Road trips give me so much joy, being able to travel without leaving the ground, listening to the poetry in the music of country and opera, and a productive mission.......in this case to see our recently opened store in San Francisco.
Of course for me, I cannot make a road trip without stopping for treasures along the way.
My first stop was a small little town called Agoura, where I popped in Agoura Antique Mall, A Beautiful Mess and Bungalow Antiques.
I purchased some things for my stores and a design job I am working on..... I am always greeted so warmly in most vintage stores I pop by. Seems there is a common thread by all of us that have an appreciation for the days gone by. Time stands still while in that moment of discovery and contemplation.
A dear associate Judy Watkins of Remnants of The Past Antique Show Fame, suggested I make a couple of stops along the way.
Judy carefully curates her choice of dealers that show at her show, so if she tells me to stop by a store, I will make the time.
Connie at The Green Vase in Arroyo Grande CA was my next stop.....and what a lovely surprise. A little meandering house converted into a shop. On fist sight one could think a "hodgepodge shop", but the merchandising of this store is very intentional. a slight folksy and ethnic feel, but with every round of the store I did my eyes did numerous double takes. I purchased a few pieces, but also had my inspiration bucket refueled and of course Connie was delightfully cultured and creative. The real treasure was not for sale, a poster of a beautiful explosion of pastels......a peaceful chaos.
A lovely group of ladies headed by Stephanie. They were excited to meet me, as I was them. I always find new stores off the beaten path exciting. I bought some old LP's for my kids, a bright red glass light for inspiration and a funny little painting. Some treasures come in disguise, and some more obvious. This little shop is full of charm and soul and I could have stayed and chatted for some time to come, but I did have a destination to get to.
I arrived in SF a little past 9pm, later than planned due to my "side tracked " journey. My dear friends Kim and Marty have an apartment in the Mission area of San Francisco......lucky me they furnished their home from my Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture store, so truly the saying home from home is quite accurate in this instance.
The next morning my friend and I went on a "URBAN HIKE" !!!!!! This year I have run in the blizzard of NY city, the soft sand of Malibu Beach, the gravel roads of The Prairie, but nothing got me prepared for the seemingly innocent but severely hilly streets of SF....still I can barely walk.
I could hardly believe my eyes and certainly stopped in my tracks when I came across this wonderfully green laundromat with fabulous black and white movies, purposefully placed, such an unexpected mix of intentions, but wonderful.....lost in fantasy while awaiting the laundry.....
After a quick shower, off to the store............
Over the years I have had stores in San Francisco and Northern California, but during one of the bumps in the road, we had to shut up shop...and as Tony says "we left our heart in San Francisco"......it has always been a dream to maybe, perhaps and hopefully to reopen some day. and today is that day.Fate played a hand along with Jaimee & Jamie and the rest of the Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture village.
While I was on my winter stay in NY, a perfect opportunity to open our store came about and our village set about the task at hand. I did little more than bless them and the project and chose some wallpaper and paint and fabric for curtains.
In the case of the wallpaper I chose Farrow & Ball, in the case of the curtain in the back of the store I chose Bennison. Both lines we carry in the store as I find they have similar sensibilities to my products and designs and we all compliment each other like a symphony.
No matter how little the "little back room " is, I often find the organization there is a good monitor for the organization of a store.....in the case of SF I would go as far as to say it is perfectly perfect, no imperfection here.
While instant gratification can be satisfying, it can also give cause for mediocrity. and my mission in life is to offer a service of unique and forever to keep future heirlooms.......so as our little boutiques open up our little programs with big meaning come along too.
Each and every one of our 5 stores (NY, LA, LONDON, TEXAS, SF), are all quite different in shape and size, giving cause to having to create displays that work in each setting. I always want to find the balance to embrace magic and soul while still communicating a clear story and message of all that my stores do, from custom slipcovered furniture, bedding, vintage finds and all the little details in between.
One of my values in my design work is to give cause for thought, some days of a cheerful and whimsical nature and some days more about the soul, but so long as the effect causes one to be moved, I will feel my work has a purpose beyond just prettiness.
Our Peace Banner was originally designed with the holidays in mind, but there have been many moments this year that a gentle reminder of the need for peace has been needed....... God Bless Our Home is a new little big pillow, I love the size, the shape and the mush. The embroidery is a copy from a sampler I have hung onto for years.
After 25 years of my career, I still love the process of the search, discovery and repair of vintage. Always knowing how far to go in the repair journey. This layer is vital to the story in the store. hand picked, meaningful, past and future heirloom. The SF is smaller than LA and NY, but still there is room to pop a few gems of vintage here and there.
Even though my visit was short, a lot of people popped by the store to wish us welcome back, congratulations and good luck. As with so many projects, my vision and history gives a starting place, like the first stroke of paint on the canvas, but the lovely team of Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture are now artists in their own rights. And this store is a true work of art, for which I say thank you to all involved. And how good it feels to have reclaimed our Heart.