Flea-market finds and collections from France blend on an online shop owner’s Illinois home.
Writer Christine Hofmann-Bourque; Photographer Kim Cornelison
Online shop owner Tracey Leber’s motto of “Seeking life’s inspirations” is more than just a theme for her blog. It’s a philosophy that carries her on regular trips to France, where she strolls the flea markets and antiques shops of Paris, Provence and Normandy seeking treasures for her home-decor store, FrenchLarkspur.com.
The store’s virtual shelves showcase items such as well-loved table linens, sheet music, century-old apothecary bottles and beautifully hand-scripted letters.
She keeps a few special pieces for her headquarters in the Chicago-area home she shares with husband Steve and their three children. She layered on age in her eight-year-old home using crown molding, antique chandeliers, architectural salvage, family heirlooms and a welcoming palette that’s mostly white, which serves as a backdrop to a melding of Scandinavian and French styles. “I like the fact that vintage items make my home more unique,” Tracey says.
The family room’s wall color appears pale green or blue depending on how the sun hits it. The old door leaning against a wall is one of Tracey’s most versatile vintage finds because its back side is an awesome blue color. Depending on the time of year, she flips the door over for a new look. Antique chandeliers throughout the house offer a one-of-a-kind look. Some don’t light, but that’s OK with Tracey. “Sometimes I’ll just hang them for their beauty,” she says.
Old handwritten letters in French are strung across an empty frame with jute twine. “I have a love of all vintage papers, but I especially love the beautiful script on old letters,” Tracey says.
In the studio, Tracey packs orders for her business and works on projects, while her kids use the old farm table for crafts and homework. “This space used to be a living room, but we never used it,” Tracey says.
Steve built the shelving unit from salvaged wood. Old baskets and wood and tin boxes become filing cabinets. On the table, a painted wood toolbox stores a variety of shipping materials. Tracey artfully displays her vintage grain sack collection on a paint-splattered ladder.
“I’m known on my blog for my table settings,” says Tracey Leber of FrenchLarkspur.blogspot.com. “It’s something I enjoy doing.” So we asked Tracey to create a Valentine’s Day-inspired table and to share her tips.
Pink Depression glass and a fresh blossom add sweet color to this table setting.
Scandinavian style inspired gray-painted wood floors. Tracey upholstered a mix of chairs with vintage grain sacks—easy to do with a staple gun.
“Make your style our own,” Tracey advises. “I wish I had a simple name to describe my style, but it doesn’t fit in a neat little box. I call it French Nordic. I love vintage French decor, but I also love Scandinavian style, with its pale painted furniture and clean lines. I combine the two.”
Tracey loves whites, but to warm up her rooms, she says that “once I buy a white paint color, I won’t use it a second time. This way, the whites on the walls and furniture throughout my house are all mix-and-match. That adds interest. I also like to add pops of color—mostly blues and greens. I love using colored glass. And I throw in some dark wood pieces among the painted pieces to keep things warm.”
In the kitchen, Tracey uses a vintage library cart on wheels in place of a kitchen island. “I like that it can be moved around,” Tracey says.
She removed cabinet doors under the farm sink and hung a skirt of vintage fabric for old-fashioned charm.
A bottle-drying rack corrals mugs on a serving table Steve built out of shipping pallets.
“When I import items from Europe, they’re shipped on wood pallets,” Tracey says. “I asked my husband if he could build a table out of the pallets. He’s learned over the years that I get these crazy ideas, and he just goes with it. Originally, I wanted it to be my outdoor potting bench, but it looked so pretty inside that it’s stayed in the dining room. I set hors d’oeuvres and desserts on it when entertaining.”
In 5-year-old Caighton’s room, a stenciled French quote references her christening dress hung on a salvaged window.
In the serene blue master bedroom, a drawer adds magazine and book storage under the nightstand, and an old window stands in for art.
“Embrace architectural salvage,” says Tracey. “Old windows, shutters, cornice pieces and clock faces are a few of my favorites. They add a lot of interest to a room, and it’s usually easy to find them with their original patina. When living with vintage, I’m careful. If a piece has old, chipping paint—especially if it’s going in a child’s room—I’ll seal it with polyurethane.”
Pages from a French play dangle from a wood frame above a farm-table desk.
Eleven-year-old Halena’s desk was made from wood pallets and painted; faded French maps fill panes of a window above it.
Sheet music papers a wall in the studio.
“Don’t overthink your vignettes,” Tracey advises. “I follow no design rules whatsoever when creating vignettes in my house. I start gathering items that I think I want to use and tweak until my eyes say I like how it looks. I tell people all the time: Decorate with what you love. Don’t do anything overly trendy. You’ll be happier in the long run.”