Swedish Country Interiors

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In the past decade, Swedish style has exploded on the interior design scene.  It seems people in American can’t get enough of the gray and creamy toned antique furniture, often mixed with cheery blue and white gingham fabrics and surrounded by exquisite gilt mirrors and crystal chandeliers.  The look is so soothing and calm – perhaps its popularity is sought as an antidote to the frenetic lives we lead today surrounded by technology 24/7.   There is something so relaxing about a Swedish interior – the cool colors, the quiet atmosphere, the subtle sparkle reflected from mirror to light fixture and back.   Riding the wave of this much in-demand look is the team of Rhonda Eleish and Edie van Breems,  two childhood friends, both of Swedish descent, who back in 1998 opened Eleish van Breems Antiques.  Their shop, unlike any other, was first set in a charming 18th century house that the two had turned into a living Swedish home where everything just happened to be for sale.   Located in Woodbury, Connecticut, their first location served them well for over eleven years, until success forced a move to a larger showroom, located in Washington Depot, Connecticut.  

 

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Rhonda Eleish and Edie van Breems – childhood friends, now shop owners, authors, and interior designers.

 

The two friends, whose Swedish antiques business was one of the first of this current trend, adored their 18th century house, but a need for more office space, showroom space, a reference library, and room for photo shoots forced their hand to sell.    No matter - they are now happily ensconced in their new shop and things couldn’t be better for Eleish van Breems.    Besides their extensive collection of antiques, the pair sell a reproduction line of Swedish furniture made to their specifications back in the mother land.    In addition, they can now show more modern Swedish furniture in their showroom.    They also carry other furniture lines such as Chelsea Textiles.     According to Edie, today over 50% of their business is conducted virtually, through their website and 1st Dibs, so a pure store front was no longer needed.  The best part of their location is the view – overlooking pine trees and a rushing stream, the scene is reminiscent of the Swedish countryside.  Moving to their new location last year has been liberating since they no longer have to run a storefront seven days a week, and this has produced a creative renaissance for the women who are energized by the new directions Eleish van Breems is taking.      And then, there are, of course, the books.    Just two years ago, the pair wrote a beautiful book on Swedish design, called, appropriately, Swedish Interiors.   A smash hit, a second book was in the planning stages before the first one was barely distributed.  The newest book, Swedish Country Interiors, is now available to preorder at Amazon and will be on sale in the next month.    I can barely wait – a little birdie told me that one of the featured houses will be Wisteria’s owners, The Newsoms,  whose beautiful house was also featured  in Veranda.   Not surprisingly, a third Eleish van Breems book is now in the planning stages!   

 

 

image  The cover of the new book due out next month, Swedish Country Interiors, available now for pre-ordering here.

 

 

 

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  This picture, on the new book’s preview page at Amazon, is driving me crazy!  How gorgeous is this?  I can’t wait to read the book!

 

 

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Another picture on Amazon’s preview is this beautiful shot of two Swedish chairs and a server.   I love the traditional Swedish paintings on the walls.

 

 

 

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This Amazon preview picture shows a wonderful  Swedish antique corner cabinet – a traditional piece - along with a chair dressed in the blue and white gingham that is so closely associated with Swedish design.

 

 

image The original Eleish van Breems shop in Waterford, Connecticut.   At one time, owner Rhonda Eleish lived on the second floor.   The duo has recently relocated to a larger, more efficient space in Washington Depot, Connecticut.

 

 

image  The original shop in Woodbury was set up just as a Swedish house would be. 

 

 

image Here, in the same spot as above, the foyer, this vignette changed as old pieces were sold and new pieces were acquired.

 

 

 

image The Woodbury shop:   one thing I really adore about Swedish antiques is the oval portraits. 

 

 

 

imageThe Woodbury shop:   I love these chairs!   The best thing about Eleish van Breems is if you can’t find the antique you want, they probably have a reproduction of it in their line!

 

 

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And now for something completely different!  No longer tied down to their store in the 18th century house, the partners have moved to a showroom where they have more office space, room for a library and room to showcase all the other furniture lines they carry besides their Swedish antiques.  One such line is Swedish modern from Fritz Hansen.  

 

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For a time, Edie van Breems lived in a wonderful old house that she had totally renovated and which was much photographed.   Here is her former living room with traditional Swedish antiques clad in  blue and white cotton.   Notice the mirror with the attached candle sconces.   Because Sweden is so dark much of the year, every bit of light is sought out – the candles’ reflection in the mirror doubles the amount of light given off!

 

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 Edie van Breems dining room with its antique Swedish crystal chandelier and assorted chair styles.  Notice that gorgeous sofa - divine!

 

 

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The breakfast room in Edie van Breems’ former house.   Here is the popular Swedish Mora clock, one of the most recognized Swedish antiques there is. 

 

 

 

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Eleish and van Breems first book, Swedish Interiors, was filled with pictures from a wonderful mix of houses.  Some were furnished strictly with antiques, while others were furnished with modern Swedish furniture.   Next - I’ll show you a few of my favorite chapters from the first book.

 

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One of my favorite chapters in the first book was the story about this house located in Louisiana.  The interior designer is one of the best there is, Gerrie Bremermann from New Orleans.  The owner collects Swedish antiques and the entire house is filled with his bounty.   Here is a small sitting room located off the larger living room.   I just love the coolness and calmness of this space – so typical of a house with Swedish interiors.

 

 image The upstate New York home of the owner of Face Stockholm - a popular Swedish make up line.  White slipcovers and Swedish antiques make this a charming, inviting home.

 

 

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This is the New York space of Lena Kaplan who owned White on White, a shop specializing in Swedish design.  The shop is now closed and she operates Studio White on White in a more personalized environment.     I love how the painted floors match the table and chairs!

 

 

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Another wonderful chapter shows the former Palm Beach house of Lars Bolander, a Swedish interior designer and shop owner.   Cote de Texas featured  Bolander here.   His sense of style is wonderful and totally uniquely his own. 

 

 

 

image Another pioneer of the Swedish antique importing business in the states is Linda Kennedy and her husband Lindsay.  Together they formed Chloe Decor which became one of the more well known Swedish antique dealers.   Today, Linda sells the antiques on a wholesale basis but she concentrates mainly on her new floral design business.    At the time when they lived in this house, it was a stage for all their antiques, which were actually for sale!

 

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In Linda’s house:  I love these desks with the diminutive Mora clock affixed to the top of them.   I would love to own one of these for my office!

 

 

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The 1760 Rhode Island house of Libby Holsten.   Once a lover of both Italian and French antiques, upon reading a book about Swedish design, she threw herself into collecting as many pieces of the furniture as she could.

 

 

 

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Holsten’s beautiful Mora clock sits aside a French grisaille.

 

 

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Holsten’s music salon in her Rhode Island house filled with antiques.   Here she mixes French antiques with Swedish which is perfectly natural to do.  After all, Gustavian furniture was based on French designs at the time.

 

I hope you have enjoyed reading about Eleish van Breems.  To preorder their new book, Swedish Country Interiors, go here.  To order their first book, Swedish Interiors, which I previewed today, go here.    And to reread a story I wrote about Gustav and Sweden, please go here.

Provence in Texas: A Giveaway!!!

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Lavender growing at Darlene Marwitz’s farm - Villa Texas Lavender Farm - on the banks of the legendary Texas river, the Pedernales.   Marwitz also owns the charming Fredericksburg shop - Lavender Market

 

It’s hard to believe but this picture was actually taken in the Texas Hill Country – outside of Fredericksburg off the banks of the Pedernales River.  Just saying those words – Fredericksburg, Pedernales, Hill Country – does something to Texans.   The words conjure up Willie Nelson and Longhorns and Shiner Bock beer and football in the fall  and mesquite trees and Highway 16 and tubing down the river all rolled into one.    Lately though, it includes visions of lavender too.  Blanco, a tiny town in the Hill Country, is considered the capitol of Texas Lavender.  Texas lavender?    The purple plant is relatively new to Texas – the first lavender farm, Blanco’s own Hill Country Lavender, was only recently founded in 1999 after a few Texans thought the terrain resembled Provence.   But the lavender farming idea took off and many small-to-large farms now dot the back roads with fields of beautiful purple plants blooming from May to July.    At the several different lavender festivals that go on during the season, including one that’s held in the fall, you can pick your own lavender, listen to lectures about the virtues of the plant, even eat meals cooked with lavender.   Taking its cue from the Texas Wine Trail there is also now a Texas Lavender Trail where you go from farm to farm to farm and just enjoy the visionary delights of the blooming purple fields. 

 

 

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Cheese, bread and grapes in the lavender fields at Villa Texas Lavender Farm

 

Farming the beautiful fields is not an easy task and tales of droughts and floods that ruined this year’s or that year’s crops are legendary.  But, the lavender business is thriving in the Hill Country judging just by the number of new farms that keep cropping up here and there.  One farm owner,  Darlene Marwitz has a field of her own dreams, Villa Texas,  somewhere between Fredericksburg and Kerrville, on the banks of the Pedernales River.      Fredericksburg is a small town smack in the middle of the Hill Country (though it is weirdly flat in town) and is a quaint shopping destination popular with antique seekers.   Darlene and her husband David spend weekdays in Austin but weekends are spent at Villa Texas, and Darlene also owns a delightful little shop in Fredericksburg.         A lover of all things Italian and an expert on architecture, Darlene opened Lavender Market where she sells a variety of items besides the purple stuff, such as Dash and Albert Rugs and  the Baggallini line.  There is also an online web site to order product from.  The majority of the lavender products that Marwitz sells  is produced in the Texas Hill Country, of course, at the nearby Hummingbird Farms.

 

 

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Villa Texas Lavender Farm

 

My love of the Hill Country is as deep and wide as Texas, so I was thrilled when the Lavender Market contacted me with an offer of a giveaway for my readers!    The giveaway products the Lavender Market chose are from Hummingbird Farms which grows and distills its own nine varieties of lavender on site – while the products are made in Dallas.    Debi and Jack Williams own Hummingbird Farms, located on Highway 290 between Johnson City and Fred.  Besides their five acres of lavender, they tend to longhorns, dogs, horses and other assorted farm animals.  Debi writes the delightful Lavender Chick, where she blogs about the trials and tribulations of being a lavender farmer’s wife.    Hummingbird Farms, though new to lavender, is an old famous Texas farm, where the pioneering Seguin family first tilled its land in 1897, followed by another legendary Texan family – the Schaefers.   Today the Williams carry on that tradition.  The Lavender Market proudly sells  Hummingbird Farms product because it is some of the finest in Texas and their lavender is distilled right on the property – a rarity for most Texas lavender farms.    In fact, it was easy for the Lavender Market to choose the  giveaway – Hummingbird Farms products are their favorite:

 

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Hummingbird Farms:   Aromatherapy Body Wash in a 12 oz bottle.

Hummingbird Farms:  Aromatherapy Body Lotion in an 8oz bottle.

Hummingbird Farms:  Liquid Hand Soap – lavender essence, aloe and shea butter, 12 fl. oz.

And Lavender Market will include lavender Earl Gray tea packets, and lavender towelettes!

In addition, even if you don’t win the giveaway – during the month of August, all readers will receive 15% off all their purchases at the Lavender Market’s online shop HERE – plus any purchase over $24 gets free shipping!  Feel free to offer this discount to other family members and friends.      Just be sure you use the code:   cotetx7.     

TO ENTER THE GIVEWAY:    YOU MUST GO TO THE WEBSITE HERE AND CHOSE ONE PRODUCT THAT YOU WOULD GET IF YOU WERE GIVEN A GIFT CERTIFICATE FOR ANY ITEM.  TELL ME THE ITEM YOU CHOSE IN A COMMENT.  THAT’S ALL!!!!

 

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Hanna, The Marwitz’s Dog and Lavender Market’s Weekend Shop Dog.  What a sweet, sweet face!

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image Hummingbird Farms’ main house on the road between Johnson City and Fredericksburg.  The Lavender Chick has written many times on her blog about her house that was inspired by A. Hays Town, Louisiana’s favorite architect.  Hummingbird Farms grows and distills the lavender for the aromatherapy products they sell at  Lavender Market.

 

imageRecently,  Hummingbird Farm’s Lavender Chick proudly showed off her new lantern hanging over her famous bathtub.  Love this!!!!

 

 

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The lavender fields at Darlene Marwitz’s Villa Texas Lavender Farm on the Pedernales.  Isn’t this just too gorgeous??!!!

 

 

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Harvest time at Villa Texas Lavender Farm on the Pedernales  River.

 

  image  Butterflies are strongly attracted to the lavender’s oils.  Photo taken at Villa Texas Lavender Farm.

 

 

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One of the original lavender farmers in Texas recently published her memoir. The plot:  author Jeannie Ralston, a NY magazine editor meets Texan Robb Kendrick, a National Geographic photographer, gives up big city life and becomes a lavender farmer.  After many years toiling in Texas – the Kendricks move to Mexico. 

Read the first chapter on Amazon here and I defy you not to buy it!

 

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If you are planning a trip to Fredericksburg,  please visit Ann, who writes Hill Country House from Fredericksburg.   Ann is the blogosphere’s resident spokesperson on all things FRED (and my ex sister-in-law!) – so be sure to email her with any questions you might have about a trip to that area or just visit her blog to read all about decor and architecture in FRED.  

 

 

image And My Notting Hill just visited Fredericksburg and stayed at this charming cottage, The White House.  Go here to read all about it.  It has to be the cutest place in FRED!   Maybe not, though – FRED is filled with darling B&B cottages to rent.  

 

image To read all about the history behind Darlene Marwitz’s Villa Texas and Lavender Market visit the main web site here.   There are lots of additional pictures of Villa Texas and a history of the inspiration behind the lavender farm and market.  Darlene’s interests are varied, a true Renaissance woman, who writes her own blog on her many travels to Italy.

 

In Fredericksburg, Lavender Market is located at:  

339 East Main (across from the Nimitz Museum) in Fredericksburg, TX.   The phone number is 830.997.1068.

To visit during peak growing times, the two main festivals are the way to go:

FREDERICKSBURG LAVENDER TRAIL:    www.beckervineyards.com, www.fredtexflavors.com and www.fredericksburg-texas.com

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BLANCO LAVENDER FESTIVAL:   www.blancolavenderfest.com.

 

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Be sure to sign up for the giveaway.  Just leave me a comment telling me what one product you would get if given a gift certificate and I will pick a winner on Wednesday!   Good luck!   The giveaway offer is open only to readers from the United States and Canada.   And remember that during August all Cote de Texas readers get 15% off all products found on the Lavender Market’s online shop here.  Free shipping for orders over $24.     Use the code Cotetx7. 

Thank you so much to Lavender Market for this giveaway, it is much appreciated!   And be sure to leave a comment – you have until Wednesday!   Good luck!!!!

 

 

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Just a reminder –  This week, The Skirted Roundtable welcomes Anna Spiro from Absolutely Beautiful Things.  To listen to the adorable Anna, go here.   You will enjoy every moment of it, I promise you!  She is even cuter than her pink and white interiors!!

Cote De Texas - Top Ten Design Elements - #3

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Narrowing down the list of design elements that I love to just ten items proved difficult – so in the end, I combined a few to fit everything into a neat list of 10. By contrast, choosing the first three items was very simple - they are so connected I even toyed with the idea of making them just one element: linen, slipcovers and seagrass. Most of the pictures of examples I show will usually have these three items together. The linen slipcover with seagrass rug is a look that I adore and am strongly drawn to – there is no explanation. Either you understand the attraction or you don’t. I can and do appreciate all styles of design from contemporary to the hip Hollywood Revival fad, but in the end, the one look that makes my heart skip a beat is linen slips with a seagrass rug. This look has appealed to me for so long now, I suspect it always will. In my very first apartment - over 30 years ago - I had a white Haitian cotton sofa (remember those?) with a crisp blue and white cotton print. And for my first house – I used a cream and taupe striped linen with slipcovers on just a few chairs, and a coir rug. As this was almost 19 years ago, I didn’t have the resources for sofa slipcovers or seagrass – that wouldn’t happen for another few years or so until the opening of Renea Abbott’s Shabby Slips, which really helped promote the slipcover craze in Houston.

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White slipcovers and seagrass – a Houston tradition. Design by Lisa Epley.

Some many years ago, my friend hired interior designer Carol Glasser and promptly put down wall to wall seagrass in her older River Oaks house – both upstairs and down. The beauty of all that newly laid seagrass made an lasting impression on me. It smelled so fresh and still today – not much beats the scent of fresh, green seagrass. Houston is a seagrass town and I credit Glasser for first championing the look. Other great Houston designers were also early proponents of the natural textured rug – Pam Pierce, Babs Watkins, and Ginger Barber, among them. These four women, who without a doubt are some of the biggest talents in Houston design, share a certain aesthetic that relies heavily on slipcovers, linen, seagrass and antiques – both English and French. All four eschew anything false – all fabrics are natural, the antiques are not reproductions, and there is a mix of the high and the low. All four will confidently use a cotton check in the living room, along with seagrass, mixed in with priceless antiques from Europe and the finest of silk curtains. Their look is basically casual yet it is still quite elegant, a careful blend of rough textures with fine lined antiques. It’s a look that Gerrie Bremermann in New Orleans spent a career perfecting – in fact Bremermann often seems to be a Houston designer. And though all these designers certainly use other flooring options – plain colorless or muted striped dhurris, priceless Oushaks, or wool patterned carpets, seagrass remains a mainstay in their design. Regardless of the other choices available, Houston is firmly a seagrass town. I have long heard this rumor, which I believe to be true judging by the pictures from the Houston Real Estate web site:

Creative Flooring, a tony rug shop in Houston, sells more seagrass than any store in America!!

True? I have no idea, but certainly believable. Creative Flooring is owned by the gorgeously handsome (!!) Greg Manteris who just happens to be wed to darling Renea Abbott, owner of Shabby Slips – another very influential designer in town - so funnily enough - through their marriage they have cornered the slipcover and seagrass market. They need to have children – I can’t imagine how beautiful they will be!!

image The very talented Carol Glasser in her former house with wall to wall seagrass. Glasser was one of the first in Houston to introduce seagrass.

Why seagrass? I receive many emails with questions about the product, probably as many as I get about slipcovers, if not more. So, why seagrass? To me, seagrass is an exceptional material, far superior to sisal – and yes, there is a world of difference between the two. Seagrass is made from sea grass of course – mostly found in China where the majority of the rugs originate. Since it is grown in water, the product is basically non-absorbent and is a strong, sturdy fiber. The absorbency aspect is very important: seagrass is not easily stained. If something is spilled on it – coffee or coke – it can easily be cleaned with a damp towel - and it will eventually dry without leaving a spot or watermark. Sisal on the other hand is made from the agave plant. Spill something on light colored sisal and you might as well throw it out. If you try to get a coffee or coke spill out with a damp towel, you will get a lasting watermark stain. The only way to prevent the watermark on sisal is to wet the entire rug – not a viable solution. Other favorable seagrass qualities are they are great for a low dust and allergy free environment. Seagrass is static free and does not attract dust or dirt. You can vacuum it like any other rug. They are durable, yet very inexpensive – much less than sisal - another selling point. Seagrass, when fresh will be decidedly green, yet as time goes on, it mellows to a more khaki color. Additionally, this variegated appearance helps to make it appear cleaner, as opposed to sisal’s more even color appearance.

image Seagrass in its different weaves – the middle picture is the ‘plain Jane” of seagrass and the one I like the most!

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Sisal is identified by flat, thin rows tightly woven together. Stains and watermarks are legendary with sisal. Though the maintenance is high with sisal, it does have a place in a dressier room. It is a more elegant looking rug than seagrass and it comes in many colors. The diamond patterned sisal is an extremely popular rug

Seaming: Seagrass only comes in 13’ wide rolls, which means for larger rugs and wall to wall applications, the seagrass will need to be seamed. Many enquiries I get are about this seaming process. A customer not familiar with seagrass will go to a carpet store that is even less familiar with seagrass and the employee will say they can’t guarantee the seaming – that it will be visible – and will try to dissuade the purchase. I can guarantee you that you will not notice the seaming in a seagrass rug. Ever. If the seams do come apart, which is a possibility – the installer can return to glue them back together. Seaming is a non–issue, though many shops try to make it one. If you come across this attitude – find another installer, one who knows about seams.

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Seaming on the job. For the Tanglewood House, all the cutting, binding and seaming was done at the house which slowed down the installation process considerably. But, it was a rush job so I was thankful just to get it completed.

Binding: Another issue is the binding. Personally I like binding to match the seagrass in color. To me – a colored border becomes too much of a contrast and the binding becomes the unintentional focal point. While seagrass stays relatively clean looking throughout its life (can you say the same for carpet?) the bindings can show wear and tear. After a few years, if your binding gets high traffic, the installer can return to your house and rebind it for a small fee, leaving you with a fresh looking rug.

image Pottery Barn likes to sell seagrass with colored bindings. Notice though how the red binding becomes a focal point here. I prefer the binding to match the natural color of the seagrass.

Wall-To-Wall: Besides being used as area rugs, seagrass is wonderful laid wall to wall. Once laid, I recommend a quarter round molding be placed over the rug to keep the edges down. It’s not mandatory though and indeed in some applications, molding is not an option. Again, with wall to wall seagrass, there will be seaming, but the installer should properly place the seams where you will get the most use of the entire roll without much scrap left over. Wall to wall seagrass is much cheaper than many carpets and this is a great selling point.

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Perfectly installed wall to wall seagrass – quarter round molding placed over the seagrass.

The Comfort Factor: Is it comfortable? Seagrass is not the same as plush wall to wall carpet. Nope, it is not. But, taking in account that all natural fiber rugs are scratchy, itchy, and uncomfortable, seagrass is by far the least offensive. It truly is bearable and not really so unappealing that a youngster won’t crawl on it. Laine, my too-adorable great-niece, was over and had a great time crawling around on the seagrass without any complaints at all! Sisal, and especially coir, are far more uncomfortable than seagrass, in most people’s opinions. Coir, made from coconut is such an awful product, I wouldn’t recommend it for anything other than outside areas around pools – it is very water soluble. But, saying all that, recently a new product has come to market – Soft Seagrass - which is touted as being extra comfortable and softer than traditional seagrass. I tried it out recently and it DID seem nicer to touch – so if the comfort factor is a sticking point, look for this product.

image This mother in River Oaks put down several round soft rugs in her baby’s room to soften the horrid seagrass! But, this is a cute idea if you are concerned about your baby’s tender knees.

Custom Cut Seagrass: When buying a seagrass rug, I always stress to get a custom cut rug. That is, have an installer come to your house and make a template of the room where the rug is to be placed. The rug should fit around the perimeter of the room – following all the curves and corners of the room about 3 to 10 inches away from the wall. The amount of wood you want showing is a personal preference. Myself, I prefer the rugs to be just 2 to 5 inches away from the walls. When cutting the seagrass around a fireplace hearth – the rug should fit snug up to the hearth – no more than one inch away from it. Any competent installer will know all this. While custom cut seagrass is a little more expensive than say an 8 x 10 rug from Pottery Barn - the difference in appearance is tremendous and worth every cent. A custom cut rug is just much finer looking and should be the chosen option if at all possible. If a custom cut seagrass is not in your budget, then get the largest sized area rug your room will hold. Good sources for standard rug sizes are Pottery Barn and www.homedecorators.com. In Houston, I order seagrass from two suppliers: Marc Anthony Rugs here. If you do call Marc Anthony, be sure to tell them Joni sent you! And of course, Creative Flooring (713-522-1181) has an extensive supply of all types of natural fiber rugs, including seagrass.

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Perfectly custom cut seagrass – notice the space around the wall – just a few inches of wood showing. And notice the way the rug is cut around the fireplace hearth – it follows the hearth, but it is cut 1/2 to 1 inch from the hearth (be sure to cut the rug closer to the hearth than you did to the walls – a very important detail.) Designer: Janewoodinteriors@yahoo.com.

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A STRONG argument in favor of custom cut seagrass. In this showcase house, a standard seagrass was used instead of a custom cut one. Notice how on the right side the carpet is pulled almost onto the wall in order to fit to fit the left side around the fireplace. Yet, the large space to the left and right of the fireplace is left bare! A properly cut seagrass that actually fits the room would be so much more appealing. Of course, this was done in the show house for budgetary reasons, but if you can avoid this in your own home, do.

I have lived with seagrass for over 15 years now and can’t sing its praises enough. It seems the perfect floor covering, easy to keep clean, and it maintains its appearance with little or no wear or tear. It’s perfect for a casual decor or a fancier room and since it’s flat you can layer a dressier area rug over it. I have had no problems with my rugs. The seams have all held and pet stains are easily removed as opposed to sisal or coir. No one in my family has ever complained about the feel of the rugs, not my crawling daughter, or my husband who likes to lay on the floor with a pillow and watch TV, or my dogs who can usually be found snoring on the seagrass. But mostly, I just love the way it looks, the way it smells, the way its natural texture is the perfect foil for silk or velvet or linen. Wall to wall, it is at is loveliest. Is it a fad? Hardly. Natural fiber rugs have been used since the 17th century and in Europe, England especially, they have been a mainstay in houses for generations, far longer than in America. Seagrass is definitely here to stay. If you want to take the seagrass plunge, but still have reservations, try it out with a small area rug from Pottery Barn and use it in the entry or the laundry room or the bedroom. You won’t be disappointed!

Following are pictures of natural fiber rugs. While seagrass is my favorite of course, the other fibers available can be quite beautiful – sisals – especially the diamond pattern, rush, and jute, which Pottery Barn is heavily pushing. When choosing a natural fiber rug, while seagrass is the most well rounded rug, others may be better suited for a specific interior, just choose wisely. Avoid sisal and jute when water might be an issue, such as the kitchen or bathroom. Avoid rush where there is heavy traffic. Don’t buy coir if comfort is a concern. In the end – go with your heart. All natural fiber rugs are relatively inexpensive unlike precious Oriental rugs, and therefore they are easily replaced!

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Gerrie Bremermann used seagrass in an elegant living room – mixing beautiful French antiques with the casual seagrass rug. Gorgeous!

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In this large living room, one long seagrass was used for the entire room. Notice how the natural color of the seagrass adds another element to the palette.

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Wall to wall seagrass in a Houston bedroom – a typical look for Houston designers: monochromatic, pale colors, a mixture of French antiques and painted pieces, slipcovers, upholstered headboards, and curtains with natural textured shades. I adore the lantern over the wine tasting table – charming!!!!

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Here Jeffrey Bilhuber used two seagrass rugs, one for each side of the sofa I suppose! Linen slipcovers and seagrass seem linked to each.

image Because seagrass is a flat weave, area rugs can be layered on top of them – creating a dressier look if desired.

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Lars Bolander frequently uses seagrass – as he did in his former house.

image In this house, Ginger Barber paired slipcovers and antiques with seagrass – a signature look for this popular Houston designer.

image Exquisite French antiques and wonderful painted bois paneling mixes with the natural fiber seagrass rugs.

imageHere a zebra rug is layered on top of the seagrass in an upstairs family room.

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Seagrass custom cut to fit all the corners of the room – again the Houston look – are you beginning to recognize it?

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Phoebe Howard used seagrass in a dressed up family room.

image Sir Evelyn Rothschild’s townhouse in London is covered in seagrass. Like I recently told a reader whose husband didn’t think seagrass was dressy enough for their house, if it’s good enough for the Rothschilds…

imageSeagrass, calm and cooling in this bedroom. I just love this look! Did you recognize the Houston factor here?

image Sisal is not recommended for stairs because of it being slippery, but so many people I know put seagrass on their stairs with no problems at all. Above – seagrass is held into place with iron rods. Though pretty, the rods really are not necessary when using seagrass on stairs.

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In this charming dining room – I think I would have cut the seagrass around the cabinet – it looks unbalanced this way, I think. Darling room – I love the curtains. Yes, Houston!

image In Peter Dunham’s office, he used seagrass, wall to wall – but it looks like no quarter round molding was added. I love going into a shop where seagrass is laid wall to wall. Whenever I do, I know I am going to love its inventory! I adore this room. This picture came from the new web-magazine – www.balustradeandbitters.com. Be sure to read their interview with Dunham – it was fascinating!!!!!

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Even Miles Redd gets on the seagrass bandwagon. Though this is classic and not the typical Redd look – this is one of my favorite of his projects – I absolutely love this bedroom – the painting, the wallpaper!!!

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In the Octagon House, Tami Owen layered a pale rug over wall to wall seagrass.

image Wall to wall seagrass in a Houston bedroom – the former house of Carol Glasser – stripped of all its beautiful Bennison linen.

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And the same master bedroom when Carol Glasser lived there – wall to wall seagrass, of course. Which do you like better, the pared down room, or the Bennison-to-the-max room?

image Here the traditional seagrass was cut in an octagon to follow the shape of the room and table.

image In this client’s living room, I used seagrass, custom cut. Notice how closely the seagrass was cut around the fireplace hearth.

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Charles Faudree used seagrass in a living room in a beach house – along with trendy suzani and zebra fabrics!

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The antique shop 2620 is one of my favorite haunts in Houston. When seagrass is laid wall to wall in a shop, I’m for sure going to love it’s stock! This area of 2620 is Caroline Ellsworth Antiques here – a fabulous place to look for fine antiques. Hmmm….I am trying to remember if I have ever seen a prettier chandelier. Nope! Lately I am obsessed with chandeliers made of gilt wood mixed with crystals for some odd reason.

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Lars Bolander’s Swedish house, wall to wall seagrass, layered with a cow hide.

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A charming bedroom in a 100 year old Galveston house mixes linen bedding and wall to wall seagrass.

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In this fancy family room, Charles Faudree used seagrass with important French antiques, showing how perfectly the two go together!

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Robert McAlpine used Italian antiques and seagrass, another great pairing. Love this man!

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The master of embellishments, major talent Barry Dixon used seagrass on a contemporary stairway – notice the trim, nail heads! Amazing. He continue the seagrass through the living area – also bound in nail heads.

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At Charles Faudree’s country house, he used seagrass and checks along with French and Swedish antiques.

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At David Easton’s weekend house, he used seagrass in this master bedroom. That mirror is so gorgeous! Easton’s country house was a inspiration for many designers – when he sold the house, he held an auction and everything in the house went under the hammer, everything!

image At a Florida guest house, Suzanne Rheinstein used classic seagrass mixed with beautiful French antiques and her famous racetrack ottoman.

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Windsor Smith uses seagrass in her own living room – along with white slipcovers and exotic furniture.

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Atlanta Interior Designer Dan Carithers used seagrass in this very, very beautiful living room, filled with unique antiques. The fireplace is stunning – and the sconces are wonderful – I LOVE this room! I know I say that a lot, but I LOVE this room!

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Miles Redd does slipcovers and seagrass in a country estate.

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Seagrass sets off a small nook on the stair landing. Notice the gorgeous wood floor boards – hard to cover those up! Designer Matthew Patrick Smyth.

image Ginger Barber, one of the original designers in Houston who used seagrass, in her own home she custom cut the material. Notice around the hearth – how close the rug comes. Perfect!

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In this client’s home I layered a very pale antique rug over a custom cut seagrass. The rug adds a touch of dressiness to the living room.

image In the Bennison House, notice how the custom cut seagrass was handled between the two rooms. The area between the door opening was left bare. Again, perfectly handled. Love the dog’s lovie.

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One of the my favorite rooms in Southern Accents this year – a large seagrass covers most of the living room and is the perfect backdrop for all the white slipcovers and zebra rug!

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This room was shown with slipcovers that had shrunk in Design Elements #2. Here is the gorgeous linen fabric that was hiding under the shrunk slipcovers. Wall to wall seagrass goes extremely well with tortoise shell blinds. Design by Carol Glasser.

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Seagrass on stairs – again custom cut, just a few inches from the wall and the binding is done in a neutral color.

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Trend laden apartment by Alex Papachristidis. Fortuny and ikat and suzani – love it!!!

image Houston interior designer Lisa Epley’s own bedroom – white slipped chairs and seagrass – that winning combination. Seagrass surprisingly looks really good in a dark gray room.

image This bedroom made the cover of The World of Interiors: a wonderful old country home in England, with of course, seagrass!

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A look to love – French settee, blue and white checks, seagrass and high heels! Suzanne Rheinstein.

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The Queen of white linen slipcovers and seagrass, Lauren Ross, in her Austin house (any excuse to show this picture again!)

The following pictures show natural fiber rugs other than seagrass. Each different natural fiber rug has a certain appeal. To me, of course, I prefer seagrass for all the reasons stated in the first paragraphs, but that said, I do love all the natural rugs in general. The apple matting type is especially appealing to me aesthetically. Sisal is wonderful in a dressy living room. And the diamond patterned sisal popularized by Stark is made for someone who wants something more interesting than just plain sisal or seagrass:

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This rug is apple matting – a thick natural fiber rug made out of rush – with lots of beefy texture. Apple matting is more popular in England where it has been used for centuries, but it is slowly becoming more popular in the states. Love the lanterns and slips too!

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And the living room next to the above dining room, both rooms by Peter Dunham.

image Years ago Suzanne Rheinstein used apple matting in this living room.

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The other side of Rheinstein’s apple matting living room. Notice the exquisite antiques and fabrics – all dressy, yet paired with the simplest of floor material. Just gorgeous!

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More rush or apple matting. Again, dressy antiques, highly textured rug. This thickness of this textured rug makes a huge statement.

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In this elegant bedroom with Robert Kime linen on the French chairs and hand painted silk wallpaper, a natural fiber rug was used – not sure if this is apple matting or jute, but whatever it is, it is a beautiful choice.

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Sisal is a good choice in sleeker, more contemporary interiors. Here, a room by Matthew Patrick Smyth shows sisal mixed with velvets and linens.

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Here in a dressy setting, this light sisal rug seems to be the correct application.

imageIn Florida, Tom Scheerer used two Stark rugs in an eclectic living room. I love his choice of yellows and pale blues. Such a pretty “beach” house!

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Dressy sisal used in the dining room with hand painted wallpaper and slipped chairs mixed with leather chairs in an interesting combination.

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In this beach house, Charles Faudree used a thickly woven rug placed atop black hardwoods for a high contrast effect. Isn’t this beautiful?

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Gerrie Bremermann uses the Stark diamond sisal rug in this living room. Though sisal and not seagrass, this look is just as effective and slightly dressier. Glorious painting by Amanda Talley – also currently blogging here. I think Amanda’s painting makes the room, don’t you?

image In this apartment that I designed, I used the diamond patterned Stark carpet in the library.

imageAnother diamond pattern sisal in an elegant dining room with hand painted silk wallpaper – divine!

image Another sisal diamond patterned rug used in this library. This rug has black thread running through it which ties in with the decor nicely.

image Sisal comes in different colors which is a selling point over seagrass. Here John Stefinidis used the diamond pattern in creams and red.

imageEven in a gray room, this natural fiber diamond patterned rug looks wonderful.

imageGerrie Bremermann combined the Stark diamond sisal rug in this family room – with a flat oushak is in the living room.

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Alex Papachristidis uses creamy sisal in this NY apartment. I love the zebra layered over the rug but the gold framed prints and the sconces are the true focal points. The sofa and chairs aren’t too shabby either!

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Jeffrey Bilhuber used this natural fiber rug – this one looks like it might be a natural fiber/wool blend. I love this room of his – one of my favorites in his portfolio.

imageA stunning beach house with sisal carpet. The color of the sisal blends into the headboard’s caning and the wall color.

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Another sisal rug – which matches the color of the chair – Barclay Butera.

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Hard to imagine any other floor covering except sisal in this room! I love the orange pops of color in the pillows.

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Rush matting – used in extreme juxtaposition to such finery!

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The same type of matting used by Bunny Williams at her weekend house.

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The living room at Grey Gardens, remodeled by Sally Quinn. Original to the house, the rush matting was found in the attic, sent out for repair and reused by Quinn.

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And finally, my own family room, with its seagrass. Each room in my house has seagrass rugs. It’s hard to imagine I will ever change and use something else, but who knows? Anything’s possible. As for my pillows, the decision on what to do about them is on hold until September. You all gave me wonderful ideas and I am going to use one of them! Just not sure which yet. Be sure to watch here for the fourth installment of Top Ten Design Elements, coming soon! Does anyone have a clue what it might be?

And – the new Skirted Roundtable with the absolutely adorable Anna Spiro from Absolutely Beautiful Things is up and ready to listen to here. Enjoy it – I know you will – she is sooo cute!!!