Both my husband and I are fascinated with garrets (or attics) in older houses. But getting up to these spaces is such a mixture of surprise and annoyance. In the past craftsmen would build a staircase on site. This meant that it was often very steep and didn’t accommodate a person’s whole foot.
(Photo- Hudson, NY real estate listing)
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This house in Massachusetts reminds me of the quirky country residence of fashion designer Betsey Johnson.
(Photo- Laure Joliet for Architectural Digest, 2022)
Every house has them. Those often funny, awkward spaces that seem to defy an answer to. Instead of fighting these difficulties…look for creative solutions.
A long, narrow table/bench with cushions manages to squeeze into this tight dining area. There’s just enough room left for an intimate gathering of close friends.
A centrally located fireplace in the living room has a pass-through on one side and what was once an empty nook on the other. The homeowners took the opportunity to craft a much needed library.
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(Photos- Zara Home)
(Instagram photos- Martha Browne)
The past few months have been busy as we begin the task of restoring an old 1920s house. But whenever we feel a break is needed, we head north to spend time with our son Curtis, his wife Andrea and dear friends.
(Photo- Martha Browne)
Nothing says springtime like floral fabrics that cover sofas, chairs and windows. Chintz is a popular glazed floral fabric that has spanned centuries of use and popularity. The last time people rushed to fill their homes with it was in the 1980s. Laura Ashley and her husband Bernard were instrumental in bringing chintz to a world-wide audience through their stores. And let’s not forget the acclaimed decorator Mario Buatta who became the ‘Prince of Chintz’. Recently an uptick in interest for chintz and other flower-strewn fabrics showed up during the pandemic as people were locked in places filled with dismal gray and other neutral color schemes. So, this spring purchase a yard or two of chintz for pillows or redecorate the entire guest room in a bower of flower prints.
Where to look- Check eBay and 1st Dibs for vintage floral patterns. Companies like Lee Jofa, Brunschwig, Colefaz & Fowler, Scalamandre and Schumacher have wonderful classic prints available.
(Photo- Louis XV sofa c. 1770 from 1st Dibs)
In an effort to bring order out of chaos we added a mudrooom to our 1840s farmhouse. We provided space for coats and boots, but I also wanted to carve out a special spot for flower arranging and watering houseplants. So my husband built cabinet drawers to hold all my small garden supplies. Then we installed a zinc countertop that aged with use. I sewed a sink skirt out of two Crate & Barrel kitchen towels. An accessible basket underneath the sink held my collection of straw hats.
1. Fixture from Lighting New York. 2. Three antique dough boards from eBay are supported by narrow shelves. 3. Vintage birdcage from Cherish. 4. Mug tree from QVC. 5. Striped towels from Williams Sonoma. 6. & 7. Straw hat with ribbon, topiary and clay pot from Terrain.
Another view of the workspace for flowers and plants.
8. Classic broom from Amazon. 9. Antique blue stoneware bowl from eBay. 10. Pine knobs from Home Depot. 11. Paint on walls, cabinet and knobs is ‘Harwood Putty’ by Benjamin Moore.
(Interior photos- Martha Browne)
I’m always looking for fun, unusual containers in which to display my flowers. Consignment and antique shops have proven to be such great resources. I snatched this black hat off the shelf for $5. Later I set a bowl with water inside and arranged Chamomile willy-nilly.
Other containers I found- an antique wooden bowl with lavender (top left), an artist’s model clings to a single stem of hydrangea (top right), a tiny hand-painted cup with just enough room for a garden rose (bottom left) and a vintage Pyrex carafe to hold peonies.
(Photos- Martha Browne)
“Go into the most scruffy, unkempt, impoverished manor house in any part of England, and you will find an abundance of cut flowers in almost every room. While mice eat the books and mushrooms grow out of the paintings, flowers- on the piano, in the window, on the sideboard- hold up their heads in defiance of fate.” – ‘ English Country’ by Caroline Seebohm & Christopher Simon Sykes, 1987.
This quote captures the enthusiastic embrace of flowers which comes with the warm weather. I don’t know about you but this spring couldn’t come fast enough. I’m planning to fill my clay pots with all kinds of herbs and bring in garden flowers to arrange around our new home. I hope you’ll find some spring inspiration in the pages of my latest issue of ‘The Country Mouse.’
(Photo- Martha Browne)