For the most recent Stylebook, I thought it would be a good idea to feature my own home and my use of vintage pieces — items found in The Roving Home’s store and some from my own stash. While it feels strange to highlight my own living space before it reaches its more idealized version, it occurred to me that if I wait until this ideal is attained, I will never show a single photo of my house. Besides, I know how much I like to see other people’s interior design choices (I refuse to think of this in terms of voyeurism), so it only seems fair to show my own, especially since I’m always going on about how much vintage pieces add to interiors. And I thought it might be fun to show some of the no-cost approach we’ve taken toward the more generic aspects of our house, all while we wait for that glorious day when we can hurl money around like Reality TV stars and design the space to our specifications.
The following photographs are all by Esther Mathieu, whose use of natural light in interior shots is no small achievement. (Thank you Esther!)
I love this antique black library table, which has heavy carved feet in the shape of lion’s paws (not shown). The painted sideboard is a mess of a piece which I bought when it was still a bit waterlogged from The White Elephant Outlet in Essex, Mass, where the owner leaves a good amount of his inventory out in the rain and snow for some unknown reason. The piece has great and unusual lines, tall and narrow, and it’s very useful too, with four drawers for linens and dishware as well as several shelves. The painted design was intended to be a stopgap — I’ve always meant to paint it something more dramatic, maybe just a solid red, but in typical fashion I’ve have never gotten around to it. The school map in the background is huge with a great depth of color. I just listed the map in our online shop recently but it doesn’t have quite the same impact in the store’s photographs that it conveys in real life. It is most definitely a conversation piece.
I bought the painting sitting on the small black chair from the artist Gary Lavarack who showed up at a sad little craft fair in Rockport one summer with a bunch of his work. The paintings were shockingly good, especially in light of the prices he was asking for them. He disappeared from Rockport just as quickly as he showed up and after a few unsuccessful summers of attending the Craft Fair again in the hopes of finding him, I finally had the bright idea to google him (oh google! how much more mysterious the world was before you became a part of our lives!). It turns out that he has had an illustrious career in the movie industry, in visual effects no less. Apparently he’s off making movies and far too busy to sit for a day in downtown Rockport at an old-school (and not in a good way) Craft Fair, surrounded by woven potholders and handmade contact paper bookmarks. So if you want to buy a really good painting from a non-starving artist, you’ll have to track him down online. I am very happy that I was lucky enough to encounter him in person, as I love my painting in its ten-dollar flea market frame with its Hopper-esque depiction of a farmhouse in Maine.
The cabinet of curiosities is actually a custom-made store display cabinet from the 19th century. I bought it to sell in my store but have never really wanted to part with it. I’m glad I gave in to the urge to keep it.
This Moroccan-inspired side table is another piece that I keep thinking I need to paint red. But somehow I never quite move away from my palette of neutrals, as illustrated by my extensive use of black & white in this wall of vintage images. My favorite photograph on this wall is an old one of Rockport’s famous fishing shack, Motif No. 1, taken in the 1930s.
Chinoiserie handpainted panel. I never get tired of this classic motif, which is a good thing, as I paint these pieces to sell in my shop. The chair is antique with a handpainted faux bois finish. And it cost $5. Which makes me love it even more (Is that bad? To base my affection for my possessions on how little they cost?)
This driftwood piece over the fireplace is huge and resembles a fish, a wave, or an angel’s wing — depending on eye of the beholder. The old painting depicting a rooftop view of a European village was found in a junk shop in Belgium, when I visited my sister in Antwerp where she lived for several years. I only mention this because it makes it seem like I shop in Belgium regularly, when my actual antiquing route rarely takes me more than 30 miles from my front door. This is the sad reality.
This light fixture is another $5 find. Again, I believe this makes me love it even more, pathetically enough. But what this fixture really adds to my life is a touch of streamlined modernism, especially in light of the fact that there is so much old brown stuff in our dining area. I really need to replace our chairs with something more interesting and not-brown. This is on my to-do list. Where it will stay until further notice.
A few years ago we took on a kitchen makeover, or make-under, in a quick attempt to update the space that we spend more time in than any other, it seems. We changed out our dated oak cabinets by removing the upper ones and replacing them with open shelving. Instead of replacing the existing lower cabinets, we just painted them a glossy black (simple to wipe down), after which we pretty much called it a day on this particular remodeling job. The fun part was adding a few accessories, mostly in avocado & fern green and using hand-blocked dish towels from Dermond Peterson as cafe curtains.
The ever-present chalkboard wall, which I unapologetically love. It’s useful and fun, lending itself to grocery lists and artistic endeavors in equal measure. Let’s hear it for chalkboard paint, may it never go away entirely, no matter how many hipsters slather it on their walls!
The light fixture is another Moroccan-inspired piece, jazzing up a very boring upstairs landing. The wall color ties into the upstairs bathroom, which can be seen from the stairs.
I will eventually paint these beds — again, there is far too much brown wood in my life — but for now the color in the room is provided by the aqua accents in the room, most of which are vintage. The blinds are an extremely simple solution to the ever-present window treatment problem: aqua polka dot fabric applied to cheap vinyl roller blinds with spray adhesive. The lampshades are custom-made from images taken from vintage postcards of Rockport that I have in my collection.
The bathroom is, like the kitchen, a no-cost idea for updating generic builder’s features. We painted the golden oak vanity a deep slate grey, changed out the pulls, put up vintage mirrors to replace the giant sheet of mirrored glass, and add a valance made of found wood pieces. Done! The beautiful little seascape is by the artist Karen Tusinski, in shades of grays and greens that perfectly capture the mood here on the rocky New England coast. The vintage oar with the great patina as well as the green glass floats are all from our own shop. The linen hand towel is from my beloved Brahms Mount textile company in Maine.
That’s the tour for now. Of course there’s more to the house — another bedroom, an office, a powder room — but I decided to leave a little mystery to our interiors. And it gives me something to aspire to…someday I will make all of our spaces interesting enough to photograph. And in the spirit of full disclosure I must admit that much of the reality of living in our home is successfully edited out of the photos: the sense of scale (small!), the mess in every room (endless!), and the tiny children, who seem to be always hanging around (but they are very, very cute…)