The Shabby Chic movement, and my romance series it's inspired, are all about seeing beauty in the old and worn. My leading ladies find solace and satisfaction in some old thing with a great patina. This concept lends well to the core basics of Earth day, which this year is April 22. Reuse and recycle, love it and find a way to put it back to work, in order to help save the environment. No need to throw away items that could offer more function. My grandma always said “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,” and I couldn’t agree more. Take a moment this week to talk to a friend or family member about the advantages of recycling, especially if your re-loved item turns out beautiful!
What is it about spider infested, filthy old things that make my hearts race?
How could dragging and manipulating a half ruined piece of furniture that weighs more than anything I ever lifted in my heyday at the gym, be so thrilling that instead of collapsing against the wall with my eyes bugging, I still have the energy to circle the thing with my eyes shining?
When did roaming the paint department looking for brushes and rollers and tape become more fun than the shoe store at the mall?
At what point of my life did I decide shabby was better than shiny, old was better than new, and something that needed completely worked over was so dang attractive?
When did I decide that an old farmhouse with no plumbing or electrical was my dream home?
I may never be able to pinpoint when the shabby chic bug bit me, but I’m so glad it did. I’m more productive, less wasteful, more creative, and far more stiff and sore. My thoughts wander through the possibilities of an item; what is once was, what it could be, and then what would it be if I did something entirely new with it. I stop to chat with folks about their gardens and their projects. I search out the odd little shop with an artistic owner rather than a brand name box store.
Did this happen when I wandered into that first little boutique and my mouth fell open in surprise and pleasure at someone else’s creativity? Was it the day I looked at the item thinking I understood what it was, and yet someone had come up with another way to use it that was gorgeous?
Or maybe my heart had simply forgotten how much I’d loved crayons and play dough and finger paints.
All I know for sure is that as my attention narrowed to focus on what some call a trend, my heart and mind opened to encompass a broader and far more colorful world.
I want my author website to visually represent my novels, so this week I contacted a professional web designer to rework and redesign the whole thing from the bottom up. Now the big question, if I had to choose five or six pictures that would immediately bring to life my stories, what would I choose?
Those of us who love to rework, remodel, recycle, and pick through treasures know that shabby style is not a goal but a process. It’s a journey. It’s a vision not only to redesign a space, but to search out lost and unexpected gems that will come together in a way that is charming and meaningful.
Most of us have experienced the stress and joy of tearing things completely apart and pieced them back together. Shabby style is that excursion, the whole tour from ugly and horrible, (outdated and nasty dirty) to unthinkable, (How will I ever fix what I just uncovered?) to salvage, (I can except this) to fabulous, (Not exactly how I’d planned it in the beginning, but…) and then the never ending tweaking (Ohhh this would be perfect in the…)
The photos I select will need to include the bare and naked middle part of reworking a piece or a space, as well as the calm and serene, comfortable and beautiful part at the end; maybe a few piles of junk, stripped screw heads, or a second hand shop? Nothing could convey the aching back or the endless brain drain involved.
And what about the characters in my stories? How can I ever hope to capture the essence and wisdom of Winnie, or the meddlesome charm of Marge? How to convey frustration and sadness and joy?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand words mean ten thousand things to five different people. So perhaps I will use words to convey my design goals to the web designer and believe that her talent lies in translating them into visual representations of my novels.
This morning I find myself on a bumpy plane ride home to West Virginia. With no major airports in our home state, the trip is all small planes and checked bags. My finger hovers in the air over my tablet, attempting to touch the correct selection for Sudoku, only to have the plane pitch and bounce and I hit the wrong number once again.
It’s been an exciting and eventful month of travel and grand babies, but now I get to return to my quiet empty nest, to enjoy steaming mugs of coffee over an early morning table across from my husband, and curling up on the sofa with my little Bingo dog.
I miss the grandbaby, sweet little Lucy, even now. Her velvet soft skin and squeaks and grunts will have to be transmitted to grandma by video clips and Skype. As we descend and the plane hops from side to side down through the clouds, my mind already slips back into my novels, to Smithville PA, where book two of the Shabby Chic trilogy is nearly ready for print. The final proofs will be arriving this month for review. Julia and Chad will make their debut mid summer, and I hope you all enjoy another fun filled visit with Tara and Justin.
Book three of the Shabby Chic trilogy is taking shape as Lizzie and Elliot butt heads planning the opening of the day spa. Lizzie loves her tiny prairie style farmhouse, so my days will be filled with helping her design and decorate her home as she finds her way through adjusting to small town life. Rusty vintage treasures and furniture with chipped and natural finishes will fill her rooms, herbs will be hung to dry in her kitchen, and her weaving loom will arrive.
Elliot, completely out of place in the country, will grapple with the craziness of Smithville folk as he falls for Lizzie and her off beat ways. Justin and Tara may manage to entice him to stay on longer and design a new project with Justin, similar to the one they’d originally planned for the project Tara claimed in book one.
So it’s true, as wonderful as traveling and family may be, and it was truly a gift to be by my son’s side to greet his new daughter, getting home is also a treat. I can’t wait for Bingo to jump around my feet and bark happily when I arrive, for quiet evenings walking through the wooded beauty of our neighborhood with my husband as Bingo sniffs along our well-worn rout, snuggling into cold sheets with my sweetheart, and of course, returning to the world of my novel friends.
Some blogs are pure happiness we share, and this is one of those. I am now a grandma! I knew seeing my son and daughter-in-law with their new baby would be one of those life moments you never forget, but it was even better than I dreamed.
I think and write about family and vintage love and antiques, the appreciation for old things and the love of renewing them, but a new baby in the family brings the old and young together in a whole different way. Images of the last week are locked in my mind, such as a soft pink hand tied quilt made with love, laid across the arm of the antique rocker my son bought for his beautiful wife as a welcome home gift. Aunts bring casseroles, cousins crochet afghans, and children hovering curiously around the baby for a peek. Even my mother’s cowlick, which was passed along to me, then to my handsome son, now on the sweet forehead of my granddaughter, brings my mother closer to my heart.
The love of vintage items warms our hearts, like family drawn together in joy and awe. New treasures are created for special events, and will be cherished for a lifetime, then handed down again and again.
May we all relish the current amazing moments of our lives and create new treasures for future generations to find and love.
I’m out of state this month visiting my wonderful son and his beautiful wife. The two of them are blessing us with our first grandchild very soon! I came out early to help them move and set up their new home in preparation for the baby, and lucky for me, my daughter-in-law loves to shop second hand stores!
In the last week we’ve found mismatched but fabulous china, a sweet pedestal table with cottage style chairs that just need fresh paint, an old brass head board, and lots of frames for family photos, all in second hand stores. We couldn’t find any old dressers so we got a few unfinished wooden chest-of-drawers to paint. Painting furniture always reminds me of my mother teaching me, with news paper spread across the driveway, brush in hand and bandanas ties around our heads.
The moving is done now and we can settle into the joy of sanding and painting. When that is finished we have baby quilts to tie and bind as we await the arrival of the baby. I can’t think of a better way to spend time with my adult kids than passing along the joy of furnishing a home for their family.
May you all find a treasure for your family to enjoy in the coming weeks!
Invariably, the first question people ask me when they hear I’ve written a novel is “What’s it titled?” I answer Shabby Chic at Heart and some folks, especially men, fall into a stunned stupor. Their faces go blank and their eyes glaze over. Some people politely say, “Excuse me?” as if they didn’t hear what I said, and others blatantly ask “What is that?”
But once in a while, someone asks me about my books, and when I say Shabby Chic at Heart, they say “—like the furniture?” or “Really? I thought you said it was a novel.”
Either way, whether you love shabby chic or not, writing a novel about it is… well, a novel idea. Haha. No seriously, when I was trying to decide what to write about, I considered what I love; the everyday things that capture my passion and make each day more fun. I wondered what I could write that was both wonderful and difficult, and something that other women might enjoy reading.
My own passion for collecting cast offs has morphed into multiple parts of my life, but when I considered writing about it, the fuse was lit! I quickly realized that I could do anything I wanted to do with old furniture, vintage building parts, fabric, and flowers in a book! I could saw items in half without tangled extension cords and paint without waiting for it to dry. I could own a huge and fabulously successful shop or travel to the ends of the earth in search of magnificent vintage items. The things I could do were endless! Instead of opening my purse, I could write about it, fulfilling my wildest decorating dreams!
As I organized my thoughts of story lines and characters, I had to line up the people in my mind with the type of Shabby Chic they would embrace. The options were endless, the number of settings incalculable. I ultimately decided to start close to home in South West PA, so I could write about the places that inspire me.
Yes, writing a novel about women who love Shabby Chic and the men who think they’re crazy, is something new and different. My novels don’t fit neatly into a romance category, like cowboys or vacation love, but most of us who love to find cast off items and make them into something different don’t fit the norm either.
If you love to wander through flea markets and imagine how you’d remodel all the lovely items you can never actually buy, join me in the wonderful world of a novel, where the furniture turns out beautifully, the settings are romantic, and the men shrug and carry things and love you all the more for it. Shabby fiction fabulousness!
Welcome! Today let’s reminisce about those wonderful roadside picks. Every true shabby chic fanatic has found themselves, on at least one fine day, standing by a road staring down at some fabulous piece of junk, and wondering how on earth they will get it home.
It has happened to me while walking the dog, getting the mail, visiting a neighbor, and of course driving my smallest car. At first it’s a head turn, followed by a simple “Oh what is that?” Then as you get close enough to see the finer point of the cast off item, your heart begins to speed up and those creative juices begin to flow.
“I could paint that blue and put it on the back porch!” “That would be perfect in the corner of the living room!”
Of course, the thrill has a hitch as you finally reach the item, and you face the complications of pulling off onto a thin slice of road while other drivers glare and try to pass.
Yes it’s a bit crooked, bent, dingy, or broken, but nothing that a few nails, hooks, or a bit of glue won’t fix. You step closer, touch it lovingly, look both ways, and lean on it a bit to see how bad it wobbles. Stepping back, you tilt your head then glare back at a driver who honks as he maneuvers around the back of your car.
The decision is made, the item is yours. You’re going to keep it and love it and fix it. It’s perfect. You bite your lip and contemplate the stretch of road. How far exactly are you from home? A block, a mile? Is it too heavy or awkward to lift? Does it matter? Of course not!
The next step in vital, can you lift this wonderful find? If you laid down the front seat of the car, turned it upside down, and put it in feet first, could the end of it just hang out the window a bit?
One time I found a wonderful wicker rocker in our neighborhood, just sitting there alone! My eighteen-year-old son was with me, and I know he hoped I wouldn’t see it because he suddenly wanted to talk about his sex life, but I wasn’t fooled. He waited in the car with one hand over his eyes, knowing it would never fit in the back seat, and hoping against hope that I would morph into a normal mother and we’d go home; but being the great son that he is, he carried the rocker the six blocks home for me. And being the wonderful mother that I am, I drove beside him, shouting encouraging words the whole way. He decided to live on campus not long after that…
I know some of you have roadside pick adventures. Please, share and pass them along!