Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture

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Rachel's Blog

Monthly Archives: April 2013

  • Home Again In San Francisco

    SanFranciscoStoreRoad 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.

    BigTreasuresMy journey was along the 101 hwy for about 300 miles starting in LA. Where shopping for treasures are concerned it's all about the journey, until I reach my destination...

    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.

    WonkyTreasuresA 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.

    RubyRoseThe name of this store alone was enough to spark my curiosity..... just up the road in San Luis Obispo but then to arrive with roses, shortbread cookies and tea in a real tea cup. Ahhhhhhhh.

    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.

    HomeAwayI 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.

    WisteriaThe 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.

    PrettyLadiesI was so endlessly distracted by the beautiful homes, inspiring art and unexpected "wow" moments that I didn't realize the hills I was climbing.

    GonewiththewindI 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............

    HangingourHatOver the past two decades my stores and career have had smooth sailing and some bumpy waters. Based on good and bad decisions  and a little bit of fate.....

    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.PromDressFate 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.

    PaintIn 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.

    TheBackRoomNo 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.

    SignatureBespokeBeddingEven though we are a little company in the scheme of things, we offer some very meaning, thoughtful programs, often of days gone by.

    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.

    MagicalMomentsEach 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.

    PrettyPapersOne 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.

    LittleBigWordsOur 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.

    I recall little embroidered labels of my name in my school uniform in red. Monogrammed towels and sheets are my grown up version of this treat.

    VintageLovelyAfter 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.

    LittleBigBagEven 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.

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    I just returned from a couple weeks of searching for treasures in Round Top Texas and The Prairie.

    PilgrimageShopping the flea markets and antiques shows is a necessity for my stores as it is one of the  layers of soul and uniqueness that is vital to bring into my Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture Stores.  However, I now consider my time of searching for treasures while staying at the Prairie a spiritual retreat for my own soul.


    Firstly, I have to brave the not always so friendly skies to get there. Those of you that follow my journeys know I pop around the globe, but each and every time I have to face my fears of suspending myself 30,000 feet, praying and making promises all the way that I will be a better person if just this one more time we can land safely. I have met many pilots on my travels who are fascinated by my reasons for traveling, when I explain I am looking for the bent and broken treasures of life, but all I want to hear one more time is flying is the safest way of transport......and that bumps in the sky are just like bumps in the road.

    Long path to The Prairie

    And when I finally drive down the driveway to The Prairie I thank the heavens above for sharing the beauty and keeping me safe.  I walk the property and observe any new details...

    CheckInnatThePrairieI came across this quaint sign and questioned the spelling in my mind, but decided if it was a mistake, it was a rather charming one.


    I pop into our Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture store, never much foot traffic being off the beaten path as it is, but becoming quite a little destination from the locals of Austin, Houston and Dallas. This trip the beautiful wisteria tree graced us with her fleeting presence.


    While we get daily visits from our lovely UPS man, technology has pretty much taken away most the need for our lovely mailbox. anticipation of the mail man has now been replaced my the lady on my computer stating "You've Got Mail", (and even she I am told is so 90's now)

    PearlMost every morning I go for my power walk of 10,000 steps, (sometimes less due to knowing I have a big walking day ahead of me).  While she is rarely 5 feet away from Danny, when she sees me in my "rocky" attire, as Danny calls it, she will join me to sniff and smell the flowers.........


    I don't have my own special spot to sleep at the Priarie, because to me all the rooms are special. And being the Inn Keeper that I am, I like to experience all the rooms in the same way as our guests, so i can make tweaks along the way.

    This trip there were quite a few of us from my village in Los Angeles as we had a lot to buy. Our stores have been selling vintage so fast, we are working on a large interior design project and our San Francisco store just opened so I needed all hands on deck to accomplish our goals.


    I am thrilled to say this trip had a particular cold front, causing the need for sweaters and boots and nothing gives me more joy than being cozy in our beds listening to the rain on the corrugated tin roofs and the wind wrapping around the buildings, knowing we are safe and sound (especially because Danny is nearby.)

    Easter Sunday

    Easter Sunday fell during Antique Week. We popped into the little teeny local church as we drove around looking for treasures.........

    LilyAshwellSpringCollectionThank goodness for Lily's lovely new Dust Bowl and Bridget skirt from her spring collections.....love love love love love these. for once I got out of my jeans!!!!!!!!!!!


    Many times I am asked what are my priorities when I begin to decorate a room. I always answer, "a lovely comfy place to sit, beautiful lighting and a fresh flower".........for me that is the place to start to build the story.  Beautiful lighting creates the romance and mood, while also providing a practical purpose (often with the application of a dimmer to flow from practical to ambiance)........ Vintage lighting isn't always the cheaper course, but offer the twinkling magic that to me is priceless.

    TheAhhhhhhMomentI am a great lover of the understudies of life, but that's not to say my heart doesn't skip a beat when I come across the stars of the show, and for me these were them..... A pair of powder blue chairs. Maybe not so vintage but vintage enough to have the beauty and the soul..... And then the Aubusson set of chairs and settee. I didn't buy it initially as it was quite spendy and so I had to process my true adoration. however after obsessing overnite and praying they wouldn't be sold the next morning, I rushed back to the lovely Irish vendor at Marburger Farms Antique show, and sat on every chair, fantasized on their history (in my muddy cowboy boots and soggy hair), and decided even if just temporarily, I needed to own this set)


    While my legacy will probably be the lady that made big mushy sofas, I always love a good old kitchen chair. Love the practicality and aesthetic. But more I love the energy that comes along. No matter how beautifully and comfortably we furnish out homes, it is always the kitchen that the true conversations and gathering occur........if only these chairs could talk....... but in the meantime more history will be made as they are passed through to new appreciated homes.


    I am always on the lookout for lovely china. Often with a back stamp from France but perfectly happy from anywhere, so long as the "look" is captured. I looooooooved the repair by means of a staple, found on this cup. My son has had a few staple repairs on him that leave me asking "really" due to skateboarding accidents,  and I was equally amazed to see this process of repair on a cup. Both my son and the cup appear to be perfectly imperfect thanks to this.......


    I am working on a design project to create a fire place surround. There are restrictions of "code" that are tedious but of course perfectly understandable. so little by little I am finding the elements, to create the magic and unique moment........

    I found this gorgeous mirror which will sit proudly above the fireplace and then the vintage tiles will create the border......next bits will be to add some honed marble for the mantle and threshold....its a process and takes patience but it will be quite worth it, i think....

    RugsInTheBackOfACarRugs are  tricky and often cumbersome process to find and pick, not to mention carry.  Whenever I see rolled up rugs I always remember the movie "Unfaithful".  This particular trip I was often wading thru heavy rugs in the cold and wet, hovering under makeshift garbage bags as makeshift tents.  I can be called many things, but Diva is not one of them.


    After viewing hundred of rugs, I got my treasured picks.


    Texas treasures to me is all about the magical and authentic paint. Rarely do we use a paint brush in our repair workshop, just for little touch ups perhaps. But the patinas and palette that comes naturally with the territory is lovingly embraced.

    RestorationDetailsDuring our restoration process our priority is to always protect the integrity of the piece and try to use elements that compliment and blend in. Vintage wallpaper is a signature component for us.


    Never worked out why or how so much Italian Florentine furniture landed up in Texas, but I am greedy for it. Any piece I see I try and buy for one day, I know it will be near impossible to get.......This is my way of bringing fancy into my design work. A little rough around the edges and the sparkle may of worn down, but still compliments the flakey primitive like nothing else can.


    While my eyes are busy editing though the fields for the big treasures, not one little flakey floral bit or bob misses my gaze.... these are the understudies that make the stars shine......the true treasures to be found......


    Neither the Prairie nor the ease of picking up our treasures would work as wonderfully as they do without our beloved Danny. Words cannot describe the value of this tremendous human.....he is just 100 percent good...... along with our wonderful team (Deb, Marie, and Kim) we are supported so we can search for treasures for us all.

    AndThenThereIsPearlPearl always starts Antique Week with a bounce in her step, her tale wagging, as excited as us all to see what treasures arrive back on her territory....however by the end of week three she is done.....she couldn't care less if one more flakey pink cabinet comes on the land....she is exhausted......


    While Flea Market Week is work, staying at The Prairie for me is also family time. My Prairie family. Some are local and some are part of our traveling Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture village.  This trip Jake and his buddy Ben came to help with the load. They are used to the pace and lack of space of NY living. The abundance of space and "nice people" was well observed and enjoyed by them.

    FinnOnThePorchFinn has been coming to The Prairie from before he was born......a treasure for all of us to know. I truly look forward to knowing this little guy forever.


    I have lead a rather female life. I get great joy looking out the Rangers Lounge door, and seeing the boys, just being boys.


    Can't have Antique Week or a visit to The Prairie without a barbecue night.....Danny's Chicken Fry is even more amazing than everything else he does......


    I could go on and on and on writing about this treasure, but I realize this is a blog I am writing, not a book.....which leads me to October 1st. We will be having a book signing and party for my new book "Prairie Couture and Flea Market Finds" at The Prairie on Oct 1st during Antique Week, would love to meet y'all if you can pop by.......

    P.S.....of course during my time away Lily sent me updates on Sadie. She had her hair trimmed so she could see!!!!....still pretty darn cute

    SadieIf you want to start getting newsletters about The Prairie please join our email list on www.theprairiebyrachelashwell.com


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