primitive lighting love

DSC_1838I have always liked candlesticks.  Not the shiny sterling silver variety although I do appreciate their beauty.   The candlesticks I have always admired best are the simple ones especially Depression Glass era clear or etched candlesticks, simple crystal sticks, and those bulk-classified as “primitives”.

Maybe thirty years ago I started picking up  a form of primitive – cool chamber sticks at church sales, garage sales, and flea markets.  Chamber sticks are the candlesticks that look like they are in a little saucer and have a circular hook  (for lack of a better description) for your finger.

chamber stickThese chamber sticks I found were mostly pewter, and occasionally pottery.  The porcelain ones are also pretty but somehow too fussy for my taste. They never cost a fortune. They were inexpensive accents I picked up for anywhere in the range of $5.00 to $15.00 and they added a touch of home to wherever I lived. (My love of candlesticks and oil lamps is all my mother’s fault.)

I never considered myself a true primitives or country person as far as decorating styles went.  Some people just take it too far and too dark for me.  Too much plaid and gingham ribbons, wooden carved-out hearts.  But when I started exploring Chester County I began to appreciate elements of country and primitive in decorating.

I have fallen in love with primitive candle holders. Punched tin lanterns and especially primitive candle sticks known as hog scrapers.  When I first developed this candlestick crush, I wrote about it.

My crush is now a full-blown love affair.  Made of iron, tin, and even pewter the simplicity of them is so beautiful.

Some people consider them rustic and too beat up.  I see the lighting of our forefathers.

Hog scrapers were the go to lighting of average families in Colonial America.  My research indicates these candlesticks have not only British roots but Dutch, French, and German as well.  Which of course makes perfect sense given a lot of our country’s early settlers.

The name “hog scraper” comes from the similarity in shape and appearance to a  tool made for scraping the bristles off of a newly butchered hog (yes a reality of farm life, but yuck…and yes I like pork roasts.)  I have read while researching that  people actually used hog scraper candle holders for this purpose but none I have stumbled across this far have had any hog bristles snarled up in them. Which is probably for the best, that might gross me out.  (I have a thing for chickens, cows and goats but less so for live pigs. They just smell.)

My first primitive candle holders came from The Smithfield Barn.  They turned up when someone brought them contents of an old farmhouse. From there I have hunted them in various locations but rarely buy them from traditional antiques dealers because they mark them up too much.  Also, I am a practical person and I know I like these candlesticks, but know my knowledge base of age and dating them is somewhat limited. So I would rather not break the bank.

These candle holders seem to date from Colonial times through a good part of the 19th century as America moved west with the pioneers.  Stylistically it is my opinion that some candlesticks described as “mission” have their roots in these primitives.  I am no expert, but that is my opinion.

I have seen them on Etsy and Ebay.  The prices range from inexpensive to ridiculous in price. I recently came across some new reproductions that came into Reseller’s Consignment in Frazer but they were brand new reproductions and felt too light weight-wise in my hand.  I think part of why I like these candle holders is the comfortable, solid feel of them.  The new reproductions feel like a Xerox copy to me they are so light. Kind of like the difference between truly old oil lamps and the newer reproductions.

I know I seem to preach a lot about decorating on a budget, but that is just the way I am made.  I am not the one who wants a decorator, I want my own stamp on my home. And I love the thrill of the hunt for pieces. I hate to say I use high end antique store and antiques shows to educate myself and my eye, but I do. They provide me with an invaluable resource.

That being said, if you live in Chester County or close enough to it, be sure to add the Chester County Antiques Show to your schedule.  It is a lovely show and the dealers for the most part are happy to talk to you about their pieces and antiques and collectibles. There was only one dealer last year that I did not find particularly convivial and unfortunately that was Stevens Antiques in Frazer.  The attitude of whomever was running their booth the day I was there wasn’t what I would describe as warm or welcoming.

This year the Chester County Antiques Show is April 4, 5, and 6 at the Phelps School in Malvern. This show benefits the Chester County Historical Society which is an amazing resource and they are always doing cool stuff.

If you want to learn about hog scraper candlesticks check out this old post from Blue Dog Antiques.

media picks up on smithfield barn

barn 1Yep. The media is onto the Smithfield Barn story. Upper Uwchlan may wish to stop playing possum on this one, huh?

They wait how many years before suddenly deciding to make a move on the Smithfield Barn on Little Conestoga Road?  Their employees and employees of local school districts all shop there (I have seen them with my own eyes – always amusing when you see a school bus stop so the driver can go picking).  So yes, apparently I am not the only one who finds this move on their part suspect yes? Especially given, shall we say, the “development” of it all next door and across the street from Smithfield Farm?

I wrote a post on December 27th about this and it has now surpassed in readership even the posts about Justice for Argus & Fiona.  After I wrote the story a lot of interest cropped up. From media and people all across the country. And I was inundated with comments and messages, including ones that were interpreted by many to be distinctly unpleasant.  Makes you wonder if that is how they roll over there in that township of Upper Uwchlan? Sheesh, even those who are not fans of media and bloggers in West Vincent weren’t so bad.

And yes the media is interested. And yes the first media story broke today.  It is by Tim Lake of PaNewz.com .

PANewz.com: Pa Picker’s country barn sale shut down by township as McMansions move in

Phil Smith is a self-described ‘Picker’ whose popular Smithfield Farm ‘Barn Sale’ has been shut down by his local Pa government

-1870s-era barn is filled with 30 years of ‘picking’ around old homes, estate sales and farms of Pa

Antiques, toys, glassware, collectibles, junk all sold in vintage Pa stone barn that drew buyers from eastern Pa, many other states

-Regular barn sales created ‘old timey’ social life in rapidly developing, former farm community now jokingly referred to as ‘McMansionville’

-Upper Uwchlan Township says Smithfield Farm was violating zoning regulations by operating as a business in a residential district, five years after barn sales began

-Timing of notice suspect because new ‘McMansion’ housing development  was just approved for across the road from Smithfield Farm

Smithfield Farm has a classic Pa stone barn first constructed around 1841 and later expanded  in the 1870s.  Smith says many people stopped at his barn sales just to get a glimpse inside the old barn. On sale days, items would fill the front lawn and the doors were flung open to reveal all the antiques, toys, furniture, collectibles, glassware and junk inside.  The barn is alongside Little Conestoga Road and the Pa Turnpike in Chester County, Pa.

….Smith says he was a ‘picker’ long before the TV show ‘American Pickers’ made the practice wildly popular.  Narrow pathways wind through the large barn, crammed with all kinds of useful antiques and household items and not so useful collectibles too…..Smithfield Barn is so crammed with collectibles that shoppers had to walk through narrow paths throughout the barn to find merchandise.  After five years of barn sales, the owners received a letter from Upper Uwchlan Township ordering them to stop the barn sales or face a $500 per day fine.  The township  cited the barn sales as a zoning violation for operating a business in a residential district.  Smithfield Farm contains about 14 acres in an area enclosed by a ‘Farm to Market’ type road and the Pa Turnpike.  Timing of the violation letter is suspect because the township had just approved a large new development of what local’s jokingly call ‘McMansions’, across the road.  The development of about 60 large homes will bring much needed road improvements, a large sewage treatment facility and a new park….Smithfield Farm is more than just a country barn sale. The original farmhouse was converted to a Victorian-style house that once held a boarding school.  The farm was originally in the Abrams-Fetters family, one of the oldest family names in the area formerly known as Uwchland.  It’s a vintage landmark among new homes in the former farm community…..Upper Uwchlan Township contains the picturesque village of Eagle that was once home to the iconic Simpson’s Store, a relic of the past with a pot belly coal stove and farm merchandise.  It was demolished several years ago to make way for a large shopping center, bank, and retail shops.  … Around the village, more than 10,000 housing units have either been built or are scheduled to be built in Upper Uwchlan.  With the rapidly changing nature of this once rural farm community, the days of old fashioned barn sales may be gone for good….Without a formal complaint, Smith and Nowak are concerned that the new housing development, which will likely resemble this Toll Brothers community a half mile way, may have spurred the decision to halt the barn sales.

Hmmm file under do not ask for whom the bell “Tolls”, it “Tolls” for thee?

I was waiting for Upper Uwchlan officials to really comment, but all I see are sound bytes from the township inspector Al Gaspari.  Guess he is the fall guy and is that penance of a sort? Wasn’t he in the middle of that scandal with the Township Manager being fired, and the missing rent money from the township owned farmhouse debacle not so long ago?

Anyway, Tim Lake is a seasoned journalist and former news anchor of a local affiliate of a major news network, so I would say maybe my suspicions weren’t so unrealistic if he took on the story?

And well there are other media folks nosing around who think something funky is a foot so is everyone wrong? Does Upper Uwchlan have a cut and dry case or cut and dry reasons for doing this?  Or is it just more about municipal greed and future development ratables and such?  And how can Al Gaspari stretch  the truth quite a bit by exaggerating how often the barn is actually open for barn sales? Upper Uwchlan and he would have you THINK they are open like every day and every weekend, but that is not true. I mean it is six shades of creepy and makes you wonder does Upper Uwchlan keep a log of the people who visit the Smiths and their immediate neighbors too? So 1950s cold war era McCarthyism of them, right?

But how would we know exactly what the motivation is? Upper Uwchlan hasn’t exactly been forthcoming have they? But not being forthcoming isn’t exactly new behavior for Upper Uwchlan officials is it?

Yes….Upper Uwchlan is no stranger to strange goings on:

Daily Local: Upper Uwchlan fires its manager

By DANIELLE LYNCH, Staff Writer      Posted:     03/06/12, 10:34 PM EST

UPPER UWCHLAN — Township supervisors announced the firing of Township Manager John Roughan Jr. at a standing-room-only meeting Monday night.

Roughan reacted Tuesday by saying he enjoyed his time working for Upper Uwchlan.

“I’m proud of what I accomplished there,” said Roughan, who began working for the township in October 1988. “I met some great people.”

The board’s decision to terminate Roughan falls on the heels of a controversial rental agreement on the Upland Farms property….Controversy over the Upland Farms agreement sparked in early February after township supervisors approved an occupancy agreement that requires Al Gaspari, the township’s code enforcement officer, to pay $400 a month to the township and “perform necessary upkeep and repairs on the property and coordinate capital repairs.”

Then in mid-February, former township Supervisor Don Carlson said there was already a rental agreement in place for the house in the 300 block of Route 100. The previous agreement was signed by Gaspari and Roughan in May 2004.

The farm site is still owned by Pulte Homes and is awaiting formal transfer to the township for use of taxpayer-owned open space….. the 56-acre site has a home, a barn and outbuildings.

Daily Local: Upper Uwchlan officials appoint new manager

By ERIC S. SMITH, Staff Writer   Posted:  03/07/12, 12:13

UPPER UWCHLAN — After going more than seven months without a township manager, township supervisors unanimously appointed a new manager Monday night.

The board selected Cary Vargo to fill a spot vacated in March after the board fired John Roughan Jr. His annual salary rate will be $95,000 for a 90-day probationary period, after which his pay rate would jump to $100,000 a year.

Vargo comes to Upper Uwchlan after serving as township manager in Thornbury for more than two years. Prior to that, Vargo served as a Coatesville police corporal. He had served on the force for eight years.

“I was interested in serving a quality community that was a little closer to home,” said Vargo, who resides in Amity Township, Berks County…..In February, the board passed an occupancy agreement allowing Al Gaspari, the township’s code enforcement officer, to stay there as long as he paid $400 a month and performed “necessary upkeep and repairs on the property and coordinate capital repairs.”

After this agreement passed, Don Carlson, who served as a township supervisor from 1994 until 2005, announced that an agreement had already been in place since 2004 for Gaspari to use the residence at a cost of $500 per month. The 2004 agreement was signed by both Gapsari and Roughan.

The 2004 agreement stipulates: “There will be a 10 percent penalty assessed for rent payment received the 10th day of the month.

“This agreement recognizes that the house will cost an average of $300 per month in utilities. The township will review utilities on a semiannual basis. You (Gaspari) may be liable for any utilities above a six-month period ($1,800).”

The board later brought in Bob Bezgin, a certified public accountant, to perform an audit on rent transactions from May 2004 until December 2008. Bezgin found that only $8,000 of the $28,000 owed was paid by Gaspari. But Gaspari and Roughan had amended the agreement to account for the work done on the property by Gaspari.

Therefore, the board required Gaspari pay back $11,085.84 that it deems he owes in back rent.

Daily Local Editorial: Township should clear the air over firing of manager

The Upper Uwchlan Board of Supervisors fired the longtime township manager on Monday. But the action by the three-member member board, instead of bringing to a close the troublesome situation surrounding the house at Upland Farms and its occupancy by a township employee, has had the opposite effect of raising more questions.

John Roughan worked at the township since 1988 and steered it through a period of intense development. Like any government administrator, especially in a “small town” setting such as Upper Uwchlan, Roughan has his supporters and critics. But we think it only fair to the residents of the township and those who do business there that the supervisors lay out a case in public against him if they are to have any hope of putting the crisis behind them.

Transparency is among the functions of government that we value as highly as accountability and responsibility. When pubic officials lay their cards on the table as openly as possible and give the public the ability to make up its own mind, then we have representative democracy in action. When they do not, it works against that goal…..Controversy over the Upland Farms agreement sparked in early February after township supervisors approved an occupancy agreement that requires Al Gaspari, the township’s code enforcement officer, to pay $400 a month to the township and “perform necessary upkeep and repairs on the property and coordinate capital repairs.”

Then in mid-February, former township Supervisor Don Carlson said there was already a rental agreement in place for the house in the 300 block of Route 100. The previous agreement was signed by Gaspari and Roughan in May 2004, but payments appear to have stopped coming into township coffers along the way, and Gaspari seems to have been living on the property rent-free for some months.

So I am of the opinion (once again) that things are not necessarily as they seem in Upper Uwchlan and can’t you agree something is fishy?

Here’s hoping a lot more bog turtles and whatnot are found, right? After all, if this is the future of formerly bucolic parts of Chester County, well I am so sorry but do we all live out here so we can look at plastic houses all crammed together?

Remember my photos taken from the hot air balloon America 1 on Septermber 11, 2012? I took photos of development from the air? The photos I snapped were quite close to the Smithfield Barn of pre-existing development as we took off from a field in Upper Uwchlan.  And I remember smelling that rotten septic smell when we landed in a septic field of another development.  Is that what we are to be reduced to soon?  That the only open space we have left in Chester County are septic fields of plastic mushroom house developments?

development1

In my opinion (which I am entitled to) Upper Uwchlan destroyed the village of Eagle. But they got a nice township building, right?  Don’t let them destroy the Smithfield Barn too.  This is about development, isn’t it?

Barn sales and yard sales are part of Chester County life and a lot of fun. They should be allowed to continue. And this is a very nice family that I feel is being victimized by local government most unfairly. Please help Save The Barn! Barn Picking hurts no one.  And there are a lot of very poor people in that part of Chester County who need places like the Smithfield Barn so they can just get stuff for their homes – you know the basics like a kitchen table and chairs that aren’t over priced?

Upper Uwchlan

Guy A. Donatelli Chairperson 78 Stonehedge Drive Glenmoore, PA 19343

GDonatelli@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

Catherine A. Tomlinson Vice-Chairperson 788 North Reeds Road Downingtown, PA 19335

CTomlinson@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

Kevin C. Kerr Supervisor 16 Heron Hill Drive Downingtown, PA 19335

KKerr@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

140 Pottstown Pike Chester Springs, PA 19425 Phone: (610) 458-9400 Fax: (610) 458-0307

Cary Vargo Township Manager (610) 646-7008

cvargo@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

the mini-tree of it all!

20131205-200213.jpg

I make no secret of my love of Christmas and vintage ornaments. Today I completed my six mini-trees and have them scattered about the house. I thought I would share two of the trees with you.

Why have a plebeian elf on a shelf when you can decorate mini-trees?

Please note the largest mini-tree is like 2 feet tall. They all feature ornaments I had either previously collected, found at the Smithfield Barn and other places this year, and a few from my father.

Surprisingly it took hours to get these little trees decked out appropriately…but I had so much fun!

20131205-200138.jpg

so I made a wreath…

20131203-123522.jpg

It’s December! Christmas decorations can make their 2013 Christmas season debut!

I made a wreath yesterday.

Including the wreath form it cost me $6.51.

How?

Gently used and vintage Christmas decorations is how.

Yesterday I made a stop at Resellers Consignment Gallery on Route 30 in Frazer. In the front of the store as you walk in there is a jumble of gently and not so gently used Christmas decorations . These decorations include ornaments, ribbon, pinecones, wreath fixings, you name it. You have to dig through, and I hope you’ll dig gently if you go, so you don’t break things for the next person.

Hanging up throughout the store you will notice, much as is the case at places like the Smithfield Barn in Downingtown, there are also artificial Christmas wreaths galore. The wreath I found (plain and unadorned) was 25% off, and if you’re in the market for an artificial tree, they are loaded with them at Resellers – big trees, not the table-top variety.

Everything that went on my wreath except for the florist wire, came from Resellers yesterday. And yes, everything cost me $6.51. I also believe that I could make a wreath for just about the same amount if not less from fixings at the Smithfield Barn.

My point is simple: you can decorate for Christmas on a budget. There are enough people in this world that jettison Christmas decorations on a regular basis, that if you look at places like Resellers, Smithfield barn, thrift shops, church sales, and so on you can find pretty much everything you need.

The only thing I do not buy it any of these places are used or vintage lights. I am not an electrician, so I have no clue what is in good condition or not.

Decorating for Christmas just puts you in the mood to get a little holiday spirit. And yes, I have inside wreaths and outside wreaths and I don’t do it all every year, I tend to rotate my ornaments and decorations.

If you put your Christmas decorations away carefully, they can and do last. I put artificial and pinecone wreaths on hangers in my attic covered with big clear trash bags. If it is a year where I am making a natural wreath out of fresh greenery, I removed the ribbons and decorations that can be salvaged at the end of Christmas and put them away as well.

I am a fumble fingers with a hot glue gun, so the only thing that go on my wreaths are things that I can wire on with florist wire.

I don’t want to put specialty stores or craft stores out of business, but there are a lot of Christmas decorations that you can source quite reasonably and a gently used or vintage condition.

I like to do what I consider tasteful decorating for Christmas. I don’t do a million lights and inflatable things on the front lawn. I mean no disrespect to those who chose to do this Griswold Family Christmas style of decorating, but truly I do not need my decorations to be able to be seen from space!

Fun fact: I had an uncle that when I was a child that used to go to little overboard with Christmas decorations, including music being piped from the roof. Loudly. And this was before National Lampoon and Chevy Chase made overboard Christmas decorating so infamous.

You won’t find anything adorned in my home before December. Some years I get things up early in December, other years it’s a couple weeks into the month before I begin.

I also really try hard not to overwhelm my rooms. I look at it the way Coco Chanel looked at jewelry: she had a famous quote about taking one piece of jewelry off after you are dressed and about to walk out the door.

Have any of you begun decorating? What is your favorite thing to do?

Also if any of you know of any church sales or fleamarkets or Christmas festivals coming up with a gently used Christmas ornaments and other holiday things for sale, feel free to leave a comment.

20131203-123609.jpg

ho, ho, ho! vintage holiday barn sale and a blog holiday rule!

20131121-185117.jpg

Ho, ho, ho! I spent part of the afternoon previewing the Vintage Holiday Barn Sale at Smithfield Barn in Downingtown! I had to drop off some bits of my former vintage Christmases past to make room for the new vintage fun I have found. And yes, I had to pick up a small (emphasis on small) box of Christmas treasures.

Kristin has decked the barn and it is loaded to the gills, including yes, more vintage ornaments, some interesting furniture and stuff needing a little elbow grease and imagination, a couple of sets of really neat china PLUS all the normal cool vintage country finds like a retro 50s or 50s dinette set with chairs in pretty fabulous condition.

The Smithfield Barn asked me to pass along the following message about the weekend:

Hello! Just a quick note that the barn will be open this Friday Saturday and Sunday from 10-4. The barn is full of all kinds of treasures with a whole lot of vintage holiday items mixed in! Hope to see you!

Smithfield Barn 425 Little Conestoga Rd.

I am going to share a little more from me to all of you : Drive and park considerately when you go, there are neighbors. Also cash and carry unless you arrange something else. A lot of people have been a little inconsiderate of late and it’s not fair to prey on the good nature of small business owners and not follow through with intended purchases, or leaving items sitting for weeks. I have a lot of friends were small-business owners, so I’m very sensitive to how much work they put into their businesses and what they need to do to keep it going.

The barn is full of fabulous ideas. So if you like Clover Market or Brooklyn Flea or Brimfield Antiques Show, this is why you go to the barn. And truthfully, in case you haven’t figured out what I’ve been trying to tell you for a while, this is where dealers shop: the Smithfield Barn. Truthfully, some weeks this place deserves to go on American Pickers!

Now for the blog rule.

The holiday season is nigh, and we all have no problem calling Thanksgiving Thanksgiving and wishing people Happy Thanksgiving. But after that Thursday tales of the politically correct take over.

The things I wonder about include “Black Friday”. Think about it for a minute. We are so dependent upon the political correctness police in this country, that I am surprised that someone hasn’t said it’s politically incorrect to still call it “Black Friday”.

I guess and what comes after Black Friday? What do you wish people as it gets closer to December 25, right?

In my neighborhood we call it Christmas. I celebrate Christmas, my family celebrates Christmas.

Meaning no disrespect anybody that celebrates something else, but I do not believe in the whitewashing of the holiday spirit known as Christmas wishes.

So I won’t be happy holidaying anyone. I’m sorry but I wish people Merry Christmas. And I will do so even on this blog.

So as Christmas gets into the air and into your hearts, I hope you’ll pay the Christmas spirit forward and wish people “Merry Christmas”.

In the meantime, avoid all bah humbug moments and get a start on your shopping and decorating season and check out Smithfield Barn and their vintage holiday sale this weekend. After this weekend, the barn might not be open for a while. This is not an all weather, year round proposition, after all. I am going to make a suggestion for you nouveau pickers: bring a small pocket flashlight with you. It makes it easier to peer into dark corners. You would be surprised how much you miss if you don’t do this.

See you out at the barn!

20131121-185133.jpg

yes, I also brake for yard sales…and barn sales…and so on

chair

Chair $40 at Eclectic Market in Malvern, floral needlepoint pillow $8 at St. David’s Church Fair a few years ago, and chicken pillow $4 at St. Paul’s in Exton during AngelFest

Truly, you can hire that interior designer if you want to  but you don’t have to.  You don’t have to be design challenged and you can find the time.  I get inspiration from all over. People like Lara Spencer and Cari Cucksy inspire me.  Not Martha Stewart any longer. Besides her issue with bloggers she is way too comfy with pastel paints and washes and she is enough to make you dream in crème de menthe which is too close to Kmart green and similarly pastel nightmares, but I digress.

Lara Spencer used to be a host on Antiques Roadshow.  A lot of people know her from being an anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, and from Flea Market Flip. Now she has a book I Brake For Yard Sales and a series by the same name that made what appears to be a limited debut on HGTV.  I say limited because HGTV is a little hard to figure these days.  They replay a lot of home crashing series but no real gardening shows any longer and don’t have a lot of air time (in my opinion) on some of these fun shows like I Brake For Yard Sales or Cash & Cari.

Chair one of a pair ($18 for both) from  Smithfield Barn, Downingtown. Sampler pillow embroidered by me and other pillow a gift

Chair one of a pair $18 for both Smithfield Barn. Sampler pillow embroidered by me and other pillow a gift

Why I love watching ladies like Lara Spencer and Cari Cuksey is because they show you it is not a beige, beige world and not everything has to be all matchy-matchy. They give you great re-purposing ideas too.

I have never needed to hire an interior designer or decorator. And I know a few who are amazing.  But in this economy, why not train your own eye and save some money?  At least do some of the leg work if not the whole thing?

I did our new house by myself with my sweet man (and a terrific carpenter who built us amazing bookcases and storage benches).  Fortunately our tastes are compatible.  Or should I say he is a man who will actually communicate about house stuff?

unknown watercolor - approximately $20 from Smithfield Barn in Downingtown.

unknown watercolor – approximately $20 from Smithfield Barn in Downingtown.

I guess I am kind of sort of quasi-traditional with a dash of quirky .  I like vintage and I like the lines of a lot of older furniture.  I like a more country or should I say less formal kind of look as in what some would call “farmhouse chic”, but if you are expecting mad for plaid with ruffles, gag me with gingham, so not my style. Yet I am not so casual as in Cindy Crawford icky denim love seats or lots of plastic things. Comfortable and pretty works but not a frilly gilded lily. And also a component of my home to be considered are things from my childhood home I liked and wanted to emulate.

And interestingly enough, my sweet man and I both had mothers who loved to check out estate sales, so you could say we sort of inherited this treasure-seeking meets bargain hunting fun.

I do think my style is uniquely my own and can’t be pigeonholed as one particular category because to me what I have done is a little bit of this a little bit of that.  I have put what I love into my home and it is a house where every room is used.  No, the living room is not for teenagers to play video games in, but neither is it some shrine to formal living and roped off with a velvet rope except for special occasions and sherry by the fire.

I like pops of color and am not afraid of color.  I don’t like wallpaper.  I can admire it in other people’s houses in small doses, but would rather look at a colorfully painted wall than wallpaper. I remember once being in a house in Massachusetts near where the Brimfield Antiques show is held.  You would have thought they house would have been New England fabulous, right? It was instead a  study of  contradicting and competing wallpaper.  Every room was papered and even the halls. And nothing complimented or flowed.  The house literally gave me a pattern headache. And the owner was so house proud too.  But they loved their house, so that was what mattered.

I have a glass bowl my sister gave me one year for Christmas about ten years ago.  It was inadvertently color inspiration for a lot of my current living room.  The bowl is a beautiful almost cranberry crossed with raspberry kind of color.  With it in mind I found a traditional Chippendale hump back sofa of similarly colored damask circa late 1950s or early 1960s  at Reseller’s in Frazer for $125.  Yes, really.  It was a lucky find that had sat on the sales floor until it was reduced, reduced, reduced.  It was in pristine condition and the only thing it needed was the legs dusted.

At the Eclectic Market on King Street in Malvern one Saturday last fall I found a vintage wing chair in a pattern that was palatable, and compatible to my sofa.  Yet it isn’t nauseating matching like furniture garanimals. And this sturdy chair was…wait for it…forty dollars. Yes $40.00.

It is that easy.  A little time and effort and it actually comes together. Not all on one day, but it does come together.

You all know by now that I love barn picking.  And yes, the Smithfield Barn in Downingtown is that awesome.  Kristin has a fabulous eye and thanks to her I can actually identify some country antiques now that might impress an actual farmer or if not that an antiques dealer or two.

I also will check out yard sales and estate sales and church sales and country auctions and resale shops and flea markets.

I love Frazer Antiques and the dealers who work there are so incredibly nice and patient with my 10,000 questions.  They are helpful too.

Resellers Consignment in Frazer is also a favorite haunt and they get fabulous stuff all the time – even vintage table linens, crystal, lighting fixtures, garden ornaments,  artwork and china.  Not just furniture.  But the trick to them is if you like it, buy it because much like the Smithfield Barn, stock move quickly because the pricing is reasonable.

And I can’t forget Garage Sale Chic Chester County.  Now there is a woman with a terrific eye! And without her I would not have my pot rack for $60 in my kitchen and the only floor lamp I have ever liked in my life.

I bought the  furniture pieces mentioned because among other things they are sturdy, classic pieces I can reupholster  some day and still love them.  And that is part of developing your eye: imagine what something might look like stained differently, or painted, or reupholstered.

I love going to places like Clover Market  (Ardmore, Chestnut Hill, and Philadelphia in the winter at the Armory) because I might spy something fun and quirky.  The true kings and queens of repurposing are vendors there  like Nanny Goat Antiques, Chairloom, and Brandywine View Antiques (who should also be visited and often in Chadds Ford), so I also always leave with great ideas.

I go to high-end antiques and craft shows to educate my eye as much as anything else.  I don’t really buy at those shows, I am not in the demographic they shoot for – I am just average. But you need to educate your eye, because that is how you learn.  And trust me, I have seen and be able to recognize some pretty amazing things in thrift shops and picking barns as a result.

I eBay too for small stuff like vintage table linens and locating the vintage plates and even cookware I like to use. I also will swap things with friends and so on.  I am an insatiable bargain hunter with a knack for barter (I am told another word for it is “hondle”.) It’s fun.

At the end of the day, I want my home to reflect me, not someone else who doesn’t live there.  I want it to be homey and personal. And what I hang on my walls isn’t running away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art or something. I prefer things I see by more local artists and unknowns altogether. One of my most favorite things is a watercolor in a simple wood frame I bought for $20 at the Smithfield Barn.  It’s no Wyeth and never will be, but it makes me happy.  I buy what I like.  It doesn’t have to impress anyone, I just have to like it.

little table from Berwyn estate sale a few years ago - about $15. Candlestick and dish $5 from Harriton Fair at Historic Harriton House ten years ago. Print on the table of Chester County Farmhouse a gift

little table from Berwyn estate sale a few years ago – about $15. Candlestick and dish $5 from Harriton Fair at Historic Harriton House ten years ago. Print on the table of Chester County Farmhouse a gift

Another example is the little painting my sweet man found for me recently. Nothing fancy, but some unknown artist did a print of a farmhouse I love to photograph and have photographed in West Nantmeal Township. To me I would rather see things like that on someone’s walls than framed posters of art reproduction. Do you have a First Friday celebration in your community or near by? You might pick up a cool piece of art at a First Friday. Or check out local art shows.  The art show prices are generally high, but if you like the artist, take down their information and contact them after the show. (For fun and funky art and high end crafts try Past*Present*Future in Ardmore )

Home is where your heart is, so to me that makes decorating where you hang your proverbial hat easy.  Assemble your home to make yourself happy.  I like looking at Architectural Digest, but I don’t want to live in Architectural Digest. I would rather live in something most probably found in Country Living Magazine, truthfully.

My photo of the same farmhouse in the print above!

My photo of the same farmhouse in the print above!

I do Pinterest.  It to me is like a giant cork-board.  I will pin rooms that inspire me, things I might want to try, recipes, and so on. I will also ask my friends how and what they did if I like what I see.  I am not dumb, I will not do work a professional should do so you won’t see me putting up dry wall and slathering mud on, but I can do basic painting if I have to and goofy things like sponge painting stair risers.

I do have a pretty good eye for color and special relationships and I can hawk a bargain. And most of all I still like looking even when there is nothing I need to buy.  Window shopping is fun and inspirational.

So while you might find some in the Exton or King of Prussia Malls, chances are you will find me in a consignment shop , yard sale, or barn hunting for treasures.

My late father always said if you can read, you can learn to cook and I think a similar vein can be applied to decorating your home. And taste evolves, so what you like today could be completely different from ten years ago and twenty years in the future might be different again.

All I am saying is start small and just try.  Then if you really don’t have a Designing Women gene, find someone to help you.  But they should understand that you are the boss and listen and have a compatible personality.

I don’t know if I am doing it right or wrong. I just know what I like (and I know my limits.)  It has been a process of trial and error over time. Kind of like when I experimented  years and years ago with purple eye shadow. Some ideas work better than others.  After all if you hate the color the walls are painted, you can always paint them a different color.

And oh by the way, this coming weekend is an OPEN barn weekend at Smithfield Barn.

old linens and dishes… oh my!

DSC_0404Well now that I spent a full weekend running around junking, barn picking, and antiquing with friends I actually have to clean the stuff up!

The old large depression glass era bowls that I snapped up at the Smithfield Barn for $6 and $8 cleaned up in a jiffy and will get put away until I need them at Christmas.  DSC_0411

I have a thing about people who talk about setting a beautiful holiday table and then use plastic bowls, mismatched and plastic cutlery, and either paper or plastic plates. And yes, I get the lament that you have kids, it takes more time and so on and so forth.

Guess what? My mother and most of my friends’ mothers used real silverware, linens, and dishes and so on for the holidays and we did not destroy the stuff. Yes it requires more effort, but it looks so much better. And why go to the trouble of cooking up a storm of fabulous in your holiday kitchen to have it look like a Wawa?

paper platesI have probably just insulted a whole slew of people, but I can’t help it.  To me it is like an insult to what comes out of the kitchen.  A woman I used to know used to do that.  She would half-set her table with aluminum foil pans just plunked on the table at Thanksgiving and never met a paper plate  she did not love.  But her “good” dishes were brown crockery and they looked like mud so there is no accounting for taste.  Seriously though? Paper tablecloths are for picnics and kid birthday parties, and even then I prefer real table linens.

So now all my vintage Christmas linens are soaking in Woolite. I generally use that or liquid Ivory Snow now.  I used to have these soap flakes that came in a blue and white box but I can’t remember what they were called, nor do I see them in the grocery stores now.  I will carefully rinse them and hang them up to dry and then iron them.  I know a lot of people send their linens out to be laundered by the dry cleaner but with vintage linens that often leads to yellowing.

And let us get into the cost of things.  I am a bargain hunter.  I might love good old linens and dishes and so on but if I am at a Flea Market or garage sale or something similar I will walk away from things I know are overpriced for what they are and more importantly WHERE they are.  Whether it is an old tablecloth, a platter, or even vintage Christmas décor do not be afraid to ask for a best price or bundled price if you are buying a few things.

I have found everything I need for this Christmas as far as how I want my table to look, and the things I wish to decorate with.  It will be slightly retro Christmas, but there is something to be said about that simple and pretty look.

Of course now I will spend the next few weeks agonizing over menus.  Am thinking of doing a country pâté since I scored that cool commercial loaf pan.  And of course lots of cookies!

Taking the time to set your holiday tables with real dishes and linens pays off. Another thing – if you are having a crowd a buffet is fine if you don’t really have the space for sit down. I would rather my guests be comfortable than knocking elbows at the table because they are crammed in like

What are you all planning for the holidays? Do we want to do a cookie recipe exchange on this blog? As in send your favorite cookie recipe in via a comment and so on? Let me know!