Archive for the ‘Decorating with Accessories’ Category

The Joy of Collecting Cookbooks

Friday, January 11th, 2013
Over 5,000 cookery tittles in stock

Over 5,000 cookery tittles in stock

I am passionate about cookbooks, our collection is always growing. Cookbooks aren’t just the basic how-to, they are the window through which we get a glimpse of the culture, social customs and family traditions of a country, a region, a people, a family. Gathering around the table, serving food prepared with pride and love unites us all as a family.

International cookbooks are not only just about the cusine of a certain country, many are travel logs as well, filled with beautiful photographs of the countryside, exquisite table settings, and glorious photos of the prepared recipes. Discover the dishes of your ancestors, rediscover family traditions and favorite foods from the “old country” share with family and friends special holiday feasts or learn cookery from many exciting countries you would like to explore or have visited. Arm chair travel as well as expand your menus. Learn what real Italian cooking is, not the Americanized version but healthy flavorful robust cookery made from fresh ingredients found in the different regions. Explore French provencial cooking, using fresh herbs, ingredients from the kitchen garden. Experience the cuisines of the sun, Mediterrean cooking with influences from so many cultures. Eastern Europe with it’s farm fresh recipes. The Middle east and Far East, Indian curries and spices. United Kingdom and all it’s different cuisines. In our bookshop we have a selection of international cookbooks from rare, out of print to used 2012 publications.

Regional cookery is another specialty. Whether Southern, Southwest, Yankee New England or Mid-west Prairie or California, we got the best. Each area takes what is plentiful for it’s particular area, adds in a dash of the area’s nationalities and creates it own special cuisine. Traveling across this great country of ours, sampling the regional foods, trying new things, these regional cookbooks can help you create special menus to experience those dishes again at home.

Elegant Entertaining with Antique Silver

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Fall has arrived, and the holidays will soon be upon us. As we do the fall cleaning, hanging the heavier drapes and curtains, adding some deeper, warmer colors to our decorating schemes, making our homes into a cozy, warm, welcoming nest, our plans for holiday entertaining are being pondered. Family traditions that are passed down through the generations help set the theme for memorable holiday dinners. Nothing says welcome to your guests, more than a beautifully set table. Using Grandma’s favorite china, the family silver, your Mom’s crystal glasses, your special damask tablecloth and matching napkins all can make it into a special event. Even if the family heirlooms have dwindled and disappeared, you can still create the magic with your own collections and not spend the family fortune doing it.
Silver has for centuries been an important part of elegant dining. The Victorians had so many different pieces making up a place setting, there special forks, spoons, knives for every course as well as indivual foods. Fortunately our style of entertaining has simplified things a lot. But silver flatware is still an important part of setting an elegant table especially for the holidays.
The two most collected types of silverflatware are Sterling Silver which is all silver and Silver Plate which is silver over a base metal. Sterling is the most expensive of the flatware. It is long lasting and has a beautiful patina that only gets better with age. Most sterling is marked sterling either in letters or symbols also known as hallmarks. Silverplate is also maked as such or as inlaid silver, AA silver or quadruple plate which is a common marking for Victorian silverplate items. Silver has to be polished to remove the tarnish that can build up and turn the silver item dark. Polishing silver can be made part of a family holiday tradition also. Make it into a girls night event, having a few special family and friends over to sit, chat, snack and polish, maybe a few nights or weeks before the big holiday feast. The old adage, “Many Hands Make Light Work” comes into play here, it’s a great time to make holiday plans and menus, deciding who is making what recipes, laughing about past disasters, sharing special holiday memories and starting new traditions. Before you know it all the silver is shiny and ready for the festivities. Remember silver should never be put in the dishwasher, after polishing with a silver polish, rinse items well, dry and then rub and buff with an old terry towel for a beautiful warm patina. I collect silverflatware, I find patterns that I like that are similar and mix and match and build a set over the years as I need to add pieces. I do have a complete set that passed down from family but it wasn’t a pattern that I would have chosen had I purchased it myself. I love it because of the memories and the people who loved it but put my own touch on the table setting by adding other patterns that compliment it but add bits of my style to the table setting. I find here in my shop, people tend to buy individual items in quantities of 6’s or 8’s or 12’s of spoons, forks, knives ect. separately rather than buying complete sets of place settings for 8 or more. Serving pieces are often collected in an assortment of patterns and mixed and matched.
When buying silver either from a dealer, auction or estate sale or online, condition is important. Scratches from use are part of the charm of old silver but scratches or worn spots down to the base metal on silver plated items is not a good investment nor should be used for eating. Heavily tarnished silver can hide problems. Try to look closely and rub away some of the tarnish to try to examine what condition the silver is underneath it. I buy lots of silver at auction in boxlots, much of it heavily tarnished and sometimes it can be quite a surprise when I start polishing what I find underneath. Taking a dark blackened piece and cleaning it and it turns into a beautiful gleaming piece of silver is great fun. Sometimes I find under the tarnish the word “sterling” which wasn’t visable when it was black and then realize I truly found a treasure. I can also be disappointed and find pieces that have most of the silverplate worn off. But it is a treasure hunt still. Never use abrasive cleaners, brillo or wrap with rubber bands all these will harm the finish. The old fashioned wooden silver chests are still the best place to store the silver when not in use. You can still find these silver boxes in many thrift shops, some are so beautifully crafted, like fine furniture. There are also fabric rolls that have pockets for the pieces and tie up with a ribbon to store your silver in.
So even if Grandma’s silver has gone you can collect and create your own collection to use and set an elegant table. Like the ecletic style of decorating that makes rooms so inviting and interesting, a mix of patterns can lead to creating a striking table setting. Mixing and matching china and serving pieces can create your own special style, just find one unifying trait to tie the collection all together
Sorry I haven’t added any images to this post, I am suffering from a crashed PC and am awaiting delivery of a new one and will be slowly filling it with new images and information and will hopefully be up and running soon and off this laptop.

Into The Garden With Antiques

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Accessories for Decorating the Garden

Accessories for Decorating the Garden

Bringing antiques into the garden can really make your landscaping fun, unique and eye catching. I look at my landscaping as an outdoor room, the sky is the ceiling, the trees a canopy, my groundcover or hardscape the flooring and garden borders, stonewalls, fences, hedges define the space as walls. Just like in interior design, carefully chosen and placed accessories add the final “wow” factor. In the years I taught landscape design, at the end of the course I would schedule one of the final classes on creating an outdoor room. This class was the most fun, you can get really creative, break all the rules and do your own unique thing. The work is done, the gardens designed and planted, the patio and deck done, all that is needed is the finishing touches, just as jewelry makes the outfit a real fashion statement, garden accessories add the interest or focal point that grabs the eyes’s attention.
I am going to pass over the common items, the urns, the planters, the normal patio and yard furniture and focus on the redesign of antique items to use in the garden. All kinds of unusual items can be used to hold plants, from old barrels and wooden kegs, galvanized washtubs, wheelbarrows, old pottery, the list is endless. The important thing is to make sure the item will provide drainage, this may entail drilling some holes in the item. Stones can be added to the bottom of the container to help with drainage but I use styrofoam packing peanuts, they are lightweight as well as providing drainage. I am constantly moving my potted containers, taking advantage of the ones that are at peak performance moving them into the spotlight and rearranging so the ones that are past prime or their flowers are inbetween blooms or ones that are needing a little TLC are not center stage. I even place some in the garden where it needs a burst of color if the perennials are not giving me a show at a particular time. Plus using the peanuts saves on the amount of potting soil needed to fill the containers. So if an item can hold enough dirt for a healthy plant it can be a container in the garden.
Old teapots, pitchers, mason jars, watering cans can make interesting vases to hold cut flowers to place on your outdoor tables. Anything that can hold water and withstand the weather can be used. Great way to use a china or glass piece that may have a chip or 2 and not welcome in your diningroom anymore, give it a 2nd chance as an outdoor accessory. Using these former inside pieces makes quite a statement outside.
I have an old galvanized bathtub, it belonged to my grandmother from the turn of the century, it was lightweight would be brought into the kitchen and placed by the old gas and gas heating stove and filled with hotwater heated on the stove and the bath night would begin for the family. I have now placed this tub in one of my gardens, sunk it down about 6 inches in the soil, and filled it with flowers and for the winter holidays, I fill it with greens. It makes a great planter and has very few weeds to deal with in it. It has been in my garden for almost 20 years now. At my seaside cottage I took 2 big old galvanized washtubs and sunk them into the ground, filled with soil and planted hydrangeas in one and a dwarf alberta spruce in the other. The shrubs are growing happily, because they are in good soil, seaside gardens have poor sandy soil and need a lot of additives to get things to grow. Along with this washtub theme, I found and old galvanized settub or sink, it is divided into 2 sinks inside , each with a drain spigot on the bottom to release the water. It has a wide piece of wood for a cover. This piece as well as providing an interesting accent for my “Washtub Garden” has had many useful purposes, it is great for filling with ice to cool cold drinks for a picnic, I have dragged the hose over to it and filled and washed all kinds of things in it, soaked pots, hooked rugs, cleaned garden tools, cleaned fresh caught fish, stored clams on ice, it is an old fashioned sink, still performing it’s intended uses but also decorating the garden. An added plus it is on wheels, I guess in Grandma’s day it was placed next to the old wringer washer.
Another fun thing I have done both here and at the cottage, is to take an antique chair, that has lost it’s caned seat and placed a big clay pot that fits right in the seat, it’s lips stay above the seat opening so it doesn’t slide down. Fill it with flowers and place in the garden. Another idea is to find a old wooden chair, paint it an interesting color, place in the garden , maybe in the middle of a flower bed, in a place where no human would be tempted to go into the garden to sit but a place for the garden fairies to rest or the chipmunks sun themselves, or the birds can perch on the back of the chair and sing their hearts out.
An old iron bedframe can be a “Garden Bed” I had riped out an area of berry bushes last summer and had a large hole in a section of garden but it was too late to plant new plants in the ground, so I put the bed all together and arranged it in my garden, covered the springs with a piece of dark green painted plywood and filled it with pots of mums. Now that was a garden bed. This year it is now happily redesigned and living on my deck, covered with outdoor cushions and pillows and has a new life as a daybed for relaxing in the shade with a book. I also have just a headboard of an old iron bed and are using that as an interesting back-drop like a piece of fence or garden gate for ivy to grow up and around. I couldn’t find an old garden gate at the time this garden went in so the idea for the iron headboard came to me and I love it. It is now covered with vines and has a whole garden planted around it.
Creat garden rooms, paths leading to little secret alcoves and using atypical pieces of antique furniture in the outdoors can make your space unique. Everyone can go to Home Depot and purchase the everyday variety of garden and patio furniture. But by using the unexpected you can really decorate an outside room. You can paint wooden furniture with a good outdoor paint to try to preserve it or just let it go au natural, chippy paint, bleached out stain, rust all which add to the rustic charm of using less than perfect antiques outside. Their life may be limited because of the elements but your redesigning and reuse has extended their time as they were put out to “pasture” as not being good enough to reside inside any more but they add charm to your outdoor scape.
Old chandeliers can get a new life with candles being placed in the sockets , but remember to hang them carefully when using lighted candles, I even have found some old glass globes to use to protect the candle flame from the wind when lit. Lamps can be de-electrified also and candles used.
Don’t forget about your broken china pieces, don’t throw away the pretty floral pieces and shards they can be used in the garden, mixed in with stones, seashells ect. A mosiac tabletop can be made with the broken pieces and fastened with mortar or grout, the ideas are endless. I have put a few large pieces of broken china that had roses on it as stepping stones in a birdbath for the birds.
These are just a few ideas for using antiques in the garden, your imagination is limitless. get creative with your cast-offs. Remember these are accessories, use as a focal point to make a staement, don’t over due it, let these be little surprise touches here and there. After a few seasons and they have worn to beyond shabby , let your creative self rescue something new and give it a new life in your garden.

Antique and Vintage Lighting

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Crystal Chandelier
Nothing sets the mood like lighting. From dramatic accent lighting, to soft romantic mood setting to the all important task lighting. Apart from the function of lighting, lighting fixtures can be an all important decorating accessory item for a room. A French brass chandelier dripping with crystals can set the stage for a formal diningroom, or get a romantic shabby chic look in a bedroom or bath. An old 1860 library fixture with a glass shade and globe can be electified and add a traditional look to a den , office or study. Wrought iron or weathered tin can get an Early American primitive look going. I have talked about inspiration coming from out of the blue and get a whole decorating theme going, well a impressive lighting fixture can be a starting off point also for a room. It can set the theme for the selection of all the other furnishings.
Antique or vintage lighting doesn’t require a lot of work to adapt, electify, rewire or dress up. So if you see a great lighting fixture or a special lamp don’t be afraid to purchase it. Many people get rid of lamps simply because they may need a new plug or switch or socket, not realizing how simple and inexpensive it is to fix them. A lamp can be rewired for under $20.00. New sockets are easy to put on. So check out the tag sales, thrift shops, and consignment shops for some real beauties at bargain prices that just need a little work. With all old lighting pieces, if you are not skilled at wiring please take it to a professional to inspect and make needed repairs before you use it. The workings of a lamp are very simple and easy to fix. Be safe make sure the wiring is in good shape.
Start with a basic lamp, that is the right size and shape for the place you want to put it, next accessorize. Does it need a shade? A simple shade or a shade that has braid trim, beads, an unusual fabric or color? If you have purchased a great lamp at a flea market price maybe you can spurlge on a fabulous custom shade. Remember scale when it comes to shades, it should just cover the entire socket area, not too high and the socket shows, not too long that it is uncomfortable trying to reach up under it to turn the light on. A rule of thumb is appoximately, the shade should be 1/3 of the total height of the lamp. The height and size of the lamp should also be in scale with the furniture it is sitting on. Important lamps that are next to seating and used for reading should be high enough to illuminate what ever you are reading as you are sitting, a too low lamp won’t work, a too high lamp will shine in your eyes and make you uncomfortable. Also take into consideration your height. Using lamps you already own of various heights, try them on the table next to your chair to find what heights works best for you, measure it and use that for a guide in purchasing a new lamp. I hate the matchy matchy look in decorating, I call it the Holiday Inn style of decorating. The only exception to my design philosophy of not working in pairs is with lamps on either side of a couch or in the immediate seating area, if you are only going to be using 2 lamps, they should really be an exact match for height, shape and base material, if you don’t want 2 lamps the exactly the same, they have to be very similar in traits. In the rest of the room they should be in scale with the room and furniture and have some single unifying trait that coordinates them all together. There can be 1 single lamp that has a stunningly different look than all the others if it is to be a focal point in the room. Hanging fixtures should be hung at heights, where they will be noticed, provide lighting such as over a dining table, but not placed where they are too low and people will hit their heads getting up from their chairs or the lights shine in their eyes. One rule of thrumb is measure the space from the top of the table to the ceiling, halfway in between is where the light should go, but with about a foot space in that middle half-way point to adjust up or down for your indivual preference. Nothing looks worse or so lost as a chandelier hung way up too close to the ceiling, you can always add a decorative chain to extend it down.
Soft lighting from lamps and chandeliers are the most flattering to you and the room. Chandeliers can be put on dimmer switches to adjust the amount of light needed or wanted. Every woman’s nightmare is the lighting in store’s dressingrooms, the over head flourescent lights are too bright and tend to distort colors, they make every flaw show and turn your skin tones into something from a horror flick. Add the distress of trying on a bathing suits and you can lose your self esteem for a month. This overhead harsh lighting is not what you want in your home. You need soft, subtle lighting to light a room. Lamps can give spot lighting where you need it for tasks, spotlights can highlight special paintings or other works of art, recessed lights can shot down onto work surfaces for doing tasks. Hanging lights on dimmers can softly light a whole room. Out are the glaring overhead ceiling lights as the sole source of light for a room. A single room can use several lamps to spot light areas as needed instead of lighting the whole room. Lamps can vary in size around the room as long as they are proportinate to the pieces of furniture they are on or next to. Don’t over look using floor lamps, great where space is limited and also great for providing light from behind your chair to shine down on what you are reading. Wall scones are also another space saver, some that are used in bedrooms or in bathrooms can be on arms that move, to pull out or fold back. A room can have a combination of mood lighting, task lighting or accent lighting. For example I have a very large bathroom, it is over 22 feet long and has a cathedral ceiling, so it has a very long vanity and mirror to be in scale with the room, over the vanity is a strip of the typical round vanity bulbs, I think there are 8 of them. When the vanity lights are on, it is very bright with that many bulbs, good for applying makeup or shaving but really too bright for anything else. So I found 2 old frosty glass vase shaped lamps, to place on the vanity, decorated with handpainted gold flowers and leaves, very French looking. They are standard height table lamps and I put pretty chintz flowered fabric shades on them for a soothing soft lighting effect. So now just going into the bathroom at night, turning on one of the lamps creates a special soft lighting that is more room like than a cold overly bright sterile looking enviroment. Near the bath I have an antique brass and crystal wall sconce to add more soft light over the tub but not the glaring bright light that reminds me of the store dressing rooms light. Soft lighting in the bathroom can create a private personal oasis to help you to relax in a wonderful bubble bath or a pulsating long hot shower and enjoy some pampering time.
Lighting fixtures can be dressed with shades of cloth or glass, decorated with strings of pearls, hung with chains, or be dripping with hundreds of shimmering crystals, painted, made of metal or wood, the variety is endless as is what you can do to them. Ebay is a great source for buying crystals, drop pendents or strings of them in all different colors, sizes and shapes to suit your decorating taste. Silk ivy vines can be twirled around the chain that suspends them. Christmas brings a whole new area of decorating ideas for your lighting fixtures. A garden room with live ficus trees covered with white mini lights can turn the room into a fairy wonderland. Many people try putting the little white lights on their houseplant trees for the holidays and love it so much they leave them on all year long.
The term “they don’t make them like they used to” certainly applies to lamps and lighting fixtures. many old ones are works of art, wonderful examples artistic handcraftmanship, whether fine china, blown glass, precious metals, hand forged iron, ect.all have a special unique appeal of their own and add beauty as well as function to your home. Anyone can have a store bought, made in China lamp, functional but not unique. You take so much time in choosing the perfect accessories that made your home reflect your unique style don’t lose that creative edge with your lighting. Your home is your “stage” you have designed the set, you are the “star” make sure the stagelights flatter your beauty. Special tip, pink colored lightbulbs in the bedroom will give your skin a wonderful rosy glow!

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.

Decorating with Vintage Fabrics

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

My trusty Antique Sewing Machine

My trusty Antique Sewing Machine

[caption id="attachment_27" align="aligncenter" width="434" caption="Layering Tablecloths"]Layering Tablecloths[/caption]
In no other area of collecting can you have so much fun, get so much value for the dollar and make such a decorating statement than by using vintage fabrics. For any style of decorating there is a world of choices. You don’t even have to be an expert sewer, many projects require little or no sewing. My girlfriend Sandy and I have a running joke”Who ever has collected the most fabric when that person dies, Wins”! I admit I have quite a stash of fabric pieces. When I come across an interesting piece I like, I buy it, even if I have no immediate plans for it. But sure enough I am always going thru the collection and pulling out the just perfect piece to create a redecorating project before long. I don’t limit myself to just fabric by the yard, if there is an interesting curtain, sheet, duvet cover, any already made item, even clothing at times, that is made out of an interesting fabric that fits my color scheme or decorating style I purchase it and put it away to be cut-up and redesigned for a future project. My favorite haunt for these snippets of treasure are the local thrift stores. The ultimate form of recycling!

As I have talked about in earlier posts, about saving the intregrity of an antique, the same word of caution applies here. Example: A beautiful handmade lace tablecloth in perfect condition should never be cut up and the value destroyed, it has lasted through the generations and should be appreciated, treasured and used without ruining the original value and design of the piece. But there may be a miriad of other uses for the piece other than what it was originally designed for that will not damage the piece and give you the decorating look you are trying to achieve and the item still can used for it’s original purpose at a later date. My cut-up and redesign projects are usually made out of vintage items that have some wear or damage and by redesigning I am saving or salvaging the piece. The handcrafted items of yesteryear, whether a crocheted or tatted doily, an embroidered pillowcase, a bobbin lace collar, a crocheted bedspread, all these items were crafted by some woman’s creative hands and made with love and pride. These handcrafted artifacts are a piece of someone’s life and history, many of these needlecrafts are a long lost art, the number of people mastering the skills to do this handwork now a days is almost non-existant. My Gram was a talented seamtress and could do all types of needlework, when I was a little girl she patiently taught me, now as an adult I wished I had paid even more attention to learn from her. My skills could be so much better now, but a little girl doesn’t sit still for long and fully appreciate the art that was being taught her with love. I was fascinated and wanted to do like Gram but also was itching to get outside and run with the boys!
Let’s start with a few kitchen projects. Back in the late 1940’s and 1950’s, bright colorful textiles were all the rage to make a cheerful homey kitchen, after the drab World War II years when there was a shortage of everything, including fabrics. Those great colorful vintage tablecloths are still a best seller today. Made of 100% cotton, they wear like iron. Stains can be bleached out, even if the colors fade over the years, it adds to their charm. (Some of my secret cleanig tips will be in a future post) Have one in excellant condition, use it to dress your table. Most of these vintage tablecloths were made in small square sizes, perfect for placing on the diagnal or for layering. Find one that has a few problems, cut it up and make colorful curtain tiers or valences. Make it into a runner for the center of your table or make a dresser scarf out of it. Line cabinet shelves with strips of them, removable and washable alternative to shelf lining.
Vintage aprons, can make a wonderful accessory in the kitchen, display one hanging from a hook. These were works of art, Grandma created these from scraps of fabric, embellished with ric-rac trim, bits of ribbon or lace. She had her every day apron with deep pockets to fill as she did household chores, and you would be amazed how fast she could dust with her apron as she ran to answer the door for unexpected guests. Then she had her Sunday apron, styled with fancier fabric and embellishments. Many of these have survived through the generations in pristine condition. The memories that they hold are priceless. Still a great ulitiarian item to wear, I have a couple of old favorites that I use gardening, those pockets come in handy.
Colorful linen dishtowels, whether plain with a simple stripe or printed with a souvenir travel graphic can make great decorative accents as well as be still used as towels. Potholders, placemats, teacozies are just a few ideas for them.
Tablecloths of all kinds are a great source of fabric to make all kinds of things out of. Natural fibers are the best for long wear, have bright colors and are easy to clean. Some may need a little touch up ironing, a spray of starch, but the crisp fresh look is worth the little time needed to press. Some may come out of the dryer needing no further care. Polyester blends to tend to hold stains and don’t have that soft feel of well washed cotton.

I am going to take a break here. The subject of decorating with vintage fabrics is quite a passionate subject full of creative ideas and interesting history spanning the decades. It is a lasting tribute to the women of yesteryear and an endless source of inspiration for our times. I could fill an entire book on this subject. I will be revisiting this topic and traveling from room to room with ideas. So you “fabric junkies” out there, continue the treasure hunt and check back here soon for more ideas and tips.

NEWS FLASH !!! I am so dedicated to vintage textiles, it was one of the founding blocks of my Lavender Path Antiques Shop, linens were my speciality. Over the 20 years I have been in business, the product lines have changed and evolved. Two years ago, with energy costs spiraling, I had a hard decision to make involving downsizing the amount of space that the shop occupied. Certain products had to be discontinued to make room for other products that needed additional space. Much of my vintage linens and textiles were packed away, just a few of the exceptional pieces were on display, but I couldn’t bare to part with the rest. They came out for special customers or special sales. After much thought and running out of storage room, enlight of the tough economic times we are experiencing , it seemed people are turning more and more to redecorating using accessories, rather than the expense of redoing a whole room with completely new things. Going green and recycling is a big part of my re-design work with vintage and antique items. So I am opening a new satelite shop in addition to the original Lavender Path Antiques, located here in Harwinton, Ct. . The new shop will be stocked with all re-decorating treasures , lots of linens, lace and textiles as well as china, and lighting. Plus small furniture. All the handwork will be out and available for adaptations and adoptions. It will be located in the Historic old Collinsville Axe factory building in the quaint village of Collinsville Ct. So I will be up to my elbows in sorting, packing and moving those wonderful fabrics the next few weeks, getting ready for a Feb. opening, I look forward to displaying these items full of potential and memories.

So check back here soon for more on this subject as well as other ideas.

Personalizing a Space with Books

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

A Collection of Books on Ireland

A Collection of Books on Ireland

Accessories add life, beauty, interest and a bit of excitement, whether you are decorating a room or an outfit to wear. Using accessories properly to add just the right amount of drama can make a boring, impersonal space into a warm, interesting, inviting enviroment.
One of the easiest ways to personalize a room is to use books as a decorating accessory. What announces and shares what your most passionate interests are, is the books that you read. Whether you are a bookworm who just has to be the first to read everything on the best-seller list or a casual reader who likes light fiction or a collector who loves to research their finds or just an armchair traveler who dreams about visiting far off places, there are so many books to enjoy and to share that reflect your personal interests.
Books come with beautiful colorful illustrated dustjackets. Did you know, that 1/2 of the value of a collectible or rare book is the paper dustjacket? Without the dustjacket, the book’s value is dimished, so protect and handle carefully those paper book protectors. Many books come with fine decorative bindings, leather or faux leather, gilt lettering or designs, embossed illustrations ect. Victorian novels had covers decorated with beautiful illustrations of the fashionable heroine of the story, many of my customers collect these just for the cover illustrations, sadly and not read the stories but these look beautiful piled and displayed in a bedroom, on a lady’s antique desk , even a powder room.
Bedrooms are the perfect place to creat a special reading corner with a comfortable chair, a footstool, a small table with room for a lamp, a cup of tea and a few books. A basket or the footstool can hold a collection of your favorite books next to your chair. A wonderful place to escape to for a few moments of quiet to enjoy your favorite author. Maybe you are like me and have a nightly ritual of reading a chapter or two before sleep, I even have a bookmark that says “There is Where I Fell Asleep” to mark my page. My bedside table always has a collection of books that I am reading or next to be read. A bookcase or even a china cabinet doing duty as a bookcase can add to the decor of creating a personalized reading nook. These private little spaces can be created in a corner of anyroom, at the end of a hallway, an alcove under the stairs, anywhere you can fit a chair, lamp and a place for your books.
For those lucky enough to devote a whole room to a library of books, nothing makes a space feel more warm and inviting than floor to ceiling bookcases filled with all kinds of interesting books to read. A comfortable couch, filled with comfortable pillows, maybe a throw to toss over yourself, several lamps scattered throughout the room with to be used to illuminate just where you are reading, keeping the light level, comfortable and flattering, not glaring with overly bright overhead lights. Perhaps a large table that can handle stacks of books and still leave plenty of space to open a book and spread out to do research or take notes, a library table or a large wooden desk. I have sinfully sold books with decorative bindings by the foot to customers who just wanted to fill their bookshelves, to impress their friends or clients with their selection of classics but had no intention of ever reading the books. It is with mixed emotions that I fill these orders being a true book-lover, don’t they know that they are missing out? As a book-buyer, finding these unread libraries that were purchased just for their decorative appeal and never read or even handled is like winning the lottery in the rare book market.
Hallways can also be used to creat a library, if your hall is wide enough floor to ceiling bookcaes or all matching height bookcases can create a really interesting space and focal point to be observed from many other rooms or areas. Perhaps you have a loft or open balcony that can be seen from other rooms, it’s the perfect place to creat a reading alcove.
Livingrooms have so many places to place and arrange books on . The large colorful travelbooks, also known as coffeetable books are perfectly at home here. Great for guests to enjoy and share with them your favorite places. A wonderful ice breaker to get people talking. After you may have visited one of these far away places, a travel book is a great remembrance of your trip to enjoy over and over again. It could also be armchair traveling and dreaming material. Studying the great interiors in magazines like Architectual Digest, piles of books placed on tables, stools, in piles on the floor, on any flat surface add so much interest to the room, I am always fascinated by the tittles to see what the celebrities are reading. I learn so much about people from the books that they have read, it really gives an inside look at how they think and what interests them. In my business of buying books from estates, I can get enough clues from the books, the tittles, the inscriptions, the bookmarks and letters found in the books to put together the story of the owner’s life and interests. Nothing tells more about a person than their books. I rescue the books and hopefully pass them on to someone else to love and enjoy.
Gardening and art books can reside in any room, but make a statement in any of the public rooms. their beautiful covers, jackets and illustrations make a beautiful decorating accessory no matter where they are placed. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t appreciate the beauty of flowers, gardener or not. I love to place a book of garden lore, garden art or garden poetry on the nightstand in the guestroom. One word about old garden and art books, if the books are falling apart and have lost their value, re-design, re-use, pull out the illustrations, mat and frame and display on the wall as artwork. I don’t encourage the pulling apart of a good book but to salvage a toss away and recycle the illustrations to enjoy for another decade or two is a great ‘green’ idea.
Cookbooks are not just books of recipes. We have an extensive collection for sale in our shop and the hundreds of International cookbooks we have are more travelogues, to learn from and are filled with photos to actually see the cities and countrysides and then complimented with anecdotes and text that will entertain you with the stories, traditions, and customs behind the dishes. Grandma’s favorite Red and White old Betty Crocker Cookbook from the 1940’s is perfectly happy sitting on a shelf in the kitchen but the new exciting cookbooks are meant to be on display and available for all to read. Books on wine wil not only educate you on making the right selections but the photos and with the travel information on the vineyards, whether France, California, Spain, Germany or many others, you can spend many happy hours armchair traveling with a glass of wine by your side.
There books on any subject, for any interests and there isn’t a place in your home that couldn’t be accessorized with a collection of books or just a single properly placed book. To protect your books from harm, try to avoid placing them in direct bright sunlight or in areas of extreme moisture. Try to arrange them to stand straight up or lay down flat. Move and rotate when on shelves, dust lightly with a feather duster. Don’t pack too tightly on the shelves, make sure they are easy to slide in and out without damaging the books or dustjackets. Books bring the world to your door, spread them around and share the ideas and dreams with all who enter your abode.