Saturday, April 28, 2012

Purveyor of the past ...

I am a huge fan of antique dealer, stylist and author Josephine Ryan. As a purveyor of the past, she has gained international attention with a distinctive French aesthetic and keen eye deftly focused on bringing disparate elements together in harmony.


Turning the pages of either of Ryan's books, French Home or Essentially French, I can't help but be inspired. Both books are loaded with handsome photos of homes in France belonging to Ryan's friends and fellow antique dealers. Although Ryan and her antique business is based in London, she frequently travels to France to shop for one-of-a-kind pieces to place in her shop and procure for her clients.

But, it's her own restored home in Uzes, in Languedoc, France, where Ryan showcases the 'gite chic' personal style she calls "imperfect perfection." Here in the South of France, she has pulled together a look that mixes eclecticism with glamour to achieve an informality and functionality using pieces from rustic to rococo. Take a look:


All images above by photographer Christophe Rouffio for Maison & Deco.

Be still, my heart!

Timeless ticking ...

Traditional blue and white ticking fabric covered the feather mattress on the guest bed at my grandparents's house. As a child, I relished sinking into that bed and drifting soundly to sleep. To this day, vintage ticking still reminds me of my grandmother's sweet embrace.

Image of Greyhound Daybed via Howe London.

The very tight woven cotton or cotton and linen blend of vintage ticking was used to keep pillow and mattress feathers from poking through the fabric. But, I do remember that the fabric itself felt stiff, much like a new pair of real denim jeans (no, not like the soft, pre-washed versions we find today).

Well, it didn't take long before craftsmen began to appreciate the durability of the tough ticking fabric and used it to create other goods that needed to wear well with heavy use. Totes and duffle bags, dish towels and book covers are just a few of the items. The list goes on and on.


Images above via Neutral Heaven (left) and Toast (right).

True vintage ticking was woven with naturally colored cotton and sold only with thin stripes dyed Indigo Blue. This iconic fabric is both practical and reassuringly familiar, so designers began to use it in home decor, too.

Image via Desde My Ventana.

Ticking moved out from under the covers to bed linens and upholstery use.

Image via House and Home.

I would have loved to have seen the reaction when the first designer reupholstered an ornate canape (with a flawless pedigree) in oh-so-humble ticking. No doubt, someone had some explaining to do. Louis XVI would turn in his grave if he only knew. But, the novelty soon inspired countless imitations.

Image via la Brocanteuse.

While ticking upholstery is trendy, it's a little too faux French at times, as are the countless pillows emblazoned with copies of every French historic document, postcard image or city name. Really people, 'les francais' do not stamp 'Paris' on their pillows, nor should you. In my humble opinion, it's like a tacky theme park imitation ... 'mauvais gout', as the French would say.


Images above via Trouvais.

But, there are subtle, yet inspiring ways to incorporate ticking that adds just the right touch to interiors. It is a beautiful companion to other natural linens and rustic furnishings.

Image above via She Moves the Furniture.

A bit of 'tongue-in-cheek' playfulness is at work in the photo above. Here, vintage ticking has been crafted into a brassiere that adorns a stone wall - truly clever. Under the artful bra, modern ticking material is used for a casual back pillow on a classic Bergere chair and natural cotton duck is simply draped over the seat. Hey, I'm all for the whimsical approach used here - this vignette is a design masterpiece because it doesn't take itself too seriously. 

Image via Everything Fabulous.

Modern ticking fabric comes in a rainbow of colors, which makes it perfect for so many applications. I'm really fond of the way it looks on a table for casual dining.  I picked up some remnant yardage with sunny yellow stripes and can't wait to assign it duty at a summer al fresco dinner.

One lump or two ...

I can't say that I actually participate in the ritual of afternoon tea, but that doesn't mean I lack a cupboard full of vintage teacups.

Image via Core 77 Design Magazine.

Au contraire, I am the apparent heir to all family teacups - a collection of random and mismatched beauties with unfulfilled promise.

Image via Captivatist.

Sure, I could line them all up in stacked rows, each a bit askew and call it art, or make a lovely, tidy screen to block a less than perfect view.

Image by designer Bernhard Stellmacher.

But, I have to say that lighting is my absolute favorite upcycled use for vintage teacups. I am in love with the cups and saucers that are affixed to the wood shelf above, serving as warm and welcoming accent lighting.


Images above via Bonasera (left) and Neatorama (right).

With easy-to-use lamp wiring kits, anyone can turn teacups and saucers into pendants for task lighting or even chandeliers for unforgettable, general ambient light sources.

Image above via Rebekah Podgorski.

Image above via WebEcoist.

The really creative among us may want to try their hand with more advanced projects like those shown below. Stacked teacups make one-of-a-kind candelabras (via Marie Claire) and floor lamps like those featured on the Calamity Kim  blog (right).


I can see that tools and finesse are both required to manufacture table lamps, too.


Images above via Sweet Paul (left) and Anthropologie (right).

Image via Thrift Town.

Here's what I've decided to do with my teacups (at least in the short term.) I think I'll make candles like those above. What a pretty touch on the mantle or grouped together as a table centerpiece. Candle kits are available at almost every craft store. Just be sure to use the best wax and wicks you can find. I prefer beeswax to other waxes, and it comes in a starter kit at Michaels (in store and online).

Click here for Thrift Town's quick tutorial on making teacup candles.

Image via Tea Coffee Books on Tumblr.

I haven't counted the random teacups in my possession, but let's just say that it's time to downsize or put these to a new use!

Revisiting rattan ...

I rarely think of rattan, and I really don't know why. Maybe, I might be swooning over rattan furniture if I lived in some tropical paradise with a lanai just beyond my back door - kicking back with drinks made of pineapple and rum in a glass festooned with the requisite umbrella. But, I digress.

Ooh, how I would love to own the rattan-framed bicycle shown in this image from Kravet. 

Before I go a step further, I must clarify the difference between rattan and wicker. It's a pet peeve with me when I hear anyone interchange them as if they were one and the same. They are not.

Rattan is made from the thin pliable, cane stems of a climbing palm called Calamus. It's a tropical, almost vine-like plant used as straight or bent canes to make furniture. It is a native of Africa, Asia and Australasia.

The beloved bistro chairs of France are shown here with rattan frames and man-made
wicker seating and backs. Image via Heather Bullard.

Conversely, wicker is generally the process of weaving plant fibers into finished goods, usually used for baskets or furniture. But, man-made materials are also woven and sometimes referred to as wicker. The word wicker is believed to be of Scandinavian origin, coming from the word wika, which means 'to bend' in Swedish.

Image of Sid Bergamin patio via Elle Decor.

Now that the difference between the two has been committed to memory, let's talk about how gorgeous vintage rattan pieces can be when added to exterior or interior design schemes.

Image via Anthropologie.

The casual nature of rattan makes it a complementary partner to any decor style.

Images above via The Blue House (left) and Jonathan Adler (right).

In an ode to the past, I tip my hat to the hanging rattan chair swing (above) designed in 1957 by Copenhagen born Nanna Ditzel. Ditzel's design has triumphant staying power and has been emulated by designers worldwide. Hey, when designer Jonathan Adler is a huge fan, you know this chair will always have a place in homes and gardens everywhere.

Image via Casa Cara.

I would love to get my hands on the beauty above. To think that I had an entire collection of rattan living and dining pieces in the mid-1970s. Sofa, occasional chairs, table and dining chairs all in perfect condition ... Now, I can't begin to imagine why I was so eager to get rid of them.

Image via Fanimation.

I know my daughter would love the Caribbean vibe of the bathroom above. The rattan chair is a perfect addition to the relaxed, tropical personality of the spa-like space.

Image via Stuart Membery.

Rattan can be used to dress a space, too. With a few well-chosen pieces and a crisp white palette, Sydney-based designer Stuart Membery added his 'Conservatory Dining Chairs, vintage rattan 'Mandalay Demi-Lune Console' table and vintage rattan 'Outrigger Drum Table' to create the glamorous outdoor sitting area at his Bali hideaway.

Hey, I would have saved my rattan furniture if I knew I could use them in my Bali hideaway! Wait, I don't have a Bali hideaway. Darn! Instead, I'll simply await my invitation to visit Membery's place!

What's blooming: brugmansia

From the very first moment I laid eyes on Brugmansia (Angel's Trumpet), I was hooked. The large, trumpet shaped flowers gracefully draped down from a heavily leafed tree in the San Antonio Botanical Garden and the fragrance and beauty captured my imagination.

Image via B and T World Seedest.

This tropical, South American native has been traditionally used for its medicinal properties, but the indigenous cultures also used it as a ritualistic hallucinogen for divination. Hey, that's a bit crazy since it's toxic to humans. I'll leave it to the butterflies and hummingbirds who find it to their liking.

Image via Mary Ahern Artist.

I was so impressed with the beauty of the brugmansia, and the success others had, I decided to plant one in the ground several years ago. Despite my best efforts, it died. Ever since then, I've tried to discover where I went wrong.

Image via Mary Ahern Artist.

From everything I have read, it seems brugmansia are easily grown in a moist, fertile, well-drained soil, in sun to part shade in frost-free climates. What the planting guides don't know is the intensity of even partial sun in South Texas. So, this year I have started anew.

Photo of young brugmansia by Alamodeus.

I'm now growing two brugmansia in light shade with reflected, rather than direct sunlight. I have them both in pots instead of planted in the ground. Even though they are only tall enough to peek their leaves above the pot's rim, they are so very happy and are both flowering. Alleluia!

Image via Logees.

If I can get them to medium shrub or small tree size, I'll be one happy brugmaniac!

Image via Mounts Botanical Garden, West Palm Beach, Florida.

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