What are your favorite tablescape ideas?? I am not a great cook so I keep it very simple, do the same thing over and over (can we say chicken salad), or buy the food BUT I like for it to look nice of course. I figure hey, we all have different gifts right?? So what are your tricks?? I obviously like to use fabric, this tulle worked great for a baby shower..or even just short lengths of cute fabric not even sewn like on the easter table. On the Christmas table I used this crazy leopard felt to add to a store bought runner..hmm, maybe I should have used that time and effort on trying a new recipe???

::more groupings::

Plates, mirrors, picture frames, framed memorabilia, etc… I love the picture frames on the silver frame in our master bath..
I have photographs everywhere..a major design faux pas..oh well..I think homes without family pictures are cold and boring BUT you can have too many..I constantly battle this because I love them..this tray helps me have them where I can see them but not all over tables in the living room (which I dont really have space for anyway..
The mirrors over the long counter in the master bath really break up the big boring wall..I wanted to tear out this counter/cabinet space and put in pedestal sinks but I soon discovered i would be losing much needed storage…So we have not changed it yet but we did take down the big sheets of mirror and used several mirrors of varying height instead..it has worked great..in fact, I think I would even like to add more mirrors on this wall and mix it up MORE.

In the upstairs “shabby” bedroom, I framed notecards/stationary from our wedding..showing my monogram before the big date that I used for showers and after once we were married as well our wedding program..this was really a simple project..I just used old frames I had and scraps of fabric as the “mats”…

[edited: i just noticed there are framed family pictures in EACH shot, I did not plan that but it says a lot!..off to edit!]


On a recent visit to Fredericksburg, Texas, I got to revisit one of my early sources of inspiration…HOMESTEAD by Carole Hicks Bolton..of course it is very different now..what was once 3-4 stores, each different and wonderful, is now just one big store (three stories) and includes “friends” (which I think are rented spaces but still very interesting)and I think there is even another store in Hico, Texas, under new ownership. I must confess I really miss the old, original Homestead..I like to look at the dark, baronial look of her later years but I loved the original mish mash of cottage fabrics. In fact, I have pictures I secretly took in her store about 15 years ago..i would love to find them and scan for this blog! But on this trip I got to see her new lighting collection..how about the one with all of the bulbs?!

Thinking about Homestead also made me think about my other primary inspiration and favorite movie.. OUT OF AFRICA I love Karen Blixen’s plantation in Kenya and the set decor..the boots, the clothes, the British colonial style, the slipcovered chairs in this clip..perfection. I think Debbie at Curious Sofa continues to really interpret this look well..she is great..visit her blog if you get a chance.

What inspires you?? What style/look do you always go back to regardless of trends???

::more groupings::

Not fine collections but other things I love seeing grouped together..globes (I need more but they are not dirt cheap any more) and ribbon in jars! Update on the apothocary jars…I found several boxes of “vintage” dominos at my grandmother’s house over the weekend..also a HUGE tin box full of buttons and a box full of OLD harmonicas of various sizes..I cant wait to fill my jars with these new finds..!


Maybe the word “collections” is a little bit overstated…these are more like “groupings”..which is absolutely fine…How ever you state it, we all know that by placing similar or duplicate items side by side, you can make a bold statement..often very inexpensively. SO whether it is a grouping of cheapo/thrift store white plates hung creatively, old globes, white pitchers, books or small paintings..the more the better. In fact, less is not more I always say..more is more!!;;

I have a small “collection” of these old suitcases..a few in one spot and more in another. Honestly, in a small house, they make great storage…and I have moved them and used them all over the house. And the look is classic.

My blue and white collection used to be on my fireplace/”built-in” wall but I moved it to this armoire top a few years ago and LOVE IT! The “collection” includes pieces from my wedding dishes, gifts, and a few large and old (but cracked, that is how I was able to afford them) pieces we got on a trip to England.

This collage of various sized framed prints over our dresser is certainly a “mish mash” but I have hung them close together to try and give some cohesiveness and a big “punch.” This is a fairly large space and I did not have a big piece of artwork to hang here so I hung a bunch of small things, but close together! I will share a wider shot of this wall soon.

What do you like to “group”..what pleases you to see “en masse”?????

::apothocary jars::

These jars are everywhere and I really love them–all shapes and sizes. Remember how everyone was trying to track them down at Sams Club and they kept selling out! I bought these at Michael’s but I have seen wonderful really large ones at TJ Maxx and Marshalls and of course Pottery Barn, Target, and Crate and Barrell, just to name a few. My question is, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO FILL THEM WITH??? I get tired of lemons and I love my antique christmas balls in them during the holidays but honestly mine stay empty a lot because I am never happy with anything I put in there..I have a friend who has a HUGE jar filled with old hornets nest (or some kind of nest) very cool. Here are some of my ideas for things to go inside..please add your ideas in the comments.

*jelly beans, any kind of neat classic looking candy, I once did twizzlers in the tall skinny jar
*moss balls off of trees, cute with a nest and even fake snow in January
*old tiny book, would be great to open a book and fold down some pages like a fan
*broken piece of china
*glass Christmas balls, ornaments..
*an old silver cup
*old photograph
*vintage jewelry boxes

Cant wait to hear what yall have to say!

{my jars currently have a shell, eiffel tower salt shaker, old books, old printmaking stamp, old books (a German copy of Luther’s Catechism) jewelry box from my grandparents wedding rings, and you cant see it but my grandfather’s graduation name card, and my favorite little dollhouse chair}

*****edited to say..”Be sure and go see what the brilliant nester has to say about a similar subject and notice HER cute jar!”


Chalkboards are everywhere! Ballard has some precious styles with shabby frames or gilt…and they have one that is huge! This blog shows two neat ideas for large chalkboards in a kitchen..above cabinets and on sliding doors..ver cool! Pottery Barn Kids and Land of Nod each have them in various sizes and shapes that will work either in or out of a children’s space. But of course we all know the easiest way to achieve this look is with good ol’ chalkboard paint..cheap ($12 at my Home Depot)and so easy (I used the brush on but they have it in a spray can as well). I have been wanting to do this for several years. I contemplated painting the bottom half of one of the old 1940s doors in my son’s room..or my sad little fridge (ca. 1998..cheapest fridge they had at Waco Circuit City!;;) I decided to do my laundry room doors on my back porch..why?? two words: CHALK DUST! I decided the backporch would be a better place for him to play with the chalk than in my kitchen or his room! I finished last week and the little man loves it..and I love the look. FYI..remember if you want a really vintage look, krylon also makes chalkboard paint in the vintage green..I used black on my project but I like the green too!

::more monograms::

I wanted to share two pictures of monongrams in our home. The first, are “D”s on my son’s little play chairs (my husband insists little boys don’t need monogrammed chairs but I disagree)…and yes they actually stay on pretty well..he took them off a lot at first but now ignores their presence for the most part. I made these with plain ol’ red ticking from Wal-Mart. It is cheap, washable, and so durable. I simply covered these little IKEA chairs with a basic “sew a pillowcase” concept. I turned the fabric inside out over the back of the chairs, pinned and sewed. Are the perfect?? absolutely not..but they are cute and unique. On a homemade, imperfect treatment like this it is best to monogram AFTER you “make” your creation. And isnt my little model a cutie?

The big brown pillow on the master bedroom bed is made from large dinner napkins. I had one monogrammed in white so there would be bright contrast on the dark patterned fabric and then had my sewing lady sew on the little stiched seam (not the outer edge) so there is a cute little edge…On a project like this pillow, where I had someone else do the sewing, I had the monogram done FIRST. So be sure and think through when do the monogram application..before or after you finish sewing!

::slipcovers & monograms::

Two of my favorite things are slipcovers and monograms. Of course both are very popular right now but both are also timeless and certainly not a new idea. So many little shops are doing beautiful monograms now that is not difficult to find someone to help you personalize just about anything!

These monogrammed slipcovers really transformed this dated almost “retro” dining room set. The seats were covered in a wonderful fabric but the cane chair backs needed, well they needed covering! But we did not want to throw the chairs out because the shape of the back is very interesting.. The client purchased an ivory duck fabric and we had local slipcover artist (she really is an artist) Michelle Fritz work her magic. Her work has been seen Country Home and other publications..she is amazing! Her business is called MAKE, isnt that cute?! Email me if you live in the Houston/College Station area and are interested in reaching her. She does wonderful ruffles, knife pleats, and other dressmaker details. Once we had the slips made, the client took the slips to a local embroidery shop and chose a font and thread color (choc brown which looks great with her rusty orange walls). This dining room is not large but the chairs and slips (and monograms of course) are very dramatic and yet casual.

Slipcovers can be intricate and “hired done” or you can do an easy treatment at home..watch for more posts on DIY slips for children’s chairs and of course, more monograms too!

::How I got started::

I get this question a lot, especially since the first feature in BHG (June 2005). My education is not in design. In fact my undergrad degree is in History and my master’s degree is in Museum Studies. I did take as many art classes as possible along the way but the small college I attended did not offer many and certainly not an interior design degree! My grandmother was a decorator in the Waco area for years and she took me to “Market” a lot growing up, so that definetely planted a seed. My mom is also a realtor so really I inherited my love for houses from them. After college and marriage, we were really blessed to be able to rent and buy several really neat little homes. Living in those houses really got my creative juices flowing and I soon realized my heart was not so much in museum work (although I learned a great deal and knowledge gained in that field has certainly augmented my journey into design)but was truly in decorating. In 2002, my mom and I opened a little shop in Chappell Hill, Texas, called “FrouFrou Ranch” it was a lot of fun but ended up being only seasonal since we both still had full-time jobs. Later that year, I started SHABBY SOUTH INTERIORS, launched a little website, and rented a booth at a local junk store. Thus the very first business cards pictured above. I did a couple of little “shows” and sold things in my booth and another store near Houston and it was a great creative outlet. In 2004 I was contacted by BHG (via a decorator friend)about doing a feature on my house for their DIY publication…later they cancelled because they wanted to do a “baby room” and I did not have one. This was particularly upsetting because we were trying to have a baby but were not pregnant yet. Later that year (when I WAS expecting and ironically decorating a nursery) they called back and were ready to do the article..this time in the big mothership publication. Isnt it interesting how God works things out–His timing is truly perfect. They came and “scouted” our home the week before our son was born and did the actual shoot in January 2005 when he was just a few months old (which was great timing, because all of his baby stuff..toys..etc..had not yet taken the house over).. By the time the article hit the stands, our little boy was 8 months old and I was staying home with him full time. The article turned out to be great advertising for Shabby South and I started getting calls for my design work. The timing was perfect (again a God thing I know) because I was now ready to get out of the house and leave the baby a bit here and there. It just worked out perfect and I have really appreciated that exposure. BHG has continued to “recycle” the article in their other publications which has been great. This year, I decided to drop the name Shabby South and re-launch as Holly Mathis Interiors. It has been a really fun journey to this point, I love working with people on their homes and helping them create spaces they love for their families. Stay tuned for more!

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