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Shabby Chic Blog

Rachel's World

  • My English Journey

    Part 3- Paris for a Couple Days...

    One of my favorite aspects of being London-based for a couple months, is how easy it is to travel to the rest of Europe. Any time I can avoid a plane, I will opt for the alternative. A quick 2 hour train ride from London's St Pancras Station and you arrive at Paris’ Gare du Nord.

    Maison et Object, one of the most inspirational and respected home industry trade shows, was the main purpose of my Paris visit. The show is enormous-- furniture, rugs, home accessories. I went in search of magic for our stores, but also to refuel my own creativity.  Its always refreshing to see what’s trending in the design world at large.

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    We only had two full days in Paris, so Jaimee (my managing director) and I walked for hours through Maison et Object on our first day. The creative world is becoming so small and stores all over the world seem to be blending as one-- so I was excited to see the work of local artisans and bring their magic back to my shops.

    Our second day was spent combing through the city streets and absorbing the romance of the city. No detail went unnoticed-- from whimsicially hanging lampshades to lace handiwork in widows. We managed to visit some of my favorite Parisian design shops (Bonpoint, Merci, Collette). Our dear friend, artist Laurence Amelie, is involved in many aspects of the creative direction at Bonpoint and needless to say, their Parisian shop is amazingly wonderful. The floral ceiling fixture Laurence created is simply breathtaking.

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    After wearing out shoes and refueling my inspiration bucket, it was time to catch the train back to London. More of my journey to follow in next week's post...

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  • My English Journey

    Part 2- The Charm of Notting Hill

    Even though I grew up in North London, Notting Hill feels like home these days.  5 years ago I opened my London shop just off Portobello road (the world famous antique street market).  And my son, Jake, recently moved nearby.  It seemed the right location for me to spend the winter months, near Jake and my Shabby London family (Paulina, Pascal and David).

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    I rented a little room at The Main House...a modest space, nothing fancy but tasteful. At times I wondered why I had elected to leave my lovely Los Angeles home, but the artist in me needed simplicity and a true winter to go inward, plant ideas, and bloom.

    I caught up on my reading and snuggled under my Shabby Chic duvet.  I saw films down the road at the oldest cinema in London, The Electric.  There is a lovely tradition of painting the houses on Portobello...many in my Shabby Chic palette.  On Fridays and Saturdays, thousands of people flow through the tiny streets looking for antique treasures. I was on the hunt for watercolor paintings , easy for me to carry back to LA...and there is something rather special about the landscapes and floor studies.

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  • My English Journey

    Part 1 - Christmas In The Countryside

    My son Jake moved to London from Los Angeles, October before last. Seems to be in our family gene to move far away from home.  My father was born in the US and moved to Europe in his 20’s. I was born in London and before my twentieth birthday I moved to the US… and now Jake.

    So my daughter Lily and I travelled from the US to spend this Christmas together in London. I am always happy to have a winter Christmas. Hard to come by in Los Angeles.

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     Our holiday residence was to be Babington House. A beautifully perfect English manor hotel in Somerset. I had stayed there last summer and had a perfect time. Always a risk when you try and repeat a perfect experience.

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    The prior visit we had stayed in “the cabin”, which is truly lovely. On the lake, a short walk from the main house. Secluded and luxurious. No teeny weeny detail was overlooked. From the furnishings, to the hot crusty French bread, cookies and tea in the rooms. Not to mention the yummy Cowshed products in the wonderfully functioning showers. This visit the Cabin wasn’t available so we had one room (with a tiny bunk bed nook), in the main house. Heavenly. The room was beautiful, comfortable and functional, values aligned with mine.

    We were just upstairs from the bar, restaurant, pool room, library, and the delightful entryway lined with wells and perfectly polite and accommodating staff.

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    (available at www.shabbychic.com)

    Leading from our room was a main staircase with perfect, slightly wonky chandeliers and a back staircase that butted up to the upstairs/downstairs of the kitchen and staff quarters. Tiled walls and busy people with aprons, shuttling fantastic food. I felt I was observing a slice of Downton Abbey.

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    Because we had only one room for the three of us, we had lots of talk time, which sometimes doesn’t happen when there is too much room. We played hours of cards, and talked in-between our turns. I learnt to play pool… Jake was nicknamed “the hat” by a fellow pool player, I think due to his American baseball hat.

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    The morning of Christmas, I opened our door to a line of three Hunter Wellington boots, for the three of us…. as I said, they thought of everything.

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    I carried a few Christmas presents for the children from LA so we had some to open Christmas morning. Jake and Lily got me a monogrammed Smythson diary, which inspires me be mindful and use my time meaningfully.

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    My dear friend Pearl Lowe lives a short drive from Babington so a treat for me was to drive around to her beautiful, whimsical family home for a cup of tea. All the kids, dogs and hubby were home… the cosy family. Lily and Pearl caught up on discussions of the search of vintage inspiration for their mutual fashion lines www.lilyashwell.com www.pearllowe.co.uk

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    Our stay was faultless, but then the journey back to London was a quick return to reality. Only a short 117 miles from London. I drove us through the tiny country lanes, (really only fit for a small horse) towards Bath Spa. I pride myself on being a pretty good driver. But the combination of driving a stick shift, forgetting every now again what side of the street I was to drive on, and such teeny streets, where really you’re driving both sides at the same time, gave cause for a jerky drive.

    Eventually we reached the train station…only to be told by a very nice guard, that all trains had been cancelled into London that morning, so even though the trains were partially running again, there was a backlog.

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    Therefore any reservations on any particular train didn’t mean much. We should just go down to the platform and get on a train when possible.

    We listened to one polite English announcement after another as they gave us updates on delays, reroutes and options. Eventually after waiting outside on a cold and windy platform we found a seat on the train… and ventured back to London

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