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Saturday, August 13, 2011

the reading room: details

The reading room sits directly behind the living room.  It is the smallest room in the house, smaller even than our master closet!  When we first found the farmhouse I could envision the room empty except for a baby grand piano, as the location of the room would fill the whole house with music.  But, sadly - I do not play the piano!  I didn't need another sitting room- our small living room serves that purpose, or a study with a desk, so a reading room seemed like a perfect use of the space. 
In writing this post I realized that the only things I have most recently purchased (within the past two years) for this room are:  the floor lamp, the floor lamp shade, the rug, the basket for books and magazines on the floor next to the chair, and the pillow.  That's it. Everything else I have had for 8 to 10 plus years.  Moral:  invest in only things you absolutely love, and you will love them forever!
In our Dallas house these objects/furniture were all in different rooms; here they came together in different groupings, but all work together.
The wall color is Benjamin Moore Ashwood OC-47 in eggshell, with Benjamin Moore White Dove trim.

This is Mavis, and this is her story!

Antique french chair was found in Marseilles, France and is now covered in a natural linen with an alligator back.  The antique case piece is Italian.  I love how there is glass on the sides instead of being solid.  It took Dan two weeks to restore the wood, removing multiple layers of alligatored varnish, and me two full days to scrape and clean the antique glass.  It was a labor of love and is one of my  (aren't they all?!)  favorite furniture pieces.  This was the piece I worried about the most in making our move from Texas- the antique glass is paper thin.  Thankfully, in the three moves (from Texas via two rental houses while renovating) it took to move into the farmhouse it survived!
Antique painting entitled "Cottage in Devonshire" in its original frame, circa 1850 by J. Poole shares the top of the case piece with a large demi-lune bottle and a piece of coral.
The rug is antique.  I was having an "I don't want to spend any money" moment the day we found this rug.  Luckily Dan made me buy it.... even though at the time I wasn't sure where it would go.  It was $110 after the 10% discount for cash!  A ridiculous price for an antique rug this size and in this condition. 
The antique brass chandelier was purchased 19 years ago.  It hung in our Dallas house for several years, and then was banished to a closet when I went through my "I hate brass" phase.   Even though I was responding to all the b.a.d. bright and shiny (and lacquered) builder brass on the market at the time, my antique brass took the fall too!  Thankfully, I never sold it.  I have several brass pieces that I somehow just knew to keep and they have now found places here at the farmhouse, which called for the warm, aged patina of old brass!

The antique Italian case piece is filled with antique books, Chinese blue and white ginger jars, antique herbariums,  a watercolor, small antique mirrors, real shells and coral, a hand-carved wood shell, vellum books, and bits and pieces from nature:  a small bird nest and wasp nest found on the property, a piece of river wood from Idaho, and a piece of tree fungus, of course!
On the top shelf is a pair of antique French girandoles. When we found the bronze and crystal lights at Interiors Market in Jackson, Mississippi (a wonderful shop if you are in the area or passing through)   they were missing several of the clear and amethyst drop crystals that hang from their arms.  On our next trip to France we took the crystals missing their pair, found the "crystal man" at the Paris Flea Market, and found "similar" antique crystals for replacement.  Though a photo wouldn't do it justice, they are really beautiful lit inside of the piece  (I use 7 watt bulbs on a hi/low dimmer that I dim to 3.5 watts each!)

Antique French gilt mirror sits on an English chest of drawers (found ironically enough, at Interiors Market in Birmingham,  Alabama.)  Antique blue and white double happiness temple jar made into lamp using an ornate ceiling cap as the lamp cap.   18th century Italian gilt pricket.
I purchased this vintage chair (one of a pair) about 20 years ago.   At the time I hand-applied gold leaf (the real kind, not the paint)  and had this fabric upholstered on them using the reverse side of the shiny damask fabric that was so popular at the time.  This side looks like a patterned white linen.  It has proven to be a good decision as I have loved them for 20 years now!   About six years ago,  I applied a grey wash over the gilt chair frames, and tea stained the fabric (while on the chair;) to soften them a bit.  You'll see the mate in one of the guest rooms.

This Martha Washington chair was one of my first antique furniture pieces.  It has seen several different fabrics over the years!  The pillow is made from a vintage fur muff.   A large antique Chinese brass bowl with a horn letter-opener, found in Paris, sits on a stack of design books. 

Fabulous drum lampshade found several weeks ago at Home Goods.   The brass finial for the antique floor lamp was found in our "lamp parts department" in the basement.  It wasn't originally a lamp finial, but has been retrofitted to work.  I adore how the finial design mimics the design of the wood lamp base, and now the color and sheen in the lampshade.

As I've mentioned before, the small walls flanking the living room fireplace had been removed when we found the property, so the fireplace "floated" between the living room and this room.  We added the walls back, and in doing so were able to create this small bookcase in the reading room.  I wanted an old door for the bookcase, but feared it would be impossible to find since it was such a small opening.  We found this "perfect" (in size and layout) door at an antiques shop during renovation.  The bottom is solid, where we were planning to place our wi-fi and printer and didn't want them in view, and the top had antique glass where I wanted to see the books!  We hired a finish carpenter to build the bookcase and shelves to match the antique door.  The antique iron door pull was found at an antiques shop.... it fit within 1/16th of a inch on the frame of the door.... perfect!  I chose to leave the door with its original finish.

The vintage winnowing basket was found at the Scott Antiques Market in Atlanta about 6 years ago.  I immediately fell for it, but was going through one of my silly phases where I had to have a place for something before I could purchase it.  I went through my mental images of the rooms in my house back in Dallas and couldn't  think of a single spot to place it.  As we were getting in to the car to drive back to Dallas I remembered this linen-draped table that had always seemed in need of "a little something," so I kept its measurement in my purse.  I always carry various measurements of rooms, tables, paintings, etc. in my purse, and you can imagine my delight when this winnowing basket was the exact diameter of this table! 
On the table, linen covers a burlap-like fabric (not burlap, a true fabric that up-close looks just like burlap, but is soft to the touch and no burlap smell;) that I found at Calico Corners probably ten years ago.  Had I known the current burlap craze was going to hit, I would have purchased bolts of this!  This is the same skirt fabric used on the table in the living room.
The winnowing basket holds design books, a tortoiseshell and sterling page-turner and a large, perfectly split rock from the meadow in the Tetons where Dan and I spread my father's ashes.   When I walk by the table I often run my hand over the rocks which makes me feel connected to my father. 

Garden arrangement.

Painting by the late Jerry Wilkerson,  famed pointillism artist (though this is not painted in pointillism.)  The painting deserves an "everything has a story" post of its own.   

The 18th century English Country-Chippendale chair is too fragile for use.  An antique iron lantern now serves as a candle holder.  I found the antique French piece on ebay- it has a stunning iron arm that would attach to a wall, and "had" stained glass pieces lining the lantern, but when it arrived almost all of the glass had broken in shipping.  The shipping company reimbursed me and was supposed to pick up the damaged piece... they never came back to get it-  oh darn!!  

The antique French chair and oil painting were both purchased from the same shop in Marseilles, France.   In Dallas they resided in different rooms, but they have been reunited here at the farmhouse!  That the old woman in the oil painting has a book in her lap seems most appropriate for the reading room!

Close up of the beautiful details on Mavis.

Old Chinese ginger jar, antique leather-bound books, antique oil painting, and an antique Chinese green-glazed terracotta bird sits on top of the chest.  If you were to open a drawer you would find a collection of about 6 more birds;)    My largest pair (a size I have never seen anywhere else) reside in the bookcase.  

Vintage (circa 1922) Biltmore-Providence pierced Hotel dish holds an antique English sterling-and-horn magnifying glass, and vintage postcards & photographs of dogs. 
Included is a photograph of Dan's mother as a young child with her dog, my sister and brother-in-law's first dog, our first dog- Kelsey, and a photo of me (yes, I am classified as "vintage";) and my childhood dog- a miniature dachshund named Ginger, with my next door friend Becky  (this photo is peaking out on the right side!)  
I adore my small collection of dog postcards, as you know a person had to love and adore their dog to have spent the money on a photograph back then.  All the dogs in my collection have the most soulful faces, and look to be mutts...  my favorite "breed"!
 I like to look at, remember and love the beautiful dogs for their long-gone owners.


  1. This room is fabulous and everything in it is stunning. Such a fabulous library and designed so beautifully. Hugs, Marty

  2. *** What a lovely posting... annnnd, "you GOT me!!!" on the last pic... anything with animals (and "vintage" at that!) just SPEAKS to my heart n' soul!!!

    Warmest wishes,
    Linda in AZ *

  3. How lovely to have a space devoted to reading - or perhaps just to contemplation. The interesting bits and pieces would certainly prompt reverie of the nostalgic kind - so many memories of wonderful places.

  4. This room is so chock full of interesting and unique finds. I adore the chair and that you covered it so wonderfully!!

    Thank you so much for the tour!


    Art by Karena

  5. Just lovely - every bit of it, and so nice to have been collected over time, each with its share of memories. I can't imagine how you tea stained the upholstery on the chair in situ!

  6. Really quite beautiful - as always

    Warm regards from Holland

  7. Gorgeous! I love seeing all the details up close and personal! Martina

  8. Mutts are my favorite breed too. Those postcards are fantastic.

    ♥ sécia

  9. Beautiful, serene space. My favorite is the old photographs of the dogs. Next favorite is the Italian case piece.

  10. Thanks so much for the DETAILS! EVerything is beautiful and you are so correct when you say, buy what you love and you will love it forever! I sure do. One question: where did the LARGE turtle shell on the wall come from? It is one of my favorite things!!!! Call me crazy:):) XO, Pinky

  11. I love the idea of a reading room and greatly enjoyed your tour--it is lovely and full of history and stories and beauty.

  12. Hi Joan,
    I don't even know where to begin! LOVE the winnowing basket on the table - I would like one for my house please. ; )
    The Italian case is gorgeous and love all the light the glass sides offer, showcasing, so beautifully, everything inside.
    The RUG - what a deal! Good for Dan!
    And Mavis is gorgeous, I love the presence she adds to the room.
    Your rooms have such heart and soul and I love the stories behind everything. It really makes the room come alive, which makes the visual all the more fascinating.
    Beautiful room Joan, I just love it.

  13. I learned something today: Winnowing basket! I am on the hunt now! :) Again, gorgeous Joan. Love this room!

  14. Oh Joan... this is such a lovely room. I love the stories behind each of the pieces in the room. It makes it so much more special. I adore the bookcase and the lantern (lucky you that they never picked it up!). Thank you for sharing the room, your antiques and their history with us :)

  15. ...the success of most important endeavors in our lives usually lies in the details...that is certainly true in this most lovely room...i love that you call it the reading room...for it indeed has so many stories to tell...(ps...i too had a childhood dog named ginger...and once ran into the "real mavis" in paris... as i was on my way to see another lady...named mona lisa...)

  16. pps...i am so happy the basket came from "our" antique market...scotts...a little bit of atlanta living in your beautiful house...

  17. I love the chair with the alligator back - what a wonderful idea!

    And now that we've seen the downstairs, I have to ask...where have you hidden the tv?

  18. joan, every room has a regal yet comfortable feel. you can do no wrong in my book! my decorating idol ;)


  19. I felt instantly at home in this room! What a fun tour, I love knowing the history of your "keeps" and all the loved items you've put in the room. I agree with you completely- only buy what you love. Hi to Ella. : )

  20. I don't think there's a single thing I would change about this room. It's perfect!

  21. Just beautiful-down to the very last detail. I so enjoy reading about how you acquired each piece.

  22. Joan, I've been drowning in your entries. As a child, I loved antiques and collected all kinds of things, like old needlework. I loved Victorian houses. Around my early twenties, I decided that the heavier, handsome-not-pretty Craftsman was the best. After that, I had another internal shift and decided that it was modern I needed: all those windows, interiors that were clean and open and let you explore your OWN creativity, not items from the past.

    Well, my husband and I are about to move into our 1929 Spanish-style home and I'm falling baaaack into my love of old things. I feel fuller now, with an appreciation of just about every era, and I'm strongly drawn to the strength of the Spanish style. It has some of the serenity of modern, and the house we bought has a lot of windows across its front so we can breathe.

    Seeing your home, and the choices you've made, has been very moving for me. I love to look at house blogs, but you are at such a high level of design skill and appreciation of beautiful objects that I'm not going to be able to go back to some of the other blogs. Thank you for sharing your home!


  23. Bella, my friend said to me - "You've been collecting for this house all your life, you just didn't know it"

  24. What a wonderful reading personal and beautifully collected. Thank you for the wonderful tour!!

  25. Joan, you are so very talented. That is all.

    ps - Hope you are having a great summer!

  26. I just can't get over this room. And how much history each and every piece has. You truly love your home, and it definitely shows!

    Thank you so much for commenting on my blog, I am SO flattered because I love yours!

  27. Just beautiful!! The last pic with the silver dish and photos of the dogs.....what a special tribute. Just love how everything has a story and such meaning to you...thanks for sharing!

  28. I just started reading your blog. Do you also show "before" pictures? I am in the process of redesigning our 10 year old house in S. Texas. With both of our children in college, we finally have the time to redo some things that we would have done differently when we built. I would love to see how you "redid" by seeing before pictures.
    Thanks for your posts. I love your home.

  29. Thanks for the tour. Everything is just beautiful. I adore that huge basket and love that it fits perfectly on the round table.


  30. Just beautiful. I love everything in your house, especially Ella!
    xoxo Dianne

  31. Thank you all for your very kind comments!

    Pinky- the large tortoiseshell came from a shop in Bellingham, Washington years ago!

    laney- we have LOTS of treasures from 'your' antique show!! love that place!

    Sharon- the before photos are scattered throughout the blog as the renovation progressed. To find the befores of individual rooms click on that room from my sidebar under "topics of interest." Then click on 'older posts' at the bottom of that page to continue to take you back through the progress. I have just started to do "renovation photo-stories" where I combine all the befores and afters in one post. I have only completed the kitchen thus far. We have over 12,000 photos of the renovation, so those posts take me quite a long time to put together! You can see that kitchen post by clicking on "renovation photo-stories" on that same sidebar link. Hopes this helps and good luck with your project!

  32. Hi Joan and Dan,

    Your home is beautiful and inspires me so much! Everything is so carefully edited and thoughtfully displayed. Personally, I continue to be amazed at the determination and courage it took to make such a huge move. I can so relate to the thought, "if we don't do it now, we never will". Because hubby and I are of similar age, and our children are grown now, these words reasonate and indeed speak to me. I have followed along since the very beginning but haven't commented as much as I should! I want you both to know how much I enjoy your pictures, your blog, your inspiration and most of all, the generous "down to earth" way that you share your story. Thank you so much!
    Margaret, Virginia

  33. Thank you for your comment Margaret... I truly cannot tell you how much your kind words means to me (I've had a rash of some unkind ones this week.)
    Just today Dan and I were talking about how grateful we are to be here, and how thankful we are that we trusted our gut and made the move.... I wish you the same peace in your heart.

  34. dear joan,

    everything is beyond beautiful and so rich in history, texture and color. everything goes so well together. it is truly, truly beautiful.


  35. Joan, unkind words? Anyone finding fault with all the beauty you have shared is just wrong. I loved the post on the reading room, but loved even more the details of each piece and where you found it. Every room you have shared is so beautiful and warm. Your love of the house shines through. Just delightful.

  36. Hi Joan
    The reading room doesn't disappoint it is really beautiful consistant with the style of the rest of the house. Forget the unkind comments whatever they said their so wrong.You are very generous to let us look inside your beautiful home.Still curious though where's the TV.
    Kind Regards

  37. Karen- my apologies... I knew there was a question I was forgeting to answer! Downstairs there is a small tv in the kitchen and a HUGE "man" tv;) in the soon-to-be barn room. We've had some "issues" with the barn floor (super frustrating and maddening), so we still aren't in that room, but that is where the main tv will be. There is also a tv upstairs in the french commode in the master bedroom.

  38. So many lovely touches, Joan, but I think my favorites must be the split rock in that amazing basket and your hotel silver dish with dog photos. Every room in your home is a delicious journey! Thanks for sharing. :)
    Heidi @ Show Some Decor

  39. Love your reading room!!!

    ps your pup is adorable!!

  40. I could stare at these pictures...All...Day....Long!

  41. Every detail is perfect. The history of each piece is so special...why would anyone want all this new resin stuff from Chin? These are pieces that you will cherish forever and have done a fabulous job putting it all together. Wish I had several bolts of that fabric too. Thanks for the peak. Mona

  42. Hi Joan- This room is just lovely. I love that you touch the rocks and think about your dad- so special.

    I always enjoy when you tell the stories from collecting over the years- it's such a labor of love. your vision and the serendipity of how everything is living happily ever after make me smile (and sigh with awe!).

    Sorry about folks being rude- just focus on those of us just can't wait to see what's next!


  43. Joan, Dan, and Ella: I read this wonderful entry the other day, but couldn't put into words my thoughts. This beautiful room leaves me speechless! Cindy

  44. Thanks for sharing the details of your rooms it is so interesting to listen to how you and Dan have gathered all your lovely things. I have the same vintage chair(the one you tea stained) in my design office
    pulled up to a french reproduction dining table that I use as a desk. Love the story of its history. I am still debating how to reincarnate mine.

  45. So many beautiful things to gaze at in this room. It is very soothing and I know when you walk in and look around you get to feel all the memories. Styled just perfect.

  46. I adore your reading room... it's so naturalist and peaceful.
    I love how you surround yourself with meaningful pieces but you always manage to make your spaces so elegantly curated. It's impressive too how you hold on to your treasured possessions even when you are in the midst of your I hate brass phase. That says something about you :)
    It's always a treat to be invited into your lovely home!
    Thank you,

  47. I saw this post on the day you posted, and have been drawn back to it each day. That is an absolutely beautiful, relaxing room. I love everything about it. Thank you so much for sharing it with us! Donna

  48. What a great room! I want to come read in it! :) It's a beautiful room and I love how everything in it has a story. Wonderful job!

  49. Happenstance brought me to your page and I just love it! I just moved to Houston from Dallas, but I grew up in New England and my BFF lives in an old victorian house in Manchester,NH. I feel a kinship! Haha

    Anyways, Love your old farmhouse, I want the same. For now I'm stuck in suburbia with only my Farmhouse Porch shop and dreams for the future. Now a follower!♥


    1. Your room is beautiful! A question for you though: Do you spend a lot of time thinking, 'will this 'go' in my room?'. I ask because everything is so perfectly coordinated (without matching). It seems like this 'look' is incredibly difficult to achieve for the average person. I am just starting out decorating my house, and I notice I gravitate to a more traditional style, but at the same time, I like more modern things as well, like modern-looking lights, square glass coffee tables, shiny surfaces...what do I do? Can you lend advice? I know I read somewhere that if you do 80/20 split between your main style (traditional) and an additional style (modern) it should look OK. Just thought I'd throw this out there for you :-)

    2. hi Christina- That is really a great question. No, I don't spend a second thinking 'will this go' in any room! My mantra in design has always been to buy only things that you absolutley LOVE. 90% of all the pieces and antiques in the farmhouse we brought with us from our home in Dallas. And, when placed here pieces from differnt rooms landed together in totally new and different groupings! I think you hit the nail on the head by saying that it coordinated without matching (matchy-matchy interiors always look like people are trying too hard to me or they just bought "a look".) Because I have only ever bought things I loved a personal "look" evolved and the items all seem to work or layer with one another.
      I love modern, so I totally understand where you are coming from. Your 80/20 split makes sense to me. I really love modern coffee tables/end tables and lamps and ART! I think just adding even a couple of pieces to a room can really balance a look. My best advice is again, buy what you love- whether it is traditional or modern. But, you have to "love" it... can't live without it type of love;),not just "like" it or it fills an empty spot- you'll tire of those things and could have used the money on something you absolutely love that is down the road. Move things around until they feel right to your eye, and edit, always edit! Continue to do what you are obviously doing- studying design you like. Really studying rooms can teach a lot about scale and placement. And if you like something, be it modern or antique, research it. I think knowing the orgin of something that you live with on a daily basis elevates it somehow! Hope this helps and best to you as you decorate your house.

  50. Hello Joan! I hope all is going well with you and your two-legged and four-legged family!

    I was moving some furniture around this past weekend, and moved an old bookcase out of a bedroom closet into the master bedroom. It is wood with glass doors similar to the antique you have photographed above in the Reading Room. I just wish it had glass on the sides like yours. I often come back and visit your blog for inspiration, and since I remembered the similar piece in your home, I had to come back and find it to help with the décor in and on top of mine. I love your style, especially with all of the natural elements.

    I noticed above that the lighting pieces inside the bookcase are from Interiors Market here in Jackson. I don't remember seeing that the first time I read this post, but my last home was within walking distance of there! What a small world.

    Thanks for all of the inspiration, and keep saying prayers that we will finally make the move to New England one day (we fell in love with the town of Hopkinton that you pointed out when I was applying for a job in Concord). Have a great day!


  51. Amazing, your reading room is really lovely and beautiful. So many lovely touches, Joan, but I think my favorites must be flowers on that amazing glass and so many antique thing.


Welcome! Thank you for leaving a comment; you have no idea how much your comments inspire me to keep writing- I appreciate each and every one. Comments are moderated by me prior to publishing on the blog, so if you don't see your comment post immediately it will be posted as soon as I receive and read it. joan