Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bella Rustica Cottage

Kim Kelly - Creative Woman, Animal Advocate, Federal Agent

Meet Kim Kellyshe is just adorable  . . . artisan, animal advocate,  and federal agent. What she has done is so AMAZING!!!  The before and after images for her refurbished Bella Rustica Cottage.  I just had to share her post with you all. :-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


At Christmas, I purchased what is fondly referred to as "The Pink House" on Saint Simons Island, GA.

For those who don't know, a year prior I transferred to this area with my federal agency to be an instructor at The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Southeast Coastal Georgia.  So, LABBIES California became LABBIES Georgia.  Saint Simons Island is the land of second homes for wealthy Floridians and Georgians so in the struggling economy, the vacation home is the first to go. As a result, the market in general was soft but this particular house had been unoccupied for almost 8 years.  It is located within 4 blocks of the Atlantic Ocean.

I bought it for 200K, filled with mold, open beam ceilings, lots of potential, and made it my own.  I decided on a coastal look with Italian attitude - diverso (different) for this area.  Most of the homes here are Coastal Cottage shingled or tabbied ( a concrete and oyster shell finish) but The Pink House was stucco, similar to my house in Coronado, CA.  As I continue to learn about this part of the United States, I have come to understand that pink stucco is very "Florida".

After removing the carport, I painted it Universal Khaki (Sherwin Williams) and exposed the terra cotta brick over the carriage garage doors. I worked within a budget which is honestly more fun than having carte blanche.  Because I have done it both ways I can say this.  For those of you who don't know me, my Life Philosophy is that Life is mostly Plan B.  Once you give in to this concept (a reality anyway, amici) Life becomes simply more fun and adventuress - like this re-model. For example, instead of marble countertops I did thick slabs of Live Oak from a local mill and I love it.  When my contractor said we could not do something I asked what we could do and then we went from there.  As a result, even I did not know what it would look like in the end.

To the left of the front door is an alcove (see below) where I leaned a hand-made chalkboard I'd made so people can leave messages for me.

Because the lot is so long, I wanted to plant my organic raised beds in the front yard, similar to the Victory Gardens of World War II.  Aside from the herbs and vegetables in the raised beds, all additional plants are rosmarino (rosemary) and mexican sage.  Initially, I wanted to plant rows of lavender but it does not thrive in this climate. 

Herbs, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and yellow, orange, & red bell peppers are the bounty. I used crepe myrtle branches for rustica tomato trellises and they work perfectly. 

Melanzane (Eggplant) maturing.

This was the original galley kitchen in a home not lived in for eight years.  My design was based around a "J" design.  I had to remove the wall to the right to open the kitchen to the living room to just over 7 feet to allow for my 7 foot farm table.  In order to accommodate the refrigerator, 30 inch farm sink, dishwasher, the range, one (36) inch cabinet and two lazy susan cabinets the back door wall had to be extended.

Here is the just over 7 foot opening I mentioned.  I opted to have the upper portion of the wall arched for accent.

I was on a budget for this home so I ended up choosing cabinets from a display model at U-Save Cabinets. I would never have chosen the original style - Mission - but knew I was going to paint and shabby them up.  It's amazing what paint can do. I paid less for these all-wood cabinets than I would have for the particle board unpainted cabinets available at Lowes or Home Depot. I primed them with a gray primer and then added layers of two brown-grey paints mixing them with glaze to extend the time I had to move the paint around until I found the perfect combination.  For contrast, the original wood color in seen on the sides of the cabinets. In between, I sanded edges and created "worm holes" and then hand wiped burnt sienna acrylic oil paint onto and into the raw wood.  I finished with layers of orange oil. I love the finished product.  

I had already decided on Live Oak solid wood countertops so off to Saint Simons Mill I went.

The logs are milled thirty feet from where they lay and then moved into the warehouse.

If you have never had an appreciation for wood, you would have coming here.

I choose the thickest width of wood the cabinets would hold and then asked that the edge of the counter remain natural in form and that when the back pieces where cut straight to accommodate the walls, that natural edge be used for the backsplash. 

I hoped that when the original false-ceiling in the kitchen was removed, the open beams used in the living and dining room were also originally used, and they were.  Because they were covered right away with the ceiling they were never painted like the rest of the house. I chose to allow the kitchen ceiling to remain natural and would have wanted to sand-blast the other rooms to match but it was cost prohibitive. Because the kitchen was extended, there was not enough original flooring so instead of matching it I decided to lay rough hewn travertine marble.

In order to accommodate the copper farm sink the door to the cabinet had to be removed.  Rather than having them cut down the doors and re-attach them, I opted to skirt that area in burlap.  The copper farm sink was an eBay purchase steal at $300.00.  I would normally not have chosen the embossed sea shells but that was where the savings came in and since I am less than a mile to the ocean, why not?

Apparently, the house was made of stucco over brick so when the kitchen wall and ceiling were removed the exposed brick was peeking through so I immediately knew I wanted to open the back wall up.  This was the only area this could be done so it ended up making more of a statement.

I had the ever-talented Tamerie Shriver made my roman shade out of, what else, burlap.

I splurged here and saved there. The lighting over the sink is a galvanized barn lamp available at Loews for $20.00.  You just have to have exposed galvanized metal over old brick so that made it easy for the electricians.

The alcove behind the range idea I swiped from a magazine and recreated it here.  The street address sign I had made the last time I was in Italy and it depicts the address of my genitori italiani (parents), Alfonso e Carla Tomasi, 24 Via Monti, Sesto Fiorentino, Italia.

More photos to come on Kim’s blog... here

Kim,  I absolutely adore your cottage,  you have done an exquisite job.  I love the way you bring in the unexpected by selecting the textures and materials you’d find in nature. Beautifully done!!!!



Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Kloster House

It just so happens the lady of the house is a very close friend of mine and not lacking in decorating talent by any means. Her name is Christi,  (we call her Triss) a busy mother of two,  and a graduate of FIDM Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She’s the queen of unfinished projects.  She often has ten projects going at once. :-) When she and I get together there is lots of love, laughter and creativity .

She’s done quite an exceptional job at sprucing up her crib. If her husband doesn’t feel like joining in on the reno’s,   somehow she pulls it off,  yep . . .  by herself. Let’s start with the kitchen . . . shall we?

Christi completely renovated the whole kitchen after purchasing their home. She replaced all the appliances to stainless steel. The cabinets,  they were originally a outdated whitewash color,  they got a facelift, too.. Her newer updated look is a darker stain with a geometric molding detail on the cabinet doors, and lovely stainless bin pulls.

She uses a old wooden table as her island and it’s charming.

She added three great pendant lights above the peninsula .

This is her kitchen eating area. She fashioned this bench from a vintage headboard,  and made a elegant slipcover for the seat cushion to add warmth and color. I finished ‘er up by bringing in the unexpected with one of my handmade natural burlap table runner’s. I just love textured fabric.


Her palette is soft faded golds. She has a fondness for vintage pieces, and layers many different types of luxurious fabrics…

Don’t you just love her panche style!!!


Seen here in her living room, she whipped up this amazing burlap slipcover, with beautiful long fringe. Who would have thunk? I choose a unique French design for the chair back that finished it off.

One of the pieces I purchased for Christi is her 1930’s wardrobe chest.  The paint is all original and we love the wood carvings on the  front of the glass doors.

How cute is her daughter Sophia’s funky tween bedroom ? Seen here again layers of many different patterns and styles of fabric, black and white damask, vintage floral, zebra, etc. I especially love the unique drapery treatment. A sheer fuchsia  poke-a-dot panel with large fuchsia bows and flowers, super brilliant !!! What a fun look!

A French chandelier (I found for Christi), and vintage framed artwork above the bed complete this look. I just love this casual imperfection!

All photos courtesy of The Old Painted Cottage

Meet Sophia and Christi, I absolutely adore them!! Thank you Christi for taking the time with me, sharing ideas  and thoughts.   I look forward to many more projects with you.

Always in my thoughts.

I will be visiting the Kloster’s home again soon.

Happy Weekend :-)


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rachel Ashwell, reinvented

Saturday, July 9,  2011 :: LATIMES

Rachel Ashwell's home

In Ashwell's latest home her signature Shabby Chic look is in full effect.

At a time when weathered woods, vintage treasures and timeworn flea market finds are enjoying a renaissance in the decorating world, it is more than a bit ironic that Rachel Ashwell, the queen of Shabby Chic, finds herself rebuilding her empire.
Just two years ago, Ashwell was forced to closed the doors on 15 of her Shabby Chic stores and file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a casualty in the housing market meltdown and ensuing recession. Her beloved mum, the muse to whom she dedicated her last book, had just passed away. Ashwell later would have to say goodbye to her three-bedroom, three-bath home in the tony Malibu Colony too.

A lack of legs on the sofa is inconsequential when this is the view.



Ashwell's 48-inch round table, made from reclaimed oak, is part of her new furnishings line made in Los Angeles. It is surrounded by vintage spindle and ladder-back chairs that she bought on her last shopping trip to Round Top, Texas, home of a legendary flea market. "The more mismatched the chairs, the better," the designer says.


As part of Shabby Chic's evolution, Ashwell recently introduced her first sectional sofa -- a staple of contemporary living rooms, except finished in classic Ashwell style. "The idea behind our new Malibu Modular Sectional is that as  your life grows, you can extend it," the designer says. "It's not as big as our normal sofas. Its smaller scale offers a lot of flexibility."

Crisp poplin slipcovers that Ashwell calls Pinnies epitomize her quest for simple elegance -- and a brighter outlook. "You can just stick them in the washer on the cold cycle, then dry them on a line outside," she says. "It's more eco-friendly, and they'll smell like sunshine."<br>
<strong>More profiles:</strong> <a href="">California homes in pictures</a>
<strong>The L.A. scene:</strong> <a href="">The L.A. at Home blog</a>

"The castle had crumbled and I had to let it go," said Ashwell, who was 50 at the time. "It was a very painful time on every level. But what happens when you go through these kinds of things is a kind of rebirth, and you are very selective as to what you bring back."
The maven of comfort style is indeed back, this time in a 1960s clapboard rental in Malibu's Paradise Cove that she affectionately calls her "Shabby Shack," a symbol of her refocused life and work.

Ashwell takes a break on a vintage Adirondack-style chair that she bought at the Brimfield flea market in Massachusetts. Nearby an old wicker sofa without feet offers a quaint seating area. "It had two broken legs, so I just took the other two off," Ashwell says. "It's fine for a deck at the beach."  A long weathered bench -- one of her favorite versatile pieces -- acts as a footstool.
"The cottage isn't perfect," Ashwell said. "Saltillo tiles are not my favorite. In the past, I would have replaced everything — installed hardwood floors and new windows, changed the staircase and railing — but it's not necessary. I think the cottage demonstrates how to work with what you have. Even when things are not exactly the way you want, you can make it work."

Ashwell considers this large vintage dining table a staple. It's been with her in her various homes over the years.

In the last 24 months, Ashwell has been at work in other corners of her castle, rethinking her life, making changes. That includes her newly edited furnishings business — now three boutique stores under the moniker Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture in Santa Monica, New York and London, as well as a B&B called the Prairie that opened in March in Round Top, Texas, site of a twice yearly antiques market. Her forthcoming book, "Shabby Chic Inspirations and Beautiful Spaces," will be released in October.
But it is her Shabby Shack that may best represent Ashwell's adaptation to economically challenging times. A simple coat of matte white paint spruced up the exterior, although she left the beige on part of the second floor that cantilevers over the pool. ("I would have had to bring in scaffolding and painting it was just too costly and too much trouble," she said.)

Ashwell placed a pair of daybeds, part of her <a href="">Shabby Chic Couture</a> line, in her home's front corner, which she believes had been a carport at one point. Her faded floral pillows create her new bohemian Russian peasant look. The designer took an iconic piece from the 1960s --the bean bag chair -- and covered it in garment-dyed velvets in smoky jewel tones.

Inside, romantic Turkish rugs in faded red and teal blues camouflage the unloved Saltillo tiles as well as add warmth and color to what had been a plain setting. Rather than replace the harsh black stair railing, Ashwell covered it with vintage textiles — all part of her new philosophy of "making do but not settling." Her signature Shabby Chic look is here, to be sure: the oh-so-comfy slipcovered sofas, the decades-old furnishings with soul, the flea market discoveries that the designer handpicks. An old wood table on the deck surrounded by mismatched chairs is as charming as ever. Her favorite weathered benches, combined with a giant table for dining or for work, represent another recession appointment: furniture that can serve multiple purposes.

A weathered blue tray says
"They can be a place to sit, or a coffee table, or simply a place to put things," she said.
Elsewhere, the home is filled with more of her trademark look, from the perforated wood chair by the fireplace to the scuffed-edge vintage tray topped with a mix of old flea market glasses. It's a style that Traditional Home editor in chief Ann Maine calls "very personal … homey and casual."
But Ashwell's signature white-on-white is evolving to include more color these days, part of her new "Russian peasant cottage style" inspired by some of British photographer Tim Walker's recent imagery.
"It's a bit more bohemian with a slightly richer palette than the Shabby Chic white-on-white and pastels," Ashwell said. "They're colors that were once intense and are now faded and smoky."
Ashwell's rental home also serves as a laboratory, a testing ground for Modern-inspired pieces that she recently added to her lineup. The iconic bean bag chair has been tweaked, the 1960s vinyl covers in psychedelic hues replaced with hand-dyed velvets in muted jewel tone colors, offering a soft landing for family and friends.
A sectional sofa has been added, the standard fare of modern interiors given the Ashwell spin: white linen and faded floral fabrics. The designer is quick to assure faithful customers that the form may be more contemporary than what they're used to, but the cushions are "still as mushy and comfortable as ever."
The bedroom — dressed in her new bespoke linens and a small mountain of ruffled pillows — offers the ultimate, forget-the-world cocoon.

 In an alcove between the dining and sitting room, memory boards that Ashwell fashioned from cork and white-painted frames are loaded with family pictures and other memorabilia. "They're like photo albums -- only hung on the wall where you can see them," she says.

In her small office niche by the winding staircase, lacey gowns from bygone eras hang off an old sconce, conjuring images of ballrooms and gardenia corsages. Nearby, a memory board fashioned from old cork and a painted white frame — another Shabby Chic signature piece — has been layered with children's photos, invitations, articles and fabric samples.
"The memory boards are like a scrapbook of your favorite things, but they hang on your wall so you can see them," said the designer, who considers them a form of "authentic, organic art."
The various looks, old and new, add up to what Karen Sellars, Ashwell's friend for more than 20 years, calls extraordinary resilience.
"The challenges of her business taught her a lot of lessons, but in the end it didn't dull her spirit," Sellars said.
Family Circle's director of home design, Judy Prouty, pointed out that although Shabby Chic isn't likely to be embraced by the fans of the clean-lined, pathologically uncluttered homes that dominate modern design blogs today, Ashwell's celebration of casual imperfection makes sense for imperfect times.
"Rachel's fondness for vintage pieces, cushy furniture and lots of white slipcovers give it a family-friendly, easy-to-live-with vibe," Prouty said, adding that Shabby Chic actually dovetails with the current frenzy for crafting, DIY and "anyone who wants to express their personal/artistic vision with a paintbrush, wallpaper, bits of lace and fabric."
At the heart of Ashwell's pretty-but-imperfect furnishings always has been a kind of ethereal beauty, so it's fitting that in the corner of one of Ashwell's memory boards hangs a pair of broken wings.
"I have a philosophical connection with them," the designer said with a laugh. "So many Texas songs are about angels and broken wings. For me, they speak to the fact that you may not be able to fly as high or as fast, but you can still fly."


Rachel were so glad you’re back,  see you at the flea market! :-)


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Grain Sack Stencils

Laura, the owner and creator of Maison de Stencils is an absolute peach-of–a-gal. I am thrilled to have her as one of my friends. She has a unique flair and a keen eye for all things French.   Laura’s stencils are some of my favorite design tools.

burlap ottoman 1

Don’t ya just love this stencil Laura designed? I thought I would share with you a few things I have developed for my line of reproduction antiques.

I often start with something familiar like an ottoman base, and try to re-purpose it. I use a quick fabric spray paint on my stencils,  forget about sponging,  besides my hands get tired that way. I like quick results with less effort,  don’t you??

Linen Chateau w pleated skirt 001 

This ottoman has a washed Belgian linen slipcover with a 12 inch ruffle.

Yummy . . .

Linen Chateau w pleated skirt 003 


club chair 010 

Then I move on to larger things like this washed handmade linen slip cover I stenciled.


foot stool

All of Laura’s stencils are cut from 7 mil mylar, and are super durable and can be used again and again.  There is no need to clean the paint off your stencils. It dries quickly usually within a few hours, depending on what type of paint you’re using.

foot stool

This charming vintage inspired footstool,  is still up for grabs in my ETSY shop :-)


If you like this stencil, Laura will design a custom stencil just for you,  personalized with your family name and the date your Chateau was established. How cool is that ?? 


reverseable runner 005

These stencils are just a click away, Happy Stenciling!!!


For design inquiries,  write to Laurie at