Saturday, February 5, 2011

Shabby Chic is Always Chic

Shabby Chic Sofa
I had a lot of commentary and requests for this July, 2010 blog post that I wrote for Virginia Living Magazine, so without further ado I have re-posted for your enjoyment! ~ Joanie Ballard

I work with color a lot in my shop: Le Jacquard Francais tablecloths, Matisse lithographs, Gabbeh rugs to name a few colorful products. But when I go home, I love white rooms and all shades of serene green rooms. The calmness of Gustavian grey paint finishes, the scrubbed Swedish and French-style interiors with distressed wood furnishings. . . aaahhh. . . . I just need to be surrounded with peaceful scenes after work. It allows my mind to rest a bit from a day spent looking at, talking about, and making decisions about color. In speaking to many customers over the years, this is a particularly lovable way of decorating one’s home. Here is an image of my living room in my home, with lots of Shabby Chic inspiration.

My interest in soft, white home environments came from the influence of one designer: Rachel Ashwell, founder of the newly named Shabby Chic Couture, as seen here inside her shop and a picture I took of her Los Angeles storefront on the famous Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, CA.

Rachel Ashwell

Shabby Chic Couture Shop, Santa Monica, CA
On this trip to her shop in Los Angeles I was reminded of where the seed of inspiration came from to make the jump and open my own shop.

Rachel as Goddess: During a time of recuperation from surgery in 1999 I had to lie in bed a lot so I had a little television nearby. I started watching the Style Network, which had just a couple decorating shows—not like today’s bonanza of decorating channels. One of those little style shows was “Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic,” which was on at 1pm every weekday (yes, I actually remember the time).

The show consisted of Rachel working while talking to the camera about her process, her love and joy of vintage finds, feathers, chandeliers and pastel colors of pink and blue. Rachel lived in sunny Los Angeles, so light was always streaming in around her, angelic-like. She would travel to romantic flea markets and find amazing furniture pieces, mirrors, candle sticks, and even old pieces of paper that she would turn around and use on projects at her shop. Not only did she purchase vintage items and restore them but she would also use them as inspirations in her original fabric/furnishing designs. I remember one episode that showed her designing Jennifer Lopez’ first California restaurant “Madres” (now closed). I thought that was a stretch design-wise, and so did Rachel, but the end result was a truly sumptuous and soothing interior that made everyone feel at home the moment they walked into the restaurant.

Throughout her show, I watched as she described the intricate process of creating designs for her pastel fabrics, furniture, lamps, etc., and visiting flea markets to purchase items for her shop. It was beyond inspiring. I thought to myself, lying in bed, “I would love to do something like that.” Fast forward, and I began working with French textiles, home décor, and scented candles within just 2 years from that time of watching Rachel do her thing. I credit her today with fanning the flames of creativity in me, and in particular the idea that you actually could actually live in a big, all-white house and that was OK.

Rachel published another wonderful decor book and on a her blog she says: "My latest book is Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Interiors. I focus on the many evolutions and meanings of a home. The empty nest, the everything room. Home can be many things, but mostly it must be where we go to recharge." I couldn’t agree more.

Here are informational links to Rachel's world of Shabby Chic:

Rachel’s website | Rachel's blog | Rachel on Flickr | Shabby Chic books 

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