The ever-inviting world of Rachel Ashwell

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes when I need a breather, a pick-me-up or simply a lovely diversion, I know where to turn – and that’s the captivating world of Rachel Ashwell.

I have long followed the British-born, Los Angeles-based author, designer and entrepreneur who created and branded the world of Shabby Chic, a mindset that morphed into an empire that includes books, home goods, a blog, a California shop – and for a time, a wonderland of a boutique in Manhattan.

No matter her medium, Ashwell is all about celebrating the imperfect, respecting the past – and embracing the meaningful. That her palette is one of soft hues and, often, muted florals just adds to the appeal.

It was nice to see Ashwell join Romantic Homes magazine as a columnist recently – and even more delightful to learn of two new Ashwell books, both published in recent months by CICO Books, an imprint of Ryland Peters & Small.

Review copies in hand, I was off on another inspirational journey.

“Shabby Chic Interiors: My Rooms, Treasures, and Trinkets” (192 pages, $35) is a new edition of the classic first published in 2009.

The book takes us through not only Ashwell’s own home but also those of friends and neighbors as well as those once owned by celebrities. Throughout, whether it’s a beach cottage, loft or townhouse, there’s a focus on the core qualities Ashwell loves – beauty, comfort and function. A final section takes readers “Behind the Scenes,” looking at the topics of design, vintage and inspiration, with a detailed look at everything from art to lighting, hardware to texture, capped by an extensive list of resources. In short, it’s a book filled with beauty and guidance, the fanciful anchored by the practical.

And then, it was on to “My Floral Affair: Whimsical Spaces and Beautiful Florals” (240 pages, $35), left for second as I just knew it was going to be utterly incredible – and it is.

It’s a meandering trip through the English countryside, Paris and the French countryside, Norway and back home to America, a scrapbook of sorts filled with gardens and interior shots, details of stunning arrangements and unforgettable floral-inspired décor.

Both of these new books are destined to spend plenty of time with me, providing escape, inspiration – and daydreams filled with beauty.

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– Mary Shustack

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