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Old things, Vintage Chairs & Beach Cottage Ramblings

Wed 20th, Jun, 2012

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We have today old things, napkins, vintage chairs, the South of France & Beach Cottage Ramblings

 issuing a Beach Cottage Ramble Alert – somehow this old chair in Australia led to a restaurant in the South of France, napkins and England. Go grab a cup of Darjeeling and strap yourself in ;-) 

I have always loved old things, long before I liked it in a bit of beach decor – but really they weren’t a big part of my life up until I was married to Mr Beach Cottage and surrounded by a couple of babies.   Hobbies and old things, and stuff like that weren’t encouraged by those around me before I met Mr BC.

I remember though loving and talking to older people, I loved anything to do with lofts and vintage things, though for sure I didn’t know that was ‘vintage’ (and indeed I am more and more beginning to go off that term these days) and finding things that had a story.

Once I started to find my own style, throw out chocolate brown and embrace my inner-vintage loving sister, finally everything fell into place….and I began to start a serious love affair with the hunting down of the vintage.

It all started with vintage linens really – I had been on holiday deep down to the South of France, touching on Spain, and we had taken lunch in a tiny little bar-cum-restaurant at the top of a mountain…the restaurant was basic, good basic – it was actually part of a vineyard, but on the edge of a mountain-top village – well a village with about 20 occupants I think, and 17 of them were old women sitting outside, on indoor chairs, leaning on a stick, dressed all in black ;-)

It was stinking hot.

We were British.

That means we were out in the sun at mid-day, with babies, and no hats, wearing holiday clothes.


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You walked up to this place at the side of a road, via a gravel track, to the left were miles and miles of rolling hills and fields just about alive in a haze of Summer glow…as we walked up there were walls to the right with masses of flowers dripping over themselves to be seen and a set of staggeringly white buildings drowning in ivy…a big old Catalan vibe going on

…and this place, a find for sure….we’d found it by way of the pin board at the accommodation we were staying – a dog-eared business card had been tacked to the board and on it was scrawled ‘very very good’ or something of a similar ilk…

…the tables were battered, the floor was dusty and dry, and all looked just simply, so very very good.

I have no idea what was on the menu, nor what we ate, all I remember was the setting, the blue sky, the white buildings, the French characters and of course, the decor ;-)

On the tables were little dull terracotta jugs full of iced water with condensation running down the sides, old tablecloths pressed to within an inch of their lives, battered old cutlery and highly decorated colourful blue and yellow plates.

Now on each of these plates sat a napkin.  But, napkin is perhaps not the right word, for these pieces of linen and been constructed into what may only be described as art….each one starched and pressed and working for its living and perhaps giving the Eiffel Tower a run for its money.

We eyed these napkins, so at odds with the vibe around us, ordered, got the babies in the shade, gulped the water and as only the British holiday-maker can do when escaped from the Old Country in the months of June to August, sat in the heat of the mid-day Continental sun, sloshed in the wine, sat back and thought of England.

The food came and we were faced with the tortuous decision as to what to do with the napkins…we touched them gingerly, scary old wrinkly French waitress glared at us a bit…we discussed these fabric towers and laughed and laughed.

And then, I took the plunge, picked mine up by it’s highest point, flicked it out beside me and waited for the world to end.

Brought it to my lips and oh my!

Engulfed by all sorts of wondrous things, memories that weren’t mine, days gone by, a thousand flowers moving in the breeze…

I will never forget those napkins that day and how the starch, the pressing, the construction all melted away with one flick and a buttery softness stroked the skin…

oh vintage linen! oh I heart you!

Without all the pomp & ceremony of their construction, these humble pieces of linen were the softest of soft only years of use can bring – fabric from the old days, marked by age, lovingly stitched, beautifully made and then washed under the hands of a different time…


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And the fragrance – just music to my ears – years of being laundered, years of drying under a French sun, years of being starched and pressed and constructed.

They were like a wine, full of hints of other things, of lavender, of soil and of sunshine.

I gushed to Mr Beach Cottage at these faded deep but light blue napkins from on high.

He looked at me with eyebrows.

But, somewhere deep down in the back of my soul, tinted with a little speckle of rose ;-) a part of me moved – I wanted some of this in my life, to me it said the good life and I definitely wasn’t going to get that through family history and the passing down of loved things but I wanted these loved and worn and faded things from other times.

And so when I got home I decided I would make a history of my own and there began a love affair with little squares of soft fabric designed to sit on the table when you eat.

When I first started the hunting out of these old things, I did not know where to begin – I had not stepped foot much in a charity (op-shop / thrift store)  in my little life, but for sure there was no shortage of them in the nearest town to where I lived, indeed if in those days there was anything that England was good at, charity shops was it.

And oh how I embraced them on the hunt for linens… I would plan trips around not having any children with me and go off in search of vintage South of France, sprinkled-with-lavender-and-years-of-love linens..

In I would enter, to this world of the vintage treasure hunter, enveloped in that secret thrifters sensation that is the indescribable thrill of the hunt, oft followed by the Thrifter Jig.

There I would do the stalk, drop and grab – stalk out the vintage linens, drop to the floor and grab the ones I loved…

I must say in those days a charity shop, vintage treasure hunting, thrifting virgin there was no sniffing of the linens for that elusive whiff of that Eiffel Tower like construction that had greeted us on that table on that warm day right down deep in the depths of the bottom of France  – no I was far too much of a Thrifting Virgin for anything like that.

And I never have quite found those South of France, filled with softness & life napkins.

But, these days though, I have very much made my own memories, not of the South of France and linens from someone else’s life but very much of mine.

We now have our own ‘vintage’ Beach Cottage linens, bought by be, travelled with us on to our new life,  impregnated with the love, touched by ups and downs, and just saying life to those who now grace this old Australian cottage…

But Beach Cottage ladies, of course, there is much more to life than linen and when one does not find oneself able to find a vintage linen to tickle one’s fancy, one must up one’s game and move onto vintage chairs…

And that is where you find me here today at…. I hope you like it Winking smile

Do you have memories wrapped up in things?…of lunches in the South of France, of old chairs, of linens and towers?

Do you frequent vintage treasure hunting stores in search of precious things? Do you sprinkle rose-tinted colours on old linens…

I’d love to know

Sarah

 

p.s. did you know Barley is a Chick Magnet?  Well he blogged it at his blog here

p.p.s. a few close-ups of this leather-seated, in-my-tatty cottage, thrifting-is-King chair, below, click to scroll x

 

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p.p.p.s. errrrm just forgotten what I was going to type, oooops

p.p.p.s. (a bit later) oh yeah this chair was in the region of twenty bucks… bargain you think? or not?

p.p.p.p.s. you don’t have to be spendy to have a ‘nice’ (what is that???) house you know, case in point this chair

p.p.p.p.p.s you may not think it is nice anyway, but I do just sayin

p.p.p.p.p.p.s.  this will chair will not be going white

p.p.p.p.p.p.p.s it will be getting a new look, a spruce up, a bit of BC lurve.  Baby

p.p.p.p.p.p.p.p.s over and out

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43 Responses to “Old things, Vintage Chairs & Beach Cottage Ramblings”

  1. rachel says:

    love the chair. :)

  2. Wendy says:

    I really loved reading this post, I was in the south west of France in a fortress hill top village this time last year. I bought a dozen napkins at a market and gave them to my daughters on returning to OZ. Also over the years have collected linen napkins from op shops, although much harder to find now. Thanks for stirring the happy memories, from one of your vintage (old) lurkers xx

  3. bridgette says:

    pppppppppps Love the chair
    ppppppppppps Cant wait to see what you do with it
    ppppppppppppps love the linen story, had a giggle
    ppppppppppppppps Catch ya on the flip side
    pppppppppppppppps you hang up, no you hang up !

  4. Good story :-) No…. GREAT story :-)

  5. Another great story. I felt like I was right there with you. Great find in the chair and glad you won’t be turning it white. It is lovely just the way it is.

  6. Gorgeous Sarah! You inspire me! <3

  7. Melinda says:

    We have a lovely holiday coming up .Part visit to France but a day or two in Belgium planned. I’ve spent time in Belgium before but probably not when I really appreciated all the beautiful textiles and old wares that seem to abound.
    Im really looking forward to the search, the hunt, the sifting, the admiring and the wishing I could easily bring it all home. Im hoping for a treasure or two with history. LInens are packable … and oh how I love them !!

    Loved your story – thanks for sharing xx

  8. sue austin says:

    You really must write a book!

  9. Deb says:

    You obviously love making memories and family stories as I do .I’m not so much into vintage linens as I think the upkeep would do me in! The picture you painted in words was great and stirred lots of memories of exploring the french and italian countryside. Really enjoyed it thanks.

  10. Sarah Owen-Green says:

    To thrift or not to thrift – ummm, THRIFT! Love it. Must learn the art of thrifting and the best places for it.

  11. Selby says:

    Oh yes I love those old chairs in fact I’m remembering lately that what my house is filled with isn’t what I like- so as things get old n broken instead of replacing with new, which I stupidly did to please someone when I set up house I now buy old n beautiful things, things with stories. As you say no need for big spending just careful pouncing at the op shop:)

  12. Janelle says:

    Yep, reckon you got yourself a bargain Sarah! LOVING that chair!! Looks gorgeous in all its scruffy glory amongst all your white. Nice job!!!!!…..xx

  13. Karen says:

    Lovely story you shared today! Yes I love the bent wood chair. Funnily enough the first chairs I bought for that big move out of my parents home were lime green bentwood chairs. I absolutely loved them however the man in my life back then was no fan. I collected a lot of vintage wares over a number of years only to be forced to sell my collection of things it was a very sad day. Thankfully I never lost that passion I am now happily re-married to a wonderful man who supports me totally with my vintage finds and adventures through the local op shops, garage sales and flea markets. Surprisingly enough my sister visited today . She was checking out the nursery as I am expecting my first child any day. She commented about how much she loved the chest of drawers . I reminded my that was the old set that I have had for 15 years. Amazing what a coat of fresh white paint will do . Cheers Karen

  14. Alice says:

    I love the chair!!! I am glad it is not going white. For me I have no beautiful memories such as yours but I do love jewellery with the same kind of passion (discovered at about 16 on a trip with my cousins aunt and uncle – no parents woohoo – in one of those historic towns near mittagong(may have spelled this wrong)but the “vintage” kind (I too am finding that vinatge is now becoming a dirty word to my mind and at times has turned me off because I have seen itused as an excuse to charge a hefty price on something that though looks aged has not history to it because it obtained it’s age artificially – I have no problem with vintage looking things it’s the fake price tag that it all of a sudden attracts).Yes I know about the chic magnet thing too when it comes to puppies… Hubby was quite impressed I just had to bring back to earth by reminding him it was about the dog not the guy holding the leash so to stop getting his hopes up – he was stuck with me lol!

  15. Neen says:

    Thankyou Sarah, so glad you wrote this entry, in the back of my mind (and a very unorganised shed) I remember the first ‘vintage’ chair I bought at a local house/contents auction. Must find it…..where oh where to begin….once I get something in my mind I don’t let go easily. Mmmmmmm wonder how much shed I have to empty ???? It would look soooooo nice inside, draped and loved, not in the messy, messy shed. Huuuumph will have to ask for help……..or not !!!!!!!

  16. Kris says:

    Hi Sarah , as much as I love white I am so glad this little chair is staying a perfect beachy drift woody colour :) . Absolutely loved your story about the little French restaurant and linen thank you so much for sharing x kris_avondalecottage

  17. alison says:

    So many things in my house have a story. It’s lovely to look at them, smile and remember.
    Mr alison doesn’t “get” my framed leaves from holidays, my glass vial of sand from a really special beach, my rocks etc etc. Also, I have gradually invested in some antique jewellery pieces and I don’t think my friends get the joy I feel from them because of their age, uniqueness and history.

    I have an ugly old vase collection. I don’t go specifically looking for them but when one calls me it is loud and I can’t resist. Ugly old vases come alive with flowers in them. They transform.

    alison

    PS Fabulous ramble as per usual.

  18. Surely Sarah says:

    Love this post, love the chair… love vintage linen!

  19. Lynn says:

    You clever girl. Lovely mmory. That’s the thing with finds. As we use them we can remember the hunt and joy at finding them and knowing they will fit somewhere. Over the years we care for them just as if we are transformed back into the other women who once owned them. We can hardly say that of items purchased at chain stores untill many years of owning them have passed, if they even last through family life of little ones or teens. Good job, Sarah.

  20. HRH Sarah says:

    I honestly forgot all about the chair, reading your story! I had to go back at the end and scroll through the pictures! The chair is lovely, looking forward to seeing the BC treatment. Aside from my ikea loveseat and chairs, (and even those came second hand from craigslist) all of my furniture is old and has history. One of my favorites is a stool/stepladder that used to sit in my husband’s grandfather’s general store. It’s wooden, and still as sturdy as it was 70 years ago.

  21. ali thompson says:

    i don’t think i’ve ever noticed your wood floors but the chair looks great with the wood. loved the “trip to france”
    xoxo
    ali

  22. Elaine in Laguna says:

    Love the story, the chair and linens! I started out by collecting a few pairs of stitched pillowcases, and went on to collect some napkins, too. My fave set is a blue and red French design found in a local thrift shop. Glad you’re going to leave the chair as is…The color reminds me of a dark driftwood!

  23. I LOOOOOOOOOVE vintage linens!!! Tablecloths, handkerchiefs, pillowcases, napkins…..I love it all. And hand crocheted lace trim or embroidery……….oh I swoon! And I am weak……I would rather not eat, and bring home linen treasures.

    My dad’s family was from the south, and they were very poor. But my grandmother was an exceptional seamstress, and my auntie would say, “We were poor, but you would never know it to look at us. We had beautiful clothing, and grammy worked hard to set a beautiful table with beautiful linens. We were NEVER white trash.” It doesn’t take money…..just imagination.

    Hugs and God bless you Sarah!

  24. Heather says:

    I think paint-dipped legs would look really cool on that chair – like in this post from Apartment Therapy: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/mini-trend-alert-color-dipped-furniture-169891

    • sarah says:

      how funny! I saw this on another site and thought it might look good and keep the patina without losing anything

      thanks!

  25. Kristin says:

    Love, love, love the story…always love your “rambles”. It’s my dream to go the the south of France…maybe one day. Thanks for the inspirations:)