Friday, June 29, 2012

My Style Mentors

Alexandra Stoddard is probably my number one style mentor.  She talks about lifestyle and philosophy as much as decor these days.  She's the one who taught me to do things like put a single rose in old perfume bottles, like so, in the dining room:

 Her 1988 book Living a Beautiful Life is genius, as far as I'm concerned.  I'm such a sucker for all those existential, seize-the-moment tips.  That's why I also like Martha Stewart, sad to say.  I have many of her books and magazines and now I'm hooked on her radio network on Sirius.

Martha's talent is in convincing women they can live a life that she would have you believe she lives.  You know--an attractive, smart, talented, loving, gracious woman who entertains, cooks, sews, garden and LIVES in such an easy, breezy, elegant manner.

Well, we ALL could do that if we had her money.  And her staff.  And her marketing ability.  I, on the other hand, can never juggle it all.  When I entertain I concentrate on one thing at which to excel--my garden, housekeeping, food or personal appearance.  I can't do it all.

I love reading design/decorating/house/garden/lifestyle blogs as well.  I appreciate all the problem-solving tips and information about products I glean from these writers.  I just have to remember how intricately staged most of them are, however.  They're not real life, for the most part.  But that's how most people usually entertain, right?  At least for certain people.  I don't mind showing my family and close friends my garbage and filth.  But I have a dear friend whom I would never invite over unless everything's just so.  Our mutual friend felt the same way.  You just can't let her see your messes, because she has none.  I don't even think she'd judge us for it, but there's just no comfort level to let her in to the mess.

But I show my messes to you (here and the horrifying mess here), maybe because I don't know most of you.  I like to be real.  I know my house will never make the cover of a magazine; I just want it to function for my lifestyle.

My design style has gone through various combinations of fads, such as colonial, Victorian, cottage, Shabby Chic and now basically traditional with a tad of modern.  So another style mentor is Rachel Ashwell, of Shabby Chic fame.  She's skinny, pretty, and has a slightly snooty British accent.  She makes life look easy, too, by finding raggedy things at flea markets and making them pretty.  Well, last time I went to Brimfield everything was way too expensive.  All that's left of that phase is a white slipcovered, Pottery Barn sofa.  Her items, except those in Target, are extremely expensive.

By the way, you can only keep a white slipcover clean by covering it, like Lucy is demonstrating, above.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Living Room Before, During and After

This room is supposed to be the formal parlor; I originally used it as my dining room.  It's painted Behr Pale Daffodil.  I'll eventually repaint it Benjamin Moore Hawthorne Yellow or Weston Flax (which is the color of the house, at least those parts I've repainted).  I also need to paint the ceiling and trim.  I'm guessing when I paint the trim I'll mess up the walls and I couldn't touch up the walls since I painted them almost six years ago.


These old houses are difficult to decorate what with all our modern STUFF.  I wanted a television in here but didn't have the room.

The previous owner had removed the door and part of the wall into the dining room.  There's also the arch into the adjacent parlor (to the right in the above picture).  These two rooms comprise a double parlor.  The first room you enter from the front entrance on the side would be considered the formal parlor in which to entertain guests, and on the other side of the arch would be the informal parlor where the family spent its time.  Yes, it might be nice to remove the arch and have one large room, but I really don't want to change the house that much.  The rooms are charming even if they're small.  I talked about this here.

Parlor Before, During and After

I realized I've never shown before and afters, or really, any pictures of my rooms in total.  So since my spring cleaning is nearly complete, and my shoulder is almost healed (see I'm Injured), I'll start with what I call the parlor.  I use it as a den.  See the explanation here.  Here are shots of when I took ownership, first moved in and now.  It looks weird to see the off-white wall color.  It's so not me--I need color!  I just cannot do white.  I'm trying to neutralize my previous choices but the closest I'll come to neutral is gray, sage or yellow.

The previous owner used this room for storage and had a drafting table in the archway, with a curtain blocking it.  The floors were dark and filthy before I had them refinished.  I hired someone to wallpaper the room in Waverly "Rustic Life" in watermelon, after my failed attempt and falling off the ladder.  He said my walls were very crooked, which was no surprise, really.  I installed the chandelier (in hindsight I probably should have gone bigger) and bought the Pottery Barn PB Grand slipcovered sofa (I have cranberry twill and white twill).  On moving day my siblings broke the leg off my beloved Domain floral sofa (so sad they were a victim of our "worst economy since the Great Depression"), so I bought two others, since I now had two living rooms.  When I first moved in I just had chairs in here and used it as a sitting room.  Then I got the sage couch a few months later (which is now in the living room) and moved the Domain couch in here.

This is now my favorite room--so feminine!


Please ignore the garbage.
I wanted to hang curtains like these in the kitchen but I don't think Ikea sells them anymore.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Indomitable Dr. Huey

I've written about my "heritage garden" here.  One of the mystery plants that I transplanted was a rose that my mother thought was a David Austin but she couldn't remember which one.  She thought she bought it at K-Mart.  Here's what the poor thing looked like after transplanting.  Mind you, this was two years ago when we had an excruciatingly hot, dry summer.
Yes, it's that stick behind the lamb's ear to the right of the birdbath.  Those are Bonica roses to the right of the stick. When my mother would visit she would look at the rose and tell me it's dead.  "No, look, it's finally got a new leaf on it!"  I wouldn't give up.  It grew towards the end of August after all my watering, and I believe it threw out a basal break.  Here it is last year, after a year in the ground.

I had so looked forward to seeing what kind of lovely David Austin rose this was, but, by George, it's Dr. Huey!  Dr. Huey is a vigorous, hardy climber that is used as the root onto which more delicate roses are grafted.  You probably see a lot of these in your neighborhood.  They're what's left after the grafted rose dies.

This is Dr. Huey this year--strong, healthy and vigorous.  I bought a trellis because he really wants to climb.  I don't think this trellis is going to be tall enough, so I found one at Lowe's I'll use instead and use this one for my Abraham Darby out back that really wants to climb.

Dr. Huey is awesome.

Roses, roses, roses!

The roses in front look pretty good, but the ones in back, not so much.  I think I didn't prune them enough.  We had an extremely mild winter, so there wasn't much dieback.  Lesson learned:  prune hard for strong, lush branches.

Here's the front garden.  Those are Bonica, Graham Thomas and Lady Elsie May roses.  There are also a couple foxgloves in there as well.  I've been trying to improve my photography with tips I found on a delightful blog called An Urban Cottage.  The yellow roses were looking washed out in my pictures so I slowed the shutter speed (at least that's what I think I was doing).
 This is a bad shot of a lovely rose called Lovely Fairy.

  And this is Red Fairy.

 Jackmanii clematis.  Seems smaller than last year.

 A pretty oriental lily.
 Rose campion.  I'm thrilled to see this again.  It seemed to have disappeared last year but then popped up about a foot away from where I planted it originally.  It's such a pretty flower, with its hot pink, or magenta, flower and feathery gray foliage.