Silver Linings

by Rachel Ashwell

I’ve been based in UK for nearly five months now. My original plan was not to close doors on my life as I knew it but to create some distance from my comfort zone of my beautiful Los Angeles life (my dear friends, everyday business world of Shabby Chic & my beautiful home). I felt the need to create a void to see if there were other paths or experiences that could bring another layer to the tapestry of my life. Over the years I have been drawn to writing more and I thought if I made a space away from my home perhaps that could become more of a focus for me, as well as an opportunity to do some reflective thinking.

I know it’s a privilege to be able to change tracks & explore so I made sure I had an agenda in place so my time would be put to good use. As well, as I’ve become older and more comfortable I’m not as brave to change as I was when I was 19 when I moved to Los Angeles from London, alone with little money but lots of dreams and no fear.

As I have written in prior blogs the start of my adventure was diverted due to having unexpected surgery shortly after my arrival in England over the Christmas holiday period. I’m happy to say I am on the mend.

However, soon thereafter my plans changed once again. At the end of last year my daughter Lily was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme disease. By early January as I was healing from my surgery I started to understand Lily’s condition is a complicated, somewhat overwhelming disease. It effects people in different ways with numerous conventional and unconventional treatments, and it’s at times debilitating. One of these days Lily will share her journey.

Lily had set herself up in a magical flat in London near a European medical facility specializing in treatments for her condition. So, even though not part of my original plan, these past five months have set me on a journey to be by her side towards healing. Other than actually being in England, for the most part, most other plans I had I set for myself were set aside. In doing so, for the first time in my life I didn’t have the security blanket of goals I had set to keep me from ever stopping.

Lily’s flat in Hampstead is in a part of London that my parents lived in so it felt familiar to her. However, after some time we decided it would be better for her to come stay in a little cottage I had rented as a base for myself. It’s a modest little home in the countryside of Somerset.

 I had been yearning for seasons and so I welcomed the winter months of January, February and March. The trees empty of leaves with the promise of change come spring was a comforting rhythm and metaphor for Lily’s healing. There was a beauty to me of the branches and bushes strongly withstanding the cold wind and early morning frost. Knowing in time healthy leaves would return, some with blossoms. Babibgton House has wonderful grounds to observe this.

Most of my days have been spent gathering organic vegetables and meats in line with Lily’s healing. One would think it would be easy being surrounded by farms, but in actuality I drive miles each day to a multitude of farm shops and butchers. Even though, driving around on the tiny lanes, getting stuck behind tractors or animals crossing I found the dance of having to make way for oncoming traffic, pulling over into the bushes, charming - simply because of the quaint English country manners. Always a nod of gratitude or a wave of thanks. I find manners so heartwarming, a connection of appreciation. Sometimes in the insular living of technology the layer of humanity gets lost. I actually found myself looking forward to my drive-arounds knowing the thank you’s would be sure come.

My little cottage is on a farm. Mostly sheep and some horses. The end of March came lamb season. At times, I felt I was living the movie Charlotte’s Web. Lots of little lambs (over 50) were born outside my bedroom window. But then once they found their voice there was a 24/7 symphony. That took some getting used to.

With my busy privileged life in Los Angeles and my very functioning home it had been some time since I had been my own housekeeper and all that comes with that. During these months, I would at times get tired as my duties were fairly constant but there was something about owning the whole process of “taking care” with everything that needed doing.

I found myself reconnected and humbled.  During much of my food prep, including endlessly making celery- juice-time I listened several times to Chelsea Handler / Life Will Be the Death of Me.  (Well worth a read).

I did find myself feeling a little lost and insecure at times not having my bigger engine of life camouflaging my insecurities. But now I had a different agenda and it lead me to being absorbed in life like I have never been before.

My daughter has the deepest soul. I wouldn’t wish her illness on anyone but the conversations it has prompted together have been priceless. We have cried some but also pure laughter that I didn’t know was in me, reflecting the challenges of our journey.

On a side note, moments here and there I have popped to local flea markets and have made quite a precious nest, a layer of quintessential English treasures. And I am excited for my LA team to come over in the summer for some flea market shopping.

I’ve managed to squeeze in a couple of photo shoots of some exciting new Shabby Chic projects. Taking advantage of a different but still perfectly imperfect aesthetic. One of my favorite homes to shoot in is my friend, Pearl Lowe's house.

 There are a few months ahead on the road of healing as Lily continues her protocol. There will be bumps in the road. But I have learnt the lesson of “NOW”, for every meaningful moment. That is the silver lining to this.

On side note Sadie earned the best doggie award for going with the flow & offering 24/7 entertainment and comfort.

In the next few days I will head back to Los Angeles for a month before I return in June back to my countryside life.


8 comments


  • Dearest Rachel,

    I really enjoyed your blog and enjoyed hearing how your life is going. I met you at The Prairie in Round Top, Texas several years ago. It was such a pleasure meeting and you served us lemonade and cookies. One of my girlfriends shared that she was a fan when you had your television show. You replied, “That was a long time ago.” We really enjoyed meeting you and touring the beautiful property. I still love your simply shabby chic from Target
    and have it all over my house.
    I hope you enjoy your time in England and that your daughter gets stronger each day. With proper nutrition and exercise and healthful habits, I personally know people who have been able to regain their health after being diagnosed with Lymes Disease.

    Well, Rachel, I wish you and yours the best as you have made so many people happy with your chic style of decorating.

    With warm regards,
    Marion Whalen-Raskey

    marion whalen-raskey on

  • Dear Rachel,
    I am so very sorry to hear of Lily’s illness. (I have also experienced chronic illness.) A stay at The Prairie last year with my family, just for one night, was an incredible balm (it felt somehow like a sweet, rural honeymoon, and it was a gift from God). Thank you for your legacy. Thank you too for your honesty: for the gift of your words and ideas as well as these beauteous images. May Lily’s healing be swift and may the silver linings become precious threads in the tapestries of your lives!

    Alice on

  • I’m so sorry your daughter is unwell. I hope she does better and better each day. A lucky girl who has her Mama close at hand:) Kind Regards to you and your family. *What a lovely place to nest in!

    Karen on

  • Rachel,

    You and Lily will be in my prayers. So glad that you can be together right now. Your daughter must be so happy to have you there with her as she goes through this rough patch. Also, I certainly can relate to your recent back issues. Have had severe lower back pain for almost 3 months now. Am so glad to hear that you are on the mend. Hoping I can say the same before long.

    I have met you on two separate occasions at book signings in San Rafael and Pleasanton, CA. I have fond memories of both of these events as you were just so very kind. You have always inspired me. Would not trade all my Shabby Chic books, products and/or my now somewhat tattered British Rose slipcovers for anything.

    P.S. I purchased the Lily chandelier (that was in your SF store) when it closed.
    Next time I turn on the twinkly lights in the evening, will be saying an extra prayer for Lily.

    💕 Julie

    Julie Guthrie on

  • Thinking of you, of Lily and praying lavish grace will be sustaining as healing happens. I’m no stranger to chronic illness and am in the throes just now so I get it. All at once, stillness and silence become part of one’s daily rhythms, and a sweetness surfaces which we surely miss in our busy-ness. I have also learned the beauty of surrender as a result of my struggles, and I regard it as a gift. What a sacred journey yours has been. Looking forward to reading more of your reflections and wishing you peace right where you are.

    michele@hellolovely on


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