Table “escape”

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Spring is trying its best to show itself at Stagfield, but the forsythia and quince are sadly going to freeze their buds off this weekend. Aside from vinca minor’s pops of purple, little is blooming and thus I had to scrounge around for a centerpiece for tonight’s table.

We more often than not entertain in the library. That room is in the 1781 part of the house and has this undeniable energy that we enjoy. Setting the large “Garner” pine table there for four gives a wide berth for “stuff” and what I lack in flowers today, I made up with things collected from here and there around the house.

The tablecloth is a “Goodwill via Target clearance” shower curtain whose winter to spring palette was my inspiration. Next, true to the room’s period I selected the brown and white Meakin “Americana ” plates with scenes of Mount Vernon, brown napkins, and pewter flatware as the soft patina married with that of the cloth colors. Then a few vintage books (about Virginia, France and of course, Mount Vernon), wood and pewter candlesticks, a few architectural pieces, lichens, river birch bark, turkey feathers, antlers and my roving deer figurine coached this gathering into some sensical theme… I think. I just enjoyed mixing the colors and shapes and justifying my junk-o-holicism! Among the junk are a sampling of old glass shards that have bubbled up from the garden over the years. They, along with a seed box full of artifacts we’ve collected here live in the library.

A couple of things about busy tablescapes, if conversation lags, they offer a jumping off point at least. That won’t be an issue with tonight’s guests, our good friends Allen and Melissa. And if I don’t stop “playing” and get to the market, we may all be reading rather than eating!

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Making arrangements

Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day – like writing a poem or saying a prayer.   — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

© 2012 Chip Mitchell. Floral design by Mary Garner-Mitchell. Centerpiece candlelabrum for food table at the wedding reception of Berkley Gordon and Colin Mudrick, September 15, 2012. Floral materials include coral spray roses, bridal white and peach long-stem roses, dried oak leaf and fresh “antique” hydrangeas, silver artemisia, protea, abelia, yarrow, dalhia, pale peach stock and “Love Lies Bleeding” amaranth. For more wedding floral images, see  http://www.chipmitchell.com/clients/cmp/downloads/wedding


Painting, design, dance, music, and of course flowers — all art is arranged. I think I may have mastered a couple of these, and a couple I dabble at, but I love flower arranging above all. It comes as naturally to me as breathing.

Over the years I’ve realized enormous similarities between flower arranging and graphic design.  I once told an intern back in my previous life as a newspaper art director, that page layout was similar to arranging flowers.  One needs an entry point, a focal point and an ending.  White or negative space is essential, as is cohesiveness in color and tone. And the color and tone must convey the story or theme, be it either a photo spread or flower arrangement. For focus, a dominant image married with a well-crafted headline should prevail, supported by secondary and detailed “spots” lending detail.  Same is true for a flower arrangement. One key material or blossom is supported by the punches and wisps  of select materials that will dance and enhance.  As for endings, in a photo spread, an image that is the sum of all the others before it; for florals, if not the container, then it is the collective whole of the materials that went into the arrangement.

I think the same can be said for life.  There’s the entry point — the birth and/or nurturing through childhood; some form of focus — natural gifts or education that will support and influence; and the ending — a means of grounding, closure and completeness.  Stories, be they in photos or flowers — or lives — all transfer to memory, and all, though bound to fade, color every passing day hopefully with beauty and richness.

“Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week.” – Joseph Addison

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. “Objets de Barn Art” found mostly on site at Stagfield, c. 1781, Ashland, Virginia.

Relatively speaking, I suppose.

While Friday’s storms had us somewhat consumed with cleanup (we were luckier than many), a pool and a shared bottle of Prosecco underscored a couple of delightful days that I want etched my memory as they otherwise held so few demands, despite downed limbs and buckets of sweat.  Late yesterday afternoon, my friend Nancy Hugo windowsillarranging.blogspot.com/  invited us for a swim and happy Happy Hour that was the exclamation point ending to a weekend punctuated by what to me is “Summertime” – golf,  gardening, grilled suppers, oppressive heat, wind-whipping thunderstorms, good friends,  a good book, a good nap – and with Nancy and John, always good conversation. Which brings me to our discussion of “brown” and an ongoing thread that has  woven itself through my ponderings these last few days, weeks, perhaps most of my collecting life!

According to Nancy’s sources (her children and their peers), the generation just starting housekeeping eschews brown furniture – meaning the pieces handed down through at least the last three or more generations. They don’t want it and the antique and consignment shops are testament to this sad trend. It’s a real shame, for just as our parents and many in my demographic of Boomers are downsizing, this glut of apparently unappreciated, quality “brown furniture” has depressed prices to alarming levels. I have a house full of it!  I’ve noticed even the preponderance of Pottery Barn is moving over for Mod, and while I appreciate aspects of most styles and love a mix, it pains me to see what I fear might be a lack of regard for the real patina of rich walnuts, mahogany, heart pine — in other words, BROWN!

Which brings me in a round-about way to why I like rust.

How ironic that marketing guru, Seth Godin, in his blogpost today http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ notes “Shine is fresh and new and it sparkles. Shiny catches the eye and it appeals to the neophiliac, to the person in search of polish. Patina, on the other hand, can only be earned. Patina communicates trust (because the untrusted don’t last long enough to earn a patina) … “
I believe such is true of lots of things, not only in business and brands but furniture, too. Wrinkles come to mind as well! (sigh…)

So, ANYWAY, today’s photo  seems an appropriate way to illustrate my musings above and my love affair with all things old, rusty, worn, well-used, and well, brown!  “Objets”  I believe worthy of exhibit if only as “barn art” discovered  in the dirt here at Stagfield.  Why? Because they earned it.