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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Baby Boo & French Bleu

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Just a little touch of Fall goes a long way for me.  Add just a little bit here and there, keep the existing basic arrangements and color schemes, and voilà, Fall decorating is complete.

Keep it simple by adding a beautiful fall-inspired greeting card and a handful of Baby Boo white pumpkins to the French bleu flower pot.  These two small additions to the top of the pine chest definitely add a seasonal look, but an understated one.

Why not a more elaborate arrangement for Fall?

First, adding just a few things keeps the overall design of the space intact.  I like the way everything looks as it is, and I am slow to change.  It takes me a long time to choose new things for my house.  So, when I finally make a change like buying a new sofa, or adding a new lamp, or finding just the perfect French bleu flower pot, I enjoy seeing them.

This flower pot's color is my personal favorite bleu.  This bleu has a lot of red in it and can be very hard to find.  Several years ago this shade of bleu was available in fabrics, pottery, ribbons, lamp shades, bed linens, upholstery.... , but is much harder to find now.  You probably know that the design world chooses a focus color each year, and manufacturers make many things in that color. Then the next year there is a new focus color, and the old color-of-the-year is harder to find.  

Made popular by Laura Ashley, this color is called periwinkle blue and tends to look purple when paired with some other shades of blue.  I love this bleu, and buy it whenever I find it!  Don't the white pumpkins look great with this bleu? Remember one of the tips from the last post was to provide a royal setting? 

Second, adding just a couple of Fall touches allows each of the touches to be a focal point instead of them getting lost in a mix.  Using just one card showcases that card with its designer pumpkins, and the Baby Boos are eye-catching elevated in the flower pot.  

Third, adding only a few things makes it easier to clean.  Cleaning is not high on my list of things to do.  Since there are so many more things I had rather be doing, anything that makes the job go faster makes me happy. The card is easy to pick up and move around for dusting, and the little white pumpkins are inside an existing pot which means they do not add to the cleaning routine. 

Fourth, adding only a few Fall touches keeps my budget intact.  The small white pumpkins are inexpensive and by placing them in a shallow white bowl, only a few are needed.  The few sprigs of greenery are Bradford pear leaves and berries from the pear tree in the backyard.  The price doesn't get any better than free. 

Lastly, adding just a few inexpensive natural items does not require storage space once I change out the decor.  Organic items compost naturally in the woods and become soil instead of taking space in a landfill.

Even with minimal Fall decor, there is also a French touch.  See the embossed crown in the lip of the white bowl holding the pumpkins? Plus, using real pumpkins and pear twigs is très français.  Au naturel. 

Thank you for stopping by to visit.  You are always welcome any season, 
and I will try to have at least a few special touches for you to enjoy. 
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Cinderella Pumpkins Display Tips

Thursday, September 24, 2015

It's official! 

September 23, 2015 is the first day of 

of all shapes, sizes, and colors are in the garden centers in my neck of the woods. 

f i n a l l y ! 

Cinderella is the name of a pumpkin variety, but, for me, a cinderella pumpkin is any pumpkin with a fairytale shape, or with a bewitching stem, or with a magical color.  Like the pumpkin sitting on my kitchen counter nestled in a green boxwood wreath... which happens to be a Rascal variety.  For me, it is still a cinderella pumpkin. 

Just look at the color, the texture, the shape, and its crowning glory, the stem.  Any wondrous pumpkin with this much style and beauty could be transformed to Cinderella's carriage.  So, what are the tips in displaying a Cinderella Pumpkin just waiting for its debut at the Ball? 

TIP #1 - Choose a magical gorgeous color 
Rascal pumpkins are soft peach with hints of green in color and have delicate veined skins with texture.  The color is really described as pink in growers' descriptions.  Now, if pink is not a color for Cinderella's pumpkin, what is?  

I wandered around my local garden center for at least an hour finding just the pumpkin to bring home.  Color was the first thing I noticed in ALL of the many choices of pumpkins.   

TIP #2 - Choose a bewitching stem  
I looked long and hard at the white pumpkins, but there just was not a bewitching stem on any of the white pumpkins.  Hmmm... maybe the wicked stepmother got there before I did and snatched up the beautiful white pumpkin with its bewitching stem.  Curly stems with squiggly tendrils add beguiling features to even the most beautiful pumpkin, similar to curls and stray tendrils in Cinderella's beautiful hair coiffed for the ball. 

TIP #3 - Choose a fairytale shape 
Shapely symmetrical lobes with a well-defined stem valley are a fairytale shape.  Misshapen, tilting, lop-sided pumpkins may be good for cooking, but pumpkins destined for display should have more grace and style, especially if the pumpkin is a centerpiece by itself, not part of a clustered group.  

A Cinderella Pumpkin holds center stage by itself without need of ladies-in-waiting. 

TIP #4 - Provide a setting worthy of royalty 
A white pedestal cake plate with a ruffled edge showcases whatever sits atop it.  Setting a pumpkin on a striking platter, in a rustic basket, inside a stoneware soup tureen, or in a tarnished silver loving cup draws the eye even more to the pumpkin.  

Look around your house, and use a container you like that fits your overall style.  French Country is what I consider my style, and the white stoneware cake plate seems to fit French Country.  

Or, be bold, and use a totally unexpected container like a wooden crate, olive bucket, old wooden ice cream freezer, or a wooden Coca-cola crate. 

TIP #5 - Add an unexpected "nestling" layer 
A preserved green boxwood wreath is a surprise for Fall.  Traditional Fall colors are not my favorite palette so I look for things that are some of my favorite things to use all year and use them in Fall displays.  The boxwood wreath also gives a more formal French touch and less cluttered look to the arrangement.  I have been trying to find ways to give a natural, airy look to my house. 

A nestling layer helps stabilize a wobbly pumpkin and camouflage any imperfections in the fairytale shape.  No one is the wiser.  Nestling materials like hydrangeas, berry vines, and grapevine twirls also add more interest to a display. 

For more Cinderella Pumpkin displays, see older posts from previous years' pumpkins.  See if you can spot how I used my five (5) tips in each of them.  

 5 Thanksgiving Blessings Found in White Pumpkins and Blue Berries

Not Your Usual Fall Colors


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Fall French Bedroom With A New Mattress

Monday, September 14, 2015

How do you create a warm, cozy bedroom with French style?

With cooler weather approaching, now is the time my thoughts turn to ways for making my bedroom warm and cozy.  While vacationing on Whisper Mountain, North Carolina this summer, I slept in a plush kingsize bed that was so comfortable that I decided that very next morning it was time for a new mattress at home.  A soft, comfy bed is my idea of the most important way to make a bedroom warm and cozy all Fall and Winter.

Goldilocks may have thought that one bed was too hard and one bed was too soft, but there is no such thing as a too soft bed for me, and many beds are way too hard for me.  I want to sink into the bed and pull warm covers up, to snuggle under all night, just peeking out my nose.

The new kingsize mattress is way too soft for Goldilocks, but just right for me, and it feels warm and cozy.

What are the things that give a bedroom French style?  Those things that evoke a feeling it could be in a house in France?  With each change I've made over the past several years, I consciously chose items that are French inspired.  Furniture is the most obvious way to create a French style.  The carved wooden sleigh bed was new when bought several years ago, but it looks like an antique French bed.

A soft blue and yellow color combination is perfect for a Fall bedroom because it is an often-used color combination that says France and are couleurs (colors) in nature each Fall.

Most of the time my bedroom has blue and white quilts and blankets, and blue toile pillow shams, but this Fall I'm using some bed linens that usually are in a guest bedroom upstairs.  The Impressionistic print over the bed is always in my master bedroom, and the floral pillow shams coordinate very nicely with it.

The tapestry depicting Chenonceau Château in the Loire Valley is truly a French pillow cover.  On one of the trips that I chaperoned students from the high school where I taught on a trip to England and France, I bought the tapestry in the gift shop at Chenonceau Château, my favorite French château (castle).

Tapestries, pure cotton sheets, cotton matelassé blankets, soft mohair throws, down comforters, and down pillows are the right combination of beddings that say France for me.  Indeed, even the word matelassé is French.  Matelassé is a quilted, embossed fabric used to make a bed coverlet.

The yellow matelassé blanket is just the thing for taking a quick nap during the day or for snuggling under while reading on top of the bed on a rainy Fall day.  What better reading in a French bedroom than Words in a French Life where each chapter is devoted to a French word woven into a short story about the author's life in France?

I love the French style curvy legs, deep carvings, and brown marble top on the sofa table at the end of the bed.  I had another sofa table picked out at the furniture store and was at the counter ready to pay for it and schedule delivery when I changed my mind.  This sofa table cost more money, but I decided I loved it enough to spend the extra money.

Here's what sits on the sofa table.  Yes, a small flat screen television.  I love lying on my new soft...soft... soft mattress and watching my favorite television shows.

The other end of the sofa table holds a new Fall fresh floral arrangement.  Actually, my sister created it as a sample Christmas arrangement for one of her corporate accounts to see as a choice for centerpieces at their annual Christmas banquet in December.  

Sprayed gold ivy vines, leaves, and small pine cones work as Fall touches as well as Christmas touches in the arrangement. 

Fleur de lis on the candle holder adds a French touch to the Fall bedroom. 

On the wall across from the bed and sofa table is one of my favorite pieces of furniture, an authentic antique French armoire.

The armoire is a French antique that came from a booth in a nearby antique mall over twenty years ago.  The dealer had received a shipment of French antiques just before the antique mall was scheduled to close.  The dealer wanted to sell everything quickly and gave me a fantastic combination price for this armoire and my breakfast table.  Straight from the French countryside, the armoire was very dirty inside and out, and I spent several days cleaning it.   

The preserved boxwood wreath hangs on the triple French armoire most of the year.  Sometimes, at Christmas time, I hang it on the Impressionist print over my bed. 

Finally, a small six-drawer antique French chest holds stationery, pens, papers, office supplies, and a collection of projects needing completing.  Most of the things on top and on the wall have their own French-connection stories, including the blue bell that The Long Tall Texan brought me from a Paris flea market, years before I ever made it to France.  My first French antique, bought for only a few dollars, long before I realized how much I love all things French... 

By changing a few bed linens and adding a Fall fresh floral arrangement, my master bedroom was transformed into a Fall French Bedroom.  The only new things are the mattress that is hidden from sight and the flowers in the Fall flower arrangement. 

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French Antiques Are Calling

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

French antiques always call to me, but lately I've been getting emails from French antiques... that is, emails from Marburger Farm at Round Top, Texas, one of biggest and best sites for French antiques. Marburger Farm also has dealers with antiques that are not French, but last fall there was an entire long tent filled with French antiques, including some dealers who come every year from France. 

Every three or four days I get another email tempting me, nagging me, enticing me to go to Round Top.  Here's one of the photos in a recent email from Marburger Farm.  The golden weathervane arrow seems to be pointing me towards Round Top, to the colossal antique show that happens every fall and spring.  The Marburger Farm site is so large... 43 acres!... that I wasn't able to see everything when I went for the first time in Fall 2014.

As I study the email's photo and read the details about dates, times, and entrance fees, I begin also to daydream about all the fabulous things I saw in 2014.  I daydream about everything I left behind, and begin to wonder what treasures will be there this year, like these antique papers and bowl. 

Marburger Farm is just one of hundreds of sites at the Round Top Antique Show.  Another one of my favorite sites is Blue Hills where I found antique French documents spilling out of an antique French iron bowl. 

The antique dealer with the French papers was packing up an order while I was in her booth. Someone had bought a set of twelve framed French antique documents.  Can't you just see a whole wall filled with these beautiful gold-framed, double-sided glass documents?  Yes, I bought some of the original antique French documents which have yet to be framed, but I left behind so many more.   

With each new email from Marburger Farm, I dream about all the French antiques, especially the ones that "got away."  I have no place in my house for this settee and had to restrain myself from buying it.  Common sense prevailed, and I left it there atop all those other beautiful finds... blue striped linens, glass cloches, white plates and pitcher...  But I still daydream about them. 

A dealer made me a great price for this beautiful three-drawer chest.  As I looked through my house in my mind, I saw it as an end table in the living room, as a night stand in a guest bedroom, as small chest in the bathroom..., but each place would have meant taking out something to make room for the chest.  Common sense... I had a strong dose of it last year.  This little chest was also left behind. Sigh! 

Not French, but a great Fall display using vintage pieces, helped me think of ways to put a little Fall into my own house.  Round Top is an incredible source for innovative ideas.  Every dealer is a master stylist making the trip worthwhile even if nothing is bought. 

Then there are always those whimsical items that add another layer of joie de vivre to the whole Round Top experience. 

Just 8 miles away from Marburger Farm is another place that keeps calling to me.  The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell is on my list of places to shop.  Another place that not's exactly French, but that also entices me.  So far, The Prairie hasn't been emailing me. 

As persuasive as the Marburger Farm emails are, there is no Round Top for me this Fall.  No, I already have a plane ticket on September 29 flying out of Texas.  But, Spring 2016 is definitely calling me.  Around Valentine's Day I expect to begin getting those emails from French antiques at Marburger Farm in Round Top.  

If French antiques are still calling to you, you may want to see last year's Round Top posts. 

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FALL Red Transferware, Stoneware Crock, Kitchen Linens

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What does Provence, France have in common with an American Fall?  COLORS!  Reds and yellows are signature colors for both.  After gathering a red transferware pitcher, a natural stoneware crock, and apple-themed kitchen linens together, the collection looked as though it could be sitting on a rustic table in the south of France.  Or, perhaps in a Charles Faudreè French-designed room.  All of which makes me happy.  I love anything French.  Well, most anything French.  I'm not too fond of escargot.  Indeed, I don't care for it all!  Bleh! 

Reds and yellows are a departure for me, but with Labor Day weekend the unofficial start of Fall, the colors reflect the season.

Are you wondering how reds and yellows appeared on my kitchen island that is usually filled with blues and whites?  Truth be told, this gathering of Fall items began many, many years ago and far, far away.  Almost fifty years ago.

That's when I bought the red transferware pitcher for my mother as a souvenir from my trip to Victoria, Canada.  Back in those days, Victoria had china shop after china shop, street after street. Most of the china shops closed their doors years ago, but I remember what fun it was to shop in them with my aunt, whom I was visiting.  The little pitcher is not a valuable antique, and similar ones can be found on ebay for just a few dollars.  It does have the manufacturer's name on the bottom and was made in England.

The only new things in this group are the apples, pears, and flowers.  The other items came home with me from my mother's house or from an antique store in Alabama.

The pot holders and coordinating kitchen towel are new to me, and I found them still with attached price tags in a plastic bag high up on the top shelf in my mother's clothes closet.  She evidently had bought them some time in the past, but had not used them. I'm guilty of the same thing... buying things and then forgetting them after storing them in a closet either to give as gifts later or to use at a later season.

The large flat rustic basket makes a perfect base for the arrangement.  The basket hung on the wall in my mother's utility room. 

My fascination with crocks is not new to this year, but this is the second stoneware crock I found at a great price this year.  Found at Chipper's antique store in Paint Rock, Alabama, the crock is short, in great condition, and has no markings.  White narcissi paperwhites will look wonderful in it at Christmas.   

Paint Rock... growing up, I thought nothing about this town's name.  The name was just the name of a tiny little town about 10 minutes from home, but now, I find, I really like this name... Paint Rock. 

Here's a little secret.  The crock pot is not totally filled with fruit.  No, there is a small mixing bowl turned upside down in the bottom of the crock on which the fruit is resting. 

Even at close range, the bowl is fairly well hidden.  However, I can see the blue of the bowl beneath the two apples.  Can you see it?  

After thinking about the arrangement on my island countertop, I realize there are more connections with France besides the red and yellow color scheme of Provence.  The French connections include mixing new with old, fresh flowers in the kitchen, artfully setting out fresh fruit, using a rustic natural basket, and remembering our ties with our families.  Country French homes combine items collected over many years and generations, cherish the beauty of nature, and enjoy the patina of well-worn, well-loved items. 

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