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Announcing 2 new blogs

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

We have started a new blog at www lavenderpath.tumblr.com , one for sharing articles and photos on our books and antiques.  The 2nd blog is photos, essays and prose about our 2nd home, in North Truro, Cape Cod. Please stop in, pull up a chair and enjoy our musings. Cya there, Carole

Celebrate The Holidays With Antiques

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Holiday memories are made special because of family traditions. Who doesn’t have many stories to tell of past holidays, as with all families, some good warm fuzzy stories as well as the disaster ones, now humorous with time. From childhood thru adulthood, certain family heirlooms or special objects can trigger a flood of memories. Passing down vintage and antique items as well as the stories attached to them help make “home for the holidays” the best place to be. Even if you are across the country from where your first memories of christmas began, you can still have that special feeling. Old fashioned Christmas ornaments to decorate your tree, a display of vintage toys, a well worn copy of “The Night Before Christmas”, Grandma’s special Christmas tablecloth, Mom’s old silver tray that every year was filled with an assortment of everyone’s favorite cookies, to Dad’s funny old Santa hat, all bring back the warm memories of Christmas past. The few treasures that have been passed on down thru the generations when retrieved from the attic and the holiday preparations begun, bring all of us back to the years of our favorite memories.
Borrowing from the past and building upon new creative ideas we have discovered, we keep the memories alive and create new traditions of our own for the newest generation to look back on with fondness in the next decades to come. Every year I puruse my favorite magazines looking for inspiration to pick a theme for this year’s decorations. I never copy what I see because I want to use things from my own special collections but looking at new fresh ideas gets my creative juices flowing and all of a sudden an idea takes hold and I am off and running. Christmas trees can be decorated with all sorts of items, from a seashore theme using shells and starfishes, to an elegant victorian tree dressed with small lace doilies, velvet ribbon garland and beautiful ornaments, to a teaparty theme, orphan pretty china cups tied on with ribbons and ornate silver spoons tied on with velvet ribbons, a country theme with dried flower and herb bunches with old fashioned metal cookie cutters, the themes are endless, all ideas from one simple thought or item. This is the time of year to take out your collections and decorate with them. Work with a theme and stick to it so that the decorations flow from one room to the next, and not done with a overabundance of different colors and different unrelated objects which leads to clutter. If you decide on a Country Christmas, use things from nature, branches, pine cones, plaid ribbons, gingerbread men, baskets, and wooden toys. An old wooden sled, decorated with a simple red velvet bow makes a stunning decoration. Fill all sorts of old looking containers with pine branches, a pewter pitcher, a clay jug, a big basket, a small wooden barrel, add one of these pine branch arrangements to each room for the wonderful color of green and the Christmas pine scent. Add twigs and pinecones, a Christmas ribbon bow to the larger arrangements. Fill an unused fireplace with a large arrangement. A small porcelain pitcher filled with greens on the bathroom vanity. A bouquet of red roses with greens in a large crystal vase can be a focal arrangement in any room for color and fragrance.
Old toys arranged around the tree can bring back memories of Christmases past. A collection of dolls, a red Flyer wagon, old board games in colorful graphic boxes, vintage ice skates, anything that you enjoyed as a child, your favorite toy that Santa brought you, all these vintage items can be used in your decorating themes. I once did a small tree in the diningroom with all silver babyspoons and baby forks tied onto a Christmas tree with thin red satin ribbon bows. The little baby silverware was silverplate, a little worn and bought for a song in an auction box lot but after polishing and adding ribbons it sparkled under the christmas white lights with a special elegance. Of course my very own babyspoon had the place of honor on the tree.
So as your unpack the boxes of well used and loved ornaments, take the time to share the stories connected with the special ones and leave room for a few new additions with new traditions and stories for the next generation to handle fondly and remember.

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.

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.