Yes that looks like an old sleigh above because it is!! A 19th century sleigh!
Where? One of my favorite places on earth any time of the year, but especially at Christmas: The Smithfield Barn in Downingtown on Little Conestoga Road, just outside of Eagle.
This is their vintage Christmas weekend and it’s full of holiday magic. A fun assortment of Pennsylvania found pieces with vintage and antique finds and an amazing assortment of vintage Christmas ornaments and decorations. It is an every year stop at this point. I alway get amazing ornaments including vintage Polish and Ukrainian and German Mercury glass ornaments.
The Smithfield Barn is not a store, it’s a picking barn and doesn’t have “retail hours”. You will however, find the proprietress at antique shows and high end vintage and antique markets. But she is the ultimate Christmas elf this time of year and when you step inside those big barn doors you never know what you find!
Bring a jacket and wear shoes suitable for a barn, and check out this Saturday, November 13th from 12 pm to 4 pm and Sunday, November 14th from 12 pm to 4 pm. 425 Little Conestoga Road, Downingtown, PA.
Me and my cane got a look see this evening (NOT open to the public.)
I love Christmas and I love vintage Christmas and Kristin has outdone herself with the spectacular ornaments￼ and lovely Christmas things.
There is some new mixed in with the old because for example there is this amazing wood carver who has some things in the barn￼.
There are also some fabulous vintage Christmas ornaments from the Ukraine. They’re very different and beautiful.￼
Yes, I literally have a torn meniscus and I had to brace my knee up and bring a cane just so I could take a look because I don’t know when (given the state of my leg) I will be out again. One of my best friends was nice enough to drive me.￼
This was just what the doctor ordered and it makes me so happy to see a little Christmas in a big old Chester County barn. This is literally a big old barn and this is not a store so you can’t just show up whenever.
￼Smithfield Barn 425 Little Conestoga Road Downingtown, Pennsylvania 19335.
All of these places have Facebook pages and they post new merchandise all of the time! You don’t need pricey replicas when you can buy the real deal antiques which are always better made. You can also still find these pieces at country estate sales and auctions. Or special shows and sales like the seasonal genius of Life’s Patina.
The sad thing is so many people are geared towards new reproductions that they completely don’t realize the real deal is available and affordable. Sometimes these dealers will have wiggle room in their pricing especially if you bundle a few items but please, be respectful. I have seen some truly rude hondlers out there and well, these folks aren’t running a charity, they are trying to make a living.
Other things that are showing up in the pages of Country Living this month as a trend are vintage dog portraits. I see them all of the time at Brandywine View Antiques and Brandywine River Antiques Market in particular.
Another trend is vintage and antique occasional tables. They are everywhere and at all price points. You can also score some fine ones at auctions at Pook and Pook as well as Converse Auctions and Wiederseim Auctions. Don’t be afraid of auctions or auction houses. Yes, a lot of the auctions are online these days but most of the auction houses will also have a preview day where you can go look at an item that you are interested in before you bid.
With the side table trends I am going to put in a plug for Eastlake side tables. I love them, and I have owned a few over the course of my adulthood.
Eastlake furniture belongs to the Victorian era but isn’t as over the top as other furniture of that era. The side tables are my favorite of the style although I also love Eastlake settees. I have seen Eastlake recently at the Smithfield Barn and also the Smithfield Barn’s floor at the Shoppes at Whitehorse Mill.
Other trends as per Country Living are vintage salt and pepper sets and vintage glassware. The Smithfield Barn in Downingtown is definitely your source for those items! The owner I swear has super powers on these items and other fab vintage things like vintage and antique linens to use with them. I know because I have some amazing vintage linens drying on a towel rack from them right now!
I love my vintage dishes and glasses. My every day dishes are vintage Fiestaware and my everyday glasses are vintage bar ware. I love my vintage and I use it. Most of the time it’s extremely durable too!
Another trend the magazine is covering is a return to some better simplicity in furniture. Specifically Shaker style. From boxes to benches to tables and chairs and dressers.
Traditional Shaker antiques can be very expensive but their design influences can be seen all over. Look for vintage and antique country furniture pieces that are sturdy and well made with simple lines. You can find these pieces all over for a steal because well, people are still stuck on the trend if they don’t want “brown wood”.
Shaker furniture is a distinctive style of furniture developed by the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, commonly known as Shakers, a religious sect that had guiding principles of simplicity, utility and honesty. Shaker beliefs were reflected in the well-made furniture of simple designs. There is a great essay on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And as of 2017, according to Smithsonian Magazine there are only two Shakers left in the world.
Other trends that seem to be occurring that I don’t understand is buying reproduction grandfather clocks when so many go to auction every year and often do not get sold.
Of all the trends that seem to be cropping up everywhere I am heartened to see a return to loving wood furniture as in not everything I am seeing is covered with paint.
Painted furniture has a place, but the past few years it has been really upsetting to see the gorgeous pieces of wooden furniture and good wood like mahoganies and walnuts and fabulous maples being covered up with things like chalk paint. I have literally watched people destroy beautiful wood dining room tables by trying to paint them. I can see painting something that’s so beat up it’s just more cost effective, but to me there is nothing better than the soft sheen and warmth of wood’s natural beauty. And maintaining wood furniture is a little bit of elbow grease once in a while but it’s simple. My favorite thing to use is Howard’s Feed and Wax.
I love the thrill of the hunt of vintage and antiques. I have some things that I will always keep, and I have other things that I will love for a while and let go for something I like better. It makes it fun!
Looks inviting doesn’t it? That is because it is!!!
So what are you doing tomorrow Sunday, August 11 between 12 noon and 6 PM?
You should be going to Glenmoore PA. Just put 1941 Creek Road Glenmoore PA into your GPS or maps program and go! Trust me, it’s a beautiful drive into the country and you will be glad you did! I sure am!
Today I had my BEST score in a long time! Cool vintage dairy sign from the Vintage & Vine Preview POP-up at Glenmoore Deli (1941 Creek Rd Glenmoore PA)
This new venture being introduced to us by two of my pals Kristin Smith and Christie Keith is something you don’t want to miss!
Seriously? Go tomorrow! If you’re going to church you can go after church. It’s a nice weekend and here is the menu:
This burger was fresh and AMAZING!
Salad with fresh mozzarella and a balsamic glaze.
Old-fashioned fair lemon 💗
All of the food is locally sourced when possible (obviously we don’t have any citrus groves in Chester County) and is super fresh! Amazing produce and some was for sale in the store as well.
iThe eclectic mix of vintage, antique and more modern treasures was so much fun! Including to my surprise a fabulous jewelry line out of Washington DC created by a woman born and raise in Chester County! Yes, Diament Jewelry by Libby Diament.
Libby has a store in Washington, DC and started making her jewelry while living and working in NYC. Libby travels around the country hunting for vintage parts and jewelry that can be brought back to life. It’s sort of like finding treasure!
Diament Jewelry has been worn by celebrities including: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Elle Fanning, Cher Lloyd, Rachel Bilson, Giada de Laurentiis, and Meredith Vieira.
Bar earrings from Diament Jewelry
I had been looking for a pair of bar earrings for a couple of years. But I didn’t want ones that look like everyone else’s. So I was super psyched to discover the ladies had Diament Jewelry in their pop-up today. I also bought a pair of small studs that look like glittery slices of quartz or fools gold. As I get older I like wearing study earrings more than I have in a long time and there’s a nice variety for sale along with some adorable dangle earrings like a pair of wishbones! There are also in a locked case some of Diament’s lovely ethereal necklaces.
To check out more on Diament Jewelry visit their website or better yet read the article Forbes Magazine wrote about Libby Diament!
You will also find lovely local raw honey by Hound Dog Honey and soaps and lip balm by Vellum Soap Company and unless they sell out these to die for soft caramel candies by Dave’s Delectable Delites of Glenmoore.
But have I raved enough about the menu? So good. So fresh. Christie Keith is a genius in the kitchen! That is the best part about this menu everything is fresh nothing is frozen. It makes all the difference in the world in taste.
I love to cook as everyone knows, and Christie Keith is one of those people that I will have cook for me any day!
Take a drive in the country tomorrow. Have lunch, find a treasure!
So I have been following this online conversation in a social media group I belong to. Someone posted that they were looking to start getting art on their walls. They said:
Hi everyone…..have been thinking about trying to find some real affordable artwork to hang in our house. Does anyone have any suggestions on any show rooms or places to go in the area to purchase?
A lot of the answers came back suggesting local artists. But then there were a bunch which came back were along the lines of go to a craft store buy canvases and paint and let your kids play Picasso.
Ok look, nice idea for a playroom or a kid’s bedroom but that is a made for HGTV idea that makes me crazy. People trying to find affordable art aren’t necessarily wanting to do the art themselves or have a house full of finger paintings on canvas. I am not anti-child art , I just think inexpensive doesn’t need to always mean loving hands at home.
We live in an area that is rich in artistic talent. All you have to do is go to fairs, festivals, local art shows. Sometimes at the shows the artist prices are higher so take their business card and contact them after the show. Events like Clover Market have tons of local and beautiful vintage art.
For years I was the publicist and photographer for a small arts-based nonprofit called First Friday Main Line (The photo at the bottom of this post is actually one that was taken during the First Friday Main Line of my framed photography on exhibit in a shop in Ardmore called past *present* future and some of my work is still for sale there). Anyway, one of the things about Friday Friday was “art in unexpected places.” Because there were not art galleries in Ardmore, the local artists would exhibit out of stores and restaurants. And it gave people the opportunity every month to buy reasonably priced art at one of these events.
So art is truly all around us. And you can also find terrific art at barn sales, at garage sales, in consignment shops , grift shops, and even the local yard sale groups on Facebook.
The thing about art is it should speak to you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive or well-known or even highly collectible. It is simply that you have to like it because it’s going to be hanging on your walls. Not all of us are born with the bank account and can afford an art consultant or trips to upscale galleries. So seriously? Look for your art in unexpected places.
I love the Yellow Springs Art Show. This year it starts April 25th. this is a show that gives you a really good look at a lot of amazing local artists, and a lot of what I would term the modern Chester County School. It is not a show I buy from a great deal to be honest because the prices can be very high. But if you really like a piece of the show it never hurts to ask the artist if that is their best price.
I also really love my friend Sherry’s store in Ardmore called Past*Present*Future. Sherry is an artist by training so her store is a fabulous mix of all types of art including wearable art and beautiful handmade jewelry.
Now some of my other go to places for seeking out art include Smithfield Barn, estate sales, holiday church sales, fall festivals and some local Chester County favorites. Resellers Consignment in Frazer and Frazer Antiques and Consign-It Furniture in Kennett Square. Chester county is also loaded with artisans who repurpose old and vintage items into new pieces of art. So you have a lot of choices out there. And eBay and Etsy are other places to discover inexpensive art.
Another way to acquire art is when you travel. Going through New England? Or through New York State? Or down south? Out west? There are artist colonies everywhere you go and often you can pick up something lovely that you might have to frame when you get home for pennies on the dollar.
Don’t be intimidated by buying art. Go out and see what you like and experiment. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to get things you like on your walls.
Today I had a very dear friend over for lunch whom I hadn’t seen in forever. One of my favorite people, she is actually a mom of one of my friends. (And I love that my friend will share her on occasion!)
I wanted to do something special so I had a lot of fun playing with Depression Glass today for my table setting. I have collected this stuff over the years at church sales and flea markets and the Smithfield Barn. The cute napkin rings are a bit of vintage fun and came from Garage Sale Chic Chester County which is now part of Home Eclective in Downingtown.)
Anyway I wanted to make a ladies who luncheon kind of lunch, so I did. I started with Kendall’s Gazpacho, and also served my twist on chicken salad and a new potato salad in a mustardy dressing.
And yes….approximate recipes are right here:
Chicken Salad with a Twist
Boil 3 bone in chicken breasts in water and sea salt. ( when cooled, I put the broth in small containers and freeze for later use).
When chicken is cooked, allow to cool. Remove skin and bones from breasts and discard. Next chop up the chicken into bite sized pieces.
Then, chop fine: 1 medium sized or small red onion, 3 stalks of celery hearts, fresh herbs (I used dill, tarragon, basil, Italian flat leaf parsley.)
In a bowl whisk together mayonnaise to taste, olive oil, red wine vinegar, a couple dashes of Garam Masala, salt and pepper. Also add a tablespoon of orange marmalade with any peel minced fine. (For me this was easy because my friend Sara had given me homemade orange marmalade that is not dense so I was able to spoon out a tablespoon of the jelly without the peel. The olive oil and wine vinegar is not so much, about 3 tablespoons each and maybe 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. Whisk together.
Combine all in a bowl and toss in a 1/2 cup of black or white seedless raisins. Mix and chill.
Roasted Potato Salad
Roast 1 1/3 pounds of small or new potatoes in a 400 degree oven with 1 head of garlic whole but topped (drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste) for about 30 minutes give or take a few minutes.
You only want potatoes cooked and firm, not super crunchy and overly brown. I picked potatoes large enough to slice in half, did not peel them, and cooked them in a flat baking pan lined with parchment.
Meanwhile cook 4 oz of pepper coated bacon and crumble.(They have this amazing bacon at Pete’s Produce in Westtown that I used.)
Dice three stalks of celery heart stalks, 3 shallots, and one cucumber peeled and seeded. (Some people are cucumber sensitive so I have taken to scooping out the seeds as some have told me they like that better.)
Chop fine a bunch of fresh herbs- I used tarragon, chives, basil, dill, and Italian flat leaf parsley.
In a small bowl put half of the cloves on the head of roasted garlic minced, grainy mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little mayonnaise. Whisk it together and add a little salt and pepper to taste.
Today I had the chance to preview a barn sale. It is the Smithfield Barn takes the show on the road barn sale. And it’s this weekend. The fine folks at the Smithfield Barn are helping these barn owners put on a sale to clean out their barn.
I picked up a couple cool treasures, and had a chance to see an 1800s tobacco barn up close.
The sale will be located at 120 Ashenfelter Rd. Malvern Pa 19335. Sale is Friday and Saturday 10-4. NO EARLY BIRDS.
The barn is right off of Whitehorse Road. Its a beautiful 1800 smaller barn filled with some great treasures including furniture, household items, garden items, antiques, boxes and trunks, and lots of tools! And it’s setting is absolutely gorgeous. The road is extremely pretty as well. If you like barns and old farmhouses you will love just taking the drive out to it.
One item I couldn’t take home with me today that I wish I had room for was a very cool vintage wood bench with cast-iron feet. With a little love and varnish on the wood it would be great on someone’s porch. While there I also saw a very cool old Philadelphia Phillies cap that had to be from the early 1950s.
Also of note was a vintage feather style tree that was actually about 4 feet tall, and some cool Christmas ornaments. Real feather trees and good vintage feather style trees are hard to come by and generally expensive. This one was not.
Anyway, I hope you will go visit the barn on the road.
One of the things I have always loved about Chester County are the traditions. Things like the horse shows and horses, the farms, the carriaging, the crafters and artists, barn sales, flea markets and church sales, ballooning, and the independent spirits.
But today I mourn the loss of those things. They haven’t all disappeared over night, but if we as residents don’t start standing up in our communities and telling municipal governments to pay attention to us and not just the developers, we will lose what helps make Chester County so special.
I am going to re-visit the case of Upper Uwchlan and the Smithfield Barn. I will note in case Upper Uwchlan’s manager is feeling vindictive after this post that I have NOT spoken to the Smith family about this situation in a while, it is merely that people are TALKING.
I have been told that the manager (who came from Coatesville and why do I point that out? Well Coatesville always ends up in the news for not so nice things, don’t they?), met with the Smith family finally after the media picked up on the story at the start of the new year? I had heard that and was hopeful, and well what did I hear recently? That the manager had not seemed to follow through on what they had discussed? What do kids still call someone like that? A welcher? Do I have that right? Or is this just a rumor and he really likes the Smithfiled Barn and acknowledges how much his township folks go there and to places like that Carmine’s , right? Maybe they will have a new rule against pizza and wings down the road too?
So what does this manager named Cary Vargos, get out of this? Is he doing this doing this for the developer coming back to his township which shall remain nameless? The developer who will share borders with the Smithfield Barn Farm? How are those bog turtles and percing stuff going?
Of course then there are the rumors bandying about concerning municipalities that want to tell people how, when, and what time they can hold the humble garage sale and isn’t that just crazy here in the land of the free?
So I have to ask who would be hurt by allowing Smithfield Barn to have a set number of barn sales a year? Is it possible that this township manager doesn’t know barn sales are rural America’s garage sale and a deep rooted tradition? Is Upper Uwchlan going to morph into one of those individual freedoms stomping municipalities that next puts a million rules on garage sales? Auctions?
I mean obviously Upper Uwchlan government has some sort of identity crisis because they allowed the crossroads village of Eagle to grow up to be Barbie’s Lego dream village didn’t they? This is their jurisdiction right? I mean it is good to know CVS can do other architecture, but still.
When you go through there you are also reminded of the development when you look at Upper Uwchlan’s shiny newish township building. It is not as grandiose as some I have seen, but it is a testament to the present and all that developments have built isn’t it?
I hate to pick on this township manager, but I just don’t get why he wants to be the squasher of local traditions do you?
The reality is Smithfield Barn is beloved by locals and those farther afield. Barn sales are a real part of country history and tradition. That makes them a positive ambassador for their municipality. Townships can’t buy the good publicity and PR generated by happy people and goodwill towards neighbors, can they?
But the country isn’t so country any longer is it? The country has been taken over by developers who don’t plant crops in the beautiful farm fields of Chester County, just plastic mushroom houses that give off the smell of hot plastic in the summer.
Take for example another sad thing: has anyone been by what was that huge empty former working farm on White Horse Road in Charlestown Township I guess it is?
I was a passenger in a car going past that last Saturday and it made me want to cry. It is slated to be a new development and it looked like a battlefield. Demolition equipment on site and they had just basically raped the landscape and all you saw were felled trees lined up like dead soldiers from a Civil War battlefield reenactment. It was shocking and sad.
The pace of development in Chester County is somewhat terrifying at times. Nothing ever seems to be a restrained size or scope. These projects are huge and homes squished so city close together that you know residents will live crammed in like lemmings. And the crime of it is, these people don’t seem to know any better.
Then there are the things that amuse me. Like for example when people in developments in Upper Uwchlan refer to themselves as living “on the Main Line” or being from the Main Line. Uhhh no, I actually grew up on the Main Line and these people are actually living in Downingtown. And it is o.k. to say you live in Downingtown. These are like the people who say they live in Chester Springs because that is how the developer marketed certain developments, only are they Chester Springs? Not so much.
Developments change the landscape and the attitudes. Do any of these people really know the satisfaction and joy of planting their own gardens? Or do they in fact live in Stepford where all geraniums must match and grass must be “just so”? Do these people know the joy of standing outside and watching the hawks circle and cry out to one and other? And they all say they love horses, but then they don’t want to live near barns, stables, and local horse show grounds do they? And don’t get me started on traditions like skeet shooting, trap shooting, and sporting clays shooting. And hunting and fox hunting is best kept to those countrified wallpapers, right?
I love what makes Chester County just what she is. I am sad that traditions seem as if they are disappearing one by one.
I really hope people wake up before it is too late. Once the woods and fields and farms are gone, they aren’t coming back. Same with barn sales, country auctions, and honor stands at the edge of your local farm.
As good weather seems to finally be here, I encourage all of you to let people know about fun things happening in Chester County. Traditional things.
One thing I will not be encouraging people to be part of or attend is Upper Uwchlan’s “block party” on June 14th. Why support their efforts when all they do is kowtow to developers and sanitize communities against country traditions like barn picking and barn sales? Sounds mean to some, but I think they are being mean spirited to tradition.
But please if you have something fun you want to tell people about, let this blog know. Things I love are farm events, art shows, flea markets, First Fridays, barn sales, even swap meets and garage sales. Other things like strawberry and similar festivals, farmers markets, small businesses celebrating something.
Enjoy the day. It is simply beautiful out. Find your magic in everyday life.
My near and dear ones like to tease me about my affinity for farm animals (cows, goats, and chickens in particular). I am told I will always be too much of a city girl to make a good farm girl (apparently I need to tolerate long power outages better), but a girl is allowed to dream, right?
So does that make me perhaps just an accidental country girl in the making?
Mind you, the teasing is in good fun, so I really don’t mind. What I do know is I love living in Chester County and especially like the rural aspects and the open spaces. I also love the fun of the hunt for cool pieces to decorate with, and Chester County is loaded with places and even warm weather flea markets. Jake’s Flea Market in Barto comes to mind. Except Barto is actually Berks County, but that is worth the drive I am told. I have not been yet.
Will I ever love long term power outages and trees pounding the house in storms? Probably not, but surviving this winter means I am hopefully better prepared next time and hopefully we won’t experience a next time like this winter for quite a while.
As many know I have developed an affinity for certain kinds of things that would be classified as either primitive or farmhouse chic. Vintage patchwork quilts, oil lamps, rustic candlesticks, and things like milking stools would fall into that category.
Milking stools, you ask?
Yes. They are fun and add whimsy to a room. I like old wooden footstools too. You can find them all over, and the price points should always be reasonable because they are so readily available.
A reasonable price point in my opinion maxes out at around $25. I see plain wood foot and milking stools at all sorts of price points, but if the cost goes over $25 , unless they are some truly amazing bit of woodworking I loose interest. I am a picker and bargain hunter at heart, sorry.
There is a big difference in my mind between a fine country antique and an item that has a utilitarian and real purpose that also can have a second life as a fun accent in your home.
I have two. One I found languishing under a table at Reseller’s Consignment in Frazer and one came from the Smithfield Barn in Downingtown. They both came in under $25 each. They are handmade and of solid hardwood and have three leg. Milking stools have three and four legs. I have been told by actual dairy farmers that the three legged stools balance the best on uneven surfaces.
One of my stools has three legs and the other four. I love the patina of the natural wood and oil them occasionally. I am not a fan of candy coating beautiful wood in milk paint. That is the taste of a lot of people and a good way to renew beat up wood pieces, but generally speaking not for my personal taste. I like those accents in the homes of others, it just doesn’t work for us in our home .
Anyway, they will never be a priceless heirloom, but I love them. People will actually sit on them and they make an amusing conversation piece. And some milking stools are simply beautiful examples of handmade craftsmanship.