Never set the table the same way twice


Just in case you missed my Monacelli Press Instagram takeover (@monacellipress), I will be posting twenty tips about ways to live creatively with heirlooms and antiques.


Tip 4: Never set the table the same way twice



If you never set the same table twice, you will find that you use everything you own, from the exalted silver punch bowl to the humble crystal saltcellar. Treat yourself and your guests by using sterling silver, antique china, embroidered linens, flatware with hand-carved horn handles, and brilliant cut glass on a regular basis. Entirely antique place settings are exquisite, but combinations of traditional and contemporary design are equally engaging. For this luncheon party, Charleston artist Marty Whaley Adams combines heirloom tableware and linens with Mexican stemware and crystal candlesticks. #setthetable #pastpresent


Buy the book now at AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Indiebound.

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Heirlooms on the Road: When and Where

Here’s a list of all the whistle stops for my traveling antiques and heirlooms road show. Please come if you’re in the area and celebrate with me the joy of living with heirlooms and antiques.


Thursday, May 5th, 6 PM

Charleston Library Society

Lecture & Book Signing

164 King Street, Charleston



Friday and Saturday, May 6& 7, 2:30 PM

Lecture & Book Signing

Hay House Spring Stroll of Macon Houses and Gardens

Macon, Georgia



Sunday, May 8, 1 to 5 PM

Book Signing

Black Sheep Antiques

39509 Highway 25, Harpersville, AL



Tuesday, May 10, 4 to 6 PM

In the Garden—A Garden Book Debut

Hosted by Mary Finch, Circa Interiors & Antiques and Flower magazine

2405 Henrietta Road


RSVP 205-868-9199


Wednesday, May 11, 5 to 7 PM

Book Talk and Signing

Edgar Reeves Lighting and Antiques

425 Peachtree Hills Avenue, Atlanta



Images from the Charleston and Macon events have already been posted. Here are a few from the Harpersville, Birmingham, and Atlanta.







Black Sheep Antiques is the latest venture of Barbara and Sonny Adkins, who also own a plantation house in nearby Chancellorsville that has been in Barbara’s family for four generations.  With a mix of family heirlooms and country antiques collected by Barbara and Sonny, the plantation’s interior provides a hint of the quality and style of pieces featured at their shop.







In addition to being a gifted interior decorator, Mary Finch also has a great eye for garden design and a passion for entertaining. The table she sets for garden parties demonstrates her talent for layering textures, colors, and patterns at home and for her clients.







The Atlanta condominium of Stephanie and Bill Reeves reveals the same eye for beauty and creative style that can be found at Edgar Reeves Lighting and Antiques, over which Stephanie presides.


Buy the book now at AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Indiebound.

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Use the Things You Love

Just in case you missed my Monacelli Press Instagram takeover (@monacellipress), I will be posting twenty tips about ways to live creatively with heirlooms and antiques.


Tip 3: Use the things you love


If you use the things you love, however disparate in style, period, or formality, you might just find that they get along. You love them, so why shouldn’t they find a way to love each other? When you use the things you love, you enhance the emotional depth of your home. Whether you purchased them from a store or inherited them and decided to keep them, these things are a reflection of you. Each room in my house expresses a different aspect of my personality. An eccentric combination of chairs—19th-century French slipper chairs in creamsicle tangerine and French art deco chairs with turquoise blue upholstery—reflect the gregarious side of my personality. I like all kinds of people—and chairs.  My bedroom is a serene retreat, and my office, an introverted library.

One of things I inherited is a milking stool that hails from my great-grandfather’s South Carolina cotton plantation. At first, I had absolutely no idea how to use it, and the piece was about ready to be relegated to an out of the way corner. One day I noticed that the French art deco chairs needed occasional tables next to them. I had a Moroccan style one I’d bought at a resale shop that worked well next to one of the chairs, but I didn’t know what to do about the other one. Then, when I was rearranging things in the house, I stumbled across the milking stool. It was the right size and height…so I tried it out and it looks fantastic. It has the lines of a primitive African table, and in fact, was probably made by an African slave.


I love the way it’s primitive lines look next to the sleek silhouette of the art deco chair. Every time I look at it I think about the family plantation, and what life must have been like on it. I remember stories told my grandmother, who grew up there. This is a perfect example of finding an unexpected way to use something you love which doesn’t seem to fit your home or your life. Give things time and let them tell you where they want to go.


Buy the book now at AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Indiebound.

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Silver makes everything better


Just in case you missed my Monacelli Press Instagram takeover (@monacellipress), I will be posting twenty tips about ways to live creatively with heirlooms and antiques.


Tip 2: Silver makes everything better


The rustic nature of my dining room in the Blue Ridge Mountains was one of the factors that informed my entirely misguided and thankfully short-lived decision not to accept my family’s multi-generational collection of fine tableware. The floor was tinted concrete and the windows framed with vinyl. But I discovered that once I dressed up the table, no one noticed the room’s shortcomings. People are delighted when they walk into your dining room and see a gorgeously set table, and there is nothing like a bit of silver to add to its drama. The eye travels to things that glitter, so if there’s something not quite right about the room, no one will notice. They’ll just be delighted by the beauty they perceive.


Last year, I was planning a relaxed summer luncheon for my friends. I decided to use plain white plates purchased at Target instead of china, because un-patterned places worked better a patterned tablecloth. This was definitely the case with the French block-printed fabric my sister had purchased in Provence as a birthday gift. Then I dressed things up, using silver water goblets and a centerpiece combining silver julep cups and baby cups of different sizes. Wild flowers gathered that morning on a walk with my dog were placed in the julep cups and, with the help of a little oasis, arranged into tiny bouquets in the baby cups. I chose my grandmother’s silver in the Etruscan pattern for the flatware because it’s clean, geometric pattern worked well with the tablecloth. Then I took a picture of it because it was just so pretty.


I love the way the silver cups reflect the pattern of the tablecloth. Etched wine glasses I found in an Asheville antique shop added another touch of simple elegance. Most of all, I was excited to find a way to use my silver baby cups. That’s one of the things we inherit that seem destined to languish in boxes, drawers, or the sideboard. I think they were really happy to brought back into the light.

Buy the book now at AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Indiebound.

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Magic in Macon

I’m taking my new book and hitting the road next week with lectures and book parties in Macon and Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham and Harpersville, Alabama. Please come if you’re in the area and celebrate the joy of living with heirlooms and antiques.

Macon—my first whistle stop—is one of my favorite Southern cities because of its beautiful 19th-century houses and lovely gardens. Discover Macon during the Hay House Spring Stroll of Macon Houses and Gardens from May 6th to 8th and come to one of my keynote lectures on May 6th and 7th at 2:30pm. For details, contact or call (478) 742-8155.

Macon is such a trove of fine architecture and antiques employed in highly individual interiors that I included three houses from the city in my book Past Present: Living with Heirlooms and Antiques. One is a spectacular Italian baroque style villa designed in the 1920s by revered Southern architects Philip Trammel Shutze and Neel Reid.

Today the villa is owned by Charlestonian Tommy Bennett, who has brought an eclectic and minimalist approach to decorating the house. “The architecture is so strong that it doesn’t need any jewelry,” he says.

An equally fascinating dwelling is composed of a mid 19th-century that was once Macon’s waterworks station. Present-day inhabitants preservationists Chris Howard and Carey Pickard have decorated the interior—where most walls are rugged brick—with gilt sconces, antiques both fine and simple, and a crystal chandelier.

They have also done extensive landscaping, taking advantage of the sloping site and cistern to create a dramatic garden with Italianate structure.

In an 1854 cottage on College Street, one of the richest veins of fine architecture in the city, artist Joe Adams and his wife Evelyn decorate with an eye to color, shape, and composition.

The front parlor gets a dose of bold style with a European tapestry, mounted Kudu head, gilded console with massive lions-paw feet, and collection of Chinese jars. The kitchen sitting room has a much quieter appearance, appropriate for sipping coffee and gradually awakening.

All of these houses are featured in my book and lecture, so if you like what you see, please come. And then you, too, can discover the magic of Macon!


Buy the book now at AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Indiebound.


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Lecture at The Charleston Library Society


Please join me for the inaugural event celebrating

Past Present: Living with Heirlooms and Antiques





Lecture and Booksigning on Thursday, May 5, 6:00 PM

The Charleston Library Society, 164 King Street

Charleston, South Carolina

(843) 723-9912





Providing a sneak peak inside my new book, the lecture will offer myriad ideas about how to integrate objects from the past into contemporary lifestyles, whether you live in a historic home, a modern high rise, or a suburban cottage. While the book is designed for readers of all ages, it’s the perfect piece of propaganda for every mother who wants to see the family heirlooms find a home. I love that it’s launching just before Mothers Day.





I also love that the inaugural event will take place at The Charleston Library Society. Established in 1748 by nineteen young gentlemen wishing to avail themselves of the latest publications from Great Britain, the library is one of the oldest cultural organizations in America. It is still one of Charleston’s most vibrant institutions, with lectures and exhibits on topics as widely varied as the collection’s books and archives.





The Charleston Library Society is definitely a place where the past meets the present in vibrant style. Furthermore, it has one of the few remaining card catalogs in the country. Talk about living with heirlooms and antiques!






Click here for more information about The Charleston Library Society.

 Please come to the lecture and buy the book there–proceeds from book sales benefit the library.

You can also buy the book at AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Indiebound.


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Find new ways to use old things


Just in case you missed my Monacelli Press Instagram takeover (@monacellipress), I will be posting twenty tips about ways to live creatively with heirlooms and antiques.


Tip 1: Find new ways to use old things


I enjoy pouring water from a silver pitcher. It’s so elegant and sensual. Somehow silver and water go together. I have a set of silver goblets and guests love sipping from them. Recently I was sitting in the backyard of my home in Charleston, South Carolina, on the bench my sister and I gave to my parents on the occasion of their 50th anniversary. I noticed an utterly delicious fragrance wafting on the breeze and discovered that the wisteria was in bloom. Some people think of wisteria as a pernicious plant because it’s invasive and, if unattended, engulfs trees and fences. But I’ve always loved it. Lavender is probably my favorite color. And the blooms hang from the vines with such languid grace.




Suddenly, I imagined filling a silver pitcher with wisteria blooms. I thought about how pretty the lavender petals would look against a silver surface. Into the house I ran and out came the pitcher from the silver closet and a pair of clippers.  Once I filled the pitcher with water and arranged the blooms to cascade from its rim, I realized I had transformed my water pitcher into a dramatic water feature. Arranged on top of a pretty linen placement, with a waterfall of pale blooms falling from its rim, the pitcher took on new life. This is just one example of how re-envisioning and repurposing a familiar piece can create a sense of drama and the unexpected.


Buy the book now at AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Indiebound.


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Antiques take over the World


I’ve loved antiques since I was a little girl. My mother entertained frequently and when she did she opened the sideboard to reveal a trove of treasures—a sparkling cut-glass celery dish, gold-rimmed saltcellars, and a wooden box with blue velvet lining holding a panoply of silver flatware. I helped set the table, caressing each piece while she recounted back-stories—cut glass collected by her mother; porcelain painted by my great-aunt Janie—who later became a scientist; silver given to my grandmother on the occasion of her wedding to a cowboy. (It didn’t last.) These things and the stories they told captivated my imagination. When no one was looking, I used to sit on the floor and open the sideboard—a chest filled with jewels of incalculable worth.



Fast forward to the present—a year in which I’ve inherited all these things and more. Over the generations, my family has dwindled in size and as a result I am the lucky recipient of nearly all the booty. When my mother moved into assisted living and began dispersing the heirlooms, I was living in a rustic cottage in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In a moment of temporary insanity, I nearly said no to the boatload of linens, china, silver, and crystal. Then I came to my senses and said YES to everything. My advice to anyone facing the same dilemma is Just Say Yes . . . and then figure how to use it all. If, over time you can’t find a way to employ something, save it for a wedding or christening gift. Your friends will be touched—even if they do end up selling it on Ebay.

In my efforts to use all the things I inherited in settings ranging from my mountain cottage to the mid-century brick house I now inhabit, I’ve come up with a lot of ideas. Dented silver baby cups make great containers for tiny bouquets and linen tea towels can be made into pretty pillows. But still, I was baffled about integrating many of these antique things into my modern, more casual lifestyle. That’s why I wrote my new book, Past Present: Living with Heirlooms and Antiques. Looking for inspiration, I sought out the experts—antiquarians, interior designers, collectors, and people who just know what to do with stuff. I learned innumerable tricks, ranging from how to mix antique and modern tableware, making intriguing wall arrangements, and displaying quirky pieces in bookshelves and on occasional tables. I love sharing these ideas in my book, my blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Talk about finding new ways to use old things!

Buy the book here.


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The Importance of Being Furnished

The importance of being furnished finds no greater expression than in the language of chairs—their arrangement for conversation, their comfort, their compatibility. There is infinite variety in the world of chairs—klismos chairs with saber legs, velvet slipper chairs with diminutive yet comfortable proportions, sleek art deco chairs, classic modern chairs with precisely limned lines. Each chair possesses its own personality—and the best thing is that chairs get along well with others, equally at home with like-minded colleagues and unexpected guests.





Madame chairwoman—interior designer and writer Florence de Dampierre—author of Chairs, Walls, and her most recent title French Chic Living, combines a masculine Empire chair by 19th-century American architect Benjamin Latrobe with a curvaceous French nursing chair designed to embrace a woman and her child. While the silhouettes of the two chairs are quite different, the dark lines of their wooden forms energize the lilac, lavender, and plum palette of the light filled conservatory.






Birmingham artist Ashley Spotswood and interior designer Mary Evelyn McKee give a pair of traditional wing chairs a contemporary look with a broad stripe of ivory linen offset by darker upholstery. Juxtaposed with an antique trestle table, chest of drawers, and cabinet, they appear crisp and modern.





Collectors of furniture made by the Dominy family, East Hampton’s revered 18th- and 19th-century furniture makers, Charles Keller and Glenn Purcell decorated their East Hampton getaway with pieces representative of that period. In the dining room, Dominy Empire furniture includes a rare set of six matched chairs, circa 1810. Arranged against a pale yellow wall, Dominy Queen Anne chairs with black paint and flat backs add strong, graphic lines to the room. Although dating from the same century and made by the same family, the distinctly different chairs engage in a lively dialogue, enhanced by a glimpse of a mid 20th-century leather club chair in the adjoining living room.





Style writer and editor David Feld and collector Kurt Purdy transformed a set of Brno chairs designed in 1934 by modernist designer Mies van der Rohe into sexy dining room chairs with napped velvet upholstery in a soft shade of gold. Once furnishing a corporate boardroom, the chrome and velvet chairs now grace an inviting dining room that also includes a 1980 Racetrack table designed by Joseph D’Urso and an 18th-century French trumeau mirror.


To learn more about these and other chair aficionados, take a seat and be an armchair traveler with my new book, Past Present: Living with Heirlooms and Antiques. Buy it now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Indiebound.




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Living with Heirlooms and Antiques




Not everyone knows how to live comfortably with antiques and heirlooms—especially more formal ones. We are tempted to treat them with awe and even anxiety—don’t use the “real” china…it might get chipped. Don’t sit in that chair…it’s a hundred years old…and it’s French! Don’t put that Directoire armchair next to the Danish modern one! They won’t go together.


When I recently inherited a wildly varied assemblage of furniture, fine tableware, and art, and began integrating them into my life, those don’ts began whispering in my ear. But I countered them with a new set of rules. The first was never to assume that one thing doesn’t go with another. It just might. Life is full of texture and surprise, and so should be your home.


My next rule is to be glorious greedy. Use everything you have and revel in it. Set the table until it groans. Try out every whatnot, oddment, and bibelot on every available surface. Keep adding chairs of different shapes and styles to a room until you discover by experience what really does look good together, when enough is enough, or that there is no such thing as too much.


The best way to learn something new is from other people who are doing it well—each in a different way. That’s why I wrote my new book, Past Present: Living with Heirlooms and Antiques (The Monacelli Press, April 2016), traveling from East Hampton, New York, to Central Texas in search of the experts. Architects, interior designers, magazine editors, collectors, house-freaks, history lovers, and people who just have a lot of stuff and know what to do with it—each one taught me something new about living with heirlooms and antiques. Now I am happy to share these insights with you in my new book and blog. Here are just a few things I’ve learned.




Shelter magazine writer and editor David Feld and Kurt Purdy combine mid-century modern chairs by Paul Frankl with a mahogany reproduction Regency table and contemporary photographic prints by Marc Quinn. The result is surprisingly compatible and inviting.




Historic preservationists Carey Pickard and Chris Howard cover a tilt-top table with small objects grouped by color. “But what is more important to us is the relationships between these things and memories they hold,” Pickard says.




Rhoda Brimberry and Anna Crelia of Loot Vintage Rentals in Austin, Texas ( intermix several floral patterns of china and pressed glass goblets to create a dressed-down dressed-up table setting. Fresh apple place-card holders make this inviting table even more, well, fresh!


Now that we’ve tabled this topic, chairs will be next. Vive la difference!



Flower magazine ( publisher Margot Shaw brings new life to a reproduction French chair with a shiny coat of spring-foliage green paint and tulip-purple upholstery.

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