29 January 2010

Feed Sack Frenzy

You know that the days of conspicuous consumption are gone when the hottest trend in decorating is anything made from an old feed sack. Vintage French grain sacks are fetching $75 or more on ebay and sometimes in the hundreds of dollars for finished goods in boutiques. Stylish and green, it's the “hautest” thing on the farm.

Older sacks were reused by frugal wives of years gone by. The cotton bags were soaked in harsh lye solutions to remove the printed labels and the fabric was ready to use for more humble applications. In the 1920s the bags began to appear with allover patterns as a result of their popularity for using after holding animal feed. The Great Depression created the first feed sack trend and our current recession has brought the modest bag full circle.

The latest incarnation of the trend involves real or fake French feed sacks and American ones. both evoking different styles. The American sacks are often more colorful and kitschy. The French are more, well, just French. The other main difference lies in the price. Generally the French sacks, real or faux, command a premium price. You see them in many different settings, from rustic looking pillows to upholstery on an industrial design chair. Their American cousins are far more cheerful looking and lend themselves to retro and country style d├ęcor. Both are are often juxtaposed against an item of more refined style perhaps underscoring the irony of this often pricey trend.
I love this one from Pink Pig in Westport N.Y. Many thanks to Pink Pig for the use of the lovely photos here and in my article for Examiner.com
Also check out the fabulous feedsack chic article at Cote De Texas with lots of yummy photos from Olivine in Houston.

26 January 2010

Crazy lady on the stair

OK. This isn't actually about a crazy lady, unless you count me.
 This is about a square of crazy quilt made by my great-greatgrandmother in England. She made this 18"x18" bit of loveliness by hand, presumably for a pillow. I've been meaning to frame it for years and finally got to it this weekend.
For someone that adores fabric like me this is heaven. I can't help but wonder what these scraps were originally part of. Did Mrs. Andrews outgrow a dress in her middle age? Or take down the outdated drapes. I can only imagine the stories that go with each tiny piece.
A seamstress I know thought this was machine made until I showed her all of the handwork on the back.
I began with a 20" x 20" frame and covered the mat with cotton sateen so that the ancient fabric would not be in contact with the acidic paper. I ironed it after I covered it.
I also ironed the crazy quilt square very carefully as the fabric is quite delicate in places.
I placed the square on the covered mat and did nothing else to hold it in place knowing that the frame would be tight.
I decided to leave the edges raw honoring the handmade, unfinished work of domestic art.
Next came the decision about where it would go.
I don't have a ton of wall space in my house. There are an inordinate amount of doorways leaving few places to group frames.
The items on my staircase wall were lovely but incongruous. So, I changed everything.
The map and architectural print were given to my grandparents by me for Christmas many years ago. The antique silhouettes, a prized possesion, I inherited and had a conservator restore and frame them. It has taken me months to find a place for them.
Its a refreshing little change in my house. Now I need to find a home for the the poor sad little paintings that were there before.

22 January 2010

The new avocado?

Remember avocado appliances? They were a staple of late 60s and 70s kitchen design. Everyone who was anyone had them in their new kitchen. Is there anything today that is a must have in a new kitchen? I know what I see in real estate listings.
I'll give you a hint. It is hard, speckled, expensive, and its everywhere.

If you guessed granite, you were right.
Are granite countertops and stainless steel appliances the avocado appliance of this generation?
Email me or leave a comment and let me know what you think.

I think these butcher-block counters have far more charm and they are so much less expensive.

21 January 2010

Dreamy places

As I sit here trying to send the same email for the fifth time without messing it up, I can't help but want something to take me away.

Like the old Calgon commercial promised I need an escape from the realities of life.

Places like these actually exist. I just can't actually go there this moment.

It is amazing that being in a beautiful place can be so calming.

Lavender is a very calming aroma. The farmers in Provence must be so even tempered.
My solution in this sheaf of lavender. A mere $24.99 from Frenchy Bee
Link below.

Grosso Provence Lavender Standing Sheaf - Extra Large and Tall: $24.99

Grosso Provence Lavender Standing Sheaf - Extra Large and Tall: $24.99

Getting married?

Burke decor, one of my favorites, hasa special site dedicated to wedding favors and other little necesseties for the big day.

Get these popcorn containers personalized with, "He popped the question".
Or hand out these too cute candles.

If you can't stand cutsey stuff they have tons of elegant, themed, and DIY favors to choose from.

20 January 2010


Become a fan and recieve updates to my Examiner articles and other content.

19 January 2010

Don’t can the can - Northumbria University, Newcastle UK

Don’t can the can - Northumbria University, Newcastle UK

I absolutely love this product. I'll need to do a bit of investigating to see if it is for sale in the US.

15 January 2010

Old books and new old books

I love old books. I put them on tabletops to vary the height of the items and add visual importance.

I just found these on Wisteria.com . They are actually a resin box. My grandparents used to hide cash in a fake book. Hmmmm. Maybe, my jewelry or better yet, my chocolate stash.

They come in several colors and sizes.

The turquoise (above) are a cool way to add the color of the year to a traditional room.
Tons of other must see stuff on the site.
Look for a"Shopping spotlight" article on my Examiner articles page sometime soon.

13 January 2010


There is something to be said for embracing the old and working with what you have. That said, would you embrace the 1970s? The Kesten family of Tennesee did.

They kept the groovy 70s feel of their ranch, avocado appliances and all.

I did one room of my house with the 70s colors too. Avocado walls, dark brown berber carpet, obnoxious orange floral couch and some shelves and dressers in that weird brown that they stained wood. I'd post a photo but it is cluttered with baby toys and folded laundry.
Decorators make messes too.
Below is an extreme close up of the "ironic" couch.

What do you think of this approach to decorating?

I think their project was very successful because it is not a contrived, kitschy look that can be overdone and leave you wondering whether or not it's a joke. From a design standpoint, the spaces left empty are as important to it's success as the pieces they chose. In other words, it works not so much because of the style, but in spite of it due to the visually pleasing arrangements.

12 January 2010

Winter's colors in your home

Color inspired by nature in winter does not have to begin and end with white, brown, and sky blue. By taking a closer look at outdoor color and carefully planning your palette you can create harmony and interest with your choice of color.

First, look more closely at tree bark, for instance. It is not only brown. You will see grays, taupes, and tans. Stones have varied hues sometimes containing flecks of sparkling, silvery mica. Even a snow scape can be an exciting source of color. As you begin to choose your favorites in a wide array, take note of the sky at different hours and use a camera to capture the tones.

Choose one or two main colors for walls and large furniture. Also, choose a secondary and accent color. If you are aiming to transform a room that you have already furnished look for items that fit into your scheme and keep them. Use the secondary color for medium sized items like window treatments, small chairs, and tablecloths. The accent color is for throw pillows, artwork, and other small items.

Any of the colors can be combined in the same piece. Picture a stone gray chair with crisp white piping as part of a clean look.

These methods will always work as long as the color palette itself is harmonious and works across all styles.

08 January 2010

old chairs - new look

A lack of funds should never stop the do-it-yourselfer or a real decorator in need of a solution.


I bought four of these chairs for $10 a few years ago. With a bunch of elbow grease and a few dollars of paint I created a cottage/french country style set of chairs. I did splurge and have the cushions made. The piping trim on the cushions matches the curtains and wallpaper. I have more than a few misgivings about matching. This worked anyways.

Fou Fou bed coronets all around

I happen to love coronets over a bed. Nothing says "princess" quite like it. They can also be quite masculine with the right fabric.
Here is one I created for a client. My oldest daughter will have a similar one in her room eventually.

I'd like one like this for me.

Or this.

And something like this for the baby when she is big enough for her own room.

If I could find a way to make teenage boys want coronets I'd have one in every bedroom.


Cure for a boring snow day.
Angel food cake topped with one of the following syrups.

Coffee syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup strong coffee
add a teaspoon of instant if your coffee is not strong enough and bring to a gentle simmer until sugar is dissolved.

Rose and Almond syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. rose water
1/4 tsp almond extract
The tiniest bit of pink food coloring can be left out. I used it for visibility in the photos.

The Rose Almond is bit perfumey but I like it. The coffee syrup is the hands down winner at my house and it is more likely that most people have the ingredients handy.
OK, I admit, I totally cheated on the cake. It was an impulse buy at the store last night, but nevertheless yummy.

07 January 2010

Yay Me!

The IDS online magazine, Portfolio, has highlighted my recent interview with CEO Pamela White and president Margi Kyle.

Lucky Dog

Ok, I know how to cook things besides homogeneous bowls of slop, but today my oldest daughter came home from school and said, "Mmmm. What smells good?" To which my reply was, "Dog food."
I know. Gross. Actually I make my own dog food and according to my husband and kids it is pretty darn good. I stew chicken until it is fall-off- the- bone tender. I then take the broth and cook pasta, rice or oatmeal in it and steam frozen veggies. Mix it together and freeze in batches to top off the dog's dry food every evening. It lacks the onions, garlic, and salt that I like in a stew, but those are not good for dogs.

I now have a request for a batch of "dog food" for us to have for dinner. Extra salt please.