After two years of jockeying full-time work with travel that took her 5,000 miles, Bahamian entrepreneur, Brooke Phillips, is back home, realizing a decade-long dream and making a splash in the local design marketplace.Her dream — to open an interior design store filled with furniture and home accessories of natural hard woods and eco-friendly materials, contemporary design and organic feel.
In late February, she opened the doors to Oasis Collection, One Sandyport Plaza, a 2,264-square foot emporium featuring one-of-a-kind pieces and hand-hewn crafted works of furniture art, soft fabrics and textures, copper lights and tables, stone sinks, a look as natural as it is classic. Oasis Collection is also providing the first retail showplace for handcrafted wood designs by local artisan Morgan McKinney carved from trees native to The Bahamas. McKinney Designs maximizes the beauty of wood grains in items as small as coasters and as grand as a dining room table for eight.
Phillips, 31, began learning the furniture business after graduating with honours from Eckerd College with a degree in Business. As manager of her father’s company, Phillips Sailmakers & Awning Manufacturers and its subsidiary Oasis Chic Living, she handled measurements, fabrics, foam, construction and installation of awnings on residences, resorts and commercial buildings.
But it wasn’t until she tried to furnish her own first home, a modest two-bedroom condo and couldn’t find pieces or accessories she liked that she realized there was a gap in the local market.
“This store began like a lot of businesses do in Nassau,” said Phillips, a certified Home Stager who has designed furniture packages for a successful large-scale development in Nassau. “I couldn’t find what I needed here at home where I would prefer to shop. I knew that if I couldn’t find it, then other Bahamians probably couldn’t either.” The furniture she found, she said, felt heavy and outdated. “Many of the stores were carrying the same styles. I believed there was room for improvement.” With taste that tended toward contemporary, light, stylish and natural, Phillips began a journey that took her more than halfway around the world on four occasions.
“It sounds crazy,” she said. “Most people who travel 5,000 miles at a time are in it for the adventure and excitement. They may be ticking off something on their bucket list. I literally went in search of a better bucket.”
From Nassau to Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, Phillips tracked down craftsmen’s work places, and trekked through hilly villages, some so remote that they had never seen a white person before. “I was very touched by a lot of the encounters and especially when the interpreter said that the toothless woman who was following me and grinning wanted to know if she could touch my dimples. She didn’t think they could be real.” Through the interpreter, Phillips told her yes and as the two women from different cultures connected, Phillips knew that the quest was about more than just furniture.
Brooke Phillips in Bali, a rest stop on her fourth journey to as many countries in the Far East sourcing hand-made furniture and natural fabrics for her new store, Oasis Collection, One Sandyport Plaza.
Not all of the furniture in Oasis Collection has been found so far off the beaten path. Phillips has also sourced pieces from the finest woodcraft shops in High Point, North Carolina and she has brought in hard woods from Canada.
Now in the shop nestled below Club One in Sandyport, the space emits a welcoming and natural vibe. Phillips and her partner Matthew Pyfrom spent endless hours creating the interior, transforming shipping pallets they collected into counters and display cases. A ‘grass’ wall adds to the ambience. Copper lights hang from the ceiling. Dividers constructed of pallet board topped with heavy braided rope add to the natural and contemporary feel.
In the month since its grand opening that attracted a standing room only crowd, Oasis Collection has attracted individuals, design firms and at least two commercial clients, a high-end Family Island resort and a condo development.
“I am in that group of Bahamian millennials who came back home to The Bahamas after college and want to give it my all,” said Phillips. “I just hope that my all is good enough.”
Real estate broker Ashley Brown (left), Brooke Phillips (centre), and successful developer Jason Kinsale mingle among the peacock chairs and dining sets at the store on February 24, 2017.