You know that saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?” Well, I am shamelessly imitating something that my friend Lisa does in her home in France.
I met Lisa on a trip to Provence to explore French antiques and brocantes, the French version of our flea markets. We had a visit to her centuries-old, lovingly restored house with three-foot thick stone walls in the countryside of Provence. Lisa is a talented designer, she has a terrific eye for color, and on top of it all she’s a fabulous cook who never forgets how important presentation is when it comes to food. The best meals I’ve eaten in all of France were at her table. Plus, she is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met with a huge, kind heart. She has become a dear friend.
You can read more about Lisa and her home in this post, A Life Documented, that highlighted an article published last year in a French Cottage issue of Victoria magazine.
We toured Lisa’s house and oohed and aahed over each room, each antique or flea market find, each piece of art, and her unique way of arranging her furniture and finds.
One thing that immediately caught my eye was the way Lisa had pinned beautiful old brooches to the backs of her upholstered chairs. When I commented on it, Lisa told the story of how her mother was a relentless shopper and had left her and her sisters a wonderful collection of vintage pins and brooches. Each one unique and too beautiful to hide, but maybe no longer destined to be part of a daily outfit. Lisa added, “But I think it’s okay for old things to live a new life in a different way,” and that’s how the pins came to decorate the backs of her chairs. A little jewel that makes each chair different, that makes you feel oh so special each time you select the chair in which you want to sit.
Her words struck me as that was why I wanted to go on the first French antiques trip. To search for old, vintage treasures that could live a new life. To be lucky enough to stumble upon a discarded piece of history and meaning, something that isn’t made or used for its original purpose any more. To find vintage linens that have a weight and feel in your hands that newer items today just can’t replicate. To bring home original, hand-lettered documents and personal missives from 100, 200 or even over 300 years ago that have an innate beauty just because of a few strokes of a pen, and then figure out all kinds of clever ways to use them.
On that same trip, I found three beautiful brooches at the brocantes and I knew exactly where they would fit in my house. And when I returned, I dug out an old jewelry box full of the old pins I used to wear on lapels of suits back in the day when we still wore suits and everything had to match. (Thank God that rule changed.) The pins were sort of my signature in the 80s and 90s, but difficult to find a way to wear them with more modern and casual clothes today.
Here are some of the places I found for my new “old” pins and the ones I brought back from France.
When I started running out of chairs with upholstered backs, I started pinning them on the edge of draperies. Most people don’t even notice that they are there. But that’s okay, because I know. Old friends living a new life. I just have to remember where I pinned them if I decide I want to wear one again.
Do you have a favorite way of using something old in a new and unique way? I’m looking for ways to wear a scarf or wrap and secure with an old brooch. Any suggestions?
Leave a comment and tell me! If you’ll send me photos, I’ll publish in a new post to share with Chez Suzette readers. Email me at email@example.com. Together we’ll continue to look for ways to help old things live a new life. Sounds good to me.
I loved hearing about your collection of brooches and how you’ve found great new ways to display them. I have also been collecting vintage brooches and have always thought it a pity to keep such beautiful works of art hidden in a jewelry case. You’ve inspired me to bring them out.
Suzette Bannister says
I’ve decided that vintage jewelry can “decorate” lots of unexpected places. When you bring them out, send me photos of what you do with them and I’ll share in a new post!
Louanne Provonsha says
I really enjoyed this blog. How refreshing after a tiring work week. I absolutely love to repurpose things and this gave me a fresh new idea. Thank you so much for sharing!
Suzette Bannister says
Yes, one of the best things about flea market and antique finds is it’s the best way to “recycle,” right? Always fun to get creative in new ways and learn from each other. Thanks for the photo, I’ll be sharing in a new post!