I grew up visiting my Great Grandmother several times a year. I credit her for my decorating tastes, which tend to be Shabby Chic. She lived in a tiny two story home in an old country town in West Virginia. On Saturdays, we kids would run down to the Five and Dime, where they sold Old Fashioned penny candy from a window case. A nickel would buy more than enough for one child. I can still see the vibrant colors of the candy, so many reds, blues, and oranges together in one candy display, each in long stemmed cups or large, covered jars.
We called Great Grandmother May “Maw Maw.” She had long, white hair and a huge smile. She twisted her long white braid into a bun at the back of her head every morning at 5 am. That was her waking time, every single day. I rarely woke up with her then. But I remember her routine. She had a tin coffee percolator, in which she poured coffee, water, and then set it on the open flamed stove to “Perk.” While the coffee brewed, she set the Kitchen Table for breakfast. Bacon was placed in a black cast iron skillet, and biscuits were mixed in the large white porcelain bowl kept in the old, chippy wooden cupboard in the pantry.
Most of the family awakened to the delicious aroma of bacon and fresh buttermilk biscuits. Maw Maw never required that I get up that early to help, but sometimes, I chose to do so. It was a rare time to have her all to myself. She was a people magnet. She drew all sorts of people to her.
I loved her with all my heart, and I loved her old time ways. I can still close my eyes and transport myself into her little tarpapered home, and see each of the furnishings. Fast forward 40-some years, and I still love inherited, reclaimed and found treasures that remind me of that West Virginia home. Nearly everyone who enters our Cottage for the first time expresses that it is “one-of-a-kind.” There are no matching side tables, no furniture groups from modern stores. We call our style “French Country Chic,” but it could easily be called “Alley Collection,” for many of our best pieces were scavenged out of the trash in some back alley.
I love decorating with old, otherwise discarded items. Their versatility allows them to be incorporated into many different rooms, in groupings, and for many various purposes. I love old books, vintage clock faces, or any nostalgic piece that some other person considers to be trash. Sometimes things do require a mix of elbow grease and patience to be considered enjoyable and usable. My most recent find was a slightly dented chandelier, discovered on a morning walk in an alley in the borough. I plan to add crystals, and hang it above the bed in our Guest Room.
I love nestling old quilts and vintage materials in baskets, adding touches of long ago in corners and nooks. No one could possibly call ours a “Cookie Cutter House.” There is always something to fix, or a project just started. All of this adds up to an extra special charm at the Cottage. I am particularly fond of monogrammed linens, grain sacks, weathered pieces, architectural salvage, and anything French.
Sometimes at night, right before I doze off to sleep, I think of Maw Maw, and what it would be like to have her visit our Cottage. I imagine that she would be delighted in the way she has influenced me in my home décor and lifestyle. In my dreams, she sits at my thrifted kitchen table sipping coffee from a vintage Blue Willow coffee cup made in my silver electric percolating coffee pot, waiting for the bacon to cook, laughing and telling the old stories of long ago.
Has anyone influenced you in your decorating style?
I would love to hear about it.