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It is Furnished Mother


Considering my rocky start, it’s a wonder I’ve developed anything that could be considered style. In college my decor was Early Affordable which included bookshelves and an “entertainment center” made from bricks and boards found in an alley. My dining table was a giant wooden spool that once held telephone cables, and the dining chairs were smaller versions of the same spool.

Least you think I’m too matchy-matchy, the smaller spools just happened to be in the same alley.

As far as my first furniture purchase, I have no excuse for this appalling lapse in judgement other than it was the 70s. I bought a yellow-green, striped sofa. I know… It looked like something Sly and the Family Stone would have worn with platform shoes.

When my first husband and I moved into a rental house, we brought the sofa with us. I purchased a round, butcher block dining table and reproductions of Thonet’s, 1920’s Bentwood Chairs. The chairs were the beginning of my interest in the Bauhaus period of the 20s and 30s. The designs of Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer opened up a new world which also led me to discover European Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

We then moved into the rental property of the century: a three-story, ,400-square-foot infamous house that had been headquarters for Nazi sympathizers during WWII. Then it became a casino, a house of prostitution and had been abandoned for years. With a white exterior and red, Spanish tile roof, it sat on the highest hill in San Antonio, surrounded by 22 fenced acres with a gate at the foot of the hill, no neighbors and a spectacular view of the city. Built in the 1930’s, the inside was magnificent Art Deco with curved, serpentine walls and coved ceiling lights, Honduran mahogany, the original dental molding trim and dramatic tiled bathrooms.

We ditched the yellow-green sofa and replaced it with four, black beanbag chairs; six, braided-trunk, ficus trees in giant terra cotta pots; an eight-inch telescope; an Ernest Trova lithograph and a Castiglioni Arco floor lamp, both from Pace Gallery in NYC. It was 70’s hip and cool until we returned from a trip to discover Blanche Dubois had used the beanbag chairs as her litter box…

Eventually we bought this fabulous old house, and over the years, it honed my natural inclination to be a minimalist. My mother-in-law once said, “This will be great when you get it furnished,” to which my husband replied, “It is furnished, mother.”

By then we’d purchased two Barcelona chairs; a black, down-filled sectional and a Tobia Scarpa, leather Soriana chair and ottoman, all from Knoll.

These are the only digital photos I have. When I unpack my prints, I’ll write another blog and share them.

Decades later I furnished the Little House (22 feet x 22 feet… the whole house) at the ranch with a pair of brown, Art Deco, leather club chairs in front of the fireplace. They worked well with the 1900’s, Heywood-Wakefield, pine, drop-leaf dining table and my old Oushak rugs.

James at the Little House with the leather club chairs, Oushaks and pine table.

Now I’m redoing a house I bought for just me. While I’m still a minimalist, many of my things I’ve had since my 20s. Like good clothes, they’re classic investment pieces that work well together, and like a photo album, they’re full of all kinds of memories.

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21 thoughts on “It is Furnished Mother”

  1. Wow – you brought back some memories! I had the cement blocks and boards for shelves and the wooden cable spools too! Plastic milk crates for books too. We were repurposing before it was a thing! Look forward to seeing your new home furnished. I truly enjoy your blog.

    • Thank you, Michelle!!! No wonder we’re the “repurposing generation.” It’s in our DNA. My grandmother’s theory was the old “waste not, want not” and my mother collected string and used tinfoil until every drawer in our house was like the exploding “Pop Goes the Weasel” toy! You never knew what would jump out at you when you were looking for a pair of scissors. Hope you know how much I appreciate you, Michelle.

    • Style is an arbitrary word. I’m not sure what to call it, but when I look around at all of the things I’ve bought over the years, and they work so well together… Whatever it is has stayed relatively consistent, except for the Little House, which I wanted it to be more country. Even so, everything, but the Art Deco club chairs and the dining table/chairs are in my new house. I’m not sure there’s a “right” or “wrong” style. Like art, there are lots of different styles. Something for everyone. xoxox, Brenda

    • Happy you enjoy my ramblings, Holly. Not sure if my “just for me” house will ever get finished. Lost my contractor for three months, so I’m waiting until he finishes this job and gets back to me. Brenda

  2. What great memories! I love your style! I had that spool table too. When we lived in Newport I had a lobster pot coffee table and another split in 2 for end tables. I stained them and put glass on top. My mother-in-law made me two ceramic fisherman lamps. I wish I had digital photos. My brother-in-law was a lobster fisherman and the supplier of those pots.

    • Doreen, I love sharing home decorating memories and learning there were so many of us who were making do with found objects. Spool tables and lobster pots, and we were happy! No social media pressure to look like the darlings on Instagram! Most of those little darlings have no clue what they missed, and I can’t imagine they would have been happy with spool tables. XOXOX, Brenda

  3. Oh, the days of ‘repurposing’! We used milk crates for book shelves and reconfigured them multiple times until my kids left home. Our first sofa was from Castro Convertible and we recovered it many times. Once in green fake fur! Ahh the good ole hippy days! Can’t wait to see your finished new home!

    • They tore it down!! All that beautiful Honduran mahogany and gorgeous tiled bathrooms… Gone. They didn’t even salvage the Spanish tiles from the roof. Last time I checked… 15 years ago, they sold for $35 apiece. They were going to then excavate the hill and make it flat ground so they could put a car dealership there! Greedy developers with no sense of taste or beauty. Sad, right? I probably should have had it registered as an historical house, but I didn’t want the government dictating what colors I could paint my house. xoxox, Brenda

  4. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to decorate a place that is entirely my own. I went from living in supplied accommodation (the sort they gave teachers in the 1980’s who were posted to the country – LOTS of vinyl!) to setting up home with my husband – where it’s always been about finding a happy medium. I’m looking forward to seeing how yours turns out.

    • Leanne, can you make one room entirely your own? I have a small reading room, I call it my Jane Austen room, and it is decorated to please me and me alone. I love sitting in it.

  5. I LOVE your sense of style! Thanks for posting this. Your timing is perfect since I just bought a new house and will be moving into it mid-April and need all the help I can get when it comes to decor. (OMG just realized. This is the first “public announcement” of my impending move!

    • That’s terrific! Congratulations Mona! Packing and unpacking is the least fun thing about moving. I bought my house six months, and it needed so much done to it. Three months with a house full of contractors, I had to take a break but will have them back next month to gut the powder room. It’s impossible small and nothing in it works! Have fun with your house! Brenda

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