Friday, August 6, 2010

Favorites on the wall

Here’s a look at more of the wall on which the Lavender Shelf is hanging. There are lots more treasures here!

This sweet picture of kittens hung in my grandmother’s bedroom for more than 45 years. I don’t know how long she owned it, but I used to love to stare at it when I was young and I kept it after she died. Its original frame, which was much more Victorian-looking than this modern version, was destroyed when our home flooded, but I was able to dry out the picture itself - although, the hole in the paper on the right side is also a result of flood damage.

The plates also came from Grandma’s house, where they hung over the buffet in her dining room throughout her life. They are purple transfer ware in a Johnson Brothers pattern called Great Castles of Britain. The platter depicts Cambridge Castle, while the plates show Windsor. I’ve also seen this pattern in blue, which I believe is far more common.

Finally, my husband likes a lot of 1970’s home d├ęcor, including some of the wall decorations from a company called HODA. These HODA butterflies don’t seem as dated to me as some of the other HODA pieces I’ve seen - they are just sweet enough, and timeless enough, to fit right in with my vintage items and the Lavender Shelf.

More soon!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Use what you have: shabby magazine rack

I was looking recently for a way to corral the Victoria and Romantic Homes magazines that have been piling up, but of course wanted them within easy reach of my reading chair. After looking at a few thrift stores I realized that I already owned the perfect thing - it was tucked away in a storage unit that is currently holding the last of the items from my dad's house. (I REALLY need to bring it all home so I can eliminate the expense of the storage unit - it's been two years!)

This piece is a barrel-style tub with handle and my parents bought it (I think) back in the late 50's or early 60's. It spent its entire life up to this point in a dark honey-oak color. I have actually never liked it (along with a blue-and-yellow vinyl ottoman, it was one of my least favorite objects in my childhood home - I have no idea why!). I realized that if I just gave it a coat of white paint it would look wonderful next to my reading chair!

So I painted it up to match my glider rocker, "lined" it with some of Great-Grandma's hand-stitched pillowcases, and VOILA: perfectly shabby magazine rack!

More soon!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The joys of letter-writing

This past week I took my daughter to Half-Price Books, in search of a copy of her required summer reading, Playing the Enemy (the book upon which the film Invictus in based). While in line at the checkout, I perused an impulse display of paperbound classics - and decided to purchase something by Jane Austen, whom I have never read.

I happened to select Sense and Sensibility, her first published novel, and I truly fell in love with it! It was very difficult to read at first - it probably doesn’t even qualify as flowery prose, but Austen definitely uses a hundred words where Hemingway would only use 10. It forced me to slow down, find the rhythm of the writing, and really focus on what was being conveyed. No small feat, since a speed-reading course long ago doomed me to a life of devouring whole books in a matter of a few hours.

Since finishing the book, I’ve done just a bit of cursory research about the Regency period in England during which it was written and takes place. One bit of cultural history I enjoyed learning about was the process and etiquette of letter-writing.

Since the postal system had not yet been established as we know it today, if you wanted to communicate with someone across town you took a large sheet of paper and wrote them a letter on one side of it. You then folded it into a sort of self-contained “envelope”, affixing a wax seal to close it securely. (This not only made the letter easily transportable - it also assured the recipient that it had not been opened and read.) You then gave the letter to your footman, who was obligated to carry it immediately to the addressee.

I have long been a fan of writing letters. In fact I have very fond memories of a series of letters I exchanged in 10th grade with a male friend who moved away, and even farther back, a series I exchanged with a British pen pal named James who had very distinctive handwriting - I spent quite awhile trying to duplicate his capital letter "J." (I also remember discovering Hallmark sealing wax when I was in about sixth grade.) Unfortunately, with the exception of Christmas cards, I haven’t regularly corresponded with anyone via the hand-written method for many years.

In her book, Gift of a Letter, interior designer Alexandra Stoddard - a lifelong letter writer - says, “A personal letter can be one of the most intimate and touching of human expressions, one to another… I’ve come to realize that letter writing is the height of true communication among human beings, especially among friends.”

Letter-writing seems to me to be a custom worthy of reviving. How about you - are you a letter-writer? Have you ever been moved, to joy or despair, by a hand-written letter?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Treasure hunting grounds

One of my favorite past-times is to spend a couple hours wandering the aisles at my favorite area antique mall, The Brass Armadillo, here in Des Moines. The Brass Armadillo has brought me a lot of joy over the years, from finding a then-elusive covered casserole to go with my handed-down set of Currier and Ives dinnerware, to finding just the right set of home-made wheels for my husband to use in building his faux cannon for our front yard:

Here, though, is one of my absolute favorite booths at the Brass Armadillo - this is what I imagined my little store would have looked like if I had ever opened it:

What I like about this booth is that is lays out a collection of treasures, making each one visible but also making a beautiful cohesive vignette.

More treasures around the corner, inside the booth:

It took me a long time to understand something about shopping in a booth like this: When I buy an object from this vignette, I need to think about how I’m going to display it in my home so that it creates the same opportunity to see and appreciate it as it did in the store. That’s why, these days, I try to only buy items I already have a place for at least in my mind - whereas, in the past, I’d buy something just to acquire it, and then be disappointed when it didn’t give me the same satisfaction away from all of its in-store companions.

Of course, I never distance myself too far from the possibility of discovering something completely unplanned:

More soon!
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