How to beautify your hand made home

antique wash bowl with primroses
Big antique wash bowl with blooming primroses

Maybe it’s because I am a Cancer or maybe it’s the influence of my childhood with my mother, but I am a homebody. I love nesting and fluffing, and I constantly tweak my home decor to reflect my philosophy of living in a Hand Made Home. Poor Ron doesn’t know where to look for his favorite squishy leather arm chair when he arrives home from work on days when I rearrange everything. Luckily I keep another leather chair at the shop for Saturdays when he is at Chifferobe with me. I won’t sell that chair and do not move it from its spot in the front corner of Chifferobe. I do, however, change the vintage kilim pillows that are on the chair, making it even more appealing and colorful. 

hand made pottery
A large hand made vessel by Ursula Goebels-Ellis sits on my concrete counter top in the kitchen

The shop is an extension of my home. The items I buy for the store are things I love, and so bear a resemblance to those I have at home. Also, I do occasionally move items between the two places, home and the shop. My deal with myself is that if I bring anything new home, either furniture or accessories, or even clothes, I have to remove one thing from the house. The nicest things come to Chifferobe. The rest go to charity shops. If I didn’t have that arrangement, it would be impossible to move in my house. Some people tell me they do not enjoy shopping. I don’t enjoy spending money, but I am like a magpie. If I spot something pretty, my heart beats faster and I must have it.

A visitor to Chifferobe on the snowy Thursday last week said, “i don’t want to leave this shop! It feels so warm and welcoming here!” I was thrilled. That’s exactly what I am going for. The very same thing is true about my house. I want guests to feel comfortable and not be afraid to set a drink down on a table. My old dinner table was a wonderful big antique pine farmhouse table, but it was scarred with rings from drinks and scratches from wear. When I built my house I asked the carpenter, who designed and built the cabinets made from Warren Wilson cherry, if he could build me a dining table. Greg Aucott, the carpenter, is a master craftsman and topped my beautiful spalted maple, wane-edge table with a coating of polyurethane.

leather chair with hand made pillows
Ron’s leather chair in the shop with hand made vintage kilim pillow covers

 There are those who don’t mind rings and scratches on tables including Isamu Noguchi. He believed that his furniture was made to live with the people who bought it, and that wear and tear were a normal result of living with furniture. He embraced the dents, scratches, and rings that marred his surfaces.  if you watch Antiques Roadshow you know that Noguchi furniture is worth a fortune, even when it is worn and marked with rings.

“Everything is sculpture,” said Isamu Noguchi. “Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space, I consider sculpture.”

Everything Noguchi created, from the simplest object like a table or a lamp was organic and graceful. There were no extra flourishes or added on decoration.  And whether you like modern furniture or not, you simply must respond with love to his creations. Saying you don’t like his designs is like saying you don’t like trees. Here is a word that has been overused, but it describes his work: Timeless. Beautiful hand made things are timeless.

chippy paint pie safe
This chippy paint pie safe looks pretty and serves the double purpose of holding well-worn vintage linens

I love things that show signs of wear. I don’t mind chips on old dishes and my favorite wooden bowls have metal repairs on them. I love chippy paint and patched fabric. My antiques can look as old as they are. But I don’t like mess, and rings seem messy.

I love my dining table and love it even more without rings. Some years ago I had an arborist come to the house to cut some dead trees. He is a graduate of Warren Wilson, as is Gabe Aucott. When the arborist came in to get a check, he gazed at the table and ran his hand over the wood. “Where did this come from?” he asked.

dining table
This table was made by Gabe Aucott and is beside a support beam made from a tree that grew almost there before the house was built.

I told him about Gabe and he  said, “I thought I recognized this wood! I harvested that tree when I was at Wilson!”

I was shocked. What keen observation, and what love of wood! How do you remember the grain of a slab of wood after several years so you can recognize it like an old friend? His enthusiasm reinforced my love of Hand Made goods in my Hand Made house. That table was a living thing and I can almost feel it breathe.