Storm Art…

EF959F8E-EC91-4F0C-A7F6-A160946C6A03The South often finds herself in the path of storms… just recently Hurricanes Florence and Michael came blowing through leaving a path of destruction- it’s heartbreaking, takes the wind out of your sails when the sun comes out and shines a bright spotlight on the damage. The first time we went to New Orleans after Katrina- we took a tour through storm ravaged parts of the city and visited a museum with an haunting installation hanging from the ceiling, made of recovered dirt streaked bottles and hand blown blue glass hands reaching down as a reminder of the many hands who reached into the flood waters and rescued survivors along with recovery of bodies and debris. After that season of terrible storms along the Gulf Coast it wasn’t unusual to see Storm Art…street vendors and fine artists who made things of beauty from parts of the wreckage, somberly beautiful reminders of terrible times,  the will to survive and the determination to survive.

F00B3A49-1980-4532-8316-5AD8A5092771One, internationally acclaimed artist, Nall, who hails from Troy, Alabama created masterpieces from pieces of wood, bits of fine art gilded frames and beautiful prints collaged together in ways that evoked sad memories wrought into beauty. In 2016, while we were in Fairhope – a beautiful small town on Mobile Bay… strolling around the town we came upon an art gallery and wandered in to look around. Nall, himself was in residence- all alone with his tiny dogs.

 

We were enthralled by his art and his colorful eccentric personality as he spoke of his work and many other things with passion. Nall’s work was known to me- I had seen several pieces of his work hanging in the historic Grand Hotel on Point Clear nearby. I had admired it for years, never dreaming we would actually meet the man who created the Storm Art.  Now, I’m absolutely no Nall, however, I was inspired to create something- anything from a storm and make my own version of Storm Art. Sure enough, inspiration struck when, a year or so ago- a small tree was uprooted by a storm, in our yard. The mud was washed away from the trunk and it was sawed off to about table height. Then the drying out process took several months.

A6D82638-1BDE-4744-B3E3-ECA61A250F38With a small pot of silver and another of bronze glaze- I set out to make the uprooted stump into something useful and hopefully beautiful. A friend helped me find a lightweight tray to put on top- I loved this tray whether it worked or not. To tell you the truth, I wanted a thicker rim for the top and still hope to find one! While I’m not entirely satisfied now, when I do find the perfect top- this tray will be useful and beautiful. Still.  In an effort to finish my tree stump project- I’ve temporarily attached the tray and the result delights me.

DF77ADE9-E022-47D3-9D5E-4D540C7ECE81Nall would probably laugh out loud- oh, maybe not- he encourages budding artists with his workshops- such an incredible man. Yet, for now… my silvered tree trunk plant stand pleases me- with it’s jumbo fern…a touch of whimsy indoors which perks up the gray days and makes me have hope. Imagine. My Storm Art has become a plant stand!

9F228F00-09BA-400A-8EEC-54E4487B98E9I might not love the problems of storms… yet I can learn to love beauty born of trouble. Storm Art, if you will. Repurposing debris is an old art form…undertaken in the calm after a storm. Our hearts remain with those who are continuing to recover from recent storms and heartache.

Love y’all, Camellia

*You won’t want to miss seeing more art by Nall and reading more about him! You can find him at www.artistnall.com Amazing! We were inspired and honored to meet him!

*All photographs of Storm Art are obviously mine. A huge thanks to Nall, who gave me permission to take his photograph and the others in his studio- which in no way does justice to his fine art.

Mapping the Stars…

3A869F57-07D9-43FC-9044-D6F6B40D9AF8Stars… we all love them. Songs have been written… Ships have found their way.. Poems have been penned. Wise Men found a Savior. Proposals have been offered. Sacred Vows have been made. Lullabyes have been softly sung… It seems mankind has been starstruck from the cradle onward through musical scores, love songs, hymnals and anthems across life’s precious moments, star strewn sidewalks, storm tossed seas and flag draped coffins.  What is it about stars that fascinates, inspires and moves us? Pinpoints of light in the dark night sky- constellations traced with chubby fingers, comets eagerly awaited and falling stars amaze. I’ll admit it- I love the stars and do watch in awesome wonder; I like nothing better than to describe someone with starry eyes or recognize something special in a young child and say- ‘A star is born!’

7FD3AE7D-373D-44EC-B313-6AD08B43563EWhen Star Mapper and artist, Jennifer Beck, contacted Camellia’s Cottage about her amazing star maps at Modern Map Art and asked us for a review of her star strewn maps, I didn’t hesitate as I often do, since we do very few product reviews.  One look at her website’s ‘astronomical software used by a planetariums that generates the actual sky at a particular time or place’ from the past or even the future- well, I was starstruck. And it didn’t hurt that they had been on NBC’s Today Show promoting their wonderful designs! When I accessed their website, I had so much fun putting in important dates- birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and more. I thought how impressive a whole wall of family birthdays would be; I imagined a dorm room with a star map entitled ‘Reach for the Stars’ , now that would inspire a young college student! And what fun it would be to give an engaged couple a futuristic sky map of their wedding night- my imagination was in overdrive.

7FEC38F6-B6BA-4253-8B5E-D776D1173DE6Ultimately, I created a Custom Night Sky of an important date to me- and had it titled ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’.  I could have added the constellations to the night sky with their amazing software, I chose the simpler night sky. Camellia’s Cottage is mostly traditional in design, though I do like a bit of contemporary art and had been looking for something different. I was so excited at the possibilities. When the Star Map arrived a few days ago- the paper was sturdy and high quality, the lettering and design is crisp and the border is a nice touch too. I couldn’t wait to try it in a few places even before it was framed! Now, the hard part! I need to decide where my Custom Night Sky will find it’s permanent home!

I hope you will visit their website- Modern Map Art . When you get to the site- go to star maps and just have fun creating your very own star maps of important dates! They have lots of options and while ours is the largest size at 24″ x 36″ – there are lots of sizes from small to large. The prices for custom art from Modern Map Art is very reasonable and would make great gifts for your family and friends. Christmas in July may be over…still.  It’s never too early to start thinking about the holidays and all of those stars in your life!

9855BCFF-92BD-4B1E-A675-6F2DC8BE143FWe try very hard at Camellia’s Cottage to recommend only those products or services we would personally use. Modern Map Art certainly met our standards! A huge thank you to Jennifer Beck and her team at Modern Map Art for creating our special poster! And, I’ll show it to you again when I get it framed and installed.

‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ might be a big band song, though it really did happen here, and the Saturn V missile was built right here in Alabama to take folks to the moon. Alabama is where Music and Movie stars are part of our history, yet every time a baby is born- we also believe in those tiny twinkling starry miracles!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.  The Star Map is, blush…of my wedding anniversary’s night sky. I’ll admit I have a hankering to order even more – the birthdates of my own children who’ve played a starring role in our lives and of important occasions when I might not recall the beautiful night skies! Modern Map Art is a wonderful resource for star maps, city maps, city skylines and more! The poster they provided to Camellia’s Cottage for review will have a starring role here for years to come!

Freshen up for Fall, y’all…

60B3C876-BBFB-4CA2-8F15-9308077EBA05In the South, when we start saying- ‘It’s nice outside!’ The Fall days have cooled down, all of that Daylight has been saved…it signals a time when I want to Freshen up for Fall indoors and out… The Cottage is small but has a good many windows which tends to expand the space visually, bringing the Outdoor Views inside. It’s a fact, that if the foliage outside is still lush and green, the sofa pillows have hints of green too; when the foliage is thinner and more colorful– I want to make changes indoors, bring out cozy throws and warm up the color palette. When abundant Fall Vegetables, Fruits and Holiday Foods start showing up too- It’s time to Freshen up for Fall, y’all!6A21141C-7353-4783-B49E-7684D565E3B7

I spent some time last week clearing out and taking inventory of the pantry and freezer to shop here for meals, already in the freezer and take advantage of grocer’s sales on-

  • Turkeys, Corn Meal  and Grits-
  • Sugars- brown and white
  • Apples, Pears, Peppers and Pecans too.
  • (The signature sign of a good Southern hostess, is a bowl of Toasted Pecans!)

While I was clearing out inside– the sunny cool days beckoned me outdoors more than once! A year ago, we visited the historic Grand Hotel near Fairhope, Alabama.. the abundant colorful arrangements in the foyer were stunning. I wanted recreate them here -if space allowed!67EC36D1-1C1B-4DC2-942B-24461F95947C

It doesn’t. Still. Outside here at the cottage- the sky’s the limit! So, here’s what we did-

  • Inside, we cleared off counters, cleaned out pantry and fridge, used what we had on hand and freshened up while still taking advantage of the abundance of Fall. We cozied up the sofas and chairs with a few throws and a big bowl filled with Fall Fruits and Vegetables.75DE720A-8EF3-4F07-A761-CCDA5F945125
  • We looked outside and made note of the views. It’s still nice outside, so why put up the outdoor cushions when we still have a few weeks to enjoy it? We can keep the cushions and a paisley throw nearby inside for reading or relaxing. We pulled terra cotta pots and urns in closer-still lush with summer Ferns and a big pot of dark Coleus clustered beside the chaise. At the same time? We improved the view from indoors- the cozy cluster outside is hiding bare rose branches and hydrangeas no longer at their peak.701DC1D7-5A1C-4F12-B6FA-8AF9E668EE65
  •  Over the sink, the kitchen window overlooks an ironwork table and chairs…now bare from summer’s plants or arrangements- we put a big pot of fat Mums and some faux white baby pumpkins in a galvanized tub to brighten the view from inside while taking advantage of a dogwood beginning to change from summer’s green to Fall’s Brilliant Red. 00323B39-22B4-49A5-810F-3F9830B7659C
  • *Note: Most faux pumpkins are a better fit for continuous outdoor use. Bring them in if you’re expecting a downpour! Don’t be afraid to mix faux and real in arrangements or fruit bowl.  Abundance is key. Real baby pumpkins and gourds will stay fresh a while longer if refrigerated- hopefully ’til Thanksgiving!
  • In another area- we set up a Big Disguise. Where a tree had to be removed is a big bare hole not yet ready for re-planting… 2901D58C-9A8A-4702-92EF-3234D01CFFA6
  • In front of the railing, we set up a temporary Fall scene using a small Fire Pit and a Flea Market Ironwork Container with a faux candle. Take a look! 0E5D3182-3D2C-4B06-B62D-197656DE011DNow, while it’s not as grand as the famous Grand Hotel… it’s a big scale arrangement that was fun to assemble with some fresh Magnolia Leaves, swept up fallen leaves, Nandina Berries, vines and bundles of twigs. D4EC8D16-8657-4329-9C2D-8BF040BC8EE1
  • This arrangement, using what we had on hand- is whimsical, improves the outside and freshens up the view from inside Camellia’s Cottage for now, as we prepare to enjoy Fall!

I’d love to know- How do you Freshen up your cottage or castle for Fall?

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

*The photographs of large scale floral arrangements were taken at the Grand Hotel and Spa in Point Clear, Alabama- beautiful all year round… Well over 100 years old, The Grand is a Stately Southern Lady lounging on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, Alabama. Everyone should try to visit at least once in a lifetime! It is now part of the resort collection of Marriott® Hotels.

Words are powerful…

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Words are powerful. Fifteen years ago, a grand lady who sits among ancient bearded live oaks taught me a lesson about words. I brought that lesson home to Camellia’s Cottage. Over and over, words have proven to be a powerfully quiet presence here and there. Often I am reluctant to share these things in a print, for some reason I feel compelled to share the lesson of words with you now. Built at Point Clear, Alabama in the 1840’s, the Grand Hotel has been a beloved place almost all of my life- it sprawls across an area of astonishing beauty, among trees that must be over a hundred years old- live oaks with gray Spanish moss; to go there is to experience the finest Mobile’s Eastern Shore has to offer to visitors. The Grand Hotel has known her share of hardships; she has been battered by war, hurricanes and upheavals. Yet she was always beautiful. As she gracefully aged along those shores inevitably the historic hotel needed repairs and upgrades, not unlike Camellia’s Cottage. Added in 2002, the Spa at the Grand Hotel has consistently been one of the highest ranked Spas by Conde Nast and other travel guides. I am not surprised by these rankings – I was there the very first year-when the paint was barely dry, when those who had helped build and staff the Spa were still around to tell about it. I recall exclaiming to the Spa Manager- ‘This is the most peaceful place I have ever been.’ Now, that’s sayin’ something- Point Clear is one of the most peaceful places on earth; yet every time I have been at the Grand Hotel- with it’s wonderful food, bonafide botanical gardens, sitting regally on Mobile Bay…why is it that windowless inner Spa seems so incredibly filled with embracing warmth, pervading peace, quiet hospitality and a spiritual ethereal atmosphere? The Manager told me that before the floors were laid, before the walls were installed and while the rafters of the Spa were still exposed, she asked her team to write their best words, quotes and phrases on the raw wood. img_2278

She strongly believed words are so powerful that even if those written words are covered with tile, carpet, sheetrock, paint and plaster- the unseen words would radiate through the interior of the windowless Spa. I believed her. I kept those words in my heart for five years before I acted on them. Ancient Scripture attests to the power of Words, we know the written word is especially powerful, think of a Handwritten Note as opposed to a quickly muttered ‘Thank you’– which is more powerful? I wanted hidden handwritten words to be part of my home. Let me be clear, this cottage is not historical, it is not sprawling across acres of bay front property, but it was aging and needed to be renovated. Oddly enough, in the same year the Grand Hotel Spa manager had shared her wisdom of powerful words, I had already started an assessment at home by going into each room, writing down what I liked about each room and how each room made me feel. Here is what I wrote about the Front Entry:

  • The front door faces harsh western heat and light
  • The foyer is cramped, dreary and dark
  • It isn’t a welcoming entrance-
  • No matter what I’ve done to improve it, all of these years the front entrance is the space I most dislike.

I made furious notes about the problem of the Front Entrance and decided the Renovations would begin in there. Five years later, according to my notes,

  • we would remove the foyer wall to install a wide opening into the living room,
  • we would grab a mere 18 inches from an old laundry/storage room behind the foyer wall-
  • we would add additional lighting

On and on…until truly the Entry was stripped down to gaping holes, studs, subflooring and rafters. Recently, I found the journal account of those notes- I had written a prayer before renovation began-

‘Oh Lord, You have said, ‘Do all that is in your heart to do’ and ‘Do not neglect the gift that is in you’. Let me get this renovation right! Call forth the gifts!  As I recall in Your Word, when the Tabernacle was being built, artisans, craftsmen and carpenters were called in. The workmen have been called in here- bring forth the plan, bring forth their gifts!. Let me get this right! Guide my thoughts, ‘gift’ me. Help me write the vision for this space, for You have said- ‘Write the vision and make it plain…’ Bring forth the gifts of light, wisdom and hospitality for this place. Amen.

The next page in the journal has the detailed vision and drawings. The work began. Walking through the rubble- bare rafters and all, I recalled the wisdom of the Grand Hotel Spa. Over a 3 day weekend while the workmen were gone- I wrote words, phrases, quotes, scriptures on every bare surface- on the ceiling rafters, the wall studs, even a section of subflooring beneath the front door! img_2279

My notes say- ‘Write words where they will not be seen- words of peace, love, joy, hospitality, friendship, safety, shelter, compassion, mercy, welcome, come back soon.’  Some of my favorite passages of Scripture were included-

  • ‘The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord lift His Face to shine upon you and grant you peace.’
  • ‘I am come that they might have life and have it in abundance.’
  • ‘I, the Lord God, have loved you with an everlasting love.’
  • ‘Welcome strangers into your midst, for some in so doing have entertained angels unaware.’
  • ‘Beloved if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.’

Now, I’m sure the workmen thought they were working for an eccentric at the very least. The words are now covered up, unseen. I kept a sample of words I wrote on a board that was removed from the old foyer, but if you come to Camellia’s Cottage, I can’t show you anything more than a bare ceiling, walls and floors. The results of the powerful words are known.img_2280

The Entry feels larger and more open than it actually is, there is an abundance of natural light. My assessment now would be that the Entry is one of my favorite spaces in the whole Cottage.  The total renovation of the cottage lasted close to five years. When the Entry was finished enough to welcome folks, regularly I would hear, ‘This house is so peaceful.’ The choice of words are almost the same ones I used so long ago at the Grand Hotel Spa. Personally when I come in the front door or just walk through the Entry- unseen words continue to set the tone and inspire me. The cottage is not grand, it is home. Words are powerful, even unseen, unspoken. Words do make a difference.

Love y’all, Camellia

For more information about the Grand Hotel – go to https://www.marriott.com/spas/ptlal-grand-hotel or in your search engine put Marriott Grand Hotel in Point Clear Alabama- Marriott manages this historic hotel property which is owned by Retirement Systems of Alabama and is part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail the Spa at the Grand Hotel was ranking #1 for 2009,2010, 2011 in the Marriott Guest Satisfaction and in the top 100 spas by Conde Nast

Opening photograph of the grounds of the Grand Hotel are mine- as are the others

Decorating the Southern Home…

imageNo matter what the budget is, Southerners love to decorate their homes at Christmas! A beautiful Christmas tree, a wreath on the door, family heirlooms or sentimental ornaments gathered throughout the years and fresh poinsettias are particularly well suited to the Southern home. The very best holiday decorating includes the home’s year round décor worked in with special holiday touches. Pine is a particularly Southern fragrance, they grow prolifically in the South, and we all love to gather pinecones. I personally love Loblolly Pinecones- perfectly formed or Longleaf pinecones- huge and beautiful. Gathering pinecones to pile in a basket feels just right at Christmas.

The beautiful photographs represent two homes where budget is not a consideration, however we all love to be inspired by Southern beauty wherever we find it.

I hope it puts you in the I’ll be Home for Christmas Mood– if only in your dreams. I am so proud to tell you that my sister supervised the decorating of the gorgeous tree in the top photograph I enhanced her photograph- and the rest are from her very own home! Also edited and enhanced by me…now, really y’all- it sure is pretty! She is an amazing decorator with impeccable taste in her home and beyond and the epitome of a sweet, spunky, smart Southern Lady!

Love y’all, Camellia

*The photograph of the Longleaf Pine may be subject to copyright, the sized pinecones photograph is from www.mr.lsu.edu -*please note a Longleaf Pinecone is very large often up to 9 inches in length, the Loblolly pinecone photograph is my own photograph. The personal photographs should not be used without permission!

Fall Wreaths…

imageFall Wreaths are an essential transition from summer to harvest, on Southern doors and interiors you will find wreaths and arrangements gleaned from yards and gardens. From the cradle to the grave, Southern ladies insist that:

  •  Knowing a good florist is essential, especially if you don’t happen to have a green thumb or know anyone who does. Please do this by recommendation- if you visit a florist that bases the business on lots of glitter, tinted carnations, specializes in funeral wreaths shaped like golf carts, makes holiday arrangements with canned snow and plastic snowmen  or Horror of all Horrors mostly uses artificial flowers– with as much grace as you can muster, tiptoe backwards out of that shop and run- don’t walk away. Resolve to never darken the door of that place again! It can only lead to social embarrassment.
  • Being in a Garden Club trains ladies in the fine arts of arranging flowers, especially yard flowers for their homes. Being on the Altar Committee of your church is a labor of love and if you have a member who makes an offering of artfully designed yard flowers all the better. Working Garden Club Holiday Houses is not for the faint of heart- it is as rigorous as SEC Spring Training! Beautification of your community is considered  an act of love and devotion as long as you do it with a stylish garden hat and matching gloves; are able to merely glow and grow, without breaking a sweat!
  • The very height of a Southern lady’s repertoire is to actually grow flora and fauna in her yard to use for home décor and special events. Any time there are especially auspicious occasions you can find florally talented ladies roaming all over yards that are known to have seasonal specialties, snipping and trimming from yard to yard to get up enough for a yard arrangement, which is highest form of floral gentility, good taste and refinement.

Fall Wreaths are part of the genteel Southern tradition. If you don’t actually have a granddaddy who owns a cotton farm, well- at least you can round up some cotton to make a Fall Wreath to grace your interiors or front doors. Cotton Wreaths are highly prized in Alabama. I fashioned my own wreath from cotton grown in the George Washington Carver Garden at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which was given to me as a gift from the gardeners. I had my husband go to an actual cotton farm and chop cotton for me so that friends and family could have their own! Be sure and leave the ’empty cotton bolls’ on the stems- they are called Southern Stars!wreath

Fine gentlemen consider it a privilege to grow Muscadines even if the deer eat all of them before anyone gets enough to actually make a pot of jelly! Southern men might dream of Muscadine Wine but he knows the ladies will appreciate the vines for their Fall Wreaths, even if his vines aren’t successful that year. img_0120-2

Herb boutonnieres are a wonderful addition to weddings and funerals- Granddaughters of a large family I know, fashioned herb badges for family members- Rosemary for Remembrance and Lavender for Love and Devotion, for the visitation and then a few months later, they planted Rosemary and Lavender behind the gravestone. I know one lady who knew that a prominent member of the community would be wall to wall with funeral stands on his behalf. She decided to cut and wrap a massive arm bouquet of fresh rosemary to be presented to the widow at the gravesite- it was a sweet gesture of remembrance. Fall Wreaths can be made from fresh herbs and hung to dry for snipping later, Southerners love this idea. I admit to having fresh basil drying in my pantry as we speak, shamefully I did not fashion it into a Fall Wreath. However, months before a nightly nip in the air arrived, I cut and filled big galvanized tubs with hydrangeas which are drying for Fall Wreaths and filling baskets here at Camellia’s Cottage.

imageThis weekend, get outside and wind up some Vines, some of the most beautiful Fall Wreaths I have ever seen were made from Kudzu vines! Morning glory vines also make wonderful wreaths… even cuttings of long flexible shrub branches wind up in a quirky sort of way….the wreath on top of the white chest at the end of this post was made from Fresh Gardenia shrub growth- it just happened to dry into a glorious shade of brown, I added cotton to it, to make a Fall Wreath. It is one of my favorite wreaths. You can also purchase grapevine wreaths and stick rose hips, herbs or dried pods and berries along with magnolia leaves for a stunning Fall Wreath- you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot of decorating magic. Go ahead and embrace the imperfection of yard finds. And please remember the advice from our Southern ladies- Yard flowers are the most loving, because they are a part of who we are.

Love y’all, Camellia. image

All of these less than perfect photographs are shamefully mine.

Black Doors…

 

 

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‘High Gloss Black Doors add a note of luxury to your home…’ Heather Bates, Allied ASID

 When the renovations began on Camellia’s Cottage in 2012,  a neutral color scheme of French gray, shades of white and linen was chosen, punctuated by Black Doors inside and out.  The house is an older home, built in the 1980’s- it didn’t have high ceilings or fine molding. The floors were pine but not fine flooring, they had already been painted black with Behr™ Porch and Floor paint and covered with sisal rugs. When the black floors began to get scuffed and look old, I loved them more. The plan was to open up the entire downstairs to make the small cottage feel spacious and let in lots of natural light.  The Chinese have long associated color with certain physical attributes- neutral colors seem to create stability, inner balance, health and nourishment- these are the colors of the Earth. Black is also neutral, but Asian design has always associated Black with abundance, mystery, sophistication and even wealth. Black doors are timeless, so far- black doors have been in vogue a long time, many historic buildings and humble homes have used black doors. The odd thing about black doors is they are both reserved and fashionable at the same time, often paired with black shutters and white exteriors._DSC0264_NEF

 Virginia based designer Heather Bates agrees- ‘…black doors add a note of luxury to your home. The wealthy have known this for a long time.’ Coco Chanel used her favorite colors shades of beige, white and black, in her clothing and in her apartment. Iconic Chanel™ shops still use black doors and white exteriors.

chanel-687460_640Camellia’s Cottage cannot aspire to the high level of Chanel™ in this humble dwelling, however we could use some of her sensibility even in our own scheme. The look is crisp and clean, the neutrals add warmth and calm. Let me show you some of what we did:

 

A crisp white bathroom, with marble tile floors is elevated with a black door, the handrails and stair treads were painted black, to make the ceilings appear higher – white trim was run up to the ceilings to mimic transoms, French doors were painted black- they allow light to stream in but aren’t oppressive, and a guest bath had a small window installed between studs inside to let in light. Black door adds sophistication to an otherwise small and plain opening. We had to replace the front door- it had been black for years but this time we added a new door knocker from Pottery Barn®, a nickel plated kickplate and hardware to set off the front porch which is painted gray- flanked by two matte black urns.

*Please have your door installed by a professional! Your local building supply company usually offers installation services. Home Depot® sold us the door, charged a minimal amount for installer, who discovered a few issues we needed to address so the installation would be done right. Because the oil paint our painter suggested was not extremely high gloss we added a clear top coat of polyurethane. Now after all of this serious decorating advice- let me just say, I love our black doors, they are wonderful to dress up this not very fine house and a bonus- black doors disguise fingerprints! However, black doors might not work in every home- or even have the desired effect you want for your home. Now, I have to add a little bit of Alabama before I let you get back to what you were doing…I was honored to work for several years for Leaf and Petal at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens- the head gardener told me he was going to discard the cotton grown in the George Washington Carver Garden- I asked and he delivered the load of cotton to my car. I hauled it home and made a big wreath from my husband’s muscadine vines which is adorned with this very special Alabama Cotton! I hung it today…image

Now, ain’t that purdy? Thanks for stopping by Camellia’s Cottage. Please  visit my talented friend, Heather Bates at her beautiful design website-www.heatherbates.com (I know she could have made our space even better!). If you’re down this way- visit the beautiful Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Leaf and Petal (also at their website- www.leafnpetal.com) I hope we’ve inspired you, I know you’re getting your Front Door ready for the holidays and even for tiny trick or treaters like I am- tell me some your inspiration, too! From our nest to yours-image

Love y’all, Camellia

All images are mine- except the old home, which was photographed by Jeremy Miniard, who is always so generous with his photographs for us, see his work at www.jeremy.miniard.fineartofamerica !The AOL image of  the Chanel Building may be subject to copyright.

Alabama Marble…

What do these three handsome men have in common? The man in the middle is Giuseppe Moretti , the sculptor of Birmingham’s Vulcan and the ‘Head of Christ’ which is on display at Vulcan Park after residing at the Alabama Archives and History Building in Montgomery for many years. While Moretti, an Italian immigrant, was working on Vulcan he discovered a treasure trove of marble in Sylacauga, Alabama and sculpted the Head of Christ.Alabama Marble is said to be the whitest marble in the world. Moretti loved working with it more than his native Italian Carrera Marble. The first recorded industry in Alabama was in 1834, which was to quarry marble from Sylacauga, which continues to produce the highly prized marble to this day. m-5120-marble-in-the-1930sMany historic places in Alabama and the United States use this beautiful marble.

  • Courthouses all across the state, the Alabama Capitol Building
  • The Brown Marx Building, Birmingham Trust National Bank
  • The interior of the John Hand Building and countless city halls, privately owned homes and even cemeteries used Alabama Marble.
  • The beautiful Louisiana Supreme Court, the Somerset County Courthouse in New Jersey, the United States Supreme Court interior
  • The Old Chicago Main Post Office, the Alexander Hamilton Custom House in Manhattan, the Dime Savings Bank in Brooklyn, an the Historic City Hall in Philadelphia-

All have Alabama Marble -and that’s not all! Look at the beautiful translucent ceiling in the Lincoln Memorial. What you are looking at is Alabama Marble, glowingly beautiful at night.

Look at Gutzan Borghum’s bust of Lincoln found in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol- Borgham said the texture of Alabama Marble allowed him to portray the kindness of Lincoln’s face- something he had never been able to achieve with other types of marble. In the early part of the 21st century, Alabama Marble made a comeback in home interiors-especially kitchens. kitchen-with-alabama-marble

When we began renovation of the kitchen here at Camellia’s Cottage- a large portion of the budget went toward the kitchen. The old kitchen had very little counter space- the new plan was a U shaped countertop- in place of the L shape- with the refrigerators on the opposite wall along with a marble topped sink and coffee station– I had increased the square footage of the countertops by over 25 square feet! Now, the budget could stand only so much stretching- I wanted Alabama Marble, however the cost had gone up.  Alabama Marble was over $120 per sq.ft. as opposed to Italian Carerra Marble which was $90 per sq.ft.- and that was before adding in the cost of countertop removal, installation and taxes!  I made the hard choice to go with Italian Carerra Marble- as representative of the Marble Industry in Alabama. Nothing beats marble for elegance and tradition– it’s also heat resistant and stays cool – a big bonus in a Southern Kitchen!

As you can see, Italian Carerra is not as white as Alabama Marble- however the pale gray went with my overall neutral color scheme. Now, I have to tell you-  the contractors, kitchen designer and others tried to talk me out of getting marble countertops; it is softer than granite- it can stain and the biggest problem is etching. I have to admit that I wanted to keep it showroom perfect at first! It’s sort of like aging folks- when you find that first wrinkle, you sort of panic. I know I did. Marble countertops are not for everyone.

As mine slowly etched, I tried to avoid it, then- I read articles by interior designers who had installed marble countertops in their own kitchens- one said he couldn’t wait until his got some age on it- others said to embrace the etching as part of the patina of age. Another had purposely bought old marble and another said she wanted hers to age so it would look like her grandmother’s kitchen in Italy. So, here I am four years since it has been installed and I have to say- it is like aging, you can either fight it every single day or you can embrace the natural beauty of stages of real life. My kitchen can’t compare with those you see in magazines, but everyday I think of this house which holds so many good memories and the food I prepare for the people I love– none of us are perfect, some of us have aged- Marble is a daily reminder to embrace life’s best moments, to stay true to my roots and love it- to embrace the patina of age.

Love y’all, Camellia

Check out- www.encylopediaofalabama.org for more information about Alabama Marble. Images for photographs of Vulcan, Head of Christ, and Giusseppe Moretti and other vintage photographs are from Sylacauga Marble in Wikipedia. The Kitchen photograph is one I saved for my own renovation and is from Birmingham Home and Garden Magazine, I believe. Some may be subject to copyright and if so I will gladly credit these photographs or remove them.

Native Neutrals…

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Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Interiors with neutral color schemes are my favorite. They are peaceful, calm and soothing. Perhaps the first lengthy discussion I remember having about interior design was at Bon Secour Bay outside of a restaurant named Meme’s. The driveway into this delicious dive was of whole and crushed oyster shells. I think I might have been 14 years old. My best friend and I got into a hilarious conversation of how we could use oyster shells as décor in the home. We  thought perhaps as salt dishes, beside a dinner plate to hold a few pats of butter, lemon wedges or even as powder room soap dishes; maybe a container by the kitchen sink to hold our rings. Of course it was all silly- but oysters hold a sweet spot in our hearts- where else do you think our love for pearls comes from? And just look at the beauty of the neutral colors found in oysters!

I am a native of Alabama, these are the neutral colors that I love.  A whole color scheme can be found in an humble oyster. Our families had met at Meme’s to watch the shrimp and oyster boats come in at sunset and to partake of some of the most memorable seafood I ever recall. And believe me, if you live in the Deep South- with all of its bayous and rivers, bays, streams and the magnificent Gulf of Mexico-you know your seafood! Alabama Seafood is some of the world’s finest!

Meme’s started out as an oyster bar. Oysters have romantic notions ascribed to them- probably because Casanova was said to have eaten dozens and dozens of the oysters daily. I knew a big ol’ logger named Bud– from South Alabama who had huge burlap bags of oysters brought up to his camp every Friday to feed his men- Bud said ‘Oysters keep their pencils sharp’…I was never sure what he meant by that. I can tell you this- Bud the logger wouldn’t take any prizes for dancing! He would hoist the women up off their feet and haul them around the dance floor like a stick of pulpwood! Oysters have a more genteel word that describes them best- Peacemakers.

Bon Secour Bay is in part a state refuge area, it is a small peaceful town of less than 1000 people, Meme’s of Bon Secour- was destroyed by Hurricane Fredrick in 1979 and was never rebuilt- Alabama Wild Shrimp is a point of pride for the bay area. Bon Secour was originally a French fishing village and it’s name means safe harbor. And isn’t that what we want for our homes? To be a refuge from the storms of life and the one safe place we can count on? Blessed are the peacemakers, the backdrop for all of the colors life brings.

Several years ago, we began renovating…I had always used color– navy, leaf green even peach with blue ribbons or periwinkle blue for girlish bedrooms-always with white trim. I had become weary of so much color, I have after all, led a pretty colorful life filled with colorful people. Colorful is a southern term for…well, a nice way of talking about folks and events that are full of personality and generous with memorable stories. Native Neutral interiors are fabulous hosts for colorful folks!  When the renovation began- for inspiration I turned to our roots-

  • Black cast iron skillets, old kitchen utensils, the Ironworks and Steel Works of Birmingham, white square columns
  • The faded barn board of my husband’s rural farm background, the Coalminers, the Wiregrass region, the rich Black Belt soil, the pale rock of the Appalachians
  • The French linen my grandmother loved, the pearl necklaces, the statuary
  • The marble quarries, the  cotton fields, the Spanish moss draped over live oaks
  • Pale heirloom silver, burlap bags of oysters, baskets and straw rugs, an old map of our county
  • Alabama’s white sugar sand beaches and more shades of white- pearl and oyster.

All serene, peaceful-Native Neutral colors. Camellia’s Cottage is not grand,  renovated and peaceful – she cannot compare with the beautiful Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe…yet neutrals have a found a home here just as they have in the oyster’s shell.

 

Big Walter is the most peaceful being I know- that sweet feline has even gone along with my Native Neutral interior design scheme! There are no oyster shell soap dishes or a single crusty shell for my ring when I wash dishes- but I’m thinking about it…

‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God!‘ Matthew 5:9

Love y’all, Camellia

Visit: www.eatalabamaseafood.com    www.mobilemag.com  for more information!

Images are all mine- except for the glorious sunset which was shared by Jeremy Miniard. The images of oysters- on the right- with the oyster knife is from Mobile Magazine and the other two are from www.eatalabamaseafood.com The images of Bon Secour Bay and Meme’s are from AOL images

 

 

 

Silver Queens…

I don ‘t understand retail therapy, it could be that I worked in retail most of my life; so  let me share some real therapy for real Southern ladies –

  • Taking care of the cast iron
  • Checking the baseboards to make sure they’re clean
  • Polishing silver is especially rewarding
  • Buying Silver Queen corn– the crowning staple of Southern cuisine

If there is ever an upset in the home or community- Southern women of my era have reliably turned to these activities for therapy– we calm our nerves this way, we settle down into these rhythmic, meditative, even ancient practices.IMG_1387

Cast iron is inherited- it must be taken care of…and the bonus is when something unsettling happens, you can always clean it out with salt, then fry some bacon in the pan to re-season it…a little spat with a husband can be cured just by frying some bacon…trust me on this one! He’s irritated, you’re unsettled and start thinking about your inheritance…you grab your grandmother’s cast iron skillet and start frying bacon…before you know it, he comes up behind you, tugs on your apron strings or eases his arms around your waist and says, ‘hey good lookin’ whatcha got cookin’?‘ You sort of give him the cold shoulder and just say ‘Get on out of here now, I’m just seasoning this skillet…‘ He keeps on hanging around…looking sort of sheepish…bacon will do this to man, he forgets why he’s irritated, hoping he’ll be the one who gets the crumbled bacon, instead of humble pie. white baseboardSouthern women have a great affection for their Baseboards…I have never heard women of other cultures quite so fascinated with whether or not their baseboards are clean. A friend told me recently that she wasn’t sure her housecleaning service was doing a good enough job. She shares the same cleaning service with another friend, who had called and said, ‘I’m not sure they’ve been cleaning these baseboards!’ My friend said, ‘Well I have to tell them to clean mine, they don’t think of it on their own, but Lord knows I asked them when I hired them if they clean windowsills, crown molding and baseboards, though I never asked about the chair rails.’ Now, if weeds are God’s invitation to pray in the garden, checking baseboards will get you on your knees in the home. It’s upsetting to be paying someone to do this – however, when life isn’t going all that well…get on your knees and get those baseboards clean– cleanliness is next to godliness, you know.

Polishing Silver is often group therapy in the South, we Silver Queens are sensitive about our silver, after all, we barely had it buried in the ground before the Yankees ran through all those years ago. Polishing ancestral silver is almost as sacred as putting Alabama Marble Monuments on the graves of our loved ones. It’s a little known fact that women start polishing silver the minute they hear anyone is getting married, christening a child, or Lord forgive, someone has died- women just start in polishing silver- you can hear the silver chests opening, the pleasant clink of silver and the distinct smell of silver polish. The most humble foods are elevated by silver trays; and one must be careful to make sure fine paper doilies are always on hand in several sizes to fit the silver trays. The high holidays call for silver trays, flatware, chafing dishes, candlesticks and even mint julep cups. Instead of fretting over the guest list, the menu or even the guests- start polishing silver; the mind sharpens and before you know it- all the ‘I’s’ will be dotted and all of the ‘T’s’ will be crossed off your lists.

Buying Silver Queen Corn is a summer infatuation- folks will say ‘We’re going to stop on the way to the beach and get some Silver Queen Corn’ or ‘I’m going to fry some chicken Sunday and if I can find some Silver Queen Corn- I’ll fry that to go with it.’

  • Fried Chicken.
  • Fresh sliced Tomatoes.
  • Biscuits.
  • Gravy.
  • Fresh Pole Beans.
  • Fried Silver Queen Corn.

If there is a more perfect summer meal on earth I do not know what it is. Yes, you read that right, fried corn. And it must be white Silver Queen Corn. Do not try to pull a fast one over on us on this… I have seen southern women make big corn fed farmers cry over this.

  • ‘Now is this field corn or Silver Queen?
  • You know when I start cutting it from the cob, I’ll be able to tell the difference right away.’
  • ‘Who do you think you are labelling this Silver Queen when you know full well it’s that new hybrid Silver King, I’m not having it, I’ll tell you.’
  • Then she insists on the farmer pulling back the shuck so she can make sure it’s not wormy!

You can tell a Deep South pedigree quicker from who buys Silver Queen Corn than you can on Ancestry. Com or that TV show ‘Who Do You Think You Are?‘. We prefer white cornmeal, white grits and blinding white Silver Queen Corn. If you don’t know what real fried corn is? Well, I might not be able to help you. This picture is the best one I could find and to tell you the truth? This Silver Queen doesn’t think the corn is cut as fine as it should be or cooked down quite enough!fried white corn

 Seasoning a cast iron pan, cleaning baseboards, polishing silver and cooking something fit to eat, are just a few of our Southern therapies- I know, I know- Southern people can get irrational and over emotional about some things…just thought you’d like to know how we make it through…

Love y’all, Camellia

www.ancestry.com