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Rachel Ashwell’s Designer Secrets

Shabby Chic founder and Romantic Homes Columnist, Rachel Ashwell, shares the secrets behind her signature style.

Delicate and detailed, yet inviting and comfortable are the hallmarks of Rachel Ashwell’s signature style. Photo by Sarah Pankow.

Rachel’s signature Shabby Chic style is all about creating perfect imperfection. Here’s how she does it:

  • First, figure out how the room will be used and what it needs to fulfill that purpose. “The saddest thing is creating a space in a house that is never used,” Rachel says.
An inspiration book, complete with photos and fabric samples. Photo by Sarah Pankow.
Two large inspiration boards lean side-by-side against the windows in Rachel’s office nook.
  • Create an inspiration book or board. Rachel’s book for a project might include something like a picture of a pink blouse or some rose petals that speak to a palette or feeling, items that help tell the full story of what the house could be.
  • Evaluate what you already have and what can be repurposed.
  • Start visiting flea markets. Rachel keeps a master list of what she needs to buy for clients. It may take time to find just the right piece, but the end result is worth the time and effort.
Rachel keeps things simple with a soft, monochromatic color palette.
  • Don’t overcomplicate things. Details are important, but you can get caught up in them and never get anything done.
  • Less is more. Rachel was inspired by the recent bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. “Get rid of things that you don’t need,” she encourages with the caveat, “but be cautious because you could regret it later. There is a real emotional empowerment in not hanging on to stuff, things that don’t serve a purpose anymore.”
Two-toned walls are one of Rachel’s favorite ways to add color to a space.
  • When it comes to choosing paint or fabrics, Rachel doesn’t have particular favorites. “It’s how it looks or how it feels,” she says. “Try the paint on the walls to see how it works.” She does recommend avoiding creams or icy white wall paint; instead, Rachel says, “stay with pure, bright white.”


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.
feng-shui-cottage-beach-wreath
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.

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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.

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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.”

 



A White Haven with Vintage, Angelic Charm

Step inside this bright and airy home.

White armchairs and a toile covered ottoman
The clock in this small sitting area is an antique find. “My dad loved clocks,” says Ika, “so this clock is one of the first things that I bought. When my dad came to visit the last time, it wasn’t working and he fixed it. We painted it white and distressed it.” The antique chairs were lucky finds, reupholstered and paired with a toile covered ottoman.

Ika and Greg have always loved to collect angels and keep them on display throughout their home – from an aged sculpture on a tabletop to lacy pillowcase cupids in the master bedroom to watchful figures in the garden, they are nearly everywhere you look. It’s not surprising, then, that when it came time to decorate their home they sought to create a haven worthy of their collection.

All white master bedroom decorating ideas
The bed’s centerpiece is an antique lace pillow, found in France by Ika and Greg’s daughter and brought home as a souvenir.
Vintage fireplace mantel in white
When Greg and Ika found this vintage mantelpiece at a local flea market, they rebuilt the fireplace to accommodate it. Ika had been dreaming of something like this since she saw a similar picture in a magazine years before.

Inspired by the decor of photographer Lu Tapp, a friend of their daughter, they choose to transform their suburban California home with vintage treasures and an otherworldly palette of creamy, dreamy whites. In fact, Lu became a personal angel to them during the redecorating process, helping them with everything along the way, including planning renovations, choosing colors and finding vintage accessories.

The house, built in 1976, was ready for a refresh when the couple moved in. They replaced the tired carpeting with new hardwood floors, opened windows and archways in the dining room and increased the size of the master bedroom by one-third with an addition to the building.

In the kitchen, they installed a new kitchen island for needed working space, and replaced the black countertops with white Carerra marble. The cabinets were updated with white paint.  Ika, praising the contractors who did the work, says, “The quality is so good it looks like it’s the original color, and it’s really easy to clean.” The kitchen’s tile floor, however, was a good fit for their new look and did not need to be replaced.

 

White kitchen decor

Throughout the house, Ika choose furnishings that are a mix of new and vintage, blended to provide a balance of vintage charm and modern comfort.

Foyer with French recamier chaise
There are at least 10 chandeliers in the house.

Most of the vintage pieces were repainted creamy shades of white to create the light-filled atmosphere that the homeowners dreamed of. Learning to paint furniture was a fun challenge, says Ika.

Both Ika and Greg love white, cream, soft colors and roses, so choosing the color scheme for their home was an easy decision.

Though the decorating is mostly finished, Ika admits it’s never really done. “There’s always something new,” she says. And with their guiding angel Lu to help, the Tafts can be sure their home will always be a perfect haven.

 

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7 Tips for Organizing Vintage Kitchen Collectibles

Tips for turning potential kitchen clutter into a pretty and practical collection.

When glass panes break, chicken wire is a vintage farmhouse-inspired alternative. It’s inexpensive, provides an interesting visual texture and allows clear views to the collections within.

 

If you wander flea markets and antique shops often, you’re probably aware that the there are a wide variety of vintage kitchen collectibles available for purchase. No matter what time period or decorative style you’re interested in or the particular items of that catch your fancy (french enamelware, silver servingware or teacups), these everyday, functional items are easy to find and impossible to resist. In fact, the abundance of vintage kitchenware can create a problem of its own – clutter!

Don’t let your collection get the best of you! Here are our favorite tips for organizing your vintage kitchen collectibles, and keeping them on display for everyone to enjoy.

vintage stove displayed with kitchen collectibles

Use the Walls to Hang and Display Collections

Larger items like colanders, pots and pans are awkward to display on shelves, so put hooks on the wall to create an instant work of vintage art in your kitchen. Use Command Hooks, if you’re worried about putting holes in the wall, or look for vintage wall hooks for a little extra style.

Display Collectibles on Open Shelving

The appeal of vintage kitchenware is largely visual, so don’t hide away your treasures behind closed cupboard doors. Remove cupboard doors and show off your collectibles in style, and make your vintage items easy to access. Or opt for glass-front cabinets for a showcase effect.

 

Make Your Kitchen Decor Functional

Just because something is old doesn’t mean it is useless. Go ahead and store bulk dry goods in your vintage canisters and jars. Larger containers can be used for storing dishtowels and napkins. Keep vintage utensils corralled on the counter top in a large mason jar or other coordinating container. This way, you can banish more contemporary storage in your kitchen make room for vintage!

Install Extra Shelving for Display and Storage

If your collection is large, you might need to find a way to add additional display/storage space in your kitchen. This might mean hanging shelves on a wall or bringing in a free-standing cupboard or cabinet. For smaller items, get the maximum use of the space available by using risers and inserts on existing shelves.

 

vintage kitchen with colorful tins on shelves

Think Up for Additional Storage and Display Ideas

If you’re still looking for extra display room, then look up. The space above cupboards is often overlooked but it’s a great place for storing items you don’t need to access often. Even the ceiling can provide a little extra storage space, with a pot rock or hanging scale suspended from above.

Repurpose and Reuse Your Collections

Finding new ways to use vintage kitchen items is a great way to incorporate their decorative value in your home without losing functional space. Antique tea tins, for example, become charming little herb pots for your windowsill. Try transforming that Pyrex mixing bowl into a pendant lamp over the kitchen island. Convert an old cookie sheet into a trendy magnetic note board. And let’s not forget the hundreds of ways people have transformed simple mason jars!

Size Down and Keep Only What You Display

When push comes to shove, and your overcrowded vintage kitchen collectibles start pushing and shoving each other off the shelves, it might be time to think about cutting back on your collection. Sometimes less equals more – more space to appreciate what you can see and use, at least! Thin out what’s on display to those items you just can’t live without. If you can’t bear to part with them, then split up your collection, store part of it and rotate items by season, so that you can fully enjoy everything you own at least part of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Craft A Winter White Flower Arrangement

With a variety of blooms, this delicate and beautiful bouquet is perfect for the chilly months.

Make a statement in your foyer with an impressive arrangement of winter flowers.

It may be winter outside, but you can still enjoy the beauty and fragrance of fresh flowers indoors. This bouquet, designed by Janice Morrow, is made up from blooms and greens that are available even in the coldest months of the year. Our all-white selection reflects the snowy weather that some people dream about (and others dream about being over!), but you can bring in whatever colors keep you happy and cheerful during the cold season.

What You’ll Need:

  • Ironstone urn or other container
  • Wet floral foam
  • Clippers or scissors
  • Flowers: (As shown from left to right) Wax flowers, Gerber daisies, chamomile, stock, feather eucalyptus, mini carnations, spider mums, silver dollar eucalyptus, hydrangea (not shown), amaranth (not shown)

Types of flowers used in arrangement

What You’ll Do:

  1. Clean your urn and cut the floral foam to fit inside. Add water, about 2/3rds full.
  2. Begin by inserting long pieces of eucalyptus into the foam,  so they drape down over the edge of the urn.
  3. Add several stems of hydrangea to fill in the middle area.
  4. Start adding your large focus flowers (daisies and mums), spacing them randomly around the arrangement. Cut the stems long, to give the arrangement plenty of height and fullness.
  5. Fill spaces with the smaller flowers and additional greens, until you reach the desired fullness.
  6. As a signature touch, Janice adds a spring of amaranth trailing over the side of the urn.

This is a casual arrangement, so don’t worry about symmetry or other formal design structures. The secret to beautiful floral displays, according to Janice, is to be fearless. Follow your instincts, and don’t be afraid to add more!

For more of Janice’s flower arrangements, visit her Instagram account, @figandtwigs.

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Make It: DIY Crystal Chandelier

Create a home accessory from an old lampshade and crystal garlands.

DIY chandelier from lampshade
Stunning, yet deceptively easy to create!

 

No romantic home is complete without at least one chandelier to add the shimmer of crystal to your elegant space. While there’s no denying the appeal of a vintage piece, creating your own crystal chandelier to give your home a little personal charm and character. It’s not only a fun project, but it’s easy too! Keep reading to find out what you’ll need, and what to do.

Detail of cord and crystals from a diy chandelier

DIY Chandelier: What You’ll Need

  • 1 lampshade
  • Gold spray paint
  • Gold metallic cord – about 5 yards, depending on size of lampshade
  • Variety of acrylic chandelier bead garlands
  • 3 Acrylic candle bobeche
  • 4 Glass votive holders
  • Thin gold-toned wire
  • Jewelry chain
  • Hot glue or other adhesive

Chandlier crystals on a diy project

DIY Chandelier: What You’ll Do

  1. Cut the fabric cover from the lampshade and remove all the glue remnants. Spray with gold spray paint.
  2. Wrap gold cord around the bars of the lampshade frame, making sure it is evenly spaced. Secure using hot glue or other adhesive.
  3. Use the wire to attach the strands of crystal to the lampshade.
  4. Using hot glue or other heavy duty adhesive, attach the bobeche to the frame. Make sure they are secure, and then glue the votive holders on top of the bobeche. Glue the fourth votive holder inside the shade, where the light bulb would sit.
  5. Attach three equal lengths of jewelry chain to the top of the lampshade, joined together with a large jump ring for hanging.

If you like, you can leave off the bobeche and candle holders and use it on an electric lamp. We chose to add gold tea lights for an extra bit of bling.

You can also use vintage chandelier crystals (rock crystal or leaded glass) to create a unique, one-of-a-kind treasure for your home.

Close up of diy chandelier

 

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A Historic Home Meets An Eclectic Touch

Expressing your personal style doesn't have to be at odds with respecting the historical details of your home.

Like other residences designed by Arthur and Nina Zwebell, Jennifer’s complex features a beautiful central courtyard with a fountain. She can view the courtyard with its olive trees and succulents through French doors in her living room.
Like other residences designed by Arthur and Nina Zwebell, this complex features a beautiful central courtyard with a fountain. Jennifer Laskey can view the courtyard with its olive trees and succulents through French doors in her living room.

Expressing your personal style doesn’t have to be at odds with respecting the historical details of your home. From selecting daring yet authentic paint colors to accessorizing with all manner of vintage finds, you can create a home that fits the aesthetics of both you and your home’s era, as Jennifer Laskey’s historic Los Angeles apartment proves.

The home is decorated with antique and vintage pieces Jennifer has collected from a variety of sources, including flea markets, antiques stores, eBay and Craigslist. An avid collector, she knows the pieces that will work best for her home.
The home is decorated with antique and vintage pieces Jennifer has collected from a variety of sources, including flea markets, antiques stores, eBay and Craigslist. An avid collector, she knows the pieces that will work best for her home.

Completed in 1928, the Andalusian-style courtyard complex was designed by famed architects Arthur and Nina Zwebell.

Jennifer, a long-time fan of 1920s and ’30s Spanish-style architecture, was drawn to the townhouse because of its original features, including a grand tiled staircase, 22-foot beamed ceilings in the living room and elaborately carved dark-wood doors.

“I hate when people will redo a bathroom or a kitchen or change windows or anything like that,” she says.

“This was pretty much untouched, which a lot of people don’t like because they want the modern amenities, but I don’t care about any of that and just really want originality.”

When she moved into the apartment, Jennifer undid a number of modern upgrades and added vintage pieces both reflective of the apartment’s late-’20s history and her own eclectic style.

Jennifer worked to enhance the period beauty of the living room. She added gold leaf to the fireplace to give it a dramatic feel befitting a home built at the start of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Details, from the tile to the flooring to the woodwork, are all original.
Jennifer worked to enhance the period beauty of the living room. She added gold leaf to the fireplace to give it a dramatic feel befitting a home built at the start of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Details, from the tile to the flooring to the woodwork, are all original.

Builders-grade medicine cabinets, mirrored doors, screens, light fixtures and more were taken out. Fans, though practical, were removed from the sweeping ceilings in the living room and equally beautiful ceiling in the bedroom, replaced with more-authentic-feeling fixtures.

A favorite upgrade, and a standout in the living room, is the newly gold-leafed fireplace.

“[I]t has a really cool fireplace that’s got original Spanish detail and the top of it was just white, and I don’t know if it was originally gold-leafed or no, but it was something that I could imagine there being that the architects/designers were very ornate,” Jennifer says. “I sourced a painter to do it, it’s just a little detail, it was a really expensive little detail, but I just felt it would be the most amazing detail, so I did that.”

Jennifer selected the striking red wall color to complement the home’s Spanish architectural style. The bookshelf goes with the desk in the loft but was too large for the space, so it gives an industrial punch to the dining room. A mix of vintage finds dresses up the room.
Jennifer selected the striking red wall color to complement the home’s Spanish architectural style. The bookshelf goes with the desk in the loft but was too large for the space, so it gives an industrial punch to the dining room. A mix of vintage finds dresses up the room.

Jennifer used paint to complement the townhome’s striking original details. The dining room was painted in a deep red with an uneven, aged plaster  effect.

Newer doors were treated to gold, white, navy and olive green finishes to give them an older European-influenced appearance.

The work continued onto the patio, accessible via French doors from both the kitchen and dining room.

Electrical was added and Moroccan-style bronze light fixtures were installed.

The area was completed with a large daybed with matching ottoman and an ornate vintage mirror.

The daybed on Jennifer’s patio was a dream purchase, scored on sale after months on her wish list. The new piece is complemented by a mix of new and vintage finds. Electrical was added to the space, and Jennifer installed the bronze fixtures.
The daybed on Jennifer’s patio was a dream purchase, scored on sale after months on her wish list. The new piece is complemented by a mix of new and vintage finds. Electrical was added to the space, and Jennifer installed the bronze fixtures.

 



A New Home With Vintage Sensibilities

Learn how to turn a newly constructed home into a vintage haven with homeowner Amy Campbell.

This tract home bathroom gets a vintage makeover with a farmhouse style bathtub and vintage bathroom accessories.
This tract home bathroom gets a vintage makeover with a farmhouse style bathtub and gold vintage bathroom accessories.

What do you do when you have a new home, but want a vintage look? When Amy Campbell and her husband Joe bought a new tract home in Temecula, California, Amy knew she would have to speed up its aging process. Here’s how she did it.

Vintage furniture makes the perfect antique haven for this new home.
The master bed is an heirloom piece from Joe’s grandparents, and on an end bench Amy displays part of her vintage hat collection.

Start With the Bones.

Decorating a home always starts with the structure itself. Even though Amy and Joe’s home still smelled of fresh sawdust, she saw the potential for vintage style. “I knew the ‘bones’ would work with my style,” she says. “I wouldn’t want high ceilings because they don’t lend themselves to a delicate style of furniture. It had the right scale for the way I like to decorate. Even though it’s an open floor plan, the scale and aspects of the room lent themselves to a gentler style of furniture, not huge pieces. It was the perfect marriage of light, open rooms in a traditional type of architectural style that I could decorate the way I wanted to. It also had English gardens in the back and front of the house.”

Instead of working against the architecture, Amy used it to her advantage. “The architectural style was French Country with a little Tuscan influence,” she says. “I wanted it a little more rustic. I added some shabby elements and a bit of industrial style for a French-cottage distressed look.” Amy paired the French country architecture with her own vintage style, which resulted in an aged but timeless look. “I love anything rustic and chippy,” she says. “I’d describe the décor as French provincial with a cottage twist.”

This new home receives a vintage makeover with shabby interiors and antiques on display.
If you want to display vintage items in your home, don’t stop with pillows or statuettes. Make clothes into accent pieces with a hat rack or dress form.

Add Vintage Charm.

When it comes to furniture, Amy is all about antiques. “Everything in my home has to be old and have a history, either vintage or antique,” she says. She displays vintage finds throughout her home, and doesn’t stop with the furniture. “I collect vintage buttons and add them to modern clothing,” Amy says. “I also collect floral oil paintings. My great-great cousin was an oil painter, and I started collecting and displaying them, including three of her paintings.” By displaying items such as antique coats and hats, Amy shows off her love of vintage style through small details as well as the larger elements of her rooms.

Shabby vintage details make this new home the perfect antique showcase.
Amy shares her grandmother’s passion for needlepoint, and in the living room, Amy’s work sits next to her grandmother’s on display.

Strut Your Stuff.

Not only does Amy display vintage pieces throughout her home, but she also shows off some of her own handiwork. “I love anything with needlepoint, and I display the needlepoints my grandmother and I made in the rooms,” she says. Even her passion for crafts and hand stitching is part of the heritage her grandmother passed down, and now the work of both grandmother and granddaughter sits proudly side by side. Amy’s needlepoint projects make an appearance in pillows and ottomans in various rooms.

In her dining room, Amy decorates for fall with appropriate white pumpkins and sprigs of green.
In her dining room, Amy decorates for fall with appropriate white pumpkins and sprigs of green.

Be Seasonal.

When the weather turns cold, Amy dresses up her home for the various holidays during fall and winter. “I love to decorate with pumpkins and gourds,” she says. “I also decorate bottlebrush trees—my true craft passion—for the holidays. I repurpose shoe buckles into bracelets and make them for holiday parties.”

During the fall months, real pumpkins and needlepointed masterpieces grace her living room, dining table and even bedroom. “The beauty of this kind of décor is that everything blends together well,” Amy says.

 



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
Source.
peach and pink wedding bouquet
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bouquet on lace covered table
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Or maybe some floral couture is more to your taste…

floral gown
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For the most daring, I give these floral tattoos.

floral tattoo on arm
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floral tattoos, back and leg
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Of course, this wouldn’t be Romantic Homes if we didn’t offer some decor ideas with beautiful flowers, too….

cottage-bedroom-bright-floral

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?

 

 

 

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