Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Coming Up Roses: English Cottage Style

Still can't get enough of all things English? How about Rachel Ashwell?

Born in Cambridge, England, Rachel Ashwell is the owner and founder of Shabby Chic, a chain of stores and product lines for the home that believes in the beauty of imperfection.  Suddenly cottage style was popular again and seemed so . . . chic. Everything looks aged, worn and loved, patina-d, a little rough around the edges, the true marks of cottage style. A cottage in the English countryside of long ago would be occupied by poor people, who would try to re-create the comforts of their masters' grander abodes in their humble homes. They could not afford expensive furniture made from hard woods such as mahogany, cherry or walnut, so they had theirs made from local timbers like maple and pine. To disguise the poorer character of the wood, they painted it. Glass in windows was an expensive detail they could not always afford, so they painted everything in light colors, which was a cheap way of bringing in light and color into their otherwise dark and dull interiors.

Fabrics are printed with dainty little flowers, and nothing ever has to match. Furniture is often of the recycled variety, either cast-offs from family or collected from flea markets. The overall effect is comfortable, cozy and charming. Rachel Ashwell's designs always have that vintage, timeworn appeal, and her genius is in putting it together and taking the guesswork for the rest of us.

The style starts outside, as in this picture, in a bramble of climbing English roses. Perhaps because it is the traditional heraldic emblem of England, the rose manages to be the most distinguishable feature of anything cottage. A humble cottage may not have the grand, expensive furniture of an English castle, nor its manicured hedges, but surely it can have as many climbing roses and bushes as it wants to have. The beauty of the rose graces both high and low abodes, and lends its charm and elegance to them in equal measure.

They aren't just found on those dainty teapots and cups. The iconic rose is a timeless and classic motif. Even if cottage is not your style, the rose can be interpreted a hundred different ways in many different styles.

Not too obvious.  Texture and three dimensional techniques and appliques.

Right: Rose Tufted Rug, www.pier1.com, Below, left, Deconstructed Rose Pillow, www.westelm.com, Below, middle: Aubergine Rose Pillow, www.zgallerie.com

Not your grandmother's chintz. Rose motifs with a handcrafted, vintage feel are very up to date and sophisticated.

Left: Patch NYC Framed Rose Wall Art, www.westelm.com, Below, middle: Rose Landscape Shade, www.anthropologie.com

Downright obvious. Sometimes, nothing else is quite so charming.

Right: Rose La Vierzonnaise Giclee Print, www.chartingnature.com, Below:
Simply Shabby Chic British Rose Pillow, www.target.com

For more on English cottage, check out these blogs:

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