I 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.
These 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.
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 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.
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 notmy 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
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!
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.