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Rachel Ashwell's journey and inspirations.

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    ON FEBRUARY 24TH - 26TH WE HOSTED OUR FIRST EVER SEMINAR AT THE PRAIRIE BY RACHEL ASHWELL BED & BREAKFAST.

    As with most new ventures, whether it be a store, a book, a TV show, a bed and breakfast...... once myself and my village decide to do something that seems viable and meaningful, we just work out how to do it.

    exercisebook

    I have never been one to learn much from a classroom or instruction manual, so it was rather profound to think I was to have my own classroom, of sorts.

    However, the combination of the inspirational qualities of The Prairie and my journey of my life and career, I felt I did possibly have some wisdom to share.

    The focus of the seminar was Creativity (Inspiration) & Business.

    Guests from all over the country started to gather on Friday afternoon.

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    We started off with a little historical tour of The Prairie, to explain the hows and whys!!!!!

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    Over the course of the weekend we walked through the history of Shabby Chic.

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    I shared my journey of the past 22 years of how my stores came into being...... and where we are today.

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    I have had openings and closings of stores over the years.

    startingagain

    RASCtoday

    We talked about my books and TV show......and other pivotal points of my career.

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    I have so enjoyed meeting all that have been touched by my design work. I acknowledge the influence of celebrities spreading the word of their love of my work.

    celebrities

    I so enjoyed sharing how life has been my inspiration....from the sticky fingers of my kids.

    jakeandlily

    And of course no seminar of mine would be complete without honoring my mum. My teacher, my inspiration and the example of "the beauty of imperfection."

    mumsworld

    And then of course somehow always Marie Antoinette always shows up in my work. Either directly or indirectly. I love Sophia Coppola's vision. Sumptuous and quirky.

    marieantoinette

    I opened up my inspiration book, to demonstrate direct and indirect translations of inspiration.

    tearsheets

    My inspiration book is forever changing. Some pages are forever to keep pages, some get borrowed for other projects, I add, I take away, I ponder, I see different elements at different times.......but always I am guaranteed to be creatively refueled.

    I explained to all, that sometimes I get inspiration from the sensibilities of others rather than their aesthetics.

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    I was moved by the presentation of these ordinary elements, made extra ordinary by the focus of detail. Inspiring patience and appreciation of what is important to another.

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    And then also how to see the power of the curve ball, the unexpected.

    Time really went so fast. all who came were so generous with their patience to listen, digest, ask questions and share their own journeys.....

    We watched two movies that have been very meaningful in my life. Out of Africa and Miss Potter. We all had hot chocolate and were mesmerized.

    The characters in both movie demonstrated passion, disciplines, focus, creativity and love......

    We all agreed we could have done with just a little more time. But then sometimes the best times are had when its not quite enough.

    All guests stopped by the store on their way out.

    prairiestore

    I was glad that I felt I was able to just be me, I was proud of my village who "pulled it off", seemingly seamlessly.......

    And lovely Grace made a take home token for all......

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    Sometimes when something is so perfect, its hard to imagine it can ever be repeated, but hopefully.......

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    I have just returned from a few weeks at The Prairie. The Perfect balance to me of productivity (treasure hunting,socializing (with my Round Top family), and creativity, inspiration, peace and many ahhhhhhhs and wow moments.

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    I truly love the spirit of the locals, so very genuine and tough and sensitive....all rolled into one.

    As many of you know, I am now the proud owner of The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell. It serves as a home for my heart but also a very practical purpose during flea market week for me and my village and others on a similar path to me.

    slept

    While I don't actually have my own special room as they are all so lovely, I am flexible to whatever is available, I do seem to find myself upstairs at Liliput Lodge in the blue room. This is one of the most authentic rooms and structures on the whole property. I can live out my "Little House on the Prairie" to my hearts desire. And no matter where anyone sleeps, we all congregate to the Rangers Lounge for Danny's breakfast.......yummy. yummy.

    I spent over two weeks, shopping and shopping. From Warrenton to Carmine, to Marburger and the Big Red Barn, and everything in between. I truly could have kept on going......but the check books were used up and it was time to go home.

    I purchased big wow pieces and ditsy little details that make all the difference.

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    Many people have asked me to share the costs of my treasures. Truly the prices are all over the place. For me, who has stores to fill, and a team of people that help move the treasures across the country and restore when needed, I can pay more in some instances, and less in others than if I were just a private shopper.

    But I do so appreciate the search that went into a piece, way before it flows through my hands. I am just so thankful to a fleeting part of the history of whatever it is I find.

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    I am always on the search for scraps of vintage fabrics for curtains and to make into decorative pillows. The scraps can be quite spendy now, but if used sparsely (using a more affordable fabric for the back), a vintage fabric pillow can be all that is needed to create a wow from a simple chair or sofa. And the more mixing and matching the better.

    vintagechina

    We are getting more and more requests to hold weddings in our barn (more to follow), so I spent much time building our library of vintage china for renting...... I loooove vintage china. Love finding odd matching pieces in $5.00 boxes to layer with the creme de la creme beauties. Truly gorgeous.

    It's always such a rush to see the piles of treasures build as the days go by.

    treasures

    thebarn

    The barn will be complete early May. I just might have to have a wedding one of these days......

    So with our treasure hunting behind us.....all the yummy pieces will begin the next part of their journeys until they land up in one of the Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture Stores, (or online, under vintage treasures), and eventually into a loving home.....

    prairiestore

    Not a lot of walk by traffic, but for sure a destination store.....

    All in all, my time at The Prairie was as lovely as ever.

    I was able to have many chats with guests and customers, and also just be quiet to reflect.....a wonderful way to bring magic to my stores and be inspired over and over for future design......

    PS....

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    I wanted to thank all who have given me gifts over recent times. Every forever to keep present, or flowers, or yummy foods are so very appreciated by me. Over time I will try and say thank you to y'all, but my village doesn't include a thank you person, so for now just know I am so appreciative for your thoughts and words and gifts. I am also trying to keep up personally with the various streams of social media. My personal Rachel Ashwell Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and blog are all written by me, and I read every single one of your comments.

    It takes quite some time to communicate in a way that feels authentic and true to myself and also be of interest to y'all. I try to photograph life as it goes by, but sometimes I just want to experience life and not worry about recording other than my simple little memory.

    So if there are times where I seem not to do such a good job of sharing through social media, it might just be I was so caught up in the moment, and that's a good thing..... but thank you for reading and commenting on my journeys... .........

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  • 04/23/12--13:48: My Everything Barn...
  • I was drawn to my home because of its hodgepodge qualities. When I decided to buy it, it supported the reality of my soon to be "empty nest", but also the revolving door of house guests. It is plenty big when needed, and quite cozy when it's just little old me.

    I have shared with y'all, my garden is the pride and joy of my home. All that was lacking to complete my country home in the city fantasy was a barn. So a few years ago I set to transition my dream into a reality.

    barndream

    siesta

    Barns have always held a magical quality for me. Something about the way the light shafts play thru the gapes and cracks....hide and go seek moments along with extra space for "whatever".....

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    Leftover and hodgepodge chairs and dinnerware are the perfect aesthetic for a barn party, somehow anything else would feel forced.

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    I squeezed quite a few into this event.......many wows and ahhs, along with some comfortable quiet moments...

    From time to time my barn is used for photo shoots for our www.rachelashwellshabbychiccouture.com website....

    It's a wonderful blank slate with texture and character, and the lovely light is our best friend.

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    The cement floor, white washed paneling, big barn doors and high ceiling allow for product we are shooting to be complimented by but not in competition with the setting.....the product being shot is center stage, with a wonderful chorus in the background to support its magic.

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    Occasionally I buy more than had planned so my barn serves as a temporary overflow. Problem is, once a piece gets this close to my home, sometimes it slides over to the "forever to keep" section. (this Spanish trunk certainly did).

    gathering

    The inside outside quality of a barn is so classic. Allowing for an intimate impromptu dinner party, along with my star of sticks.....(Love these. We get them from time to time in our stores)

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    Over the past few weeks and during prior visits, I have shared with you all, the transition of my barn into an artists studio. Specifically for my dear friend Laurence Amelie. She visits me twice a year from France. She says the light is better for painting in California than in Paris. But I think she also enjoys my company!!!!!! And my garden path that she walks each day to the barn.

    book

    Laurence Amelie is inspired by beauty in movement. Flowers and tutus have been her subjects of the past two seasons. As with all artists her interpretation changes from painting to painting. But the end result is always nothing less that breathtaking.

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    I can only imagine that first brush stroke on a blank canvas is as daunting and exciting as the empty page, waiting for words......

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    Laurence's process is nearly a spiritual journey to observe.......while I cannot paint I can appreciate the absorption in the story telling through brush strokes that are an extension of feeling.......

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    One cannot be neurotic about paint splashes if you welcome an artist into your home. It just comes with the territory. An adjustment at first, but now the left behind splodges are rather endearing.....

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    In Laurence's wonderfully stylish way, even splattered in paint, sometime literally from head to toe, she still has an air of elegance.

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    While the Spring 2012 was nearly all Tutus, the diversity of her palette gave way to very different atmospheres of each painting. Always playful, always with such movement, always ahhhhhhhhhhs.......

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    As with my vintage treasures, Laurence's paintings are right under my nose, and I so want to keep many. but then I feel greedy and want to share her beauty as I do my fleamarket treasures with the world. But sometimes, I have regrets.

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    So today Laurence is back in France. She was quite sad to leave. Her paintings are selling before the paint is fully dry. I walked down my garden path to the barn today to see the extent of the paint splashes.........and truly, if I didn't have a photo shoot this week in the barn, I would leave every little splash left behind, because even Laurence's splashes are magic to me.....

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  • 07/30/12--14:51: Living Life
  • Where in the world did THREE MONTHS GO!!!

    Time has flown by, I have been soooo busy.  I have  attempted to be not so busy with a mini stay vacation.....which turned into a teeny time off.

    But that's the downside of not wanting to take time out from life.......however I would be lying to say I've been cranky and should at the very least give my friends, family and work village, a rest from ME........


    DAD AND FAMILY.....

    In May dad made the move from London to Los Angeles.

    Since mum passed, my dad has been lost, and he/we thought returning to his roots in the USA might help him feel grounded. (dad was born in Chicago but has lived in London for 60 years)  Moving was quite an ordeal emotionally, logistically and practically, with the whole big ocean to cross.....



    Mum was such the glue and warmth in our home, I didn't really know my dad so well. So this has been a new relationship for us both.

    Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimers so he is living nearby in a facility that supports his needs. I am learning how to handle the disease and my relationship with Dad.  Its not easy, but a lesson in tolerance, acceptance and patience.

    As time goes on I am learning the various forms gifts present themselves to us. And so much of how we receive, is our own prospective.


    I have been keeping in touch with y'all thru Facebook and my latest form of communication in Instagram.

    So this blog  isn't all news to y"all. I am learning all the bells and whistles of Instagram so I can share my journeys ......


    My stay vacation was at my Malibu Beach house.

    Not so far from my LA life, but a world away.......my cell phone and texting don't work so emails support less of a  "knee jerk" reaction to questions. So I do unwind a little.

    Malibu is world famous (ala Baywatch), for bikinis and waves............my Malibu is a little different. I of course love the warm ocean breeze, but will happily enjoy a long walk on a grey day....


    My sad songs fit right at home on these days.


    July 4th fell under the June gloom cloak and I didn't do much other than catch up with some sleep and peek at some fireworks.....

    As silly as it sounds, sometimes I just love to putter amongst my own stuff. When I get so busy I find myself having to delegate out "to do " things in my life, that I actually love to do, laundry, ironing, folding is one of those things......

    The joy of seeing my linen cupboard, filled with archives of my sheets, from years gone by, gives me simple joy.


    And then sometimes, I am happy to have a little celebration.......In Malibu the star of the show is always the ocean........ early start and early good nites seems to be the rhythm of social gatherings........

    Talking of parties......

    A friend of mine decided to have an impromptu birthday party and so I had a lovely excuse to create some magic.....


    No matter what the season, I always like to set the tone of any celebration with whatever flowers I can find an abundance of to create luxury and WOW.


    Following the mantra "IT'S ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS". I popped flowers at each "water moment"


    The vibe of the party was somewhat country and I wanted to keep the flower budget down due to how many I needed.  So I focused on bundles of wildflowers placed on foam inside several wooden barrels.


    My friend had a favourite supermarket bought cake. I gave it some specialness with a few roses.


    And then I sprinkled extra petals on the path... I certainly didn't come up with this idea but each and every time I implement it, it always feels so magical......


    I completed the spontaneous celebration with creating an "ahhh" moment at the head of the table.

    Bits and bobs of vintage flowers and layers of vintage fabric were the perfect ingredients.......my usual influence of Marie Antoinette complimenting a blueberry crate of hydrangeas with a little bit of country.

    It was truly a lovely event, many WOW moments without too much fuss and bother..... 

    And now back to work.....


    Fortunately as hard a I work, I love what I do.  Its where my creativity gets to play and where I get to work with my village.

    Recently I worked on some Fall 2012 product collections......

    My imagination visited Italy, Russia and Paris and aesthetically told stories......



    I have never been to Russia, but I have been fascinated by what I have read of the cottages, fabrics and eclectic beautiful hodge-podge decor .


    Often my decor is thought Of as being oversized, but actually I love love small spaces. I have been focusing on smaller scale furniture for fellow cottage and shack lovers....


    Patience is a virtue in my world.....process of product development. It takes time to get all the little "je ne sais quoi" details. Getting the patina, the hand of the fabric, or the finish of the wood, is no easy feat.....it doesn't always work. Sometimes an inspiration from an authentic vintage piece just doesn't work out.  And sometimes with a lot of effort and trial and error something wonderful is created, usually through a collaborative passion and understanding.


    The manifestation of much talk, ideas and effort, the simplest most spectacular table is about to be launched into Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture. SO very rewarding for all concerned.


     I have more projects lined up to share. Instagram is such a great tool for that.


    This fantasy took us to Paris, with that in mind, the little touches had a backstory and I had a wealth of yumminess to pull from......and share with y'all.........

    My last little share is a surprise delight to me.....

    Over the past few years I have managed to gain a pound here and a pound there.  To the point my favourite jeans had to be put in the (don't fit but can't part with, side of my closet!!!!)

    I also just wasnt feeling great.....I have tried many different diets overtime.....A friend of mine invited me to join a weightwatchers group with her and some other ladies.


    While the point system is there to help with portion control, I have found that it has helped give me the structure to make my meals a special moment. Whatever and whenever I eat, I appreciate, and I make as pretty as I can......

    After weight watchers no "on the go" snacks anymore.....

    We meet once a week, for our weigh in and our camaraderie time.  We share stories and frustrations, and I find this process of a support group very powerful. something I haven't done much in my life. And on those busy days when I think I don't have time to do the 10,000 steps a day, (part of our goal to success),  I remember my team and off I go, one step at a time.....And the pounds, little by little, are leaving us all.

    To come......


    Next blog not so far away....

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  • 10/16/12--11:28: Treasures...

  • Golly, another 3 months have gone by.  I truly thought it had been only one and a bit...

    Once again, busy busy bee........ I continue to post daily on FB, Instagram and Twitter but my dear sweet blog, where it all started, I have been so neglectful......




    I have just returned from the Fall Round Top 2012 Antique Show. Lots of treasures although they hid themselves from me a little more than usual.


    More than anything what I love about  these particular flea markets, is the palette, patina and pretty paint.....
    some pieces are embellished and repainted, years ago or maybe more recently. But no where in the world is it more exciting to watch my pile of treasures grow and see the colours flow into each other, truly like a symphony.


    Function and beauty is my criteria as I search thru the fields. over the course of the 2 weeks that I shop, I sometimes see the same things, and what initially appeared to me to be junk on a few days becomes a treasure.....



    I often smile when two very different treasures seem to just find each other.....and create poetry of sorts.


    Amongst the large flakey painted cabinetry, its always a nice change of pace to fumble thru boxes of little things.......once upon a time someone else's treasure.....and now for a while at least, mine.




    Sometime treasures are already sold by the time I find them, and that's just a bummer

    But sometimes also I come home, and pieces haunt me and I wish I had bought them. Sometimes in the context of the fleamarket something might seem to expensive, or just not quite "something" but once home I wish I had gone with my instinct. 




    The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell is now in its second year and taking on a dreamlike quality. Sooooo much to do there always. What with searching for treasures from sunrise to sunset.


    AND 

    (still working on Memoirs too)

    AND


    AND 



    AND


    Danny worked his magic to transform our former tool shed into a suite fit for a princess (or ME!)

    AND 


    Another masterpiece of Danny's. For weddings and other celebrations in life. Many a time on my last visit I would just go quietly sit to absorb the true wonderment of this building. A true example of something AWESOME.

    This little greenhouse hasn't yet found its true function on the Prairie yet, but it certainly was the show stopper this visit, having allowed itself to be draped in the most beautiful vine with teeny purple flowers......



    Jake and I went on a little long road trip  through up state New York and Vermont, seeking beautiful vintage fabrics. He and I have a similar comfort with silence but value conversation when the time arises....we traveled hundreds of miles, popped on some ferries........heirlooms for others, memories for he and I.


    A few days prior to my excursion with Jake was fashion week in NY.......Lily gave a little sneak peek in NY of her long awaited Holiday 2012 apparel collection. (November launch) As with my world, it was her vision from beginning to end, but she too found a village to support her.




    Even though my uniform of jeans and white (sometimes grey) t shirts, have had little contribution to Lily's inspiration, my obsessive attention to details, authenticity, quality and substance is certainly evident in her work. Every stitch is sewn locally so her standards are achieved, vintage laces and buttons help tell her story........so similar to  the values of her mama, her prices are higher than some other, but her pieces are forever to keep both in quality and aesthetics....so priceless. www.lilyashwell.com



    A little California beach cottage that I recently renovated with the recipe of vintage wallpaper, fabrics and tiles was the backdrop for Lily's photo shoot.........a little house with quite a presence.



    Lovely print on the dress and pattern on the floor.


    I have stolen moments in Malibu over the last three months... I can always count on all that Malibu has fed me over the past 25 years.......fuel, peace, inspiration....ahhhhhhhhs.



    A very metaphoric experience for me..... trust and breathe......



    Found  little moments of playtime with friends and family. remembering to TRY and be playful. Not always so easy for me.....
     

    Dad and Me.....

    We are nearly 5 months into his transition from independent London living to restricted LA life.

    Alzheimers is a journey for all involved......but I am relieved, proud and humbled to say, during this process I have found a treasure in my dad, that I never knew was there....his forgetfulness and confusion causes for frustrations but he also forgets that he didn't ever show his feelings..... until now, and now he shows them, from time to time.

    I find when I return from a trip, he is at the top of my list, because I want to see him.......that's a treasure and a WOW for me......



    PS: oh and then Jaimee, Tait and Finn, welcomed little OTIS......its been a busy 3 months.......



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  • 03/07/13--07:47: "Back to Blogging"
  • If any one is still there.........I am finally getting caught up with my writing projects.


    My upcoming book is the biggest culprit  of why I haven't had the time nor the creative head space to blog these past months ........ But I think it will be a forgivable excuse.

    Rachel Ashwell Couture Prairie has been a joy to work on. I feel guilty to take much credit for such beauty, as the subject matter is just one big "eye candy".  And the story of how this London girl, found home on the range, was an easy one to tell.

    We will have our launch party for the book at The Prairie during Fall Antique week, so hoping as many of you can plan ahead for that event.....I promise to wear a dress (and jeans.)



    This was a proud milestone in my career. While photos have no language i am glad that my stories, values and journeys that are bring meaning to my aesthetics, can now be understood in other countries.








    It is a very challenging balance when one is creative, but also owns a company, of how to allow for creativity to flow, be recharged, have time to absorb and ponder......all while still being involved in cash flow, inventory, personnel and all else that goes into a business.

    A place to start for me, is to have a creative vibe within the office.....

    Chandeliers and floppy flowers, share space with legal files and spread sheets. Both are of equal importance to sustain a company.





    I find that every piece of my design process should be as inspirational as possible, journals, writing materials, tape, paper....somehow it brings depth to the end result.




    As I approach my 25th year in retail, (Santa Monica store is in the same location), I pride myself that my own personal standard for excellence has only risen and risen. It is so easy, with rising costs of rents, materials and every day life, to try and cut corners to either make more profit or offer a product of less quality......But in the world of Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture™, my value is to create products with meaning. with details that sometimes only we know behind the scenes are even there. But in the end, I do believe what is evident to all is that everything that has our label on it, carries with it a little soul of substance.

    I am happy to say i have had some time to make new family memories......

    I can go as far as to say, my dad is happy.......

    As much as I dearly miss mum, it is clear to me why dad is still here.

    A relationship I never knew was there, now has a place, and its quite lovely.......


    Life's biggest most ginormous and huge gift is that of our children.

    I could go on forever and talk and then there are no words to describe how much I love them.....but I like them too.....

    We had a lovely reunion in NY this winter, going down memory lane of ice skating and hot chocolate.....

    Jake keeping me steady on my feet, as I had done for him 21 years prior......and Sadie is Lily's new addition.....what a big positive presence this little puppy brings into the world.



    Growing up in London but living in Los Angeles is a quite a cultural change....and of course to me, now home. but my inner wiring yearns for seasons. I need the inward months, the months to be shy, the months to bloom and the months to shine........

    So I gave myself this January and February a winter this year in NYC.

    My daily run was along the Hudson River, and as freezing as it was, I think I finally found my endorphins.

    The NY skyline, the river with the ferries tugging along, the fluffy snowflakes and puppies in their shoes was all an exhilarating, sight and I could have run forever.


    For those you follow me on FB or Instagram, much of this isn't news. I do write all my own social media, therefore while I am a busy bee, I only have so much news to spread around......


    Even way back then, lily had a thing about vintage clothes, and oh so very fussy about the details. so it is rather fitting that now she has begun her own clothing line, simply,  www.lilyashwell.com



    I have been in the furniture business for 25 years, but in my mind sofas, bedding, accessories and fabrics are the manifestations of my story telling....

    I have observed, Lily too starts with her stories, and the clothes are her vehicles to tell her stories.



    Lily loves flowers as I do .......of course she is inspired by me, her dad and her childhood. but it is now full circle of the inspiration that she brings to me........



    I actually miss blogging. I love how spontaneous instagram and FB are to share my adventures, but I intend to get back on track with blogging, now my book is off to the printers, and before I begin the next.......my memoirs and history of Shabby Chic.....


    Or do think about coming to The Prairie B & B for Couture Prairie Book launch in the Fall along with a beautiful collection of Laurence Amelie Fall 2013 paintings.


    For whoever is still around to read this......thank you. thank you thank you........



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  • 03/21/13--20:58: DREAM CREATED.....
  • This week the village of Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture worked towards creating a magical moment in NYC for the DIFFA event held at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show.



    The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell serves as such inspiration in so many ways, from flea market shopping, to diversity of aesthetics that still all fall under the values of Beauty, Comfort and Function, so finding a way to bring the peace and magic to all corners of the globe.



    Any excuse to go to the flower market whether on the East or West Coast.  It's my one obsession and where I admit to being somewhat greedy.


    We have limited budgets when participating in these types of events. Jake and his buddy Ben built the structure in the basement of our Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture store. Paint fumes fought with our fragrant candles but I love projects that come together with the village and in our village.......

    Early mornings, late nights...all with the common thread of wanting to create something of meaning and substance.


    Somehow we got some extra teeny bags that were way to small for the postcards.....so now I will design something to fit the bag.


    I have a little traveling road show of my favorite special treasures that I use for magical installations.

    Panels of vintage lace and floppy flowers speak 1000 words, quietly but beautifully.sometimes my floppy flowers become smooshed and a quick steam over my kettle brings a spring back in their step.


    I love Bennison fabrics more than any other fabrics in the whole entire world. there is something about the palette and the touch that is unique. Spendy for sure, but a little goes a long long way.


    All the little details of drippy candles. mix match china, fake, floppy and real flowers, makes for a symphony of beauty. If you are in NYC area this weekend, please stop by Pier 94 at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show.

    My vision perhaps, but my treasures of bits and bobs and my team who shares my passion made for a special event .....all for a special cause.......DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids)

    All that is left now is what do I wear to the ball......

    Maybe a dress from Lily's collection.....



    Next week will write and show photos from the fields of the flea markets in Texas and The Prairie......


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