete, Ill., George, 51, was raised in Illinois and graduated from the Academy of Fashion Merchandising in Chicago. She met her husband, Thomas, while working in wholesale at the former Apparel Center in Chicago.
Together, they opened E. Street Denim in Highland Park, Ill., in 1990 and started other retail endeavors. The E. Street Denim business grew to include four stores, one in Lake Geneva. There’s also a kids’ store in Highland Park and a women’s clothing store — Bloomingbyrds — in Lake Geneva.
George said she found her experience in textiles extremely helpful when the couple needed to find a way to make Thomas’ home work for both of them after they married.
“It was a man’s house,” she said. “I found it extremely satisfying and fun to find pieces that fit both of our personalities.”
Color and texture and an eye for style is just as important in outfitting your home as it is in choosing your wardrobe, she said.
When they bought the house that became Brick & Mortar Home in 2007, they were looking for a tenant — not to open another store.
“We really didn’t have plans to be in the furniture business,” said George, who owns Brick & Mortar Home with her husband.
When it looked as though the building was going to sit vacant, George said she decided to make the move to home goods. She modeled the store after one of her favorites — Cocoon, a home and gift store in Geneva, Ill.
From the art on the walls to the rugs beneath your feet, nearly everything in Brick & Mortar Home can be purchased. Some of the items are exclusive or one-of-a-kind, and others are from sought-after brands such as Lloyd Flanders, Seaside Casual, North Cape, 4 Seasons and Shabique.
There are reclaimed and repurposed pieces, whimsical gifts and items from local artisans.
“If I find the right vintage piece to put in here, I will,” George said.
There are also soaps, candles, jewelry and other sundries that help people enjoy living in their homes.
“You can actually come in and put your whole house together,” George said.
For those who are inspired, but possibly overwhelmed by the selection, in-store or in-home design consultation is available. Amber Cook, manager at Brick & Mortar Home since it opened, can help customers create a comfortable, inviting space based on their personal style.
The formula has been so successful that Brick & Mortar has expanded to a second location in Lake Geneva — this one a multi-story building at 222 Center St. The name, and focus, expanded too. It’s called Brick & Mortar Home and Outdoor. This three-story, 13,000-square-foot building features hard-to-find furniture and outdoor living pieces.
Brick and Mortar Home
Address -- 832 Geneva St., Lake Geneva
Phone -- 262-249-0210
Website -- brickandmortarhome.com
Hours -- 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday