Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic Home

Step inside Rachel Ashwell's pretty and practical home.

Rachel Ashwell's blend of elegance and comfort is evident in her own living room.
Rachel Ashwell’s living room is every bit as comfortable as it is cozy. A colorful mix of paintings adds personality to the rough-hewn mantel.

Few homes in southern California have the architectural character or timeless appeal of older homes. If a classic style of home is at the top or your list of must-haves, you often have to search high and low for the right house.

Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic blue painted closet
In an old home where built-in storage options are few, a stand-alone closet offers valuable space and fits right in with Rachel’s time-honored aesthetic.
Laurence Amelie tutu painting above Rachel Ashwell's piano
The painting above the piano is by artist Laurence Amelie. In the foreground, a Hollywood Regency style tufted bench offers extra seating.

But when Rachel Ashwell, designer and founder of Shabby Chic, stumbled across this Brentwood house eight years ago, she fell in love with its quirks and knew it would be just the place to call home.

“The architectural style is a hodgepodge,” Rachel says. “It has a bit of a Southern feel, but it also has a Spanish, an English and an Irish flair.”

In the main living room, a large brick fireplace is the focal point of the room and sets the warm, comforting tone of the rest of the home. The fireplace is so large you can walk inside of it, Rachel says, which is common in Scottish or Irish houses. “It’s actually what drew me to buy the house to begin with.”

Rachel Ashwell's dining room and kitchen
The kitchen and dining area flow from one space to the other for an open layout that is perfect for casual, convivial entertaining.

Building Character

While the home already had many exceptional details, including arched walkways, beautiful balconies, and original doors and hardware, Rachel decided to restore some of the key design aspects to a more classic style.

“As often is the case, the baths and kitchen had been renovated, but in a slick and polished style, so I restored them and put them back to what I consider would have been the authentic style for the house,” Rachel says.

Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic Kitchen
White floating shelves against white tile, along with the farmhouse sink and painted cabinets, create a cozy kitchen space.
Rachel Ashwell's hutch is covered in whimsical wallpaper and full of mismatched dishes.
One of Rachel’s favorite feminine touches, floral wallpaper, adds whimsy to this antique hutch. She stores her collection of mismatched dishes inside.

For the kitchen, she found some white subway tiles from an old Belgian subway that offer just a slight hint of sheen and contribute to the simplicity of the space. Other elements that bring her kitchen together are dainty pendants above the farmhouse sink, simple white floating shelves neatly stacked with plates, and white painted barnwood-style cabinets. “It has the illusion of a funky little kitchen, but it’s a really good, functional one.”

When Rachel moved in, walls separated the kitchen from the main living room; she opened everything up so it’s all one large space. “It feels like New York loft living, and I have a lot of guests stay here, so I wanted it to have a feeling of a lot of space and not lonely with all these closed-off rooms,” Rachel says. Now with multiple seating areas and dining and workshop areas, it’s an ideal multipurpose room for everyday use.

Rachel Ashwell's Master Bedroom
Bedding in Rachel’s signature florals adds a playful pattern to her master bedroom.

Feminine Touches

A big part of the home’s charm—and what Rachel is very well known for—are the many floral designs in fabric prints and small-scale use of wallpaper patterns you’ll find throughout the home. They add a soft and sophisticated touch in her signature Shabby Chic style.

Rachel Ashwell's master bathroom wallpaper.
Wallpaper in a lacy blue print adds a touch of elegance to the master bathroom.
Rachel Ashwell's mix-and-match floral patterns
Rachel layers this bathroom space with mix-and-match floral patterns.

“I like to do the patterned wallpaper in these little nook areas,” Rachel says. “I tend to use vintage wallpaper.  Often you can’t find a large quantity of vintage wallpaper, so that’s why it’s confined to one space, but it’s easy to do.”

Rachel Ashwell's blue and white guest bedroom
The blue and white two-tone walls perfectly coordinate with Rachel’s Simply Shabby Chic bedding.

Another design trick for bringing in soft color: Rachel paints the walls white, but from the floor to about 3 feet off the ground, she paints it over with a light gray, pink or blue for a two-tone look. “It [adds] color in an unassuming, subtle way,” she says. “They did that a lot in Morocco, and that’s where I got the idea.” These small but impactful design details give Rachel’s home its personality.

Rachel Ashwell's gold and pink settee
An antique settee with gold trim and blush pink upholstery is an elegant touch.

Flea-Market Flair

Antiques add patina and character, and Rachel looks to flea-market pieces to create the look of timeworn elegance she loves. “Nearly all the cabinets, tables and chairs are flea market-found and refurbished to the point that they’re functional and clean, but I try to hold on to the authentic patinas and textures,” Rachel says.

Rachel Ashwell's office space.
Rachel’s office is in a nook off the dining area. Though small, the floor-to-ceiling windows ensure an open atmosphere.

She also mixes in a few reproduction furniture pieces from the Rachel Ashwell Furniture collection to achieve the style, scale and function she wants. Many of her antique pieces are recovered in machine-washable fabric for durability since they’re white. Her collections of antique dishes, trays, vases and containers decorate hutches, tabletops and shelves for a cozy, charming look. All the bedding, in fabric patterns or soft hues, is romantic and vintage inspired.

What is the essence of Rachel’s decorating style? “I guess I would call myself a bit boho, but it’s also very classic. I don’t like things that go in and out of style,” Rachel says. “My mantra is ‘beauty, comfort and function.’ Everything in my house needs to be inviting and needs to be useful. That’s where I start.”

Rachel Ashwell's Living Room Mantel
The wood mantel is raw and unstained, a natural complement to the painted bricks below. Rachel as styled it with an assortment of her favorite small paintings.

4 Elements of Rachel Ashwell’s Style

Want to emulate Rachel’s signature style? Learn how with her tips.

    1. Soft color: “My palette tends to be on the softer side,” Rachel says. From various pinks and raspberries to teal, the look is fresh and inviting.
    2. Eclectic: “I like things to be eclectic but not chaotic. I might organize it or give it a theme with color. Think expensive mixed with flea market and Target.”
    3. Glamour: “I always like a little bit of glamour.” These bits of bling can be crystal chandeliers or a rug with silver threading through it.
    4. Timeworn: “Embracing the beauty of imperfections and faded grandeur is a big thing for me. I don’t get too neurotic if something gets chipped.

Read Courtney Allison’s behind-the-scenes look at this photo shoot!

3 Musts for a Romantic Tablescape

Courtney's favorite ideas for dressing up the table for memorable meals.

I love to take the time to set an elegant, inspired table for guests to enjoy. So much so, that the menu is often runner-up after the flowers, place settings and ambience. Whether you’re setting a table for two or 20, there are a few things you can do to create an inviting and unforgettable table for your guests. A few sweet touches can make sitting down with company a magical experience!

Low centerpieces, like these arrangements of peonies, will never get in the way of dinner table conversation.
Although small, these blossoms make a big impact when paired with neutral napkins.

#1. Flowers

Whether it’s a garland of greens with flowers tucked inside, several small vases running the length of the table or even a single beautiful bouquet, you can’t go wrong. Think about your colors and what flowers are available during that time of year.

#2. Place settings

From delicate and detailed to vintage, create special place settings for each guest. I like to include a small sprig of flowers and herbs tied to a napkin as a welcome.

#3. Ambience

Lighting is key for adding ambience: candles on the table, twinkle lights in trees and LED candles in lanterns to light steps and paths. Add some music in the background, and enjoy a romantic evening.



A Petite Paris Apartment is Big on Vintage Style

Adriana Anzola's Paris apartment is full of vintage treasures and dainty details.

Open shelves make for chic storage in this Paris Apartment
An organized kitchen maximizes the limited space. “I installed open shelves because I wanted to create a space to display bits and bobs” says Adriana. They also keep the room open and and allow easy access to dishes. An old ladder is creatively used to hang dish towels.

Having a small space can actually be a benefit to your home’s style, according to the homeowner of a 400-square-foot apartment in Paris, France. “Small spaces are cozy and easier to style than larger homes,” says Adriana Anzola. “You just need the right things in the right place.” This apartment simply consists of a kitchen, a living room and a bedroom, but it comfortably fits Adriana’s everyday needs and vintage treasures.

Though most of the color palette includes whites, soft pinks and blues, this gold nightstand fits perfectly with the decor.
Though most of the color palette includes whites, soft pinks and blues, this gold nightstand fits perfectly with the decor.

Romantic Luxury

Her style can be described as “Old English cottage meets French glamour,” with lots of florals for a cozy and relaxed feel. “I get a lot of inspiration from living in this beautiful city and from the vintage markets I visit regularly,” says Adriana.

Because she rents the apartment, all her changes are decorative. She painted the walls, but the ornate ceiling moldings are original to the structure and complement her vintage furniture. “Pretty much everything in my house comes from a vintage market,” says Adriana. “I like objects that have a soul and can tell a story. Unique finds create a unique place.”

One element she carries throughout her home is the distressed look. “I’m always in search of that piece with a perfectly aged patina,” she says. “It adds the right touch of rustic and country that I love so much.” Whether it’s a piece of wooden furniture or a faded rug, almost everything in her home has an aged look that adds history and romance to the space.

Authentic Turkish Rugs cover the living room floor with soft hues to let the decor take precedence.
Authentic Turkish Rugs cover the living room floor with soft hues to let the decor take precedence.

Small Spaces

While small places have their benefits, they can be quite tricky to plan. “You have to be very organized if you want to keep [your home] tidy and looking pretty,” says Adriana. “Storage is the key. That way, you only display what you wish to display.” She demonstrates this idea by using her vintage finds for decorative storage.

A desk, trunk, armoire or even a small cabinet can make all the difference in how your space flows. Everything that you love can sit on top of the piece, while your everyday items can be hidden within it. “I say, if it’s not pretty don’t exhibit it!” she says.

A beautifully aged patina with chipped paint contrasts beautifully to the delicate place setting.
A beautifully aged patina with chipped paint contrasts beautifully to the delicate place setting.

Neutral Balance

Though Adriana makes it look easy, some preparation is required if you dream to fill your home with vintage finds. “Before going to a flea market, make sure you know your style, your color palette and your taste,” she says. “There are so many amazing objects at the markets that you risk coming home with things that are not going to have a place in your home.”

To make it easier for everything to blend well, start with a neutral wall base. “For me, a white space is the perfect canvas to start decorating and adding those special accents,” Adriana says. A soft color palette such as the whites, pinks, yellows and blues of her home will maintain a relaxing atmosphere, but you can also experiment with beige or light gray for a neutral background.

Like Adriana’s style? She has an Etsy shop, MyShabbyWhites, where she sells one-of-a-kind vintage french decor!

Feng Shui Beach Cottage

Add a little salt spray and a dash of sunshine, and you've got this romantic-meets-beachy haven.

A tropical garden wraps the front of the home in lively colors, acting as a preview for what's inside
A lush tropical garden wraps the front of the home in lively colors, giving a taste of the interior.
The front door welcomes Judi home from her frequent travels, and guests in for entertaining with a seashell wreath for all seasons.

There are few places as relaxing as the beach. You can visualize it now: the warm sun and sand, the meditative sound of the crashing waves, a cool drink to sip on and the company of good friends. But you don’t have to settle for just imagining yourself there. With the right design, you can bring the tranquility of the beach right into your own home.

For Judi Burson, bringing this happiness to herself and her guests was the top priority when she moved to Corona Del Mar, California. Using Feng Shui principles to guide the look, Judi and interior designer, Mary Jayne Barnett, turned the house into a peaceful retreat that pays homage to its close neighbor, the Pacific ocean.

The contrast of the heirloom rocking chair and coffee table pull the eye toward the center of the room, encouraging conversation and togetherness during gatherings.

Feng Shui designs a flow for homes that begins at the front door. Judi placed a wreath clad with seashells, starfish and driftwood on the entrance, bringing the warmth of the inside out.

Clutter is the antithesis of Feng Shui, so the first step in creating the look was to remove anything unnecessary. “It’s the art of placement. Everything in the room has a purpose or is placed on purpose,” Mary Jayne says. While accessorizing is still encouraged, like these artful pieces of coral displayed on the mantel, it’s important to thoroughly consider each piece so as not to overwhelm a space.

A weathered coat of white paint gives the hutch a bright presence

“Take everything out of the room except for furniture. Sweep it and add things back—but not everything goes back. Release things with love and thanksgiving, and give [them] away in generosity.” Through this process, Judi kept only the coffee table she inherited from her mother and the rocking chair she used to soothe her children to sleep when they were babies. The dining room table and chairs were refinished to match the floor, while the sofa got a cheery green slipcover that can be changed for the holidays.

feng shui beach cottage bedroom
Judi’s dog, Charlie, loves the softness of the bed, which is situated near a rug Judi brought back from a trip to Greece.

Feng Shui philosophy also divides a home into nine centers, each associated with different elements of life. “They are wealth and prosperity; fame and reputation; love, marriage and relationships; health and family; center (Earth); creativity and children; knowledge and self-cultivation; career and life purpose; and helpful people and travel,” Mary Jayne explains.

Every center has colors and materials that promote the best influence the space can provide to inhabitants.The concept of centers, or guas, influenced the design of all the rooms, including the family room where representations of trees, wood and growth are most important. The tall wooden hutch and green hues were intentionally used for the purpose of honoring the center.

In Judi’s bedroom, comfort is the goal, which is accomplished with coordinating pastels, cotton fabrics throughout and custom curtains by Mary Jayne.

feng shui beach cottage garden arbor
When Judi moved into the house, the backyard arbor had only white roses draping over it. To match the style of the rest of the house, she added an eclectic mix of flowers to give it a more organic feel.

Judi travels often but when she comes home, she revels in the beauty that surrounds her. Spending time in the garden is one of her favorite spots to relax after a long trip.

“I love to travel, but I also love to come home to my peaceful place,” she says. “I could see myself staying here for the rest of my life.”


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





Celebrate with Lavender Lemonade & Florals

Summer entertaining ideas that are as pretty as a pitcher of ice cold lemonade.

romantic homes lavander lemonade recipe
A silver tray and a crystal pitcher mingle in this table setting with mason jar tumblers and a vintage hand-made yo-yo table tablecloth for a country-chic blend of high and low.

With the temperature rising and gardens coming to life, the summer sunshine beckons us to come outdoors.

Quality time with family and friends moves from the living room to the backyard for barbecues, water balloon fights and all manner of outdoor fun that can only be had in the warmer months.

An icy drink is essential to beat the heat and stay cool while enjoying the weather and what better way to hydrate than a glass of fresh made lemonade?

Here’s a recipe for a lemonade with a pretty floral twist, plus three ideas for decorating with flowers as you prepare to entertain this summer!

Sourced from: The Cookie Rookie




  • 6 cups water, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 Tbsp dried lavender
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • Lemon slices and lavender sprigs for garnish
  • Blue or purple food coloring (optional)


  1. Over medium heat, combine two cups of water and sugar, bringing to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Turn off of the heat and stir in agave nectar and lavender.
  2. Allow mixture to steep for 2 hours (less if you want less of a lavender taste). Strain the liquid, pressing the lavender down to make sure you get all of those juices into your mixture!
  3. In a large pitcher, combine freshly squeezed lemon juice, lavender mixture and water.
  4. Feel free to add a couple drops of blue or purple food coloring if you want more color than the lavender provides. Serve over ice.

Now that you’ve made a pretty beverage for your guests, read on to learn how to create an inviting setting to go along with it.

romantic homes lavender lemonade floral napkins

Decorate napkins with twine and flowers

Give your table a rustic look using twine to wrap napkins and small sprigs of fresh flowers.

Twine like this can be found at craft stores while the flowers can be gathered from the wild, your own garden or picked up at the grocery store.

For extra floral flair, create a small bouquet to adorn the back of each chair.

romantic homes lavender lemonade edible flowers

Use edible flowers to garnish sweets

Make your favorite sweet treats or simply grab pre-made baked goodies from your local grocery store.

Most grocers have some selection of edible flowers in stock, but for a wider variety, check health food or speciality stores like Whole Foods, or order from online retailers such as Gourmet Sweet Botanicals.


romantic homes lavender lemonade tablescape centerpiecen sunflower

Tie it all together with a grand sunflower centerpiece

Sunflowers are at their peak in beauty during summer and every table needs an eye-catching centerpiece to anchor the look.

Place your sunflowers in a pretty pitcher to accent the rustic feel created by the napkin holders and flowers.

If it’s just too hot outside, the party can be easily relocated indoors.






An Abundance of Flowers

Get inspired with these gorgeous flower images that exemplify the versatility of these dainty beauties.

Sometimes the universe speaks to you, if you pay attention. Today, it’s speaking to me about flowers! I have only this week bought my very first peonies ever, and have only just begun to explore the inner landscape of these beautiful flowers. These are just a few quick camera shots – I can’t wait to see what I can do with an actual camera.

pink peonies collageBut my floral photography is admittedly novice when compared with the fantastic work you can find online. How about these, that I found today via DesignSponge?

truck bed filled with rainbow of flowers
peach and pink wedding bouquet
bouquet on lace covered table

Or maybe some floral couture is more to your taste…

floral gown

For the most daring, I give these floral tattoos.

floral tattoo on arm
floral tattoos, back and leg

Of course, this wouldn’t be Romantic Homes if we didn’t offer some decor ideas with beautiful flowers, too….


A chair and ottoman upholstered in dark pink sit in front of a large floral artwork

All pink decor in a girl's bedroomFlowers, beautiful flowers everywhere…what could be wrong with that?






Grow Your Own Bouquet

Learn how to keep your home filled with fresh flowers without spending a fortune.


Learn how to grow your own bouquets with a cutting garden.

A bouquet of fresh flowers can do so much to brighten up your home. The scent, the bright colors and the reminder of the world outside will add a breath of fresh air to the room. The downside of fresh bouquets is the cost—the flowers will last for about a week (if you’re lucky), and if you want to keep fresh flowers in your home on a regular basis, the costs will add up to a pretty penny.

Luckily, there’s a solution—grow your own bouquets! “You can fill your house with flowers without spending a fortune,” writes Alex Mitchell in her new book, Gardening on a Shoestring. The book is a helpful gardening resource full of tips and tricks for making the most of your outdoor space without breaking the bank. Here are her instructions for how to create a cutting garden in your own backyard.

Learn how to grow your own bouquets with a cutting garden.

What You’ll Need:

  • An area of ground 6 x 9 feet, cleared of weeds and stones and raked into a fine tilth
  • Tape measure
  • Garden twine
  • Twigs or sticks
  • Scissors
  • 6 packets of seed: Bupleurum griffithli, Rudbeckia hirta ‘Marmalade,’ Cosmos ‘Sensation Mix,’ Cornflower ‘Blue Ball,’ Ammi majus, Agrostemma githago (Corncockle), or seeds suited to your planting region
  • Rake
  • Watering can with rose attachment/garden hose

When To Start:

Mid- to late spring

How to Do it:

Divide your growing area into six equal squares, staking out the grid with twine tied to sticks pushed into the soil. Then sow each square with a different variety of seed. Rake over the soil gently to cover the seeds and water well. Keep the patch weeded and protect the young shoots from slugs until established. Sowing each variety of seed in a different square makes harvesting and weeding easier.

Learn how to grow your own bouquets with a cutting garden.


Cut the flowers throughout the spring and summer to keep the plants blooming!

Learn how to garden without breaking the bank.

Gardening on a Shoestring by Alex Mitchel, published by Quarto, © 2016; quartoknows.com.

Collecting: Floral Paintings

Learn the ins-and-outs of collecting beautiful antique floral artwork.

Photography by Gay VanBeek
Photography by Gay VanBeek

Most people enjoy receiving a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and roses seem to carry that little something special. Collecting paintings depicting floral arrangements will ensure that your home abounds with floral arrangements at all times. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Some people have been collecting for years, whereas others are just starting out. The following are some tips for beginners, and perhaps a refresher for those with a burgeoning knack for assembling a fine collection.


Photography by Gay VanBeek
Photography by Gay VanBeek

Train your eye to recognize value.

According to Gay Van Beek, floral painting aficionado and head “Romantic” at www.canterburycottagedesigns.com, “When looking to purchase an antique oil on canvas, you need to inspect both the front of the painting and the back of the canvas. The painting on the front will be crackled with age, sometimes with small holes and even tears that have been repaired by placing tape over them from the back. The back of the canvas on an older painting will be dark tan to dark brown in color and stained with age. The canvas on a newer painting will be just slightly yellowed or all white. Recognize the finish, the feel of the canvas and even the smell of the aging paint.”


Photography by Gay VanBeek
Photography by Gay VanBeek

Start by purchasing a few inexpensive prints.

Ms. Van Beek adds, “Antique oils on canvas are becoming increasingly difficult to find, and most amateur collectors love the old patina of the paintings as much as the roses themselves. The dark backgrounds add a punch of color to any home décor and look particularly stunning when placed against an all‐white palette.”


Photography by Gay VanBeek
Photography by Gay VanBeek

Study resources as much as possible.

Visit museums, exhibits and by all means talk to artists and other collectors. Not only will you gain knowledge, you might establish a meaningful friendship.

Ms. Van Beek explains, “Many rose artists today fashion their paintings after the American painter Paul de Longpre. Although he was born in Lyon, France, de Longpre is classified as an American painter because most of his work was completed in the Los Angeles, California, area. His home and lavish gardens were the first tourist site in Hollywood and, because his gardens were so beautiful, he was often called the King of Flowers. De Longpre is most known for his “yard‐long” paintings (long, narrow paintings) that are very popular today.”


Get as much hands on experience as possible.

In conclusion, she professes, “If the painting is framed, the best way to determine the age of the painting is to remove the frame. Is the canvas nailed to the stretcher? Pre‐1915 canvases were always nailed while their newer counterparts were stapled. Check the nails—are they shiny? If so, there’s still a good chance it’s old and was just re-stretched. The wood on the back of the stretcher of a true antique painting should be very dark. The darker the wood, the older the painting is. It is rare, but occasionally the original label will be intact indicating who sold the painting, where it was auctioned, or the art gallery from which it originated.”

You’re all set to start your floral painting collection, or continue your current assemblage with an expanded expertise. We want to thank Ms. Gay Van Beek for her wonderful contributions and expertise in this niche of collectibles.

A huge “Thank you” goes out to you from Romantic Homes Magazine. We appreciate you.

Access this helpful guide for more information on what to look for when considering the purchase of an antique painting at http://www.collectorsguide.com/fa/fa005.shtml