Saturday, December 7, 2013

Rescuing a Derelict

[House Beautiful 1983]

I wish I could have visited Thornhill Farm, home of my Christmas Mentor Dee Hardie and her husband Tom, but I feel that I know it intimately through Dee's old columns in House & Garden and House Beautiful, as well as her book Hollyhocks, Lambs and Other Passions.

I know that I fell more in love with Christmas because of Dee Hardie. Perhaps one reason Dee loved Christmas so much is that she and Tom were married on December 23, 1950--in Paris!

"It was in France that Tom and I celebrated our first Christmas together.
He met me at Orly Airport in a new fourteen-year-old Citroen convertible,
a low chariot of azure blue.
In the rakish speed-aire, the rumble seat,
was standing a Christmas tree,
and up front was a bunch of violets."
[from Hollyhocks, Lambs and Other Passions]

And they honeymooned in Marseilles on Christmas Day!

When R.H. and I bought this small 1920 farmhouse, I thought about Dee's Thornhill Farm, the old wood and fieldstone house that was abandoned and derelict when she and Tom bought it. For three years I'd been reading Dee's book and so I saw possibilities in our little house. Maybe not the possibility of becoming a Thornhill but a house that would be just as loved.

Christmas 1992 here at Valley View

In my previous post I showed Dee's living room with its Christmas tree. We don't have a tree in our living room, maybe because it's almost like a Christmas tree itself. And the centerpiece of our living room is an old Gothic country church cabinet that was hanging in our smokehouse when we bought the place. It was fairly derelict too.

R.H. repaired it, added new shelves, and hung it in the living room, even wiring it for lights.

It became like a dollhouse to me over the years, and I rearranged it constantly. I used to put my Snow Village houses in it for Christmas. On my blog in November of 2012 I wrote a post called Back When We Built Cities and Wore Christmas Sweaters (link here). It did seem that all of a sudden people were not building cities of Christmas villages, nor were they wearing Christmas sweaters, unless it was in an Ugly Christmas Sweater contest.

I miss both of those Christmas activities so much but was told by the younger set that they were dated. Instead I began breaking up the village and using a piece or two around the house. Truthfully, though, I hope they both come back in style. And dated or not, if you happen to revisit Across the Way during this December, you will see where I keep sneaking more of my houses out and scattering them around the house. I'm not exactly avant-garde around here anyway, with my primary colors. Now, if I can only remember where I put my Christmas sweaters!

I do put fewer things in the Gothic cabinet now. Three old Dept. 56 Christmas trees and old deer that seem to be grazing on the tiny crystal prisms and ruby glass beads hung on a tree that daughter Christy gave me go on the top shelf now. It is flanked by two Spode plates.

The other two shelves have blue crystal bowls that son Gurn and his wife have given me for birthdays. I put vintage ornaments in them at Christmas.

Many years ago I began buying the old worn speckled ornaments when I'd find them at yard sales.

Some of them are here because reds are not allowed on our main Christmas tree in the kitchen anymore.

There are two other gifts in this cabinet, two beautiful iittalia birds by Toikka, given to R.H. and me by my sister Deb and her husband Don.

They both sit in Blue Willow bowls in nests of blue holly.

My own nest is the old brown leather chair by this cabinet, the chair worn and scratched by a Welsh corgi named Tex and a dachshund named Penelope who are no longer with us. They used to sit, one on each arm, as I read or scribbled.

Now this is the chair where I blog or watch a chic flick while R.H. watches "Justified" in the family room.

And of course, I read.

Here is another old Christmas book that I read every December. It was written by Bess Streeter Aldrich and is called Journey Into Christmas. It is one of my most favorite Christmas books. Here is a link to some old copies for sale--link here.

"Margaret Staley stood at her library window looking out at the familiar elms and the lace-vine arbor.
Tonight the trees were snow-encrusted, the arbor a thing of crystal filigree under the Christmas stars."

The Tis the Season Blog Tour begins Monday! I hope you will visit all of us. I'll remind you on Monday and add the links to their blogs. Hope to see you there!

And please don't overlook the derelicts in life!


  1. There is something magical about 'rescuing a derelict', otherwise nobody would do it! Dee Hardie's wood and fieldstone Thornhill Farm I'm sure is pretty, but I KNOW that Valley View is quite a charm, as well! Furnished with a restored Gothic cabinet, hosting a seasonal ecosystem of merry mementos, and other festive touches throughout, your sweet farmhouse comes alive with Christmas spirit and winter wonderlands of whimsy - the last of which, is a good enough reason in itself, to don those otherwise démodé sweaters, stay cozy and enjoy the 'view' from within.

    PS: I'm curious; why has red been banished from your holiday kitchen?

    1. Hi Poppy, to answer your question, a couple of years ago I went to pinks and grays in the kitchen because of the old Italian fish majolica. Those changed everything. But never fear, in the small dining room and laundry room reds still reign!

      And thank you for your sweet comment--it is magical, itself!

  2. I think your gothic cabinet is gorgeous, Deweena, and Poppy asked the other question I was wondering about! I love old ornaments, too.

  3. Deweena, what a lovely post! Okay, I love Christmas sweaters and a good Christmas village. In fact, my nephew asked this past Thanksgiving if I was going to put up my (way too big for it's own good) Christmas village. He and the rest of the kiddos in the family love it. So, guess what I'll be pulling out sometime this weekend? Looking forward to our tour this week. Have a lovely weekend. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  4. Deweena,
    As lovely as Thornhill Farm is and indeed it is! Valley View exudes an aura of charm and relaxed timelessness. It seems to me your storybook home is a lovely symbol of a life that is well lived with grace, enthusiasm, integrity, meaningful books and Christmas decorating that is enchanting!


  5. i dearly love all your derelicts! if they can be called derelicts. with such love and beauty . . .
    i think not!
    all your posts are wonderful and anticipated. but i think peeks into valley view are MY most favoritist!
    and YES!!! i'll be following the party tour for sure.
    and . . . so many ands !!! and thank you for the lead to that treasure of a book.
    and i dearly love the villages whether together or spread around the house. and a Christmas sweater?
    never saw one i didn't like. so THERE. take THAT! you snooty snooties! LOLOLOL.
    love to you dear one. xoxo
    and . . . could anyone have said it more beautifully than joyce olson above? it is everything that each of us is thinking. only she said it for all of us. ♥

  6. Well I think Valley View looks wonderful. No derelicts anywhere near you! I am so looking forward to seeing your home in the, "Tis The Season Blog Tour." I had no idea Christmas Villages were no longer popular. I must say I have tossed those old sweaters of mine. Great cabinetry by the way. Merry Christmas!
    Patty at Home and Lifestyle Design

  7. It's lovely to think that you could see the potential in Valley View when you first saw it. I'm so happy to sit here and take in your posts that show what you've done to rescue a derelict. I am truly a person who loves to "save homes"...if I had the skills and cash to flip houses, I would.

    Here's to Christmas villages and Christmas sweaters! They have a charm all their own and we all have a good time with them. Did you see the Christmas sweater some lady was wearing outside of the Today Show last week? The lady had added a 3-D reindeer head (that she'd stitched from fake fur and stuffed. On her back was a 3-D reindeer butt. Hilarious! You gotta love it!

  8. There are traditions that just shouldn't go. Just last year I gave away all my houses away. I hadn't put them out for awhile. I still always put out a toy football from my husband's childhood.
    I loved the picture of your home. And the bird in the holly is my favorite. Your house looks lovely and ready for the season. I can't wait for the tour to begin.

  9. Love that gothic arch shelf! I had to go read the old post and it made me laugh because I too used to set up a huge village. I quit, I thought because now I live in an ideal neighborhood and that village was all about me pretending I lived there. It's just too much work...setting it all up and taking it all down again. This past week I went to a Christmas store called North Pole City. They still have a Dept 56 Village room with all the current villages set up. I used to spend an hour staring at the villages but this past visit I barely glanced at them. I still love them....I just can't do it.

  10. I so enjoyed reading this post Dewena. It was not only beautifully written, but enlightening as well. How is it possible you've been blogging since the early 1990's?? I didn't even know there were blogs back then!

    Were it not for those of us who can see the beauty in a 'derelict' house, what a sad world this would be.

    1. Obviously Doreen caught a typo for me. Why didn't anyone else tell me! So I just went back and changed 1992 to 2012. That's what happens when I do a post at midnight. And I'd even proofread it 3 times!

      Thank you so much, Doreen! (yes, I was a pioneer blogger in 1992! Ha!)

  11. There's so much to comment on, here. I enjoyed the snipped from the book about Dee and Tom's marriage. It left me wanting to read more ! The church cabinet is has so much character...I just love it, especially since it is filled with meaningful treasures. And finally, the picture of Valley View is so just exudes coziness!

  12. I too love your church cabinet. I have always wanted to take old places and redo them. I think it is a shame when people want to tear something down instead of fixing it up.

  13. I found someone who knows about Thornhill Farm and Dee Hardie. I remember being a young girl in my 20's reading her articles in the 90's. She had a life and style that I am only now able to put into action in my life. It's wonderful to find kindered spirits

  14. Dewena,
    I loved this post very much. I have many decorations myself, and some may think they are dated, but to me they are treasures. I enjoyed browsing through your shelves, and the vintage ornaments are so special. The red balls were my favorite and brought back fond memories. My mom used to put red balls on her Christmas tree every year.

    And I'll tell you a secret.....I still love the Christmas villages. I'll come and visit you during the "Tis The Season Blog Tour" and see what special goodies you have.


  15. I have two Christmas sweaters that I love. I wear them with a dark green pleated wool skirt that I bought over 15 years ago at Talbots. When I put them on I pretend I am a chic young Mrs. Claus. Other folks may want to bury their sweaters in the back garden, but I am wearing mine until I grow too fat or the moths eat holes in them…and "when I am old I shall wear purple…"

  16. I love your gothic cabinet! The fact that it is painted red makes it even more appealing. The vintage deer are wonderful! My cousin gave me a couple last year, but I have not found them yet this year. I have not opened one Winter themed container. Must be in there. I thrifted all of my Christmas sweaters a few years ago and now they are big bucks to buy on the internet. Ugly sweater parties made them hot, hot, hot items. lol! Excited about your Christmas tours. Having company so I may not make it around for a few days, but I will visit. Lots of sweet gals!

  17. Forgot to tell you that I have 21 Dept. 56 Dickens Houses that I haven't used since I moved into this home. I will. Planned on doing it this year down stairs. Our daughter and sil living with us for a few months changed that. It's o.k. There's always next year.

  18. What a wonderful post about the bits and pieces of your rescued home. I love it, Dewena! You have done a great job fixing the place up and it feels like home to me- xo Diana

  19. Don't you wish it were still possible to buy bouquets of violets? I do.:) I love Aldrich's books but never heard of Journey Into Christmas. I'll have to hunt for it. Your home is delightful, Dewena.

  20. The Blue Willow bowls as nests are adorable and clever!
    Such a great story.


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