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Archive for the ‘Mary Randolph Carter’ Category

The maples and sumacs have shed their glory.  That riotous circus of color is over for another year, and the muted shades of the oak leaves remain.  The maples and sumacs catapulted me into action.  Now those subdued autumn oaks quiet my soul, as a prelude to the season of rest.

Oak leaves are the last to turn, and the last to fall.  Some will cling tenaciously to their branches until the new leaves bud out in the spring.  I rejoice in the mellow oaks as they reflect the hues of many things I love:  rusty iron, tarnished sterling, faded bronze, weathered copper, ancient pewter, muted gold, and my late autumn paint palette—purple magenta, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, raw umber, Naples yellow, quinacridone gold. 

Yesterday Joe and I set out on country roads for an end-of-the-season visit to an antiques shop in a cozy barn, COUNTRY ECHOES.  The atmosphere of this shop induces euphoria.  Retro music plays softly in the background, and every display sparkles in the sunlight which filters through the barn windows.  There’s a tucked away section for country primitives, an area reminding me of my mother’s kitchen, and a Victorian parlor—replete with English and Bavarian china, and American pressed and patterned glass in jewel tones.  

The shop features cases of vintage brooches, necklaces, earrings (mostly the clip-on variety), rings, and bracelets.  Attempts at reproducing these beauties are rampant, and supposed “look alikes” may be found everywhere—from Walmart, to hospital gift shops and the finest goldsmith establishments.  But none of the new costume jewelry can begin to match the quaint, subdued beauty of the old stuff! 

Barring special pieces containing precious gems, vintage jewelry is still very reasonably priced.  This will continue until a new generation discovers that old can be lovelier than new in many instances.  Meanwhile, since the prices are moderate, I’m buying the vintage treasures—for myself as well as for kindred souls who also enjoy “old”.  If I have a “signature look”, it’s that of vintage jewelry—the kind my mother and grandmothers wore.

Vintage housewares, vintage table settings, vintage costume jewelry—reminiscent of late autumn, when our souls are stilled by the shades of vintage oaks! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

I am not alone in my passion for most things old!  Again, I recommend visiting my favorite kindred-spirited author and photographer via her inspiring books—especially FOR THE LOVE OF OLD by Mary Randolph Carter.

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Recently I read an article in a home decor magazine, which brought my blood to that proverbial boil.  The author of the article, an “interior decorator” wrote:  “I can always tell when I enter a home which has not been decorated by a professional . . . .”  Then she went on and on, describing everything that was “wrong” with non-professional, do-it-yourself home decor.

(To that I might retort, “I can (not always but usually) tell when I enter a home which has been decorated by a professional—no verve, no panache, no individuality, no artful clutter, no plethora of memories, no evidence of personal penchants.  No soul, no spirit, no stacks of books on the floor and under tables, no dog hair*, no cats’ furballs, no funky collectibles, NO ANYTHING, simply a very tasteful and abysmally vacuous cookie cutter look!”)

The author of the above mentioned article cited a list of her self imposed “rules” which actually sent me into paroxyms of giggles, despite my boiling blood.  The funniest rule was:  All pictures must be at eye level.”

Isn’t that a hoot?!  Anyone with half a brain will question, “Whose eyes?”  The eye level “rule” is as silly as mandating that all humans must be the same height—or that they all must be 130 pounds of brown eyed brunette for women, and 185 pounds with shaved heads for men.  (Obviously children don’t even begin to factor in this “professional decorator’s” dictum.)

Here are some of my happy violations of the eye level rule:

Ooops!  ↑  My great-grandfather, Benjamin Luckey, is nearly touching our ceiling.  What is he doing up there?  Not many eyes in our family can level with him! 

But at least our 6′ 3″ tall grandson, Adam, can read his Irish ancestor’s face.  (Please note the aesthetic cobweb to the right of Benjamin Luckey.  The cobweb may not be “decoratively correct” either—but hey, I LOVE spiders.  No arachnophobia here.)

Another delightfully happy and gorgeous faux pas!  ↑

Now this funky collage ↑ goes to the other creative extreme; it’s almost on the floor.  Never mind.  Our 2 year old great-granddaughter, Lyla and our 19 month old great-grandsons, Cole and Lucas, can enjoy art at their level. 

Plus we have a 3 month old baby, Ella, in our family—and 2 more little boys about to be born.  They’ll be cruising our digs on their knees, and then on their feet, in no time at all.  Why do “interior decorators” have to forget about the little people?

Still one more hilariously stupid “decorating” rule is:  Limit groupings to 3 (or at the most 5) items.  Ha-ha!  Get a load of this!  ↓

Tea anyone?  We can celebrate the only decorating rule worth mentioning, namely:  THERE ARE NO RULES!

*And speaking of tea reminds me that the above diatribe does not apply to many British home decorators or home decor publications.  

America’s history of taxation without representation (and the Boston Tea Party!) notwithstanding, I applaud the English for their concept of home as evidenced in their magazines and books.  Tattered upholstery, chipped and crazed china, hairy dogs on crumpled beds, shelves and hutches crammed with diverse funky collectibles, muddy Wellies strewn around muddy back halls, and many other marks of beauty and ambience abound in British home decor periodicals. 

But don’t despair, all of you fellow Americans who love to collect and display junk and antiques.  We have a counter culture, in defiance of the boring “Everyone Look Alike and Get Rid of Clutter” crowd. 

We have a powerful, well-known advocate—that gracious Manhattan maven beautifully skilled in the arts of collecting and displaying junk, Mary Randolph Carter.   

Mary Randolph Carter has a brand new book, just released in October of 2010: 

Need I say more?  My copy is en route from Barnes & Noble, as I type.  What a treat!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

P. S. Here is a motivational bit of verse which I wrote for a fellow junker a few years back.  I posted this before, and think it’s worth repeating in view of new readers and the glorious rummage season just ahead!  🙂

To a Fellow Forager
 
For countless days of questing,
tracking county roads and off-beat trails,
seeking “gold” in worn enameled pots,
dented copper bowls and rusted pails . . .
For afternoons of sheer delight
in treasure flaked and faded over time . . .
clouded bottles, china chipped and crazed,
to cherish for a quarter or a dime . . .
For serendipity of junk acquired,
and troves of memories the years unfold,
I lift my coffee mug of battered tin
and toast the ecstasy of all things old!
Margaret Longenecker Been, ©2007

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