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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White Room

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Collection of miscellaneous white porcelain in the kitchen at Stagfield, Ashland, Virginia.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression Like white on rice?  (You have to be Southern to say it “rite!”) Lest you wonder, it means something that’s integral, something through and through, something so stuck on something else that there is no separation.  I’m that way with old things. I don’t particularly like new, unless it’s a new car. That’s why thrift stores and junk shops are so appealing to me. And I seem to always be drawn to things that are or once were white.

I like how my collections of white objects are testament to their former purpose or previous life. Maybe with antique linens being the one exception, cracks, crazing, grease spots, the way a sugar cone has oxidized over the years earn these items  “most favored” status for they are the pieces that speak to me of memory, of time passing. Rarely do I think, “Oh, I wish this were restored to its original gloriousness, all clean and pristine.”  No, I like “50 shades of white” over the singular non color of new … “where the shadows run from themselves.”

© Mary Garner-Mitchell.

This photo deserves a bit more of a caption. Daddy made this Shaker-style table in 1975 for my first apartment from walnut he and my grandfather harvested long before I was born. If the house were to ever catch fire, I would certainly grab this piece on my way out! The reticulated bowl and platter filled with dried lichens may be one of my best thrift shop finds. It has an impressed stamp on the bottom that is hard to make out. If the Roadshow ever comes this way, I’m taking it and an early 19th century piece of French needlepoint for evaluation.The deer figurine is a yard sale find and I think I paid a whopping 5 bucks for it the year we moved into Stagfield. It moves around the house quite a bit. It is soapstone, I believe. The round plaque, a reproduction I buried in the yard for a winter so it would get mossy and gross enough to earn its spot amongst the old stuff!  The chalk urn I spotted in the barn of the same grandparents’ home when I was a little girl. When they held the estate sale many years later, I asked my mother to look for it and it was exactly where I had remembered!  It is my all-time favorite flower-arranging vessel. It holds pussy willow from the yard most of the time. The ironstone tureen is a much-treasured piece, and it, too, is on the “save list” as it has been handed down from my mother’s family for several generations and has held the centerpiece florals at numerous weddings, mine included.

“Hello. My name is Mary, and I’m a junk-o-holic…”

The signs were everywhere, along every main and side road all over town: “Estate Sale” … and it happened to be a house I drive by every day and wonder who must live there, or if anyone is still living there.  I got my answer this morning at 8 a.m. as one of the first of the hard-core “pickers.”

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Nothing gives me a rush or makes me feel as euphoric as going to a sale like this one. These days they are far and few between, and today I drank up the clutter, dirt and dust in excess. From what I could gather the widower who owns the place has gone to assisted living and thus, the sale of a lifetime’s collection of farm and household items. The outbuildings were the most fun and a few of us diehards dug through the piles of rusty tools and wood and were handsomely rewarded. Most of what was culled was just pennies. The tramp art table, clocks, blue/green pot, zig-zag trim, baby gate (makes a great trellis) and other items not pictured came to a grand total of $2. That’s T-W-O dollars! Truly, they almost paid us to take it. I presume the lady of the house must have been a flower lover like me because one outbuilding was piled with old flower pots, soil, chemicals and garden hand tools, in various stages of long neglect. (Ahhh… sweet elixir!!) Sadly though, as I waded through mounds of junk, I couldn’t help but notice the saved and now decayed funeral arrangements, still in their metal baskets piled in a corner. When did they stop making these metal baskets? Had to be  40 years ago. Sigh…

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In the house, just a few odds and ends met my trained eye. So much was tempting, but either something I could “do” without, or just a tad too pricey for my Silas Marner sensibilities. Besides, I was really on the hunt for things I could re-purpose for the garden … containers, etc. (I even tried, with no success, to buy the piles of rocks in the yard.)  I did find one item though that is totally a stupid, must have:  A toy baby grand piano, with the sweetest decal above its keyboard,  and its xylophone “innards” are in perfect tune. Precious! I don’t know if I will keep or resell. I just may use it as a prop in a photo for a future painting, then perhaps resell.  A bargain at $28, I can probably double my money if I’m so inclined. Everything else in this photo with my new toy ranged from 50 cents to 3 dollars. Most were under a buck!

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Perhaps my Concrete Cardinals were the best find of the day. Can you believe $3.50 each? The white one was out in the yard, and I found the red one undiscovered in the basement and the sales people were amazed that they had not found it earlier. Could it have been the snakeskins decorating the cellar floor??? Anyway, I was amazed that they sold it for the same price.  Folk art-ish, art they?  I LOVE them!

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Check out the plant stand made of old machine parts and a black bucket! And the antlers are huge! More for my Stagfield collection.The real fun will be tomorrow when I start cleaning up the REAL junky stuff and making something “new.”  More photos to come! Have a happy weekend! I know I will.