Jennifer Rooke

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Jennifer Rooke
Retired USAF colonel turned homemaker--14 moves in 24 years! Found final nesting place in Belgium with my husband and two almost adult stepchildren.
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Love Your Home Challenge: Set A Spring Table

     Although it’s still snowy and cold outside, Melissa has motivated me via her #loveyourhomechallenge to bring some spring cheer into my home and prep for this year’s Easter tablescape. I’ve cleared the normal daily clutter off our dining table and created two centerpieces composed of eggs and crocuses. I’ve currently used natural egg shells, but I’m contemplating dying them in colors to match the place settings. I also placed moss in one glass vase to cover up the crocus pot and old straw in the other. I’m as yet also undecided on which of those I like best, though I’m leaning toward the moss. What do you think?

     I love ceramics and glass, and I enjoy combining them into colorful place settings. Here, I’ve mixed my set of vintage Alfred Meakin “Audubon Birds of America“ dinner plates that each feature a different illustration along with some duck-egg blue salad plates, Portmeirion “Birds of Britain” appetizer/dessert plates and a set of glass bowls from Biot in France. The glass bowls blend very well with a set of wine goblets I found years ago in Murano in Italy and a set of 1950s water glasses my mother-in-law gave me. I complete the look with my favorite spring-time silverware set embossed with daffodils, which I notice need a good polish. Good thing I’ve got a couple of weeks left before Easter to get to that little chore!

     I wish everyone a cheery spring season!

Home away from HOME

     My emotions recently turned from dread to looking ahead. This will soon become a favorite reading nook of mine. It’s the space at the top of the stairwell of the rental house my husband and I have found in a small village in Germany. My husband has been reassigned from Belgium to Germany and starts his new job on Monday. That may sound like a big move, but it’s only 3 hours away from our permanent home and only a 3-year assignment, so we decided to maintain our home we’ve created here while renting a fully furnished “home away from home” there. I’ll split my time between the two. I haven’t quite figured out yet how often I’ll make that drive back and forth, but we’ll be spending most of the weekends in Belgium with the kids, who are in college and the last year of high school.

     I expected that we’d end up with a small apartment with no character at all and barely enough room to maneuver about, but I was very pleasantly surprised when we found this little gem. It’s more than 200 years old and oozes with old world charm, both inside and out. It’s a converted farm building, with original wood beams and some of the stone-faced walls exposed. The furnishings are even stylish—farmhouse meets art deco (that just happens to be my favorite design period!), so when we viewed this I thought it was perfect just the way it is. Of course, there’d be NO fun at all just leaving the decor as is, so I will add my own touch here and there. I’ve challenged myself to figure out how to do that without spending much money. I’ll try to repurpose things. I’ll also have to restrain myself and purposefully add things only if I know I can use them in our own home 3 years from now. Since it’s a rental, I’ll also restrain myself from adding unnecessary holes in the walls, etc. That’s a challenge, but a fun one!

     I hope you enjoy this little photo tour of this home’s unique architectural elements.

     I even like the copper piping surrounding the front door—it adds a bit of an industrial feel.

     The outside even oozes with character, to include apple trees and a small vinyard maintained by the owners!

     This little corner will become our outdoor entertaining area. Prost! (That’s German for “Cheers”.)

20 little things

     What a great block party theme! I think #20littlethings has given us the opportunity to contemplate precisely why we love the homes we have. My husband and I settled in ours exactly two years ago next week. We foresee that it will be our “forever after” home since I have no desire to move again…ever. Neither of us consider it our dream home. Mine would be an art-deco period row house with a shady inner courtyard located in an old city center. My husband’s would be a contemporary new-build with rock-garden landscaping. Together we chose a typical Belgian farmhouse-style home built in the 1980s in a rural suburban location. I was willing to put some sweat equity into a home that needed renovation. My husband was insistent on a move-in ready home that needed nothing more than maybe a new coat of paint. His practicality won out over my fantasies…we have absolutely no remodeling experience, and we have yet to apply any new paint. But, we have spent the past two years slowly making this home one that reflects who we are.

1. At the end of the day, I think that’s what I love most about it and what will eventually make it our dream home.

2. I love our corner desk (above) filled with family photos. The quote on the wall sums up our experiences due to our military careers: “Life takes you to unexpected places; love brings you Home.” We will eventually use stick pins or something to mark the places we’ve been to on the old school world map hanging on the adjacent wall.

3. I love several architectural elements of the house, such as the front door.

4. I love the fireplace and TV surround in the living room. The former owner was an interior designer, thus we inherited her very tastefully done design. We hide all the electronic devices in the built-in cabinet. The colors actually coordinate perfectly with my treasured vase made out of Mississippi mud by a potter near my mother’s childhood home.

5. I love the crown molding and the working shutters surrounding the doorway to the sunroom.

6. I love the sunroom, which provides a comfortable indoor/outdoor transition space.

7. I love the cobblestone-paved driveway.

8. I love the wall of green around our backyard. The ivy looks great and provides some privacy in this suburban setting. We’ve planted and pleached some trees to afford even more privacy in the future as they grow, but for now they just look like twigs. 

9. I love the pergola that we had built last year. The wisteria is still young and will need a few years before it grows to provide shady cover above the outdoor dining area. I hung an old bottle dryer over the table so that we can enjoy candlelight dinners after dusk. I will eventually hang string lights from the rafters to enable even more evening ambiance. 

10. I love that my husband and I share an interest in airplanes (I served in the US Air Force, and he’s still in the Belgian Air Force), so we’ve integrated them in one form or another throughout our home decor as seen here in the entryway and stairwell. The prints on the wall are 1930s air route maps from the age of early luxury air travel. My husband had a pre-WWII wooden propeller stored away, but we pulled it out for prominent display on the stairwell landing.

11. I love that I can wake up each morning to Snoopy, the WWI flying ace and his Sopwith Camel aircraft, while enjoying a cup of coffee in the kitchen. Who doesn’t smile at Snoopy?!

12. I love that I’ve continued the aviation theme in the guest toilet to create a unique look. “Bombs away” or “Nuke ‘em” would perhaps be an appropriate motto for this room. :-) Ha ha…a little toilet humor!

13. I love that we’ve incorporated our individual collections into decor that we both like, even if it doesn’t really flow in a unified scheme. I hang plates on the wall to one side of a door, and my husband prominently displays his airplane models on the other side. Perhaps one day I will come up with an ingenious design that seamlessly integrates the two…lol! Ideas anyone?

14. I love that my husband’s parents gave him their oil painting of the harbor in Ghent that he always wanted since he was a boy. It’s a rather moody and impressionistic depiction of a brewing storm. It coincidentally blends very well with the colors in our living room. 

15. I love the collection of old prints and other artwork I’ve accumulated from my travels that allow me to reminisce over good times spent in some far-away locales, such as one of Easter Island and another a Tanzanian “tinga tinga” painting of a hyena.

16. I love that I’ve combined a set of old transferware plates of birds with a set of wine goblets I found in Murano, Italy, and a set of vintage 1950s water glasses my mother-in-law gave me.

17. I love the “boho” corner I’ve created in our bedroom. I needed a space to stash the pillows from the bed that we don’t use when sleeping. I first just heaped them on top of a Chinese kang table in the corner, but then realized that it’d be more practical if I actually made a sitting area out of the space, so I added a big kilim cushion. I then hung an old chandelier that I bought at an antique market years ago. I had been so disappointed that the upstairs ceiling was too low for it to hang anywhere without my 6’5” husband bumping into it. Now, it’s out of his pathway, and the next step is to get an electrician to route wiring to it so we can actually turn it on/off. 

18. I love this old chair that I found about 12 years ago at a French flea market. I thought I got a great bargain on it until I got it home. Soon thereafter I smelled something unpleasant in the room and realized that the chair reeked of mildew. I had to completely remove the original upholstery and even the springs and horse-hair cushion…that’s what actually caused the smell. It must have been stored away and neglected for years in an old barn. I was then left with just the frame, and it remained that way for another five years as I moved from place to place. At one point, I wove rope across the seat so that it could actually be used, but it wasn’t very pretty. Finally, I had it reupholstered and voilá! I chose two separate patterns to give it a traditional but also modern look. 

19. I love that our home is located within easy walking distance of the neighborhood bakery and grocery store. It’s great to always have freshly baked artisanal bread. 

20. I love that we can also take a leisurely walk to the nearby nature reserve. It’s a wooded marshland area with a heather landscape (photo taken in the winter). It’s also flanked by a canal with excellent bike paths on both sides.

     If you’ve lasted this far to the end of my list, thanks so much for indulging me, and I hope you’ve also enjoyed some of my favorite little things!   

Smakelijk eten!

     Good morning! The sun’s out, so we get to enjoy a weekend breakfast in the sunroom. :-) Take a seat to chat over coffee, orange juice, a boiled egg, muesli, fresh fruit and toast with rhubarb preserves or honey…and if you really have a sweet tooth, I’ll pull out the jar of Nutella, too.

     The sunroom’s the only room in the house that I’ve filled with vibrant colors, and I love adding even more color on the tabletop. During springtime, I pull out my old set of silver-plated flatware with a daffodil pattern. It fondly reminds me of my mother as that was one of her favorite flowers, and it makes me all happy inside.

     As we say in the Flemish region of Belgium, “Smakelijk eten”! (That‘s Dutch for, “Enjoy your meal”.)


First Impressions

     Come on in! You’ve found yourself in the entryway of a typical Belgian farmhouse-style home built in the 1980s. Although I like the look of the house, my decor is rather eclectic and does not conger up the farmhouse feel. I struggle sometimes to bring coherency between the bones of the house and my design preference, but I’m pleased overall with what I’ve created.

     The decor in the entry hall includes old prints from travel destinations, an airplane replica, an art deco period cabinet and coat rack and an old round table.

     We use this old cabinet to store winter scarves, hats and gloves out of sight.  

     The daily mail gets plopped on this table. I’m in the process of reupholstering the chair seats. The chairs were made during the German Biedermeier period in the 1800s. I found them at a flea market in France. The original upholstery is a floral tapestry pattern, but I’m going to update them a bit with an art-deco pattern that includes, yes, airplanes…just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

     During this in-between season, our coat rack gets laden with both winter and spring jackets…and umbrellas in rainy Belgium.

     My mother-in-law gave me the floral arrangement sitting on the window sill.  The green milk vase is actually the base to an old lamp. She had the wiring removed and had a florist fill it with fake hydrangeas. Sometimes I replace the fake flowers with seasonal cut flowers or plants, but I have to set a saucer underneath to catch water that slowly drips from the hole where the electrical wire used to protrude!

     I hope you’ve enjoyed this #firstimpressions of my home.