Archive for February, 2009

Decorating With China and Linens

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Delicate Hand Painted Porcelain

Delicate Hand Painted Porcelain


One of my antique collecting passions is pretty hand painted porcelain teacups and saucers along with teapots, dessert plates and cake stands. My personal collection started when I was a little girl, my Great Aunt Florence Atwater loved to serve afternoon tea to friends and family. My special duty was to set the table with her prettiest teacups, delicate dessert plates, polished silver teaspoons and beautifully pressed and starched linen napkins. At 6 years old this was a very special responsibility that I cherished. Her and I established this special bond of loving to entertain and setting a very beautiful table using beautiful china pieces and special heirloom linens, her teachings about manners and setting the proper table has lead me down my collecting and antique shop ownership lifetime path. Every birthday, Christmas and “just because” holiday she would give me a special bone china teacup from her collection, all of which I still have today, almost 50 years later.
Some table setting trends have changed since those long ago days. Today we have the fun of being more creative with mixing and matching of patterns and pieces. You no longer have to be restricted to owning and using a huge set of special china, often received as a wedding gift. As time progresses your entertaining style, your decorating themes and colors change. Also has we have become a more mobile society, changing residences as well as states and even sometimes countries, moving a 100 piece set of wedding china just isn’t practical any more. Nor do we always have the space to store a set only used on holidays.
So here’s the way to set a pretty romantic, picture perfect table with fine china. First find your inspiration, theme, pick something that you love and go from there. My muse is roses. I absolutely love dishes with roses on them. I am partial to small roses or garlands of roses. I collected an assortment of antique plates, cups and saucers, bowls and serving pieces, pieces made in Limoges, Austria, Germany, England and by various other fine china makers. All the dishes have the common theme of delicate roses. I have also purchased white and ivory solid color large plates and some serving pieces to mix and match with the rose decorated pieces. The combinations of putting together the pieces is endless and I have the freedom to be creative and am not limited to using just one set of dishes or having to store a whole big set. If one piece gets broken, I can easily find another rose decorated piece to fill in. It is very easy to find a small collection of china, maybe 4 bowls here and 6 plates there and before you know it you have enough pieces to host a teaparty or dinner. Bed and Breakfasts are famous for using these little collections of china to set a festive or romantic table setting for 2 and can do a different theme for each morning or meal. From my days of being a bed and breakfast I worked with the idea of having enough of each collection to serve 4 people. My sub-collection is a violet theme, there are so many single pieces decorated with violets, it is easy to build a collection. For a special teaparty, you could get a whole garden theme going. Add a beautiful bouquet of the theme flowers as a centerpiece and it is picture perfect.
The same goes for silver flatware. Buy pieces in different patterns to mix and match. We no longer sell by the sets anymore, we sell 6 or 8 of each type, whether spoons, forks, knives ect. and sell serving pieces indivually. Just so you can buy what you love, what you need and not make a major investment in a whole set. Nothing makes having a cup of tea such a special occasion as a pretty china teacup with a special silver spoon. Some of my teacup buyers purchase an assortment of bone china teacups and saucers and each guest gets to take theirs home after the teaparty. What a nice remembrance of the special day. Another idea is the gals who have a monthly moving teaparty, which is one at a different hostess’s home each time, each guest brings their own favorite teacup from their own collection to use.
Adding to the elegance of setting the table is a collection of table linens that complement your theme. Tablecloths can be layered with coordinating solids and prints or dressed with lace over a solid color, or perhaps a bright colorful 1950’s print with a solid. Or leave the table bare and use placemats or a runner just down the center of the table. There again the combinations are endless. And nothing says elegance like a collection of cloth napkins. There again, collect just the amount you need, find some coordinating ones and mix and match, should one get damaged, it’s not like ruining a whole set, because the set is made up of different ones, it is easy to replace. Sure most of the antique linens need to be ironed to have that beautiful fresh crisp look. But ironing linens is easy and a little spray starch is all you need. Being a linen dealer I spent hours ironing but it really isn’t a terrible chore, I get so much satisfaction taking something that is a wrinkled mess and looks like a rag, press it and it looks like a million bucks. Ironing damask is fun, when it is wrinkled the woven design barely shows, press it and the design pops like magic. Napkins can be embroidered, have lace trims, be classic damask, have interesting cut-work, and many have monograms. So even if you don’t use a tablecloth, use cloth napkins for a touch of elegance. They really are easy to care for. The use of napkin rings in the olden days was to let each person keep and mark their napkin so it could be used for several meals til it was really soiled and needed washing and no one else would mistake it for their own with the personal napkin ring around it. Napkins also come in several sizes with the largest 25 – 30 inch squares for formal dinners. Smaller luncheon size is suitable for every day.
Although I have been talking about special times for setting the table, what is more special than your family. Treat your family to a special dress up meal at least once a week, who better to spoil? It also is an excellent time to teach manners to the little ones and you will be surprised to notice on these special nights the behaviors at the table will magically improve. Even if you have a housefull of boys, learning fine manners will serve them well as adults in the business world, on dates and inpressing the future in-laws. I truly believe a course in manners should be part of every high school curriculum. It will carry them far in life.
After you have been collecting china pieces awhile, you may have more than you can use for dining, you may have a few pieces that have to be retired because of chips or cracks or some pieces just too delicate to use. Now give them a new life as decorating accessories. Use them to form a wall grouping instead of pictures. a stray saucer can become a soap dish, a earring holder. There are numerous jobs for stray bowls, plates ect. Single teacups can sit on a window sill, I have taken 6 same pattern orphan teacups and tied them with a tiny ribbon to hang off the arms of a painted white chandelier, I call it my “Teacup Chandelier”, perfect for a breakfast nook.
Alas some pieces will get broken or crack, if they aren’t too bad they can make perfect under plates for plants. If they are very bad, broken pieces of china can make interesting mosaics on tabletops, lampbases, anything. So if you come across some orphan pieces of pretty china, adopt them and build a family of china.

Lavender Path Antiques II Open

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Our New Satellite Shop, Lavender Path Antiques II

Our New Satellite Shop, Lavender Path Antiques II


After a long week of sorting, pricing, packing, moving, unpacking, and setting up , we are ready and open. Our new shop is filled with antique linens, fine china and porcelain, victorian vintage clothing plus wedding dresses and baby christening outfits.
This second shop is located in the Antiques on the Farmington Antique Mall, located at 10 Depot St. in the historic Collinsville Axe Factory Building, in the center of Collinsville. 70 antique boutiques are located in this huge old factory. It is an amazing center with a large variety of antiques and collectibles.
Our original shop in Harwinton, Ct. is still open with 20,000 books, a collection of fine china, silver, jewelry, hats, and vintage purses. We have moved all the textiles to Collinsville and both locations carry our beautiful china and porcelain.
I will be posting another Decorating with Antiques article in a few days when I catch my breath and get the creative juices flowing, right now remembering my name is difficult!
Be sure to visit our website: www.lavenderpathantiques.com for more information on both our shops and merchandise.

A Potpouri of Inspiration

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Vintage Black Velvet Gown

Vintage Black Velvet Gown


This has been a crazy hectic week. My new 2nd shop Lavender Path Antiques II is going to be a reality in 2 days. Counting down the hours. This week has been an almost around the clock project, sorting, pricing and packing of inventory to stock the new shop. Much of my vintage clothing and textile inventory has been in storage for 2 years, since I downsized the original Lavender Path Antiques shop. It broke my heart to put those things away. I had been selling some of them off little by little on Ebay but still had kept quite a few of my favorite things, occasionally bringing a few out to display in the shop, but room was an issue. So now this week opening all the boxes, I was like a kid at Christmas, rediscovering treasures of glamorous vintage fashions, somethings I discovered I had almost forgotten that I had. The task of going through it all and getting it ready to move was almost overwhelming at times. I have gone through a box of 1000 price tags already and now started on another 1000 tag box. I sell a lot of pieces of lace trims and tons of doilies, so the units really add up. As I worked and I tried to sleep, ( I get some of my best ideas laying in bed) plans and ideas kept going through my head, trying to come up with a decorating and display theme on how to arrange the inventory and put it all together. In my past work as a designer, I designed store lay-outs as well as displays and window dressing, as in decorating all successful designs start with one idea or theme. You never know when inspiration is going to hit you and the source of the inspiration can come from anything, the idea pops into your head and you are off and running with it and the ideas start to flow. My inspiration was a 1940’s vintage sewing machine in a solid cherry cabinet, when closed it is designed to look like a small writing desk. I was running ideas for furniture to use in the shop, to sell and to display merchandise on. This sewing machine which is from the 1940’s and made in Italy has been enjoying life as a desk in my guest room, with it’s 4 side drawers and pretty matching chair it has been a desk for so many years now, I had almost forgotten it’s original purpose was a sewing machine. This piece is now going to be the focal point in the front display, arranged with the sewing machine open, a few bolts of fabric, baskets of lace trims and containers of antique buttons wil be arranged around and on it. The idea train continued to move along, bringing to mind a collection of vintage pincushions, antique sewing items, crochet hooks and old pattern books for tatting, lace making and crocheting. All these items are related and tell a story. By arranging like items with a theme that coordinates all the pieces together, you create an interesting area, people’s eyes are attracted to the arrangement and it holds their interest to study the parts that make up the story. You are probably wondering where I am going with this, but the point I am trying to make is that inspiration will come to you if you allow yourself to be relaxed and open to it. Decorating is a process that shouldn’t be rushed, find pieces a little at a time, buy what you absolutely love, don’t try to purchase everything at once for an entire room, you will find yourself making mistakes or settling for items that are second best, that you don’t really get passionate about, you are just filling spaces. Look at each room and find one piece that excites your passion and create a theme from that object and then find similar coordinating pieces to go with it to create a story. Your inspiration can come from anything, rooms have been decorated around a oriental rug, a painting , an interesting piece of furniture, you would be amazed at what could be the starting point for decorating a whole room.
Antique lovers usually have collections, stuff that they enjoy hunting for and filling their homes with. Some of us have been labeled terminally ill with this collecting affliction! But a collector knows passion and excitement. Now how best to show case your collection is what can make or break a decorating scheme. There is a thin line between clutter and creating an interesting story area. Let’s use the example of needlework samplers. Say over the years you have amassed a collection of 24 framed samplers. You have haphazardly hung them on the walls all over the house. By doing this they have lost their excitement and appeal. They are just another picture on the wall. They seem to be everywhere, but creating little impact. Gather them all up and place them on the floor and study them, look for a theme, is there several that share the same colors, is there something that unifys a group of them, put together do they tell a story? Isolate these 12 samplers from the group and find one large blank wall space and then hang this mini-collection all together on this one wall as an interesting wall grouping. This will have the “wow” factor making a stunning impact. It showcases your collection by grouping it together. When I taught landscape design, I would use the analogy of planting tulips. If you planted a dozen tulip bulbs, each one a different color arranged in straight rows or just randomly through out the garden, they would have very little impact, go almost unnoticed. They would get lost. If you took another 12 tulip bulbs, all in the same color and planted them in a group filling a triangle shaped space close together, you would have a solid mass of color making a huge impact. Singles spread around get lost, just make up clutter, but put a collection together and you make a statement. I like to work a collection, it could be a collection of anything , in odd numbers, grouping 3’s, 5’s , 7’s ect together , it is more visually interesting, than a pair, which is too planned or a single item that gets lost and has no impact.
Now how to use vintage clothing or accessories as decorating items. These are also considered collections. They can be great decorating accessories or set the mood or theme for a room. Bedrooms seem to a natural habitat for these items. A collection of vintage beaded purses arranged on a dressing table or dresser, or hung on a wall in a group. I had used a pretty wrought iron stand made for holding coffee mugs as a great way to display small beaded evening bags on my vanity. Vintage hats, perched on the edge of a mirror, a wall grouping on the wall, on a hat stand, vintage millinery are really works of art, I love using hats decorated with flowers, I have even put a beautiful flower trimmed big brim hat jauntly placed on top of a lampshade for a colorful feminine decorating accessory. Underneath the lamp, I placed a matching color pair of vintage gloves and a little coordinating beaded purse, those 3 items arranged together on the dresser created a little story area. Arranged together they made a statement, which they won’t have if arranged separately around the room. I love the glamourous fashions of the 1940’s, old movie styles, my passion is beautiful lingerie. The nightgowns of that era could be as fashionable as evening gowns. If you ever watched the old movies of that era, you know what I mean. A glamourous silk or satin floor length nightie, a bedjacket, or camisole with flirty tappants hung on a pretty satin hanger and displayed on the wall or hung on a door, or dressing up an old dressmaker dummy can really set the “Old Hollywood” theme. How about displaying with it a pair of slippers with a high heel and feather pompoms. Talk about creating a storyline with these accessories. Add a few pictures of Hollywood starlets from the era of your collection and you got a theme going on.
Small powder rooms can be dressed up with a display of vintage collections. Old hatboxes, great decorations and useful storage. I sold a collection of 30 hats to a tearoom that was going to cover the walls in their ladies room with vintage hats, mostly flowered. Certainly made a statement and everyone remebers that tearoom with the hats in the ladies. Bathrooms with showers I don’t suggest using vintage things because of the moisture.

Another great decorating idea is using vintage baby clothes, a pretty christening dress, dress or little slips on a special decorative hangers makes a great accessory. A collection of little baby shoes, bonnets, bibs ect. Even better when they are from your family passed down with memories.

Victorian houses are great places to showcase a mannequin all dressed up, standing in a room, foyer, alcove. Dress her in your favorite dress or gown, also a great way to display an old wedding gown. I sell vintage wedding gowns but unfortunately, most of them are too small in size to fit today’s modern bride, even if she is a size 2, our bone structure is so much larger than the ladies of the olden days, our backs and shoulders, ribcages ect are so much broader, the gowns would never fit. but they are works of art and the lace , beading, the styles ect. are meant to be seen and appreciated, what better way to enjoy them than to display either hanging or on a dressmaker’s dummy.
So what ever your favorite era of fashion is a collection can be put together and displayed as a decorating accessory. Maybe your teenage daughter would love to have your old fringed suede vest, your yellow mini skirt, your Anne Hall hat or tie dyed shirt to display in her room and her friends can chuckle about things you wore back in the hippie years.
So I am going to close with getting my thoughts together, about creating little story idea displays in my new shop, the theme being a French Atelier (boutique workshop) filled with lots of fabrics and trims, linens, vintage fashions, beautiful hats and French Limoge china and teacups decorated with shabby roses and lighted with a crystal chandelier. But first I have to crawl into my antique bed under the crisp vintage sheets, get some sleep to rest up for loading truckloads of treasures to share with my new customers.