Chamomile Hair Rinse

As a natural blonde, my hair has gotten darker over the years.    I decided to make a couple of chamomile hair rinses to give it extra shine and lighten it up a bit naturally.  Chamomile (or camomile) has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties which can strengthen hair, help fight dandruff, and promote hair growth.  Adding it to your bath or placing cooled teabags onto your skin can help anything from burns to cuts to dark circles under your eyes. 

In the summer you can use wild chamomile or flowers from your garden but, its the middle of winter, so I used loose dried flowers and store-bought tea bags.

Here, I used four tea bags and filled the jar with boiling water.

For the loose dried flowers I poured boiling water over them in a pyrex bowl.  I just used what was already in my cupboard, about 1/4 cup flowers to about 3 cups water.

I let them steep about two hours.  You could do it longer or shorter and still benefit.

Strain the loose flowers into another bowl (don't pour the liquid out).

I poured the loose flowers through a fine-mesh sieve so there where still particles floating around.  I'm going to use it quickly so I didn't mind.  You could also use cheese cloth if you didn't want any bits floating about.

I let it cool completely then labeled it for the fridge.  After washing and rinsing your hair, pour the cool chamomile rinse over your hair, leaving it in as your hair dries.  It will continue to lighten as it is left on and you will see results with regular rinses.

Chamomile is one of my favorite flowers, it self seeds very easily and is a nice addition to any herb or floral garden.  It also attracts honey bees and smells wonderful.  In Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers, chamomile means "energy in adversity".

Flower Friends, Winter, Part Two

After several days of rain, we got a beautiful misty morning for this second part of the winter flower friends.  My sister Zoe and I where joined by our mom Lisbeth.  I love going back to our roots and mixing everyones style together.  My parents raised  our family on a cut flower farm so flowers have always been a huge and important part of our lives.  When my sister and I were kids, instead of having a lemonade stand we picked bouquets for Mother's Day and set up a little roadside stand.  It was the late 80's just as Martha Stewart was becoming popular and the wholesale markets hadn't caught on to our product yet, so in order to sell the flowers from our 87 acre farm, my mom got a stall at a few of the local farmer's markets.  In the summer and on weekends, my sister and I would help her at the markets.  I loved getting into our big refrigerated Iveco truck and heading out into the cold morning.  Those years taught us so much and eventually, people caught on to garden roses and scabiosa (thanks Martha Stewart!) and the wholesale markets did too.  

I have always loved this Bjørn Wiimblad vase my mom has had for as long as I can remember.  As a child, growing up in the Danish countryside she loved to pick bouquets of poppies, wheat, daisies and cornflower from the fields near her house.  With such dark winters there, she feels "its especially important to have flowers inside in the winter to lift the energy".

This monkey egg cup belonged to my dad as a child.  Filled here with violets my mom picked from her garden.  

My mom also dug up violets for us to use.  Here's Zoe rinsing off some of the mud.

Heavenly scented, violets and daphne (again from my mom's garden).

"Look for the beauty in winter, bulbs are the optimistic and sure sign of spring" - Zoe

A little posy I made with roadside ferns and acacia Zoe cut and thanks to all of this rain, some oxalis I picked from the grass and ditch in front of her house.  Tiny bits can make the sweetest posy.

More Hellebores (also known as Lenten Rose and Christmas Rose).  Such a beautiful flower to give life to even the coldest winters.

I cut these beautiful magnolia branches from my friend's tree, not open yet, here they look like giant roses!  We are mid-way through February and here in California spring is just around the corner.  Literally blooming every day.   I'm already looking forward to the next season of flower friends.  

Some previous seasons; autumn, summer and spring.   

All flowers and styling by Zoe Honscher, Silvanie Farmar Bowers and Lisbeth Hansen.  All photos by Silvanie Farmar Bowers.

Flower Friends, Winter, Part One

Winter is mild here in Northern California.  My sister, Zoe and I spent a recent morning gathering bits and branches from her property in Sebastopol.  This area of Sonoma County, called West County is prized for fertile soil and considered by many to be a Utopia.  Zoe has always been an avid gardener, preferring to be outside most of the time, working.  We were incredibly lucky to have grown up on a cut flower farm and nursery so flowers and plants have always been an integral part of our lives.   Being so close in age, we spent our childhood together, outside exploring on our farm and most of our twenties working together as a design team for our family business.  This flower friends series is about getting together just to talk and cut things and put them together without worry.  

Ceanothus with a few gathered heart-shaped rocks.

The delicious smell of daphne, a true sign that spring is on it's way.  Paired here with scented geranium and bare walnut branches in one of Zoe's vintage ceramic vases.

Zoe's chickens were quite happy we found some strawberries in her vegetable garden!

A few beautiful stems of a native flowering Ribes with dusty pink yarrow, artichoke foliage and a sweet, wispy pittosporum.

All flowers and styling by Zoe Honscher and Silvanie Farmar Bowers.  Photos by Silvanie Farmar Bowers.

Flowers. pressed/dried/fresh

I like flowers in all forms.  Growing up on a cut flower farm, flowers are a huge part of a lot of my childhood memories.  Scent, color, a certain flower or even a time of year can all evoke these memories.  When daffodils begin to bloom and the grass is tall and wet, or when the lupines begin to fade from the hillsides and the grass begins to dry.  Eventually turning into the golden hills of summer that California is so well known for.

A pressed dandelion I collected with my son last summer.

The soft scent of dried chamomile and lavender reminds me of warm summer mixed with fresh spring daphne reminds me summer is farther away than I think.

This flower press is just a little children's one we picked up at the art store, but you could easily make one yourself or use a dictionary or other book.  It's always sweet to open a book you haven't looked at in years and find a pressed flower.  This one looks sweet.  Here are some other good ideas for pressing your own.

winter storm

With a storm raging outside and the power flickering on and off I took a few moments to enjoy the last of the afternoon light.  I've been making these little wreaths with bits I collect from my garden and out on walks.  I thought these sweet little apples would be cheerful in the rain.

Strawberry foliage is one of my favorites, the seasonal color variations are so beautiful.

Power went out so I lit some candles just before it got dark.

New Year - Drink Smoothies!

Trying to start off the new year a bit lighter.  Been adding spinach to whatever I can and making smoothies in the mornings.  

These were made with frozen raspberries, blueberries, mangos, coconut water, oat milk and a fat spoonful of flaxseed meal.  Full fledged hippie but I like to get in any extra nutrients where I can and my toddler is happy to drink them.

I like to drink them first thing in the morning, before I make breakfast.   Most days they are different, depending on what we have.  

Flower Friends, Autumn Part Two

Inside Summer Cottage , my mom, Lisbeth and I added a few pumpkins and winter squash with clematis and grapevine we cut from her garden to the booth in the antique collective she share's with Julie Chiodo.   Simple and sweet.

Assorted bits we gathered in a fruit box.  Cut a few apple branches earlier in the morning from my mom's garden.  You really don't need much, just bring a little natural element from the outside.  Whatever is growing in your garden.

This beautiful green pumpkin is from my sister, Zoe's garden.  Julie's demijohns with a bit of apple branches and clematis.  

More of my mom's beautiful hand-dyed vintage napkins and linens.  She uses natural plant based and high quality textile dyes that she mixes herself for her desired color.  Her father in Denmark was a house and fine-art painter who mixed all of his own pigments and paints in his workshop.  He would paint each wall a slightly different shade based on the light.  I think she takes after him in so many ways.   More of the garments she sews in our first part or check out her website.

Check out the first part of our autumn flower friends at Summer Cottage.

All flowers by Lisbeth Hansen and Silvanie Farmar Bowers.  All photos by Silvanie Farmar Bowers.

Studio Visit - Kimberly Rose

Napa Valley native, Kimberly Rose runs her floral design business from a home-based studio behind a sweet 1930's house in Napa she shares with her husband, David (who also works from home) and their two young sons, Emmett and Marlon.   Recently, I spent a lovely sunny morning in her studio.

How did you get your start in floral design?  I used to work at a store in San Francisco that would get amazing florals delivered every week and I was so intrigued by them.  Having a background in art, I thought the idea of being able to use my hands to  create sculptural floral designs would be a good fit.  I decided to apply to different floral designers looking for help.  An SF based florist took me on and taught me so much.  I eventually started working for other people around the Bay Area and then eventually created my own business.

How would you describe your style?  Textural, somewhat structured.  I like to try different things to keep things interesting.  I hope that my designs are always evolving.

What is your favorite time of year and what materials do you like to work with during that season?  I love spring.  Flowering branches are so pretty (I love working with branches) and there are so many different varieties of delicate flowers to choose from at that time.

What do you find easiest and hardest about having a home-based studio?  It's great to be able to walk out of my house and right into my studio, no travel time.  Another thing I enjoy, is to be able to take a lunch break with my family and get quick visits from them throughout the day.  I actually love having a home-based studio for the same reason it can be hard.  It can be challenging when my kids/husband come in and visit while I'm working because it can be hard to get things done with the distraction of my family.

How has motherhood changed your approach to design and your business?  I have come to realize that my time is very important to me and where I put that time and energy is important.  I now only take on business/jobs that I really enjoy the look of and have fun making.  Having the opportunity to be creative while supporting my family is such a gift.  I want to make sure I am spending my time doing what I love, otherwise it's not worth it to me.

Some of Kim's artwork in her living room.

what are some of your favorite places to visit in Napa?  We live pretty close to the Oxbow so we end up going there a lot.  They have a lot of affordable good quality food options and can be quick and easy at the same time.  I've also started doing a lot of kid friendly things lately like going to Connelly Ranch to see the animals with my kids or going for walks and to different parks around Napa.

Flower Friends, Autumn Part One

As autumn is one of my favorite seasons I thought it would be fun to collaborate with my mom, Lisbeth for the flower friends series.  She has been my biggest teacher in style from setting the table to doing flowers themselves.  She and I decided to go to Summer Cottage, the antiques co-op where she sells her aprons and tunics that she sews herself, mostly in linen or denim, as well as her natural - dyed vintage table and bed linens and other antique collectables. 

Beautiful garden roses cut from my sister Zoe's garden.

One of her beautiful linen aprons.  You can find some of her sewing and knitting projects as she works on them on her Instagram.

Who says autumn means orange?  Be creative with what is growing in your garden. 

This is one of the best styles I have ever tried, with roomy front pockets and crossed high in the back so it doesn't shift while you're working.

Take a look here and see my mom's sweet 1940's house visit from last October.  Check out summer flower friends.

All flowers and styling by Lisbeth Hansen and Silvanie Farmar Bowers.  Photos by Silvanie Farmar Bowers.

House & Garden Visit - Kathy Hoffman

Kathy Hoffman of Napa, California is truly one of the very best floral designers of all time. Her design ability, aesthetics and attention to detail go far beyond flowers.  She is creative in all facets of her life.  She comes from an incredibly talented family and is a legend in her own right.  Kathy's parents started The French Laundry in Yountville and she worked with them for many years.  After selling the famed restaurant to Thomas Keller, Kathy continued to be the in-house florist up until her retirement this year .  She and her husband, Bill Hoffman, a well-known gardener in Napa Valley are enjoying their house and garden that they have cherished for almost forty years before venturing out for a simpler life in Oregon where they are planning construction on their new house.

How did you get your start in floral design?  When I worked with my family in the restaurant business (mostly at The French Laundry) it fell to me to help my mom make the spaces feel welcoming.  We did that by changing the dining room on a weekly basis, looking to the garden for the week's color palette.  Then we would choose from our linen collection we owned, I would pull containers out and the foraging in the garden would begin.  So I really truly learned from the ground up - didn't know what a flower market was - it had to be growing in The French Laundry garden, my parent's garden next door, my garden or if were were hitting bottom, a neighbor's garden or an empty field.  I did that for sixteen years.  It was an incredible training ground.  Learning day-by-day, making mistakes and hopefully moving forward and learning what not to do the next time.  If I cut something at the wrong stage of growth or in the wrong weather conditions it hurt - we didn't have a lot of extra to waste.  Then when my parents decided to sell and move on to their apple farm project I had to decide to stay in the food and service business or take a leap and start a flower business - by that time you could say I was pretty hooked - it was all about the pleasures of picking, arranging, and transforming a space into something beautiful...

Her parents apple farm project is The Apple Farm in Philo, California now run by Kathy's sister Karen and her family.

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What are your favorite times of year in the garden?  Some of your favorite flowers and plants?  Each season brings its own beauty and certain goodies - I'm always ready for that next change.  Again, it's my mood that decides my favorites - whether I crave a good dose of color, decadence in a full fat bloom, or just beautiful branches and foliages.  In the spring I love white dogwood, ranunculus, gold peonies, floppy open parrot tulips, the first of the late spring fragrant cabbage roses, green hellebores...   Summer it's all about bright flowers with blooming herbs, vegetables and fruit (I love all the endless combinations).  I'm always ready for fall - to ditch all the flowers in favor of beautiful colored leaves - Bradford pear, viburnum, maple, etc. with all the rose hips, berries and acorns I can get my hands on.  It's all about the textures.  Winter brings the pleasure of just enjoying the form of beautiful bare branches against a wall - hazelnut, birch, colored dogwood branches - I crave the simplicity of them in the winter.  But then that branch sits in a warm house in water long enough and those tiny little leaves start to come and I'm ready for spring all over again!!!  I have to admit that spring is my favorite - it's all about the thrill of watching spring come about, leaf by leaf - there's so much promise in that - of new beginnings... All those shades of green just do it for me.  The sheer vitality of it energizes me like no vitamins ever could...

How long have you lived in your house?  Since 1978 - which adds up to an amazing 38 years - hard to believe!

What makes a house a home for you?  I've always been a nester, started as a child with my room - watched my mom who I owe so much of how I walk through life to - as she has always had such a good eye.  Our houses growing up were so personal and lived in.  I've learned from her to fill your house with the things that make you happy - I love color, texture, form, organic things that bring the outside in - and it's got to be in a light filled space.  I get immense pleasure in handling and touching beautiful things in daily life, whether it's a blanket to cuddle in, a special glass to drink from, a spoon that feels good to stir with.  I see no reason to have something just to get the job done when I can have those objects also give me pleasure to handle and look at.  Our house has evolved throughout the years as our tastes and needs changed, our family grew, my business took off. "My stuff" as Bill has labeled it is part of my life - he is stuck with it beacue it is part of who I am.  Nothing makes me happier than making vignettes in the house - stirring up new combinations really just to please my eyes.  It's really all about feeling good in the spaces you live in...

Ceramic faces made by Troyce, the youngest of Kathy's three sons when he was a child. 

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house?  The open, light-filled rooms with a garden view out every window and door.  Our second floor space that we designed just for us with our bedroom, sitting room, and bathroom with my tub to soak in...it feels like a treehouse - it's cozy and spacious at the same time, with the views of the tops of the trees and that different perspective you get from looking down on things.  Outside, my studio is just a few steps away which I love - no commutes to work!  And, of course the garden, which has been a total work in progress as the growth of the trees and shrubs through the years has changed the things I can grow.  Many of the sunny spots have changed over to dappled and deeper shade, but that has given us the privacy and actually made it a fairly easy garden to care for.  So the garden has evolved.  My idea of a favorite day is to put my cell phone aside, escape to the garden and just do whatever calls to me - sometimes there are specific tasks, or I will start something and end up totally immersed in hours later, totally exhausted but in a good way.. It's so satisfying and stress reducing.  Then there are all the sitting areas and spots in the garden I can go to rest and recoup - a hammock, a comfy chair, my book or a snooze... and lastly, our dinner deck "in the woods" that has seen many good times - just the two of us or a rocking table of family and friends - I feel like I've gone somewhere when we eat up there, like time away...

Kathy's studio seen through the side garden.

How would you describe your style?  I go a lot of directions with that, depending on my mood.  I can be very simple and minimalistic, happy with three stems of weeds in a vase against a certain wall or I can crave lots of texture and layers and groups of objects.  My house is full of color, but all mostly in warm tones - they make me happy.  But, I also get in the mood for all layered neutrals and I never tire of all shades of green - its so energizing and calming at the same time.  I thinks that's the fun of it, having no real barriers, I'll see something that stimulates my imagination and I'm off and running.  I've learned through the years to just let it come, trust myself and not overthink it - the best things happen that way!  I had a lot of art training early on in life and in college - that gave me a foundation to build with.  I used to feel a little disappointed with myself that I did not pursue that more, but to tell the truth I now feel that I'm in my best medium - living and organic things are three dimensional with texture, smell etc. - so much better than a painting or drawing.. I can always return to that and I will in my new life in Oregon.  My new surroundings will be great stimulation for being creative in new ways I hope...

What projects do you have on the horizon?  We are just about to start a whole new life with our upcoming move to the southern Oregon property we have owned for 15 years.  To leave California and our life here is a big deal for both of us but it's a leap we have been working toward for awhile now.   It's been such an amazing process, one with so many decisions that constantly make us think and reflect on what makes us feel good in a home.  It's a chance to make a statement on who we are at this point in our lives - this time around fitting it into a new natural landscape so different than what we are coming from.  I have had to come to terms with the fact I'll never have a garden like I've had here for 38 years - but that it's ok, it will be different and a step back to a simpler life.  We are going to work hard at embellishing nature without leaving too much of a stamp on it.  We've been nurturing the forest and meadow for the last 15 years - it's been so satisfying to watch it become stronger, more diverse, wildflowers and native grasses coming back strong, the constant surprises of all of that.  Being custodians of a forest is an amazing new challenge!

Flower Friends, Summer Part Two

For this summer post, Brooke and I were joined by another flower friend, Adrianne Smith an Encinitas based floral designer and artist.  Adrianne is always up for something new and three of us had so much fun putting together arrangements and bouquets with flowers from my garden, local zinnia from Sebastopol and the wonderful cutting garden at Valley Flora.  

Adrianne and Brooke, such good flower friends.

Flower Friends is an ongoing seasonal series between friends who love and work with flowers.  Our spring series with Laura Miller can be seen here (four parts total).

All flowers and styling in this post by Adrianne Smith, Brooke Harrington and Silvanie Farmar Bowers.  All photos by Silvanie Farmar Bowers. 

Flower Friends, Summer Part One

Brooke and I are back with our Flower Friends for summer.  She and I both are inspired by nature and like to keep things as natural as possible and not too fussy.  We cut most of the flowers ourselves and used leftovers from Valley Flora that were headed for compost.   It was a beautiful evening in Napa and we came upon the best wild camomile that we added to this bouquet.  Here in California, summers are golden and dry with the amazing evening light.  

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We thought this arrangement of flowering cilantro, Queen Anne's lace and feverfew looked pretty amazing just as it was, blowing over in the wind.   

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Check out some of our spring Flower Friends here.

All florals and styling by Brooke Harrington and Silvanie Farmar Bowers.  Photos by Silvanie Farmar Bowers. 

House Visit - Mel McCallum

I met Mel and her husband, Jeff on a recent evening at their sweet waterfront home in Vallejo.  Built in 1924, there are plenty of original details with a newer kitchen and bathroom done by Mel and Jeff who is a builder and metal fabricator.  Their two story house is filled with abundant light and touches of collected vintage, family art and furniture made by Jeff.  This industrious couple has made their house feel so loved and lived in with great energy.

Their beautiful Persian rug that Mel snagged second-hand for a great deal.  Cool metal coffee table made by Jeff.

Their dining table made by Jeff is paired with vintage Danish chairs that Mel reupholstered.  Tillandsia and coral decorate the table.  

Sweet Cathrineholm teapot.

One of Mel's beautiful metal moon mobiles hangs next to the stairway.

Simple white subway tiles continued from the kitchen into the bathroom.

Mel's studio is a sweet light-filled room at the end of the hall with a view of her growing garden below.

In addition to their two cats, Cali and Marty-Pants, the neighbor's cat is a regular visitor seen here.

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An avid skater, Jeff built a skate ramp in the larger of their two garages.

How long have you lived in your house?  We've lived in our house for almost 6 years.  When we moved here in October 2010 we discovered dozens of pumpkins growing in our new yard.   So, as a way to get to know our neighbors we offered fresh pumpkins to neighbors as they passed by.  We were also struck by our view of the stars from our new neighborhood, which has limited street lighting.  Prior to this house, we lived in an apartment in the Mission District in San Francisco that had a bright view alright, but of a 24-hour grocery store.  This new to us, unencumbered view of the night sky is one thing that inspired me to start making metal moon mobiles.

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house?  I am grateful for all of the windows, and the light that pours through them.  We enjoy our views of the water, where the Napa River meets the San Pablo Bay, and the view of Mount Tam.  On a clear day we can see the Golden Gate Bridge.  All of this to say I love all the visual reminders that we are in the Bay Area.  When Jeff and I began house hunting I felt a little ping of anxiety when we drove through neighborhoods that didn't have the immediate sense of place.  I'm also really grateful for our uniquely-shaped corner lot -- there are no houses right next to ours which gives us privacy in an urban area, which allows us to play loud music and skate the ramp without bothering our neighbors.

What are some of the biggest changes you've made to your house?  The biggest changes we've made to the inside of our house all happened in the kitchen.  When we moved here the kitchen was tricked out with a faux green marble linoleum tile floor, matching Formica countertops, a Giant with a capital "G" fridge, and cabinets that had jagged edges where they'd been cut apparently with a chainsaw to make way for the fridge...you get the picture.  We've had a lot of fun modifying the little kitchen ourselves, on a budget, and it's now a room that we enjoy spending time in!  We added eco-friendly cork flooring, modified, painted and moved around existing cabinets, added open shelving, painted the walls, added butcher block countertops using wood given to us by a friend and lots of other little things.  

The biggest changes we've made to the outside area include removing a 6 foot retaining wall, and a 6 foot plastic dividing wall, we terraced the hill, put in a gate (made from skateboards) off the driveway, just to name a few things.  Of course we continue to add plants, trees and flowers.

How would you describe your style?  My style is easily described as vintage eclectic--I collect things that have stories, histories, and hold meaning.  For instance my card catalog once lived in a library at UC Berkeley and I like knowing it was once used as a learning tool by thousands of students; my vintage green tables and chest of drawers set were used by medics during a war!  Jeff's grandpa's 1960's portrait hangs in our living room; my late step mom's ceramics honor her memory; our bedroom nightstand was built by my late father when he was in hight school; and the theatre chairs were, you guessed it, once sat on by theatre goers.  As a librarian, I love stories, in books and about vintage and sentimental objects.  Also, we've filled our house with things we've made ourselves like our coffee table, dining table, art, vases, chairs we've reupholstered, and so on.  To sum it up, I'd say my style is story-filled vintage eclectic and equal parts self-made.  

What are some of your favorite places in Vallejo or the Baby Area?  Mare Island Brewing Company is a favorite destination in Vallejo, the waterfront taproom is easy-going, and the beer is great.  Vallejo's own Moschetti coffee hosts free coffee tastings on the weekends.  The owner is nice, and the selection is crazy big.  I like to hunt for treasures at Indian Alley and Yesteryear's antique shops on Georgia Street, and on the same street there's ValleJOYoga, the best yoga studio.  My friend and I both have garden boxes at a local community garden and sometimes we meet there.

The ferry from Vallejo to San Francisco makes it easy to get to the city without fighting traffic or hunting for parking, and as an added bonus there's a bar on the ferry.  Recently, thousands of Bay Area people flocked to Vallejo's waterfront area not far from our house for the Bernie Sanders rally, which was amazing, and that grassy area on the water hosts tons of various events throughout the year.  Since I work near Albany I like to go to Flowerland on my lunch breaks, and on my days off I enjoy hiking new trails throughout the Bay Area, and eating good vegetarian/vegan food in Oakland and Berkeley.  The "meatball" sandwich at The Butcher's Son on Univeristy Avenue is so freakin' delicious!

 

Flower Friends, Spring Part Three

Another in this series of spring florals done by Brooke Harrington, Laura Miller and myself.  All working in floral design, we love to do floral things when we get together.  Last week, we spent a few hours in Laura's beautiful garden in Oakland making vignettes using mostly flowers from our own gardens.

Cheers!

Flower Friends, Spring Part One

I love to get together with my flower friends and have some fun.  Earlier this week, Brooke Harrington and I met up at Laura Miller's sweet house in Oakland.  You may remember Laura's house and studio visit I did last spring (here).  The three of us styled a few little vignettes in her beautiful garden.  All of the flowers we used were gathered by us from our gardens.  

Laura working on her tool alcove and potting bench.

We borrowed some of my mom's enamelware.

Laura beautifying!

All flowers and styling by Laura Miller, Brooke Harrington and Silvanie Farmar Bowers.  All photos by Silvanie Farmar Bowers.

Check out my visit to Brooke's garden and floral design studio.  Thanks to my mom, Lisbeth for enamelware and roses.  You can see a visit to her sweet house.

 

 

House Visit - Michelle Pattee

Photographer Michelle Pattee lives in Sebastopol, California with her husband and two children.  She and her husband, Bill a contractor, have lovingly revitalized their early 1900‘s farmhouse. Keeping things simple for easy country living with bright white walls, warm reclaimed wood and salvaged fixtures.  It’s no wonder their property is a popular location for photo shoots.

Michelle has also created West County California, a lifestyle blog about life in West Sonoma County with features on interesting locals.

After giving up a bedroom in the house for a larger bathroom, they got creative with space, converting an existing chicken coop into a slumber party room for the kids.

photo: Michelle Pattee

photo: Michelle Pattee

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How long have you lived in your house?  9 years

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house and property?  The majestic walnut tree. The constant backdrop sounds of horses, sheep, chickens, coyotes and hawks. The farmhouse has a solid sense of history, something lacking in newer construction.

After buying your house, what were the biggest changes you and your husband made to it?  Tore out a cluster of little rooms to create one large kitchen. Sacrificed a bedroom to create the house’s single bathroom. Replaced exisiting wood floor (made from thinner beams) with wide plank beautiful reclaimed Doug Fir. There’s so much happening within the wood floor, yet it’s subtle in the overall effect. Replaced all the windows - big investment because we chose wood windows, but worth it. Added a staircase to connect the two floors. Previously, the upstairs room could only be accessed by a ladder. Kind of a man cave, filled with bullets and whisky bottles.

How would you describe your style?  My style is eclectic, a mix of urban, country, minimal, abundant, vintage and modern. Many of my favorite pieces I purchased cheap years ago, before the clamoring began for farm tables, stoneware, industrial, patina, etc..

What drew you to become a photographer?  I liked the immediacy of the medium. Besides the darkroom hours (I learned on film), I could tell a story quickly with a single image. I do miss prints. They’re such an afterthought now. I also love the grace of black and white, stripping down to the bare essentials. 

Do you feel that being a photographer has changed how you view your living space?  I think my visual sensibility is reflected in everything I approach - photography, interiors. It gets a little out of hand. I’m seriously aesthetically sensitive. I can’t relax in a disheveled space, can’t get comfortable against synthetic fabrics, can’t linger in rooms painted off colors. I decant breakfast cereal or anything else that's packaged offensively. The list goes on. I used to apologize, but #sorrynotsorry.  

What are your secrets for keeping your house so clutter-free?  Don’t buy often. Filter media messages attempting to sell me things I don’t need. Reject damaging feelings of envy, keeping up on a material level with others. Curate. Possessions often require maintenance. Maintenance requires time. I’m old enough to be more mindful, question how I want to spend my time.

How would you describe the West County Lifestyle?  The West County Lifestyle is a life without much intentional focus on style. It’s authentic bohemian, an alternative culture. You can still feel the influence of the New Age Movement from the 70’s. It’s evolved, but there’s a throwback attitude. Our cars and boots are muddy, lots of dirty denim. During harvest, everyone seems to smell like weed, even if you’re not a grower. There’s a smugness, a sense of pride in not washing your hair for a week. I’ve seen the best hats up here, took me awhile to figure out. We wear thrashed outdoor gear. West County is gorgeous country, and we're engaged in the environment, for recreational and practical intentions. The lifestyle is slower. There’s miles of open space lacking cell towers, so it’s easy to find yourself among community who aren’t focused on their phones. 



House Visit - Tristan Lane Collinsworth

I spent a recent rainy morning with Tristan Lane Collinsworth in her cozy victorian apartment.  Tristan is studying history and has a penchant for collecting vintage clothing and clogs.  She also makes the coolest embroideries.  We spent much of the morning going through her closet to find some of her favorite pieces.  Every piece had a great story behind it.  Her great aunt was married to a member of Steppenwolf who styled and sewed pieces for them. She has given Tristan some really great clothes from that time, including a cobra skin jacket.   

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Questions with Tristan;

When did you start embroidering?  I began embroidering at the age of 9 when my great-aunt (a powerhouse talented artist of many mediums) taught me. That very first project I made was a cross-stitched ladybug on a handkerchief, very sloppy and loose but she treasured it. I lost touch with embroidery for years until two summers ago--my heart was broken and I was lost in need of something to keep my hands busy and my feet on the ground. I already had sewing supplies at my parents’ house, leftovers from childhood craft projects as well as the near-constant mending of my vintage clothing so my exploration of embroidery happened very naturally. What had once been frustrating as a child seemed intuitive in those first few months, almost pre-programmed in my hands and I couldn’t stop myself from doodling. 

What elements do you find most fulfilling about it? And most frustrating?  When I’m embroidering my brain relaxes, my body loosens up and I decompress from all the other stress I might be experiencing. Embroidery is such an ancient, traditionally female practice and there’s something so comforting and purposeful about putting a needle and thread through fabric like millions of women before me. I draw a lot of inspiration from the artistic women in my family who preceded me with sewing and embroidery: my great-great grandma Frances, great-grandma Mary, and great-aunt Sharon. I like to think our work is connected by common threads; that I am continuing their legacies in some small way.

Rarely do I find myself frustrated by my work. At first it irked me how long it took to execute some of my more elaborate plans, since I can be really impatient sometimes. But gradually embroidering has made me more patient and more forgiving of myself.

As someone who collects a lot of vintage clothing, what do you look for in pieces?  I’ve been fascinated by fabric for as long as I can remember.  I’m really attracted to unusual textures, like nubby woven wools but I’m absolutely in love with rayon, gabardine, linen and cotton which are all very smooth, wearable fabrics. When I’m shopping for myself I’m drawn to clean, classic lines found in silhouettes from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s although recently I’ve startedto throw some ‘60s and ‘70s into my closet. In the past I would buy any random vintage dress I found at a goodwill and I’d plan to alter it or make something new but there’s not enough time in the world for all the projects I’ve taken on so now I look for items in good condition, although if something has an amazing print or fabric texture I have no problem patching up a small hole or replacing missing buttons. I’m a stickler for metal zippers on everything (modern zippers have nylon teeth) and am currently obsessed with abstract prints from the 1940s and the color green.

If you could be your age now in another decade, which one would you choose?  And why?  There have been times in my life where I wished I was born in another decade or century just for aesthetic purposes but the world we live in is where I was meant to be. The past affords us the perspective of history and while the modern world is far from perfect, I would prefer to live in it because at no other time in history have women been free to do as much as they can now. If time travel were possible I’d take a short trip to another time period to see whatit was like on a quiet afternoon but I’d want to return to the present.

What projects do you have on the horizon?  I’m currently working on a series of larger, abstract experiments in texture using a method called crewel work. I’m also in the process of building frames for my pieces with the guidance of my grandfather who is teaching me how to mill reclaimed redwood. 

While I love to use handwork as a solitary self-care practice it’s also a great way to interact with other people so I’m trying to plan a small handful of workshops for the near future and create a mending/ quilting circle with friends where we can make magic as a collective.

 

House Visit - Lisbeth Hansen

My mother, Lisbeth is one of the happiest and most creative people I know.  After a quarter century with three businesses and raising her children on an 1880's farm, she now lives in a sweet little cottage built in 1949.  She has always blazed her own trail and worked for herself.  She was a cut flower grower and designer long before any "farmer florist" hashtag became cool.  She doesn't follow trends and can't stand pretense.

As an avid collector of antiques and furniture, she had to find an outlet for her antiques moving from a large farm to a small house.  Since then has been selling antiques, textiles and her own handmade goods at Summer Cottage, in Petaluma.  

Growing up in Denmark, sewing and knitting is a normal part of childhood and done in school from an early age.  Before buying the farm, Lisbeth and a friend where thinking of opening a fabric shop in St. Helena.  Paths changed and she gave up sewing in her thirties to nurture the growing family businesses and her family.  Decades later, she has come back to her love of sewing.  She is constantly busy with her projects and is currently working on her website.

Questions with Lisbeth:

How long have you lived in your house?  I have lived in my sweet little house for eight years.

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house?  This is the first house I've chosen by myself for myself . I like it because it is small and very sweet, like a little nest . I like that it is compact, well built and solid. I love the original vintage kitchen that I just improved upon. It is cozy and was very loved by the family who lived here. I bought it from an older woman who inherited it from her parents. They bought it from a doctor when it was 1 year old. She moved into the house with her two children in 1961 and lived here withher parents and took care of them until they died. She lived in it for many, many years. Houses become imprinted with the energy of their owners so I feel it is important for me to live in a house that is well loved.  I like that I know the story of the house.

As a Dane, could you describe with Hygge means?  What does it mean to you?  Hygge is hard describe as it is a feeling . I can say that I feel that my house is hyggeligt and Danes say that too about it! It means that you feel good when you are here. Some of the elements of hygge are lots of candles, flowers, a fire and good company. Having something good to eat and drink and good company. I think it is a concept that originated in Denmark during the long and dark winter. People burn a lot of candles to bring in light and I always burn candles because I find it hyggeligt!

How would you describe your style?  I would describe my style as very personal and eclectic. I like to come into someone's home and see who the people are who live there. A house should tell a story about who live in the house.  Where you come from, what is important to you. I don't like houses that are decorated and just reflect a style. It is very impersonal and not hyggeligt! I like to see who lives there. Houses also have personality of their own and that has to be a match for the owner!  My style changes but some things are constant. I love light colors , wooden floors and good windows with plenty of natural light. I like airiness and not a lot of clutter. I don't like houses that are done but houses that are a loving container for the people who live in them.  I think the best houses just evolve and become living - breathing and dynamic .

You have lived in some great houses.  What are the most important things for you to call a house a home?  I think that the most important things for me to call a house a home is my emotional investment in the house. I have to feel a connection to it or it is just a house. I have to live the house for a while and have a relationship with it before it truly becomes my home.

You have had a very full and creative life and tend to forge your own path.  What keeps you motivated?  I guess what keeps me motivated is that I love to make things. It is very satisfying to me to make something that I or other people enjoy and use.  I am constantly inspired and love to try out new things. I especially love beautiful textiles and sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the things I want to make and all the beautiful and inspiring people and things I see.  I guess my motivation is that I want to continue to grow and change as a person and I look for beauty in everything. I look for beauty!

As a creative person, what are you working on now?  How would you describe your work at this time?  I am working on making "my making" a small home based business that works for me. I am mostly focused on making simple, beautiful and timeless garments that you can wear everyday and everywhere. Clothes you feel great in, look good in and don't have to think about. I feel clothes should just be the backdrop for the person wearing them. They should not take anything away from the person.

Anything else you'd like to add?  I am a graduate of the Western School of Feng Shui.  That I am a proud and happy grandmother.