Store Owner Peg Breiholz’s Personal Farmhouse Style
I’ve always loved doing creative things,” states Peg Breiholz, local artist and owner of The White Brick House in Forest. From her upbringing to her current business, Peg has maintained a strong sense of self that drives all her decisions and inspires others to do the same.
Staying true to roots
The Minnesota native grew up on her family’s homestead in Springfield where they farmed livestock and crops; Peg remembers they “had acres and acres of strawberries and cucumbers in the summer.” As one of 13 children (she calls herself “the lucky middle”), she pitched in around the farm along with her nine brothers and three sisters. She attributes this lifestyle to helping establish and nourish an entrepreneurial spirit within the family.
Peg came to Virginia for the first time when she was 20 years old: “I worked as a camp counselor over in Goshen, a couple of hours away from here, and I just had this distinct feeling that this is where I belong.”
Raising a family
As soon as she and her husband married, he attended a technical school in Hutchinson, Minnesota and moved to Alabama for a brief time so he could complete his studies. “After he finished, he had a job offer there and one at Babcock and Wilcox, and I already had two brothers who were living here in the Lynchburg area, so we came here!” Peg explained.
That was 28 years ago. Since then, Peg became a mother of two, educated her children, ingrained herself in her artwork and family life, and opened several small businesses—it’s been a busy time of life.
The Breiholzes live in Forest along with their daughter, who just finished her master’s degree in counseling at Liberty University, and her cat Sasha. They also have a son who recently began a doctoral program in electrical engineering at the University of Virginia.
Peg refers to herself as “a junker” because she loves finding objects that others might pass over and enjoys making them beautiful and useful again.
She acknowledges that “most items I work on aren’t visibly valuable; they often have minor cosmetic issues to begin with. I like to give them a new life.”
She found herself doing this so frequently that she and a friend began selling their personal creations at Peddler Antiques in Forest six years ago. This wasn’t Peg’s first foray into the world of arts and crafts; she has been an artist as long as she can remember, working as a graphic designer for a local newspaper before staying home to raise and homeschool her children.
As a young mother, Peg turned to her art as a fun and creative outlet. “I started doing pastels when my son was two—it was something I could pick up for a few minutes and come back to.” She especially enjoyed dabbling in pastels and watercolor, and her original work is not only on display within her house, but it has also made appearances and won awards around the area, such as Best in Show in Bedford’s Centerfest one year, a ribbon from the Bedford Council for the Arts, and several ribbons from the Lynchburg Art Show.
Around the time her youngest child was graduating from high school, Peg opened a small shop on Etsy, and eventually moved into business for herself and opened The White Brick House, a home goods store named for the building’s façade on Ashwood Park Drive in Forest.
The store carries goods made by Peg and several local artisans, most of which would fall into the category of farmhouse style, which has been a mainstay in American decor far longer than HGTV and Pinterest might indicate—and who would know more about authentic farmhouse style than someone who grew up on a legitimate Midwestern farm?
Building a white brick house
The owner of the booming Forest business calls a white brick house home herself. An easy drive down a pastoral Forest road leads to a lot with a clear view of a Blue Ridge panorama overlooking the rolling green hills of the neighboring farmer’s land.
It was that view that ultimately sold them on the lot six years ago and the landscape dictated many of their final decisions.
“The fireplace was originally supposed to go on the back wall, but we asked Deitz Lilly, our builder, to move it so we could add windows and really capture the view that we loved so much, and we wanted to bring in as much natural light as possible,” Peg explained.
Her inspiration comes from light, which she finds quiet, clean and peaceful. “I need a lot of white and bright lights, especially in the dullness of winter,” she admits, and even the briefest moment spent here makes it clear. Visitors who enter through her quaint front porch walk into a bright, open space, made to feel even more airy with high ceilings and flowing white custom curtains from every window.
Even though Peg lives in and loves the mountains, she enjoys decorating with the colors of the ocean: blues, greens and sandy beiges. She achieves this palette by incorporating jute rugs, white furniture and a striking collection of countless aqua bottles and mason jars that reside in a front-and-center hutch she rejuvenated with new hardware and paint, anchoring down the space between the foyer, living room and dining room in the open floor plan.
Sowing a sense of style
The dining room draws the eye up, beginning with hand-scraped hickory floors to its board and battens all the way to the blue ceiling “so it seems endless” like the sky. Vintage tablecloths hang on a wooden ladder, and antique corbels add a bit of old-fashioned charm. Peg designed the mantelpiece that frames the see-through gas log fireplace. She coated the chairs, mantel and hutch in Westhighland White (Sherwin Williams) for a crisp look that balances the other pieces Peg made over in the milk paint she carries at her shop.
Peg points out that milk paint helps provide the timeworn and time-loved chipped look on furniture.
Opposite the dining room is a small hallway and one of Peg’s own framed pastel drawings of her son as a little boy. The hallway leads to the office and a hall bath featuring Meador Blue walls, subway tiling, and glow in the dark tile as an accent. “I thought that would be fun!” Peg laughs.
Straight ahead of the foyer lies the family’s living room with an entire wall of windows highlighting the bucolic scenery that persuaded them to purchase the property. In spite of having a dining room and a kitchen nook, this is where the family typically eats dinner and relaxes with the view (or a show on the huge TV that sits atop a reclaimed buffet). She isn’t worried about spills or stains on the custom white slipcovers that adorn the sofas. “Even when my kids were little, I had white slipcovers. With upholstered furniture, if you spill something, you can’t always get the stain out.
With slipcovers, you just take ’em off and bleach ’em!”—and this practical nature is the sentiment behind farmhouse style.
In spite of all the white, the room doesn’t feel cold; it seems welcoming, cozy and warm thanks to a layering of textures and the comfortable couches.
For instance, a collection of skeleton keys rests in a wooden dish on an end table, and Peg’s husband fashioned the lamps from porch posts. Exterior light fixtures are hand-forged and made with hand-blown glass. A glimpse up the staircase reveals an original watercolor of Peg’s two children.
Peg points out that she loves to tie in forms of local and personal history in all her designs. This is evident from old Bedford County license plates that hang over a doorframe to a pile of yardsticks placed in a primitive milk can bearing the name Roanoke and the old general store scale that provides a perch for a topiary. Of her massive collection of blue glasses, her most special pieces preside on a shelf over the kitchen table; these came from her parents’ home in Minnesota.
Peg loves to bake pies and cakes in her custom kitchen that displays a kitchen island her husband created out of a cast-off workbench; Peg ordered the zinc for its counter and added beadboard along the trim. Although her kitchen contains some modern, high-end features like the Carrera marble countertops, her favorite aspects of her kitchen are her farmhouse sink (“the raised sides make it look like an important statement, like art, instead of just a plain sink”) and her separate drink cooler (“it’s so helpful instead of having drinks take up room in the fridge”).
Would she describe her style as farmhouse chic? “Not chic,” she laughs, “just farmhouse style. Shabby chic isn’t really a term that people use anymore, and it differs from farmhouse in that it’s a more feminine style that uses pastel colors in a neutral palette along with small florals. Farmhouse is more simple, direct, and clean.”
Simple and direct—a perfect example of this comes from Peg herself: “I buy things because I like them, not because of their supposed value or because they’re considered antiques. I like old things with a history, I love seeing chippy paint, and I’ve always decorated with aqua.”
Peg’s sense of style and self is just as spot on as her intuition about living in Virginia. “I have always felt like this is where I belong,” she emphasizes.
A conversation with Peg and a visit in her personal home reveals so much more than figuring out how you want to style your home or how to pursue your craft, but how to stay true to yourself, your roots, and your own personal history.
By Charlotte Farley
Photography by Tera Janelle Auch