Saturday, February 25, 2012

Musings on furniture replacement

This Duncan Phyfe-style sofa was reupholstered sometime in the late 60s/early 70s.  My mother, God love her, chose a cream/oyster brocade with tiny pale pink petit point roses instead of the ubiquitous avocado green or harvest gold velvet.

It's in very good condition - the upholstery is perfect, because of course, we were never allowed to actually *sit* on it, unless the preacher was over for dinner!  And it will fit, I think, with my new shabby French theme. I may grow bold and paint the dark wood, but am undecided at this point.

This is my current living room seating.  Rowe furniture, and also in excellent condition except the upholstery has reached the stage where it will never be completely clean.  I have no problem with that, because I plan on investing in white twill slipcovers.

What I think I am going to do is get rid of (donate/give away/sell) the larger sofa, and use the Duncan Phyfe piece in its place.  I think that with the slip-covered love seat (which is identical to the above piece, except it only has 2 cushions), it will be fine.  The Rowe pieces are so large and bulky - I think eliminating one and using the sleeker vintage piece will give the appearance of more room.  I won't be losing any "butt seats", either.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Dad's Yard

I turned 50 last June; my childhood home is actually two years older.  My parents moved from Wilmington NC to Jacksonville FL in 1959 when the Seaboard Coastline Railroad transferred its headquarters “down south”.

They bought this 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch home for about $10,000 if I remember correctly.  As you can see in these photos, it boasted a pretty standard, pretty barren suburban front (and back) yard.  That wouldn’t last very long.  My father had the gift of a green thumb.  Not just a pale minty green, but the deep rich green of collards and fig leaves and honeysuckle vines – all of which came to grow on that tract yard with a controlled abandon.

Our front yard boasted a ligustrum hedge, the shape of which was maintained to within an inch of its life with a plumb level and a pair of hedge trimmers you could probably have used to cut diamonds.  On the side of the house grew enormous poinsettia hedges at least 14 feet high.  For people in Northern climates who only see poinsettias at Giant around Christmas time, this would have been a revelation.  They were a vivid red that matched the PF Flyer sneakers I wore to tear around the yards.

The front yard also had crape myrtles with their dark pink flowers, an azalea hedge (also dark pink) along the front porch, forsythia bushes en mass along the far side of the house (they matched the color of paint chosen for the home), a huge magnolia tree (I remember the lemony-scented blossoms drooping in the hot summer sun), and a paw paw palm tree.  It was the perfect yard for hide-and-seek.

The back yard was not neglected either; more crape myrtles, a back hedge of ligustrum (perfect for hiding away from a pesky younger brother), alocasia (elephant ears), a banana tree (that actually bore bananas!) and a fig tree.   The most astounding area, though, was under my parents’ bedroom window.  Here were planted honeysuckle, night-blooming jasmine, mock orange, gardenias and camellias.  It was truly an  allergy-sufferer’s idea of Hell on earth, but my mother adored it.  When the windows were open on a summer night, the smell was lush and voluptuous.

We also had a vegetable garden where my dad grew collards and tomatoes and cucumbers and runner beans and the hot peppers he loved.  There was a box turtle in residence as well; we saved her from certain death trying to cross Old Kings Road.

I have only a few photos of the landscaping during the time I lived in the house, but the vivid colors and scents of the trees and flowering plants are alive and still flourish in my memory.

My father and I were never close.  He had a volatile temper and never really wanted children.  My mother, who wasn’t able to have children, wanted them desperately.  So in 1961 and 1963, respectively, my parents adopted me and my brother.  When my mother died in 1976, my father was left “holding the bag”, so to speak, and his Prussian methods of discipline soon slid into abuse, which I escaped when I left for the University of Florida on my 18th birthday.

He did give me my love of gardening and all things green.  No matter where I’ve lived, I’ve always had something green and alive around me.  There is nothing more relaxing or renewing than the smell of good soil and when it’s combined with the sharp scent of herbs or the funny nose-wrinkling odor of tomato plants, it’s just my idea of total Nirvana.   That part of my father will always be with me, and I am glad that it overshadows the negative.

I visited my old home when I was back in Florida in 2009 for my 30 year class high school reunion.  The subsequent owners (my dad moved from there in the late 1980s) have more or less decimated the landscaping to where it almost looks like 1961 again, and although  the ligustrum hedge is gone, the memory of a suburban childhood spent in the good company of nature and a yard of wonder will remain with me forever.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mama's Things

Some of the items I'm considering re-purposing came to me from my mother.  As I carefully consider whether to (A) change them and (B) *how* to change them, I think of her.

Born and raised in North Carolina, my mother was a true Southern belle - a Sherman tank disguised as a powder puff. She could bake anything, sew anything (most all of my clothes until I was a teen-ager, and in one instance, a very memorable Little Bo Peep Halloween costume - from scratch), and make you quake with fear by just raising her right eyebrow.

She loved beautiful things, and when she died right after my 15th birthday, those "things" took on new significance. The really special things are in my home now, and they help make my house a home.

When I look at her wedding china, I remember her carefully setting the table at Christmas time. Because of her, I know which fork to use when, and how to fold napkins. I use her pink Depression glassware in the summer because it reminds me of the azaleas outside our house in Jacksonville, and the hand-painted china baby cup she made me occupies a place of honor on my mantel. I love to look at the delicate forget-me-nots and I smile to think she made that for me, and true to the flowers she painstakingly applied, I have forgotten her not..even after 35 years.

I turned 50 last June, and I've lived to be older than my mother did. But she lives on in my memories - and in Mama's things.