How to fix it so that our German pink sofa didn't scream at our retro 50s kitchen? It turned out to be easy once a school of fish swam into my life via eBay. Maybe they heard the call of the original one that sat on top of a china cabinet in the family room.
A few years ago I bid on and won a large platter, shaped like a fish, of Italian majolica, maybe from the 1950s but probably much older when you examine the back. The only reason I won it, I'm sure, is that the tip of one fin was broken off. The same thing with the covered small fish tureen or sauceboat that went with it; it lost part of its fin too, poor baby. Bidders want perfection, it seems. Not I, I adored it. The two pieces, mostly a light gray, sit grandly on top of the china cabinet, and a few small fish plates and some even smaller fish "bone" plates that came with the first two, reside inside the cabinet along with a stack of other Italian pottery plates shaped like some sort of sea life. More about these unique dishes another time, maybe next summer for a seafood dinner.
Providence was with me this summer when my long-running watch on eBay for more of these Italian fish finally turned up in my email. I wouldn't let myself even begin to hope that I would win these: one large fish platter, six smaller plates, six "bone" plates, and the bottom of another covered fish sauceboat, its top missing but including a darling little pottery spoon. I put in the highest bid that I could live with and then tried to forget about it, absolutely floored when I won it for the low opening bid, no other bids against me. The only thing I could come up with for this was that the seller had not included the word 'majolica' in the description. Are they majolica? I don't know and don't much care. They are my enchanting school of fish and they are...PINK! Gray and pink with touches of black. And this seller of the highest integrity wrapped and packed these wonderful fish as superbly as if I had won a crazy bidding war. Think of that!
At last I knew what I was going to do in the kitchen. The new fish platter and two of the smaller fish plates went on plate racks on the black granite countertop, and a much loved and spectacular 1985 Caldwell rose lamp out of my bedroom from a third sister's shop joined them there.
Reds left the scene and pinks, greens, and grays came in. Red pyrex and Fiesta went behind wood cupboard doors, many red items moving to the laundry room/snack room or to the small dining room. Linens, accessories, almost everything gradually changed.
And in the family room adjoining? Soon a Goodwill excursion turned up two tall china birds, every bit as funky as the sofa I had despaired over, marked Japan for $4.98 each, bringing in more touches of gray, pink and black for the family room mantel. Then most recently a fish of a different type, raspberry but also Italian, joined the birds, again for the low opening bid from eBay, because of a tiny flaw. They pulled the family room and kitchen together even better.
Don't you love it when a room finally comes together? Or are you one of the talented people who know exactly what you want, go out and find it, and everything looks perfect from the beginning? I do envy you, but my way is fun too.
"The house was a very artistic little house," he wrote. "There were good Italian prints on the walls and the sofa was highly elegant, the screen before the grate unusual. All, however, seemed artificially brought together by a skilled decorator and that is no way to assemble the furniture of a house. Each article must be acquired because of need or love."
Nelia Gardner White in "Cant We Be Friends" in McCall's 1938
Next step? Someday that red paint on the molding between the family room and kitchen has to go. R.H. had better get out his paintbrush. The yellow walls? They might be too bright for most people but we like them. Alexandra Stoddard says that every room should have a touch of yellow, and we undeniably have that covered here. I am looking for a rug to go in front of the kitchen sink in pinks, grays, and black. Any other changes, ad you know there will be eventually, will have to happen "because of need or love."