I am embarking on a bittersweet journey that I had not anticipated. Some of you may have followed my post-divorce, monthly house makeover project in House Beautiful in 2010. I made the transition from a 5,000-square-foot, 1880s shingle-style house to a midcentury modern “ranch burger,” as Steven Drucker called it.
Court Hill Farm—this was home from 2001 until 2009. It was a wonderful, if enormous, house, with an extraordinary view. Its eight bedrooms gave me lots of opportunities to play house, make beds, and feel like a real grown-up with a grown-up house. It played an important role in my life and in my business.
With help from dear friend and fabulous architect John Gilmer, I got that ranch burger all the fixin’s, just the way I liked them. Above you see the exterior and below Emmet in his midcentury modern yard.
Then my world got rocked. On May 21st, 2011, I found my beloved mother dead in her bed, her faithful dog, Lucky, meeting me at the door with one of her gardening sneakers in his mouth.
I have had a running dialogue with myself and others about whether or not I should take this on. I have a house that I just finished. Will the house forever remind me of finding my mother? Will I be up to the task of maintaining her garden? I want to change the house—is that disrespectful of her choices? The list goes on and on and in circles, and then on and on and in circles again! In the end, I couldn’t stand the idea of someone buying the house and ignoring the tremendous garden. And I would know—the house is only 1/4 mile up the road from mine! So, finally, I decided that I couldn’t let Mum’s house go. I want and I need to watch her garden grow.
My mother, Googie Emmet, was, among many other things, a Master Gardener. She built wonderful gardens in each of the houses we lived in. She knew the Latin name for every plant, she read extensively on the subject of gardens (her library is amazing), she visited as many notable gardens as she could, distilling all this into schemes for her own gardens. Above is a winter view from the back of the house and below are some hellebores now blooming in a bed in front of the house.
I mourn the loss of Mum not only physically but in all the connections we shared—and there were/are many. My love of color, pattern, architecture, rugs, travel, food, clothing, people, books all originated with her. ( I credit my father with my sense of humor and irreverence.) It is through these connections, all gifts that she gave me, really, that I am keeping her alive in my heart and mind.
A picture of Mum and my father on their wedding day lies amid family photos. Clearing out the house and the wrapping up of a life has been nearly a yearlong endeavor for me and my brothers, Criss and Will. It’s emotionally draining work that you can only do so much of before you have to take a break and walk away.
Just when you think you can’t stand winter any longer or that your sadness is unshakable, you spy the mini yet mighty snowdrop, signaling to one and all that life is full of, and one could add defined by, new beginnings.
To celebrate this new journey you’re embarking on with me, I put together a special giveaway package of some of our most exciting, sail-themed Dash & Albert and Pine Cone Hill products. One lucky reader will win an 8.5’ x 11” Catamaran Stripe Sprout/Ivory indoor/outdoor rug, a Fisher Ticking woven cotton tote bag, a Blue Awning woven cotton throw, two Blue Awning 20” x 20” pillows, and a Sonia Kaftan valued at nearly $800! Just leave a comment on this post below, and we’ll notify the winner by e-mail on May 10, 2012.
The giveaway starts on Monday, May 7, and runs until 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday, May 9. (View the full rules here.)
Congratulations to our winner, Kim B. from Minnesota!