PaperCity Magazine

April 2015 - Houston

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How your Texas connection, specifically with The Prairie, came about. I've been shopping the vintage fields and antique shows of Round Top for many years and usually stayed at the Outpost at Cedar Creek Inn. While it wasn't decorated in specifically my style, I loved the property, wide-open spaces and the buildings. Back in 2010, my personal and business life was going through some vulnerable and uncertain times, and I was staying at the Outpost on a vintage shopping trip. [The economic downturn in 2008-2009 forced her company into bankruptcy, from which it's now fully recovered.] I happened to be talking to the prior owner, Lenore PrudHomme, over breakfast, and on a whim, without much thought, I told her, "I think I should buy the Outpost." I had always loved the property. Even though I'm a London girl, I have always felt comfortable in cowboy boots and jeans and listening to sad country songs. I always had a dream of having a hotel, and the world of vintage for all our stores is a big part of our Shabby Chic Couture world, so having a hub for the buying and restoring made sense. I had no idea how to run a hotel, nor was it the perfect timing, but in a way, given the vulnerable time I was in, The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell became my Tara. Must-stops at Round Top. I go twice a year to all the Round Top antique shows. I love the Marburger show, and I love going to the show's pre-opening, and at the end of the schedule, as well as to the treasure- hunting troves of nearby Warrington. I also love Lizzie Lou and Junk Gypsy stores in Round Top, and then Whistle-Stop in Giddings and Uncommon Objects in Austin. What you learned about yourself and your design while writing the book. Compiling The World of Shabby Chic gave me the opportunity to mentally and visually organize the diverse styles of Shabby Chic. Even though the brand is famous for white and pastels, over 25 years the brand evolved to include modern, Zen, bohemian and primitive styles, but always embracing the value of "beauty in imperfection." Because Shabby Chic is based on my personal aesthetic and lifestyle that I live, there is a sense of authenticity that inspires people. What it was like to compile 25 years of work and life. It was a nostalgic journey. It was nice to go through my archives of my own history and see how, from an early age, many of my experiences set the tone and led the way for the birth of Shabby Chic and, in doing so, reaffirmed the authenticity of the brand. I have so much history and content, it was challenging to decide which art and stories best told the story. Much didn't make it into the book — maybe one day a book of "leftovers" … How your look has evolved over 25 years. When Shabby was born, it was about whites and pastel blues, greens and pinks. As I've matured, I've moved into smokier versions of those colors, along with ivories and grays. I also use a lot of reclaimed and bleached natural woods. When you have a brand like mine, it's like trying to reroute a big boat to get people to evolve with you. The Alden chair in my line that I have in my house is much more modern: bleached wood, simple lines. Of course, I've made a big mushy white back and seat cushion, which speaks to comfort and function. Must-haves in a room. • Less is more. Edit what doesn't serve a purpose either emotionally or functionally in your house. • Flowers. A single rose in a small bud vase or an oversize urn with a large bouquet are of equal value. A favorite is the David Austin rose, pale blue-pink (never peachy or hot). • Keep the foundation simple — white walls, slipcovers — then add special touches on one wall like vintage wallpaper or a chair rail with a complementary paint color underneath. • Music, candles and scent. I love Enya, Motown, opera and classic country music. The vanilla or fig candles in mason jars we sell online are a must- have, but I also love Diptyque. The last thing you bought for your house. A little abstract rose painting, bought on my London travels at Portobello Road Market. I love it, as abstract art is a new appreciation of mine. What's keeping you busy. We're opening a second store in Japan in August in Kyoto. We're also working on a value line of upholstered chairs under $500, which we'll sell online. It will launch this fall. Oh, and I'm personally acquiring a mobile home in Malibu — my first Shabby Shack. It's 500 square feet, and I'm just beginning to decorate it with a slant to Ibiza style. F ew designers have become synonymous with a design movement the way Rachel Ashwell has with shabby chic. Reared in London, she launched the look with her first Shabby Chic store in Santa Monica in 1989, which embraced slouchy slipcovered sofas, timeworn vintage furniture, whites and pastels, and an abundance of romance. A TV show, Shabby Chic Couture retail shops and online shops with a myriad of products, linens, fabrics and furnishings, and Simply Shabby Chic for Target followed. Shabby chic the design movement and Shabby Chic the brand have endured for decades. Ashwell's ninth book, Rachel Ashwell The World of Shabby Chic: Beautiful Homes, My Story & Vision (Rizzoli, April 2015, $45), is an intimate look back at the past 25 years, with photos of her house in L.A., along with clients such as Pamela Anderson and Jessica Simpson. Ashwell will be in Houston to sign copies of her book Tuesday, April 7, at The Houston Design Center Spring Market, after wrapping a week of book signings and seminars at her very Shabby Chic hotel, farm and boutique, The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell, located near Round Top. Here, she talks about the new book — and how her Texas farm holds her together. Rebecca Sherman Rachel Ashwell at The Prairie in Round Top forever HIC A wedding table set up in the barn of The Prairie A flea-market-find sideboard with original crackled patina Shabby Chic's Portobello chair- and-a-half Far left: A quiet, uncluttered slipcovered loveseat Left: More simple slipcovers in a ballroom Above: The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell, Round Top A living area at The Prairie, Ashwell's hotel in Round Top

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