Since retiring from retail in 2014, Carol Phillips has spent her days scouring the dust-covered merchandise of tucked-away antique malls in tiny towns across the South. Assembling eclectic hauls of silver and gold cocktail shakers, bowls, pitchers and the occasional trophy—one of Phillips’ favorite finds was a Sigma Chi sweetheart trophy from the 1950s—her joy is in giving these forgotten treasures new life.
“Repurposing these vessels connects us to people we don’t even know, to lives well lived,” Phillips says.
But her plan isn’t simply to polish and resell. Rather, she takes the idea of rebirth literally by planting paperwhite bulbs inside the unlikely pots, priming them for sale during the months of November and December—the only weeks out of the year during which Phillips considers herself to be fully out of retirement. Like a flower-centric Santa, she travels to boutiques across Louisiana and Mississippi to personally deliver her perennial creations for Christmas gifting.
“Paperwhites are a traditional holiday flower, but I think giving them in this way is something fresh,” she says, noting that more than 970 units and 4,400 bulbs left her New Orleans household workshop last year. “Not only will the flowers be around after the decorations are gone, but you are giving someone a unique vessel that they can use again.”
And while her bread and butter are the pieces she finds personally, in recent years, she has received commissions asking for paperwhite bulbs to be planted in pieces from clients’ own collections.
“For one particular customer, I plant in her inherited silver plate pieces,” Phillips explains. “She uses them as her Thanksgiving centerpiece and then everyone takes one home at the end of the day. I think that’s such a fun and meaningful way to relive the stories that accompany the vessels and then allow them to live on.”
Phillips’ paperwhites—and their history-filled planters—can be found locally at LD Linens & Décor through the month of December.
“I love getting to share this with people,” Phillips says. “Plants, as a gift, become so personal. It’s fun to watch them grow and create new memories with the ones you love.”