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Arranged Marriages (of flowers, of course): Defining Your Decorating Style

Does it really matter what you call your decorating style?  My answer is “maybe,” if only because it can make things easier if you want to tell someone about your home.  I have often been asked how my home is decorated, probably because I’ve spent most of my life working in flower shops that also featured home decorating accessories for sale.

Maybe some of you have had help from an interior decorator, but it’s likely that most of us, including me, acquired things that we like piece by piece over time.  To me, that is how a home should develop.  As you acquire new things and maybe discard others, your home will always be evolving.  What you call your decorating style may also evolve.

I have recently taken particular notice of the decorative items in my home that I obviously really like…baskets and throw pillows are obviously abundant.  This is a clue to what my decorating style may be called.  My favorite throw pillow is rather large and sits in one of two matching wing chairs that are covered in a cream and tan narrow striped fabric.  The back of the pillow is dark green velvet…the front appears to be an oil painting of an Orange Belton English Setter (it of course, is not a real painting).  Dense tan fringe completely edges the pillow.

All of my baskets are functional.  Some hold magazines.  Others hold bread or spare votive candles.  My most treasured and memorable basket is a laundry hamper that my dad purchased for my mother.  We were traveling from eastern Texas to northern Louisiana to visit relatives.  Along the roadside, a family was selling their hand woven baskets.  At the time the hamper was exciting to me, because I was small enough to climb inside it if my brother helped me.  Now I value it for its design, enduring functionality, and sentimentality.

Formal Country by Pat Ross
Formal Country by Pat Ross

I have loved looking at decorating magazines for many years.  I cut out pictures to save or save entire magazines.  My collection of decorating books is fairly extensive and varied.  In the early nineties I bought a book called Formal Country by Pat Ross.  I suppose I was feeling a need to define my decorating style and the title resonated.

Formal country felt like it could be a good fit because of wing chairs and a so-called “French country” yellow secretary desk.  Along the way, touches of clean-lined more contemporary art work began to appeal to me.  Those additions felt right.  In the introduction to her book, Pat Ross says that a “fresher, more fashionable American Country style emerged in the mid-sixties.”  Ms. Ross goes on to mention that “the seventies was a time of flowering for country decorating”. She mentions the influence of Mary Emmerling’s style books, and the contributions of Pierre Deux, Laura Ashley, and Ralph Lauren.

Pat Ross shares with us in Formal Country that she and her team were “fortunate to be able to photograph many of the featured homes during spring and summer months when flower gardens were full and beautiful.”  It was exciting to me to hear how much value she placed on the use of flowers in “country” homes since both country style accessories and of course flowers were things that I worked with for years.

I especially took note of Ross’s mention of Mary Emmerling’s style books on American country.  I have her book called Romantic Country and really enjoy almost all of the photographs.  I struggled a little with the title until she clarified her use of the word “romantic”.  She writes “romantic can mean heirlooms that connect you to your past, tokens of affection from your children or friends, treasured collections, mementos from a wonderful trip—in short, anything that has meaning to you…”

Eclectic Country by Mary Emmerling
Eclectic Country by Mary Emmerling

My style has evolved over the years.  Today, I am very comfortable with the evolution.  I still love the wing chairs that have been with me for more years than you might think.  I am happy with the rustic, almost primitive bench that sits in front of one of the wing chairs and serves as a foot rest (and a place for decorating books and a rusty horseshoe).  Across the room, a large modern line drawing called The French Girl hangs behind our dining table—an antique tailor’s table from the Texas Hill Country.

There was a time when I would have told you my decorating style was formal country.  I just read online that Mary Emmerling has a new book coming out in September called Eclectic Country.  I think my formal country may have evolved to eclectic country. Perhaps Ms. Emmering’s new book will help me define my decorating style. What would you say?

I hope you enjoy the beautiful flowers above shown in a white washed basket with a definite country feel.

Posted By: Evelyn Kinville, Behnke’s Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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