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Get the French Country Look from Vivi Et Margot

Give your home the vintage French touch it deserves with brocante style.

This vintage French kitchen has the brocante look you've always wanted
Charlotte designed her kitchen in France with French linens and light wood-finished chairs, bringing color from outside to inside the space. Cabinets, custom-made by Neptune kitchens, serve as the backdrop for the space.

The French countryside has significant influence on its visitors and one visitor in particular, Charlotte Reiss, used that influence to create an online shop. Originally from Morborne, England and a frequenter to France in her youth, Charlotte Reiss moved to the U.S. in her early 20s.

Watching House Hunters International one day, Charlotte fell head over heels for France and wished for a country house there. Within a month, that wish came true with a 200-year-old farmhouse in western France near the Bordeaux, Deux-Sèvres region.

The French country home of Charlotte Reiss of Vivi et Margot
Its a beautiful day in the French countryside at Charlotte’s 200-year-old farmhouse near the Bordeaux region.

The French flea markets played a key role in the start of Vivi Et Margot. Traveling back and forth from Los Angeles and France over five years of construction and renovation on the house, Charlotte was drawn to the flea markets, or “brocantes,” of the area.

She searched and found French items to decorate her country home and overtime, her affinity for these vintage pieces grew and grew. Ultimately, she brought back items such as market baskets, vintage wooden spoons and French linens to decorate her Los Angeles home.

A pink bathroom in the French country home of Charlotte Reiss of Vivi et Margot
A pretty shade of pale pink is a romantic touch set against the creamy white shades of the wainscoting and the bathroom’s accessories.

Originally started as an Instagram page with photos from Charlotte’s home in France, Vivi Et Margot gained popularity quickly and many of her followers wanted to see more French items. Visitors to her home also had such curiosity about where and how to get similar items that Charlotte asked herself, why not open a store focused on making these treasures more accessible to everyone?

A pale green/gray shade highlights the old home's woodwork and ceiling beams.
A pale green/gray shade highlights the old home’s woodwork and ceiling beams. Other soft shades of silvery gray and cream create a relaxing atmosphere.

During her second pregnancy, Charlotte decided to open her online shop, Vivi Et Margot, to sell “beautiful things” from France. The traditional French homewares store, named after her daughters Vivienne and Margot, combines vintage items and pure French authenticity.

“I don’t consider myself to be an interior designer, but I have a passion and love for all things French and maintaining that authenticity with the items I sell,” Charlotte explains. With various products offered from tea towels and market baskets to ceramic pots and wood bowls, the store offers that sophisticated French touch that any home can incorporate.

 

Give your home that authentic and antique French touch you've always wanted.
Olive-oil soap, French linens, and other authentically-sourced items from Vivi Et Margot add that perfect French touch to any home setting.

“Everything sold is originally purchased in France and imported to the United States,” Reiss says. She curates 100 percent of the items and that way, she is able to “keep the authenticity of the brand.” A veteran of French brocantes, she’s well-acquainted with what’s offered, how to get the best value on items and what to look for.

During the summer months while she’s in the country, Charlotte strategically plans entire days around visiting four or five of the best markets in the area. She buys what she would like to see in her own home and what she believes others would also like.

A market basket is the perfect accessory to add to your closet!
Offered in ten different styles, French market baskets are Charlotte’s best-sellers.

Typically, she looks for items that match her white-and-gray color palette, aren’t damaged and are also popular among customers, such as café-au-lait pots and linens. However, her favorite and best-selling items are the French market baskets (offered in ten different styles) because of their versatility, durability and functionality. “I use them for everything, and they never fall apart,” Charlotte says. And with free shipping within the U.S., the only response is Oui! For more information on Vivi Et Margot and to purchase her items, visit Charlotte’s website: Vivi Et Margot.

To explore more stories on French country style, check out The Ultimate French Country KitchenGet the French Country Cottage Look, and The French Farmhouse Look.



Nora Murphy’s 18th-Century Country Home

This designer's Connecticut home is a neutral canvas that adapts easily for each season.

Nora Murphy's country home is decorated for fall
Nora enjoys entertaining in the autumn ambiance. “Don’t blow out the leaves,” she says. The sights and sounds of nature add to the earthy and enchanting feel.

If you find an 18th century gem, it can be a challenge to update and make it your own without taking away its aged appeal. When Nora Murphy, designer and owner of Nora Murphy Country House, and her husband Rick moved into this 1767 home in Newtown, Connecticut 15 years ago, they fell in love with its location and structure and settled in with some initial improvements.

“Any house we live in, I let the house tell me what to do,” says Nora. “When we moved here, our previous stuff didn’t work with the feel, so I introduced an earthy palette.” Years later, when her son Conor moved out, Nora needed a change. “I call it Project Refresh,” she says.

The Summer Room has a Cape Cod theme in honor of the family's favorite vacation spot
The summer room is themed for the family’s favorite vacation spot: Cape Cod. “This is our most authentic original room,” says Nora. The original 18th century fireplace and cubby doors were stripped of their white paint to bring them back to their original state as much as possible.

Light and Bright      

Nora draped the home in a white color palette, painting the walls different shades of white and covering all her furniture with creamy white cotton denim fabric slip covers and tying them with white twill tape bows. “[The slipcovers] are washable and easy to take care of,” says Nora. “I can now drag chairs to different parts of the house, and they’ll still work.”

Along with the easy care comes a casual elegance from the draped furniture that adds a romantic look to the outdoor accents. “The architectural simplicity of the home gave direction to what the inside of the home should look like,” says Nora. “I wanted it light, bright and nature inspired.”

The hanging basket is kept full of fresh flowers to brighten this sunny spot in the hall.

Home in the Garden

Among the neutral color palette that Nora carried throughout the house is her outdoor garden theme. Wooden tables, outdoor lanterns and large-scale plants and florals grace every room of the home to add a touch of the great outdoors to her interior. Nora also collects vintage copper watering cans and antique gardening tools that reside in the hallway gallery. “Everyone is always asking me about my antique French harvest basket,” says Nora. “It’s perfect for holding seasonal flowers.” The gallery connects the 18th century parts of the house to the newer parts, creating a seamless transition with its checkered flooring, made to appear old.

 

The chicken coop had an extra wall so they decided to install a library there.

Old Additions

 They made additions to the home, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at it. “The house was in good shape when we moved in,” says Nora, “but the bedrooms were really tiny and had low ceilings.” To compensate, they raised the ceilings and added large windows and doors to bring in natural light and showcase the surrounding nature.

Perhaps the biggest addition was their master bedroom suite that used to be a chicken coop. “We wanted an old structure for the add-on, so I looked up dismantled antique buildings and found a company that will take apart antique barns and build them back up at your location,” says Nora. The coop was built in 1857 and closely resembled the exterior of their home, blending the new structure with the old.

The kitchen’s aged look comes from its oak floors and wood accents. The island was made from the barn floorboards by the previous owner.

Curated Collection

This look could not be pulled off without Nora’s sense of simplicity. “It’s a good thing to part with things,” says Nora. “The things that don’t fit anymore, I sell or give away. That prevents things from accumulating, as my tastes and style evolve.”

Creating a neutral canvas with her white slip covers allows her to easily decorate throughout the seasons with a few minor changes. “During winter, I bring in tartan wool pillows and change my artwork,” she says. “It changes the entire room.” This look ensures that your aesthetic won’t be static, but will instead change like the color of falling leaves in autumn.

Like Nora’s house? See the spotlight shine on her fall dining room!

 



The French Farmhouse Look

Anita Joyce blends high style and down-to-earth finishes for her take on the French farmhouse look

Antique linen upholstery on French-style furniture perfectly exemplifies Anita's taste for rustic and refined.
Antique linen upholstery on French-style furniture perfectly exemplifies Anita’s taste for rustic and refined.

Frilly linens and burlap. Antiqued finishes and chipped edges. What’s not to love about the French farmhouse style?

“Farmhouse style exudes warmth and comfort, like a warm apple pie on a chilly night, while the French element adds elegance and sophistication,” explains Anita Joyce, owner of the Cedar Hill Farmhouse blog. “The combination just works.”

To emulate Anita’s soothing “Farmhouse French” style, blend high-end details with earthy, comfortable materials. “I use farmhouse elements like grain sacks, homespun linen, white ironstone plates and platters, old earthenware bowls and crockery, worn wood ladders, dough bowls, chippy iron beds, French enamel pitchers and worn baskets,” Anita says. “If it’s rusty or has chippy paint, it’s probably perfect.”

Next she mixes in French Louis XV and Louis XVI chairs, feminine French style lamps, original artwork, old candlesticks from churches, French silverware, silver teapots and water pitchers, French clocks, a cloche or two filled with luscious ivy, or Florentine trays as gold accents.

“Remember, you want to mix the rustic with the refined: Think sparkling crystal chandeliers mixed with a rusty iron bed frame, crisp white linen monogrammed sheets and a burlap covered bench,” says Anita.

Anita’s Favorite Decorating Tips

  • Add vintage! Try local flea markets, consignment stores, antiques festivals and thrift stores to find something unique.
  • “Age” your accessories with paint and antiquing wax.
  • Reupholster fancy antique French chairs and settees with grain sacks and homespun linen sheets.
  • Old dishes are inexpensive, easy to find and add so much charm.
  • Limit your color palette for a calming effect.

Anita is also author of French Accents: Farmhouse French Style for Today’s Home and podcast host for “Decorating Tips and Tricks.” For more information, visit cedarhillfarmhouse.com.

 



7 Essentials for Cozy Farmhouse Style

The autumn harvest season is perfect for infusing farmhouse charm into your decor

barn-style-decor
This red barn is a beautiful backdrop to a harvest-themed tablescape

The farmhouse aesthetic strikes the right balance of casual and chic to make any home feel relaxing throughout the year. Just a few cozy details make it all come to life.

Here are some key elements to recreate the look in any space in your home and even outdoors.

Rustic lanterns:
Nothing says farmhouse better than an old metal lantern. Whether copper or bronze, lanterns enhance the ambience, especially with the warm glow of candles inside.

Dainty candleholders:
Another way to set the mood, antique pillar candleholders add old-fashioned charm.

Pretty posies:
Fresh flowers bring color and natural beauty to any space, and are an absolute must when creating a romantic-rustic vibe.

Natural fibers:
Choose natural-fiber fabrics made of cotton, linen and wool for accents and upholstery. Un-dyed and less processed cloth will offer a more rustic look, while vintage fabrics add a touch of history wherever they are used.

Patina-ed pieces:
Decorate with antique and flea-market finds that show some wear (the rustier the better).

Time-worn woods:
Perfectly imperfect wood furniture pieces bring character and warmth to any space, weathered finish and all.

Agrarian flair:
Accent with barn-style accessories such as antlers, horseshoes and old metal pitchforks as the final authentic touch on your farmhouse decor.

 



4 Must-Have Farmhouse Antiques

Your checklist for antique farmhouse decor.

Farmhouse style ironstone and linens
An ironstone tureen and vintage linens complete the rustic yet chic tablescape.

Welcoming, unpretentious and very livable, farmhouse style is an alluring way to decorate your home with antiques that have history, stories and meaning. Gaining momentum as a favorite design style, the farmhouse aesthetic is a charming mix of rustic, country and traditional, and proves that simple style can be quite sophisticated.

Collect these antiques to create your own farmhouse style:

Baskets

Simple baskets are not only practical, but also strikingly decorative. Look for quality of workmanship, paying special attention to the detail and the weave. An older basket will bear witness to its age and have the rich color of patina and normal wear in the expected places. Antique baskets will often be heavier than their newer counterparts and have wood handles. Avoid brittle baskets and check for repairs; the best investments are baskets in original condition.

Linens with red-embroidered monograms
Linens with red-embroidered monograms are naturally luxurious.

 

Natural Textiles

Spun from linen and flax, simple linen tablecloths, napkins, grain sacks and sheets made up every farmer’s wife household linens.With an appealing texture and handmade quality, original antique linens are highly collectible. Look for fabric that has a smooth, soft feel that only decades of washing can attain. Search out unstained, nearly pristine pieces, although a few small spots are to be expected. As history is part of the appeal of antique textiles, mends and patches are considered appealing; they tell the story that someone long ago loved and used the linens with care and pride.

Ironstone

The simplicity and utility of gleaming white ironstone make it a favorite for the farmhouse aesthetic. Thick and heavy, ironstone is not only decorative to display, but also it is a dynamic part of any farm style table setting. Look for pieces without cracks or chips around the rims. Ironstone pieces are survivors. Their resilience tells their story, so minor discoloration is acceptable, adding patina to their beauty. Most true antique ironstone will be marked on the bottom.

French enamelware with hand painted flowersEnamelware

Sturdy enamelware, sometimes called graniteware when it comes with a speckled pattern, was a staple in every farmhouse a century ago. Humble coffeepots, canister sets, kettles and pitchers in soothing neutral colors predominate in farmhouse-style kitchens. Look for heavy and substantial pieces that have a thick and glossy finish. Most antique pieces will have tiny lines called craquelure in the finish. Missing pieces of enamel are expected on knobs and handles, but avoid pieces with huge chunks missing or a lot of rust.

Farmhouse style combines well with most other décor styles. Baskets, ironstone, quilts, enamelware, wooden bowls and antique silver are all accessories that help your home embrace the country charm of farmhouse style. The soothing colors, honest natural materials and age-worn finishes of farm antiques will help bring this rustic lived-in look to your home.

For more on Lidy, visit frenchgardenhouse.com.



Find the Perfect Farmhouse Trestle Table

It seems as though fall was made for the farmhouse style. We've got the prettiest picks for trestle tables that are perfect for hosting harvest celebrations.

The trestle table feels right at home in a farmhouse setting. Photo by Bret Gum

Although the trestle table is a mainstay of the contemporary American farmhouse-styled home, its history traces back to England’s medieval period when similar furniture pieces were more functional than design statement and were used in the humblest of homes as well as castles and manors.

Characterized by two or three trestle supports, a cross-member and a large board on top, the trestle table was simple yet sturdy and folded up to be stored away. With its narrow tabletop, a trestle table allowed servants to easily deliver meals to diners, but at a moment’s notice it could also double as a shield when flipped over to protect from intruders. Its popularity later waned when gateleg and refectory tables came on the scene, but we still appreciate the trestle table today for its trusty and timeless design.

The trestle table comes in a variety of styles, from its most utilitarian form to more elegant versions that make for beautiful dining in well-designed spaces.

Eloquence- StRemyDiningTable 3

Eloquence® pickled white St. Remy trestle table in pickled white finish. Visit thebellacottage.com.

Amish Tables Peyton_Trestle

Peyton trestle extension table. Visit amishtables.com.

Wayfair Ostby Dining Table_Wayfair 01Lark Manor Ostby dining table. Visit wayfair.com.

BSEID nantes1

Nantes dining table by Zentique. Visit bseid.com.

Belle Maison Francaise French Trestle Dining Table - Belle Maison

Country French trestle dining table. Visit bellemaisonfrancaise.com.



How to Arrange a Farmhouse Bouquet

This bouquet gets a touch of farmhouse character, courtesy of a pretty enamel pitcher.

How to Arrange a Spring Farmhouse Bouquet

“Flowers make a room come alive and are small in size yet big in beauty,” says Janet Coon of Shabbyfufu. “There is nothing as elegant as a bare table with a large bouquet of flowers simply placed randomly to please the eye in a vessel.”

This simple aesthetic is unfussy and allows natural elements to speak for themselves, as demonstrated so eloquently in this bouquet arranged by Janet, and featured in the February 2017 issue of Romantic Homes.

Elements of a romantic bouquetThe floral elements in this bouquet of the month include:

  • Seeded eucalyptus
  • Baby blue eucalyptus
  • Pink peonies
  • White ranunculus
  • Sword fern
  • Agonis
  • Queen Anne’s lace
  • Kale variety

To make the bouquet of the month, fill a pitcher or other tall vase 2/3rds full of fresh water and add plant food. Trim the ends of the floral stems at an angle, but don’t cut them short.

No floral foam is necessary for this arrangement. Start by adding bunches of eucalyptus and argonis, allowing them to drape over the side of the container. Then fill in with additional flowers as desired.

Forcing Peonies to Open:

If you buy your peonies from a flower market or grocery store, they will probably arrive with the buds in tight balls. If you’d like to enjoy the lush, full blooms now instead of waiting, follow these steps to force them to open up:

Romantic bouquet elements including peonies, eucalyptus and Queen Anne's Lace

  1. Cut off all the excess leaves from the stem.
  2. Hold the stem under warm water and make a 45-degree cut.
  3. Keep the flowers in a warm room and replace the water with warm water at least 3 times a day.
  4. (Optional) Put the flowers in your car for a few hours – it will function as a hothouse.
  5. (Optional) Put a plastic bag over the heads of the flowers and seal it, trapping in ethylene gas and encouraging them to open faster.
  6. (Optional) Submerge the flowers face down in warm water for about five minutes.

 

Flowers provided by Miami Flower Market

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Collecting Staffordshire Figurines 101

Learn how to collect these charming figures with these 5 expert tips.

Dogs are the most readily available of the Staffordshire animal figurines collected. Regional breeds like greyhounds and pugs are often depicted; however, the King Charles Spaniels became most popular, because of Queen Victoria’s famous pet spaniel, Dash.

Even though the age of these tiny treasures make them precious collectibles (as far as pre-Victorian through Victorian collectibles go) Staffordshire figurines are readily available and often times very affordable.

These delightful figurines were made inexpensively and sold at reasonable prices. They were present in many homes across England and eventually collected in America through the 20th century.

The subject matter was quite varied from domestic animals to exotic animals, hunters to royalty to politicians as well as structures and buildings.
This accessibility and wide-spread availability makes collecting Staffordshire a very appealing pastime.

The range of subject matter and colors also allows for effortless integration into many of today’s homes. Decorating with Staffordshire figures is a wonderful way to connect the past with the present by paying homage to a simple art form and appreciating a beautiful and elegant period in history.

1. Of the figurines, famous people and exotic animals tend to be the most valuable.
Hunting figures and dogs were the most commonly produced so their value tends to be a bit lower. As for famous figures and politicians, the exception to the value rules of thumb are the famous figures that were produced in large volumes such as Queen Victoria. The value is not as great, merely because of the quantity produced.

3. Unlike many antiques, the condition of Staffordshire figures is not as important.
Due to manufacturing flaws and paint imperfections from unskilled artisans, conditions can vary greatly from piece to piece. It adds to the character and the folk art appeal. Even minor cracks and chips due to age tend to affect the value very little, if at all.

4. Beware of reproductions.
Reproductions of Staffordshire have been produced through the 20th century and some are still being created today. Look to items made prior to World War 11 for the greatest value and quality.

One way to check the age is to look for worn gilding. Newer pieces have bright brassy or yellow gilded details while the antique counterparts tend to have a dull, worn look to the trim. Be sure to check the bottom as well. Most old Staffordshire lacks backstamps or manufacturing marks. Newer reproductions are usually marked. Check that marks have not been scraped or sanded off.

5. Avoid forgeries. Detecting fakes can pose a challenge. 

Some manufactures go so far as to rub dirt into the finish or glaze. They are trying to create the illusion of age. Check the colors and details, as they were originally painted by unskilled laborers. If a figurine looks too perfect or the details appear to be transferred on instead of hand painted, it’s probably a fake. Another way to check is the weight. The older figures are typically heavier than the newer ones.

For more on Melinda Graham, visit surroundingsbymelinda.com. 

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Porch Decorating: Make an Impression

The front porch has endless decorating potential for creating a great first impression. Learn how to welcome your guests in style.

melinda graham painted shutters

Since the porch is the gateway to your home, why not set the stage for the beauty that is to unfold when crossing the threshold of your front door? Create a great first impression when welcoming guests to your home by decking out your space with your own signature style and following these five porch decorating ideas.

Remember that even small changes can make a big impact. If an entire overhaul of the front porch is out of reach, consider a spring cleaning and just one or two of the following…

1. Paint the front door or shutters a new color

The porch is the transitional space between outdoors and indoors, so mix the colors of your garden and outdoor paint colors with the style and colors of the entry. Using this approach the lines between outdoor and indoor will blend seamlessly

melinda graham flower cushions

2. Make it pop

From spring flowers to fall harvest pumpkins, adding color can be an ever changing event. Then punch up the volume with outdoor fabrics on pillows and cushions.

melinda graham wreath

3. Hang a pretty wreath

The design of this home is farmhouse inspired. The porch décor echoes this theme with a soft romantic tone and hints of cottage garden style. Although this is a new home, it was clear that great thought was given to even the smallest details to add tremendous character to the entry. For example, this wreath effortlessly adds beautiful organic undertones to the front door.

melinda graham wooden stool

4. Refresh and refurbish

Peeling paint, sun-faded finishes and rusty railings will take away from any updates you wish to make. Buy or paint furnishings in neutral colors that complement the exterior of your home in finishes that will withstand the elements. Repurpose simple furniture items, such as this wooden stool, to display novelty garden items.

melinda graham area rug

5. Place a new rug at the front door

Adding an area rug can define seating areas, eating areas and entry areas. They can also introduce color and pattern while helping to remove foot traffic and debris at the door.

For more on Melinda Graham, visit surroundingsbymelinda.blogspot.com.