I’ve had a crush on Rachel Ashwell for a long time. In case you have never heard of her – she’s the pretty English girl who came to America and reinvented slipcovers. I sometimes wonder if we ever would have gotten back into slips if not for Rachel. Maybe, but maybe not. She created her own line of furniture with slips after realizing nothing child and pet friendly existed on the market. Along with the furniture came wonderful prewashed fabrics, a chain of stores, a handful of books, and a relationship with Target – which really put her in the minds of most Americans. Her bedding line at Target remains a favorite all these years later. For me, it was this book above, The Shabby Chic Home, which was published in 2000, that really sealed the deal for me. It remains one of my favorite home redo books. I was fascinated with how she took an old dark and “witchy” brown house in Malibu and transformed it into a light, bright, feminine haven. Over the years she has moved again and again and many of her subsequent books tell their own house renovation story – but this one – her second book – remains my favorite. I never understood why she moved from it, or how she could move from it. If I lived here, it would take a crowbar and trailer hitch to pull me from it screaming and crying.
Here’s a before picture of the witchy brown house’s yard – how unappealing can you get?
And under Rachel’s hand, the yard turned into a magical place – the turquoise blue water is still one of the prettiest colors I’ve seen in a swimming pool.
BEFORE: The brown was painted a soothing a whitish cream color.
AFTER: There was this tiny whirlpool placed under the stairs. Does it get any prettier or more feminine?
Hammock piled high with Rachel’s fabrics.
Inside, the house was all brown too. Until Rachel painted everything.
The same view – overlooking the kitchen and the pool.
Her dining room – what gorgeous floors!!! Alas, everything must come to an end and Rachel moved from this house into others.
Her last book tells the story of her current house and its redo, along with several friends and clients’ houses. This cover is beyond gorgeous with its pink velvet gilt settee, the chandelier (of course!) and Rachel’s laid back Californian dress style.
Her new house is beautiful without a doubt. Her style has subtly evolved over the years with new colors added to her palette.
Her bedroom kills me. Those slightly mauve silk curtains are luscious.
Her bathroom is luxurious, yet simple at the same time.
This book is coming out soon – highlighting an artist’s work of Rachel’s collection of tutus! The paintings look gorgeous.
Look for the two tree posts to turn into The Prairie.
Perhaps her most fun undertaking of late was buying the bed and breakfast “The Outpost” in Round Top, Texas. Wow. Rachel Ash well serving coffee and rolls to Texans???? Well, it’s not really such a stretch if you follow Rachel. She’s been a fixture at the twice yearly Round Top antique fair for quite a while. She usually stayed at The Outpost, so when she learned the owner was selling, Rachel bought it. Newly renamed The Prairie, it has four guest houses on it, along with a gathering lodge, and a soon to be open retail store (yes!) Rachel has spent the last few months painting and redoing everything to her own specifications. She brought a truck load of furniture and bedding and antiques to finish it all up. Just recently The Prairie opened its doors to visitors. I couldn’t wait to go and see it all for myself, so last weekend, my daughter Elisabeth drove me to Round Top to check it all out. As luck would have it, Rachel was “downtown” in Round Top celebrating a birthday with a local so we missed meeting her. Elisabeth was even more disappointed than I was!
Most devastating, I had a huge computer crash and all my pictures from the day were lost! Thankfully, Rachel’s assistant Kim was nice enough to lend me their gorgeous photos which probably are a lot better than mine were anyway!
The Prairie is located right near Round Top which is perfect for the antique fairs. It’s an hour from Austin for quick day trips, but the real fun is just relaxing in the total quiet of the property.
The Ranger’s Lounge is where all the action is. You check in here and have breakfast here too. Plus there’s a great area to sit around on cushy Rachel Ashwell furniture.
The dining area is typical Rachel with lots of flowers, baskets, and slipcovers.
The Ranger’s Lounge makes a great place for a party or a wedding. Elisabeth kept saying she wanted to get married here!!
BEFORE: The lounge area used to be painted a dark green, which Rachel repainted.
AFTER: The lounge area is now painted a fresh white and is filled with Rachel’s furniture. Antique portieres separate it from the dining area and kitchen.
The little bathroom at the Ranger’s Lounge – I loved the sink!!
Behind the Lounge is this pergola that overlooks the property.
BEFORE: The original house from the 1800s on the property as it was – painted a golden yellow.
Today the house has a fresh coat of white paint. There are porches and balconies with great views across the property. An English flag flies in Rachel’s honor along with the Texas and United States flags.
The living room at the Liliput Lodge is adorable – filled with white slips and floral curtains.
The dining room has the old wagon wheel light fixture. Rachel thought about changing it out, but decided she actually loved it.
In the dining room, antique fabric was used for the shades. The styling is so Rachel – lots of china and flowers.
This bedroom reminds me of Rachel’s own bedroom. It’s so pretty and feminine. I love the pink petticoat pillow.
This pink bedroom features double beds piled high with an assortment of her bedding.
BEFORE: The former owner painted these walls blue, which Rachel kept, but all the furniture was moved out.
AFTER: The same bedroom decorated by Rachel.
One of the bathrooms in the Liliput Lodge. Each bath is stocked with toiletries and plush towels.
BEFORE: The Cornflower Cottage used to be bright orange. These colors are just not in Rachel’s palette.
AFTER: The Cornflower Cottage is now painted white with blue trim.
The Cornflower Cottage has this wonderful white bed and lots of peeling painted furniture.
The bathroom has wonderful tile, but it’s shower is brand new and huge and fabulous!
BEFORE: The Bluebonnet Barn was dark.
AFTER: The Bluebonnet Barn has a fresh coat of white paint.
An old iron gate opens to the Bluebonnet Barn.
The brick floored living area of the Bluebonnet Barn – filled with comfy Ashwell furniture and antique chairs. There is also a separate bedroom here.
Brick floors, claw foot tub and pedestal sink.
The Meadow Manor is an 1800s house – and is further away from the others. If you want privacy, pick this house.
BEFORE: Rachel debated whether to remove this wallpaper, but decided in the end to keep it.
AFTER: With Rachel’s white furniture and pared down style, the wallpaper really looks great.
Another view of the living room.
The second living room features Farrow and Ball wallpaper and white painted floors. Since there are no closets in these old houses – each room features a wooden clothes rack – seen on the far right of this picture. In another nod to life how it once was, Rachel installed an clothes line on the property!
The kitchen only needed new white paint on its floors.
One of the two bedrooms in the Meadow Manor.
The second bedroom is darling in pink and white stripes – so typical of Rachel’s style.
Love the pink fabric in a gilt frame!
This picture says it all: the linen closet at The Prairie – piled with bedding from Rachel Ashwell’s line.
For more information on The Prairie – go HERE.
Finally, I just want to say, I’ve been a huge fan and great admirer of Rachel over the years. The English Rose who became the quintessential Californian girl captured the hearts of so many women like me. To know that she now call Texas home and is putting down roots here just makes me love her all the more! Who would have ever thought it? I remember the first time I heard she had bought the Round Top bed and breakfast, I was floored and excited beyond belief. For years I’ve looked at pictures of her houses and lifestyle and wondered what it would be like to live like Rachel, surrounded by her fluffy bedding, downy sofas, old china and glassware, and all the trinkets she collects from around the world. Now, at The Prairie – you really get that chance to experience her aesthetic up close and personal. What a treat!
17 June 2011
Posted by Joni Webb at 10:23 PM