Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture

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Rachel's Blog

  • So Long Soho

    Summer of 1989 saw the opening of my first Shabby Chic store in Santa Monica CA.  My vision and intent was to bring beautiful, comfortable & functional products into the world, with the emphasis on washable slipcovered furniture blended with vintage treasures.  I had no training in anything but I had a passion & a story I wanted to tell.

    My initial vision fit in perfectly into the California lifestyle. A mix of my English aesthetic and inspiration of the wide open inviting spaces of LA with its magical light.  Shabby Chic has been welcomed with open arms ever since.

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    By the time Autumn 1989 rolled around I had opened a store in Soho, NYC. Back then there were no computers, no Google, no other stores that carried slipcovered furniture and no knowledge of reclaimed furniture.  So it felt important to me to have a store on each coast.  Even though there were other NY considerations that effected how my aesthetics fit into NY life, the magic of the world of Shabby Chic struck a chord with the people in the big city.

    I have loved Shabby Chic having a home in the big city for over 25 years.  It has given me the opportunity for Shabby Chic to tell stories for the seasons, the slubby smokey linens and soft velvets have their moments along with our original signature white world.

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    I have priceless memories of how every Christmas, Jake, Lily & I would pilgrimage to the city for ice skating, hot chocolate and all the magic of the city.  We have the happiest memories of all being together in the store, amongst the twinkly chandeliers, fragrant candles, mushy cushions and Christmasy Enya music.

    Magic at it’s finest, and forever memories.

    However, as you may have heard, we are soon saying "so long to Soho.”  There are reasons why, but falling out of love with NYC is certainly not one of them.

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    My passion for design is stronger than ever and focusing on producing Rachel Ashwell & Shabby Chic treasures is where my heart and soul wants to be.  So as hard as it is to let go of this piece, once the NYC store closes in November, we will all have memories in technicolor of the journey shared.  And for all of you NYC based lovers of my worlds, please stay in touch as I have loved being in your world.

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    I hope to see you in my RA world, at stores in Santa Monica, San Francisco, Japan and shabbychic.com.  As well as my Simply Shabby Chic world at Target and new ventures in the works too.  Balancing business in a competitive market, without compromising quality and beauty is not easy, but love, gratitude and commitment to thoughtful hard work, will keep the world of shabby chic relative and strong.

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  • Creative Collab With Francesca Blume

    For many of us Autumn evokes the desire for warm and cozy feelings.  We wanted to bring that emotion into our Fall photoshoot by adding florals with richness and warmth.  To do this we enlisted the help of LA based floral designer Francesca Blume.  Meet the lovely Francesca, learn about her process and see her beautiful blooms.

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    I truly have a love affair with flowers, not a day goes by where they don't play a significant role in my world.  It has always been my passion, how did it become yours?

    Being around flowers lets me connect to nature. I find flowers to be mysterious, alluring and addictive. They pair seamlessly with the vintage and antique décor that I collect, so I'm able to style a fleeting moment in time. I was born an artist and this career allows me to combine all of my gifts and give them to the world.

    I have fine tuned my art and evolved my aesthetic over time, how would you describe your design look?

    Lush, Whimsical & Romantic. I'm inspired by the old-world blooms and fruits in Dutch still-life and vanitas paintings from the 16th and 17th century. I could just live in one of them.... (Swoon)

    I love to fiddle with flowers and display them in unique containers, I am a firm believer in finding things that might not have been intended as vases.  How do you showcase your blooms?

    I collect vintage teacups and saucers. I love making little floral arrangements in them. They are adorable and always make me smile.

    I'm hard pressed to select my favorite flower, they all generate their own magic and have their own place.  What about for you?

    I love the white camellia with all my heart. I grow many in my cutting garden so I love them at all stages of life. The buds about to burst open are just as beautiful as the fully opened blooms. Even the shiny leaves are gorgeous on their own. I must admit that I began to really appreciate them when I learned that they were Coco Chanel's favorite flower and that is why she adopted it as her symbol. The white camellia inspired her fashion designs in many ways. I truly love how flowers can have that kind of influence.

    I always like to share the bits of knowledge I have acquired when it comes to increasing the lifetime of a flower.  What do you do to increase the longevity of your blooms?

    Cut flowers are ephemeral - its part of their allure. Although there are a of couple things you can do to increase their vase life. Even though they look beautiful in your windowsill... fight that    urge, because the direct sunlight will cause them to wither quickly. Also, change the water and cross your fingers.

    And finally...  What touches will you add to your tables during this holiday season?

    When October hits, I always go to Rolling Greens Nursery in L.A. and pick up loads of different pumpkin varieties. My favorite ones are the Cinderella pumpkins with long twisted stems. There's something so magical about them. I love decorating my dining table for Fall and Halloween with long lasting pumpkins and then add almost any festive flowers in vases between the pumpkins when I have dinner parties - you can't go wrong here. The flowers last about a week or less but most of the pumpkins will make it to Thanksgiving and that's when I paint them white or gold and of course add in white flowers, apples and gourds for an abundant cornucopia feeling. It freshens up the look using something I already have. That way, I have a Pinterest worthy dinner table ready for impromptu Fall entertaining all season.

     

    blog flowers

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  • Play Time & Make Believe

    A long long time ago, my Mum supported our family with a business of buying, restoring and selling antique dolls.  I have always credited her with teaching me (unknowingly) the art of imperfection, as I would observe her process of restoring her antique dolls and noting even once fully restored, her dolls always maintained their evidence of a life lived through chips and tears, but still quite lovely.

    mum

    While I was never much interested in playing with dolls, I did value the creativity in storytelling and playtime that her dolls inspired. From time to time, a doll’s house would cross her path for her restoration process.  So it’s not such a surprise when I come across a dolls house that speaks to me for restoration, I take it on as a labor of love.

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    I like to restore them to their original condition and even layer in additional details, that were perhaps never there, but still feel authentic (wooden floors, vintage wallpaper, primitively made furniture and miniature bedding).

    Dollhouse Collage

    Today there are a million more options for make believe and playtime for children, but the tradition of simple playtime within the walls of a dollhouse, to me, still inspires a creativity in a much deeper way than can be achieved on a computer. So as I find worn out and discarded dolls houses, I will continue enjoying giving these once cherished little houses, a whole new world for make believe in this real world we live.

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