Sunday, May 30, 2010

Vintage Summer Monday

A few favorite vintage summer things . . .

White cotton baby clothes.

Creamware bowls.

Red and white checked quilt.

Red transfer-ware pitcher and bowl.

See more of Vintage Summer Mondays at Alabaster Rose Designs

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Patio Morning

My favorite coffee cup.
A good spot for perusing .
In the morning sun.

Vintage garden inspiration.

Cozy appliqued quilt.
Majolica flowers.

"It all seemed too good to be true. Hither and thither through the meadows [Mole] rambled busily, along the hedgerows, across the copses, finding everywhere birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting--everything happy, and progressive, and occupied. And instead of having an uneasy conscience pricking him and whispering, "Whitewash!" he somehow could only feel how jolly it was to be the only idle dog among all these busy citizens. After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working."
Kenneth Graham, River Bank chapter, The Wind in the Willows

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This week I'm joining A Southern Dreamer for OUTDOOR WEDNESDAY!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Twilight Tea

I inherited this German bone china tea service from my mother-in-law. I really enjoy the subtle color of the blossoms inside the bowl of the cup. This set really sings when you use it, and chimes very like crystal.

We are set up more for coffee than tea after dinner. And we are enjoying the full leaf of the ivy after a long bare winter. The vines transform the north side of our house.

Twilight is such an enchanting time of day. Sounds grow hushed with the fading of the light. Songbirds give way to chirping crickets.

The full daylight seems too harsh for the pale pink hues of this china pattern. I find it more suited for the evening hours.

The color becomes almost mauve in the fading light. And the gold trim seems to ask for the glow of candlelight.

Ivy covered walls have such drama. A perfect stage for dessert.

A dainty cup for a dainty chair.

I was lucky enough to come across this set of flatware with the family monogram. But any letter suits me. I like the romance of monograms in general.

Wouldn't it be a nice ritual to end every evening meal like this? Gathered up and peaceful to end a hectic day?

This setting reminded me so much of the beginning to the Merchant Ivory film of Howard's End that I had to look up the text to E. M. Forrester's novel.

"Oh, the beautiful vine leaves," Helen writes in her letter to Meg. "The house is covered with a vine...

". . . Mrs Wilcox was already in the garden. . . she walked off the lawn to the meadow. . . Trail, trail went her long dress over the sopping grass, and she came back with her hands full of the hay that was cut yesterday--I suppose for rabbits or something, as she kept on smelling it. The air here is delicious."

"And finally Mrs. Wilcox reappears, trail, trail, still smelling hay and looking at the flowers. I inflict all this on you because once you said that life is sometimes life and sometimes only a drama, and one must learn to distinguish tother from which, and up to now I have always put that down as 'Meg's clever nonsense.' But [just now]. . . it really does seem not life but a play. . ."

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I suppose it's true that I have a thing for cream Wedgwood china. This is an older more subtle pattern named HEDGE ROSE. I'm amused by that name because it's the same as 'hedgerows' which features big in Brambly Hedge books! The nature tie-in seems like a foregone conclusion, but of course white works with any theme. The bird invitation cards are my own design. And I know I overuse my quail eggs as decorative accents, but I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!!
When I don't have fresh flowers on hand I prefer to use dried over artificial ones. I enjoy the organic look of them.
My table is laid with a vintage ivory tablecloth with crochet rose insets as well. Since the Hedge Rose design is only embossed on a narrow rim of the china, it reinforces the subject of roses nicely, as does the choice of roses as a centerpiece.

Vintage cut-work dinner napkins provide more pattern to the setting and prevent it from becoming too formal as all-white themes can tend to. The contrasting tone of the embroidery threads also livens the mix and punctuates the accessory colors.

For all the movement in the close-up visual detail, this table arrangement retreats to the margins in order to showcase whatever might be chosen for the menu. It's very common for plain white to be chosen for French tables, for instance, where so much closer attention is paid to both food preparation and presentation.

I am always in awe of the artistry of hand crocheted lace!

Here we see a closer detail of this delightfully understated china pattern.

All other table items are vintage. The cake stand elevating the plates is a candlewick design on a sterling pedestal. Pottery Barn has a wide and wonderful range of standard long-lasting ivory candles at reasonable prices.

Somebody's grandmother's hand-work close up.

These napkins are as yummy as anything served on the table!

Bon Appetit!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010


There's an old British saying, "If you're tired of London, you're tired of life."

I have to say the same about English china.

Especially vintage white cream-ware, and English ironstone.
It's not strictly an English tradition of course, but the old custom of lining up wares for display in a cupboard never seems to go out of fashion.

Pair it with the fairly recent craze for vintage wire baskets and you have an energetic composition of "traditional meets industrial.

A good mix of textures keeps white interesting. And vintage linens add as much to a pleasing arrangement as a vase full of flowers.
But I have always had a thing for English design whether it comes from Rachel Ashwell, Laura Ashley, or Ralph Lauren.
My favorite children's book illustrators are also British. Jill Barklem, from the Brambly Hedge series, and Brian and Cynthia Paterson of The Foxwood Tales. These are now mostly out of print and hard to obtain. Of course there is also the ever popular Beatrix Potter. What these all have in common is the romantic idealization of English cottage life as seen through the life of little animals in the hedgerow.

In the 80's I had a wallpaper in the nursery from which I saved a snippet. It was of an outdoor scene in a little village of animals. There was a miniature toadstool house with a curved door and a crooked chimney. A little mouse postman delivered the mail, and there was a small footbridge next to a well-set picnic table for various ducks, squirrels, and woodland animals. Somewhere along the way it disappeared. But it has always stayed in my mind as a symbol of the innocence of childhood, and I'm sorry it has been waylaid.

The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Graham is the most well known literary version of the concept, but was not written exclusively for children.
I know that my love for cottage style has at least some of its roots in these old influences.
Whatever its source, I love all the visual cues and references to quintessential cottage life. The laces, baskets, floral prints, china, and weathered wood patina of it all.

Another enjoyable British influence comes from Virginia Woolf, most famous for her understanding of the very elements necessary for a creative life, in A Room of Her Own. But her lesser known novels are also filled with a deeply romantic and domestic sensibility. Her own English cottage has been showcased in Victoria magazine as well as others.
"Nothing stirred in the drawing room or in the dining room or on the staircase. Only through the rusty hinges and swollen sea-moistened woodwork certain airs detached from the body of the wind, crept round corners and ventured indoors. . . Then smoothly brushing the walls, they passed on musingly as if asking the red and yellow roses on the wall-paper whether they would fade, and questioning (gently for there was time at their disposal) the torn letters in the waste basket, the flowers, the books, all of which were now open to them and asking, Were they allies? Were they enemies? How long would they endure? . . . nosing, rubbing, they went to the window on the staircase, . . . descending, blanched the apples on the dining-room table, fumbled the petals of roses, tried the picture on the easel, brushed the mat and blew a little sand along the floor. At length, desisting, all ceased together; all together gave off an aimless gust of lamentation to which some door in the kitchen replied; swung wide; admitted nothing; and slammed to."
Virginia Woolf, Time Passes chapter, To the Lighthouse

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