Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Shabby Chic Interiors

Rachel Ashwell is the high priestess of the found object. She's been preaching her creed of pretty, casual, and love of orphans from stray pieces of lace to vintage wallpapers. But that doesn't mean she's old news. Rachel has a new shop on Mercer Street in New York and a new book--Shabby Chic Interiors. She was featured both in Victoria magazine and in a Victoria book, Designers in Residence. It was one of my favorite of all the Victoria books because talented designers shared their homes along with great ways for readers to enrich their own.

Since, Rachel has gone on to producing product in line with her design concepts and her philosophy: "...wherever I am, I make my nest, even in a rented home or hotel. With flowers, music, candles, and beautiful comfortable things, a home will be a much lovelier place for our hearts to be." Sounds great to me. I also like Rachel's practice of enjoying some of her finds for awhile and then passing them on. I've done some of this myself. I think, in a way, it gives us permission to go on collecting--knowing others will enjoy the treasure we couldn't resist. Although Rachel admits, as do I, that there are some "forever" favorite things.

What I like about Rachel's approach is that almost everything is accessible. And she encourages her readers to be a bit brave in their decorating choices. Some of the things in the book are simply fun to look at. Even I, who believes in the ever-changing landscape of home, probably wouldn't ever have a tablecloth made of layers of ruffles and lace. But it sure is fun to see--and maybe a ruffle or two might be added to make a short cloth longer for a new table. I also enjoy Shabby Chic's soft palette. The pretty pale pinks and friendly shades of worn linen are comforting. And of course there is the emphasis on casual. It's hard for some of us to accept a look that isn't perfect. On that score, I have become very accepting of the "delicate" touch my cat, Kitty Foyle, has added to my "forever" sofa. And I was pleased when I bought a new needlepoint footstool that she enjoyed trying out her claws on. It now has the look of one I might have owned for years. Fortunately, Kitty is very selective in her conquests and not very persistent.

I have a ritual of display inspiring spreads from books I like. I have a stand that Wisteria sells (I actually have several) at a very reasonable price and designed for cookbooks. Mine can be found just about anywhere from a window sill to the dining room table--which often looks more like a library table. Shabby Chic Interiors has several good candidates including a wonderful photograph of hydrangeas drying in a very old soda bottle. I think on a snowy day, I'll remember to display this.

It's been nice to visit an old friend and find she is still keeping faith with her personal style. One of these days, I'll venture downtown to Mercer Street and see the pages come to life. In the meantime, I'll enjoy anew some of "my favorite things."

I hope you will do the same with yours.


  1. I just got this book today myself! I needed a "pretty" fix, and next to my classic issues of Victoria, Rachel's "Shabby Chic" books are the only other volumes that consistently inspire, soothe, cheer ... and calm ... with such gently beautiful photographs and thoughtful words.

    One thing I was surprised to learn in her new book is that it is her dream to own her own hotel. I would have assumed Rachel had achieved every "dream" she'd ever had, so I was happy to learn there are still new dreams for her to realize. Can you imagine one day being a guest at a Rachel Ashwell hotel? Ahhh ...

  2. I love the idea of displaying books open as you describe, Nancy! I think I might just have to adopt that. I love my books, and so often, there are specific pages that never fail to cheer. More likely, though, I'll display pages of Toshi's photography on an open page of Victoria.....
    Love, Karen Marline

  3. Ooh this is fabulous! Cool Interiors and decoration ideas.

  4. Hi Nancy, I've been a reader of Victoria Magazine for years and always loved your letters and interviews. I would love to write you, though not through a blog. I looked for your e-mail address here, but couldn't find it. Would you drop me a note? Jessica Dotta / bookgirl4@

    Many thanks! Jessica