I do have to give a shout out once in a while to one of my favorite stores, Past*Present*Future in Ardmore, PA. They are in the heart of the historic business district at 15 W. Lancaster Avenue. They are next-door to Merion Art and Repro.
You can shop in person at the store, you can shop online, and you can shop and do curbside pickup. Masks are a requirement in the store, but I don’t mind businesses that take every precaution for their staff and customers.
The owner Sherry is a long time and very dear and close friend. My favorite present from her ever was shortly after I received my breast cancer diagnosis and she gave me this funky cool sculpture that was an F bomb literally.
I have a pillow in my living room that everyone loves of foxes. All hand embroidered it. It came from Sherry and her store. The store when you go in is a feast for your senses because there are so many cool things to look at. If you go to visit her I suggest you take a couple laps around and then focus on areas that you like. She has amazing fair trade crafts from around the world, and she also reps independent jewelry designers who have some of the most fabulous stuff out there. And things you can wear every day not things you have to lock away for safety.
Mostly I shop from online and off her Instagram page these days because I just don’t get to Ardmore very often. But her shipping is always reasonable, and like I said you can do curbside pick up. I encourage in person visits because she has a tremendous and unique card section that you won’t find any place else – there are lots of cards out there for every occasion but it’s hard to find ones that are quality or when you want one that’s funny, to find one that’s actually funny.
And yes this is a place that when I mount and frame some of my photographs I sell them here. Take for example this one you see in this photo below👇
But I am not posting this because I have a photo for sale there. I am posting this because she has so much fun stuff and I love her store. This is a great store to find something really unique and special for Valentine’s Day and any other special occasion you might have. It is also a store used for corporate gifts and in the back there is a section of old fashion children’s toys that are among my personal favorites.
And I will state for the record that I am not being compensated for this post, I was not asked to write this post, I am writing this post because I want to and it’s my friend’s business and I have been a happy customer for a couple of decades. And the fact that this store started originally in Center City Philadelphia many years ago and has been open for so many years tells you about the quality of the items being sold.
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.
This morning, early and in the rain, I planted. There is something so amazingly wonderful about planting in a gentle rain – LOL, I can hear what you are thinking, and no, I do not plant in thunderstorms and driving rain. But light showers like we had this morning? Why not? As much as everything else, it saves on watering. You should try it as it is very relaxing.
I then re-mulched most of the bed I planted in, and stepped back to look. I felt satisfied. These three plants complete the look I am going for. Mine isn’t a formal garden. It is developing into a garden of moments and even nooks. I am trying to do a continuity in plants and colors, but because I don’t have a lot of sun everywhere, I am taking advantage of pops of color where I can.
I also mix my kitchen herbs in with my flowers. Chives pop up next to snap dragons, sage next to Impatiens, hostas and nasturtiums.
I also love wind chimes in the garden. I found a most delightful fair trade and hand-made strand of bells recently. They came from Past*Present*Future in Ardmore, PA. They were fairly inexpensive, and the store has some fun garden accents mixed in with the crafts and jewelry. The owner hunts for artisans near and far, and this is a real craft goods store. Not a place to find crocheted tissue box covers, but really cool things.
Gardening doesn’t need to be formal or fussy. Try it if you don’t. And remember, you can indeed put almost anything in a pot as long as you have the proper sized pot. I will put not only herbs and annuals in pots, but Sedum, hostas, and ferns. I think it is fun to put perennials in pots. I did a lot of container gardening the past ten years because prior to the Chester County of it all, I was much more confined on space.
I have been getting little texts and Facebook messages from a few of my old neighbors telling me what is blooming in my old garden. I think that is so nice, and I am glad I left something behind they can also take pleasure in.
Come on now, go outside and get your hands dirty. Create some garden moments for yourself.
Now if I could only find the garden furniture I want. I don’t need much, but I can’t stand what I have seen new, and don’t want wicker. If anyone has any leads on vintage or gently used, let me know.
And oh yes! One more thing – the yarrow I found growing wild is white!