What Your Table Should Wear for Spring Parties

After being inspired by these completely cool table coverings at Nellie Mae, in Tuscumbia, Ala., I am immediately ditching all the matching and carefully pressed contents of my linen closet shelf drawer and going for joyously eclectic creativity. I mean, how sweet are these? I love the ethereal layering of the neutral-toned tablecloths on the left and then the cheerful fabric garlands, rosettes, bows and flowers decorating the one on the right with the netting underskirt. I think these would be perfect for a bridal shower or even an informal outdoors wedding — you know, those oh-so-fun weddings that are really just parties in disguise, where the bride wears cowboy boots and everybody’s kids are running around and there’s beer and barbecue for all (except the kids, of course). On the other hand, I’ll always love the simple elegance of crisp white napkins paired with Grandmother’s linen tablecloth. And the retro fun of colorful vintage table squares that demand place settings of Fiesta ware. Of course, the way Husband JP and I usually eat is out. Or on the couch watching basketball. But I just like to know that I COULD set a nice table if I were inclined to.

The Bathroom Test

Let’s face it — bathrooms are important, especially when you’re out & about and away from home. That’s when the state of a bathroom particularly is vital. It’s safe to say that we women appreciate a nice restroom with elegant touches and luxurious style. And it’s no secret that we tend to judge a restaurant or an office or a public building — or wherever we happen to be — by its bathroom. It’s a sort of test: Is the restroom clean? Is it comfortable? Are there plenty of supplies? Is the style of the restroom in keeping with the style of the overall location — does it convey the same decor message of funky or chic or classic or retro? If the bathroom passes these tests, we’ll give the “okay” our girlfriends who are waiting at the table while we check it out. But sometimes we enter an alternate restroom universe and it seems as if  the bathroom is testing us. As in, “If you’re smart enough to figure out how the faucet works, Ms. FancyPants, then, welcome. You belong here.  If not, there’s a McDonald’s down the street.” Such was my experience recently with this gorgeous and sparkling-clean women’s room at The Club in Birmingham, Ala. The furnishings, the art work, the details all were so compelling that it took me a minute to realize I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the faucet. I mean, it looks as if you’d maybe slide those rectangles back and forth or perhaps push them on the edges or maybe there’s a motion sensor somewhere. But, no. You turned these on by a coordinated action of sliding and pushing — and it only took me two visits and some friendly advice from an employee to get it right. “Don’t worry.  Nobody can figure it out,” she said, smiling at my ineptitude. I could hear the bathroom chuckling in triumph as I made my way out. But before we were ready to leave, I couldn’t resist one last visit, just to show that I could. “You do it this way,” I said helpfully to a frustrated woman standing at the sinks. “But don’t worry.  Nobody can figure it out.”

What Kind of Plates Do Reindeer Eat From?

One of the hottest after-Christmas-sale items is Pottery Barn’s Reindeer Dinnerware, which already is pretty much sold out on Pottery Barn’s website — and everywhere else.  And you can see why with this gorgeously festive table at our friends’ house in Murfreesboro, Tenn. It’s a family project, with everybody in the house snapping up pieces when they find sales. And, come to think of it, frugal shopping is a valuable family holiday activity. As is sharing laughs and stories with good friends over deliciously yummy food. And adorable reindeer-decorated tableware. Which you kind of hate to pack away at the beginning of January. Do reindeer and Valentine’s Day mix?

 

Can We Fit an 8-foot Table into a 6-foot Backseat?

Let’s go shopping! It’s the best kind — where you just look and don’t bring anything home. (Incidentally, this is my husband’s preferred way of shopping.) Recently friends and I were cruising around nearby Smith Lake, close to Cullman, Alabama, and we passed an ironworks store/wedding rental on a county road. There were four of us, and three of the four have wonderful taste in all things decorative and are excellent and enthusiastic shoppers: One has an eye for vintage bargains, one keeps an organized list and only buys for specific needs and one thinks looooong and hard about each purchase. On the other hand, one of us just wants to go drink but always says “Sure! Let’s stop!! That looks like fun!!!” when the others see a tempting gardening/furniture/home decor/antiques shop because I she’s afraid they’ll make her stay home next time. But sometimes treasures such as gracefully scrolled metal furniture and luminous and colorful glassware delight even the most impatient shopper.

And to prove that I am not a total decorating and shopping failure, I offer Exhibit A: Part of our front porch. I was going for cozy, casual and not ugly. The rocking chair we bought a few years ago from Cracker Barrel, the fern stand I got at Hobby Lobby at one of those incredible sales at which you feel as if the store’s paying you to take stuff away, the pillow’s from T.J. Maxx and the flowers (picked out with help of Husband JP) are from Lowe’s. I buy all greenery at Lowe’s because I’m terrified of the workers at local nurseries who actually talk to you and ask if they can help you and who expect a somewhat intelligent reply in return when all I know is that I need plants I can’t kill that have the little sun and shade icons on them. Sigh. Come to think of it, my friends probably WILL leave me home next time.

Corinth Home & Garden Tour

This is our backyard. Oh, okay, that’s a downright lie. You know that our backyard actually is about the size of this patio table. And even if it were bigger, I still wouldn’t have the talent and skill to make our outdoor space look this cute and inviting. I mean, don’t you want to just pull up a chair and pour a nice cool drink? Love the bright red and green tablescape with lemon-yellow accents. So summery! This was only one of the dozens of inspiring “rooms” on this past weekend’s Corinth (Mississippi) Home & Garden Tour. Sponsored by Verandah House Friends, the annual tour raises money to restore Corinth’s 1857 Verandah House, a Greek Revival beauty where Confederate officers planned their Shiloh campaign. The tour included a flower show, a silent auction of amazing local art, a bake sale and a plant sale. But the stars, of course, were the homes and gardens. Three houses in one of Corinth’s historic districts were open to visitors, and it was a constant stream of admiring “ooh’s and ahh’s” as we peeked into interior rooms and wandered through outdoor spaces. I especially was impressed with the way the owners combined respect for their homes’ authenticity with modern individual touches — beloved family heirlooms were cozily comfortable sharing with cheerful 21st-century details. But, you know, that’s how we do it* in the South.

* I was going to say “that’s how we roll in the South,” but since that invariably would lead to “Roll, Tide!” references I went instead with a less inflammatory phrase. After all, this is a free and open space where we tolerate all opinions and where differences are welcome. On the other hand:  “War Eagle!”

Retro + Politan = Really Cool Stuff

Oh, yes. I’ll have one of each, please. Although, truthfully, that would be a lot of lamps. And pillows. Anyway, this is the home decor/interior design shop retropolitan, in Nashville, Tennessee‘s hip Hillsboro Village. Thankfully, you don’t have to be hip to go in and look around, which is what my husband and I did recently. We are in a continual dialogue about furnishing  and decorating our new house – it’s the first house we’ve bought and lived in together and we want it to reflect both of us. And by “dialogue,” you know I mean me saying, “Oh, this is wonderful! It would look so cute in our living beside the front windows” and him saying, “Uh, how many zeros are on that price tag again?” But retropolitan is the sort of place where you so wish you had lots of zeros to spend.