Treasure hunting? I’ll admit it, when it comes to big garage sales on a summer afternoon–it’s so much fun to come home with a treasure. My writing desk was in an “antique store” which is really another name for selling stuff people no longer want. It’s oak and serviceable, but I’m sure its value lies in my love of it.
And right this moment, I ask you to look around the room you are sitting in–because I am sure there is at least ONE ITEM that you picked up at a sale (garage or other venue), or you inherited or it was a gift from a dear friend–and it is something old and chipped, or white enamel, painted with roses, or covered in needlepoint and you will never part with it.
HOW RACHEL FOUND HER CALLING
Rachel Ashwell was born in England and remembers the excitement of walking through flea markets on cold mornings with her parents. They opened the door to what became not only Rachel’s passion but a rich and profitable business. She now lives in Malibu, California and has her cornerstone store in LA. But I have bought many of her designs through her Target Brand–and have followed her style by reading her Treasure Hunting and Decorating Guide. It opened my eyes as to FINDS at sales–garage, antique, flea markets, rummage sales, swag meets and tag sales.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Stopping your car when you see a piece of furniture at the curb is one thing. But spending hours examining pottery and glassware, finding the uses of items you have never seen before is another.
It became a passion and a hobby with me. In the suburbs of Chicago, I held and visited garage sales, garnering cast off chairs–you set the chair in your garden and place a plant on the seat and let ivy trail down. Tins, gardening tools, flower pots can fill an old baker’s rack that you have to spray paint every season or just let it become a chipped antique.
In Iowa, I found McCoy pottery at the Iowa State Fair, crystal candle sticks and white pitchers. I now have a collection. And I am always on the lookout for a single plate that I can display or hang above my kitchen cabinets. Anthropologie plates are expensive–but if you head to the back of the store there are always some on sale.
RACHEL knows the value of old sheets, pillowcases, napkins, hand towels–any of these items being even better if they are monogrammed with the name of a hotel or a bride’s initials. She also recommends anything that is embroidered or hand stitched. She refers us to a time when these items were precious and thus were mended if they tore.
I treasure a quilt that my grandmother made for me when I was married. It’s pattern is THE TREE OF LIFE and each of my children and grandchildren have been photographed on the quilt.
COLORS, PASTELS, WICKER AND WOOD
Rachel loves white, soft greens and pink in all of its shades, especially if you add a painting or a pitcher of cabbage roses, another aspect of her signature style. She places wicker white furniture against a backdrop of pink white or soft blue. In my last home, the guest room featured bedding styled by Rachel, prints of flowers and a built-in shelf where I displayed books from my childhood, paintings done by my grandchildren and framed photos of loved ones.
This new house is smaller and a bigger challenge as to how I can honor my Shabby Chic items. One wicker chair is already gone–via a neighborhood organization where you can post a photo of the item on Facebook, provide the street and general area where you live, and people can then write back if they are interested. This is a great way during Covid to look for castoffs that just might become precious to you.
In the famous yearly sale that my church in Des Moines held, I found the best of the best–things I still cherish. A big white chest that I painted, adding new hardware. A painted toile tray that I will never part with. High-end pillow cases and linens that I cherish. A small stool that has probably been repainted five times.
And crystal! Rachel will hang a crystal chandelier anywhere–and I love how crystal plays in light, especially sunlight. My mother-in-law said yes, when I asked for a bag of crystals that I found in her bedside table. They had come from a lamp and she loved how they played in the light. I have hung them, displayed them–and though we weren’t in love with a chandelier in our last dining room, it provided a great place to hang the crystal ornament we receive every Christmas from dear friends. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.
NEED A FUN PROJECT?
So to welcome in a year that is new, but also stymied in some ways by Covid: cruise your dwelling. What room could use some new paint? What piece of furniture would brighten a room if you chose some awesome color of milk paint and gave it a new life?
No matter where I live, I will always be eager for setting a mood, repurposing an item or finding a better use for something I own or a treasure I have come upon. I won’t say Rachel Ashwell changed my life, but she underlined the beauty of the “found” item and emphasized that cherishing and repurposing old things can bring warmth and charm to your life.