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This isn’t in England, it’s the guest bedroom above the kitchen in our house on Martha’s Vineyard that we call the Peter Rabbit room. Here it is as you come to it, at the top of the back stairs. It started as a normal guest room, but has, over the years, organically transitioned into a mini ode to Beatrix Potter.
It’s small, only 11′ x 12′, tucked up under the eves at the back of the house; everything in it is old. ♥
We think it was the “maid’s quarters” at one time (the house was built in 1849, when they had such things) but it would have made a wonderful room for the eleven-year-old I used to be. See those two tiny windows above the dresser? Note where your head would be on the bed? From your pillow you could see the sky, up through trees, leaves flitting in the sun, turning color in autumn, then snow falling in winter; smelling pancakes cooking downstairs in the kitchen, it is a perfect spot for dreaming. So here we go, on a little tour as I tell you the story how it came to be called the Peter Rabbit Room . . .
Let’s have some music to go with us! Just click and come back, the boys can serenade us as we go♥.
The old things in this room begin with my Laura Ashley hat, here on one of the bedposts, which I got back in the 1980’s. She belongs in the Peter Rabbit room don’t you think? And see the heart book shelf above the bed? It’s filled with travel books, like a shelf of dreams. Years ago, I drew a design for this shelf on a piece of paper (which I’m sure you can tell from the hearts); a carpenter friend (Carleton) built it for me; it was over my bed in my first little house on the island, and morning exercises-in-bed were taped to the underside of it.
The two larger windows (on each side of the room) are only waist-high, so when you’re in the bed, which is elevated, it feels like you’re in a tree house. The wind comes through the wisteria arbor just outside that window, flutters the curtains, blows across the four-poster bed (and you), to the huge maple tree outside the window on the other side; you can hear the leaves rubbing together, go shhhhh, and you feel the 160 years of history in this room in its DNA.
Why is it called the Peter Rabbit Room? Years ago, a girlfriend came to visit and one day she came down the stairs saying, “I love your Peter Rabbit Room.” She called it that because of the Peter Rabbit figurine perched on a stack of Beatrix Potter books on the dresser (of course, nowadays there are even more Peters, once I figured out it was the Peter Rabbit room). Now when my friends come to stay, they ask if they can have the Peter Rabbit room, even though it’s the smallest of all the bedrooms. Everyone feels like a child waking up in a tree house in this room.♥
. . . another Peter, so miniature it’s almost invisible, is on the narrow sill over the window (mixed in with beach glass we find on our morning walk). I wallpapered the room in pink with rosebuds when we first moved into the house back in 1989.
But the heart of the room is in the details . . .
Heart-shaped rocks on the window sill . . . Girl Kitty on the floor . . .
. . . old quilts in Beatrix Potter colors . . .
. . . And these linens. I love to find old embroidered pillowcases, and I have a trick when buying new sheets . . . I love the really expensive ones, but sometimes they are just too outrageously priced . . . so I just get the pillow cases! It makes all the difference in the details of a room and doesn’t cost much at all. Your face gets to touch the softest part, and you can buy nice white or colored sheets to go with them, and you don’t have to take out a loan at the bank to afford them!
And then there is just your basic fan-girl worship of Beatrix herself. I have that. What I love the most is the total simplicity, of her story, her art, her colors, and even, to a certain extent, her life.♥ She did what she loved, she gave to the world, she made happiness. I can’t think of a better example of a woman who followed her heart her whole life, that’s why she is my hero, because she was brave. (Come back and read more about her HERE.)
I have lots of old books about her. This one had black and white line drawings, so I watercolored them, and put in some dried flowers.
I started collecting Beatrix Potter figurines when I first moved away from home (see them on that shelf back there? And the dishtowel!). From the time I managed to scrape together thirty dollars that didn’t have to pay the electric bill, I was indulging. (They don’t make them anymore, so it’s very hard to find them for $30. But when I find them in antique stores, I buy them for the Vintage part of our web store, just in cases you want to start a collection of your own!). There was a little shop next to the record store where I worked that sold them. I would go there and think, “which one will I get next?” It was a huge decision. It was the first place I would take my paycheck. My value system has always been in the right place. 🙂
My husband at the time had a different value system; he didn’t really understand this fascination of mine, so I would hide Mrs. Tiggy Winkle in my purse until I could make her blend into our household. Since my first kitchen, I’ve always had these guys grouped on a shelf watching over me. Aren’t they wonderful? Do they not remind you of watercolor? I collected these long before I painted my first picture, before I even knew I could paint. I’ve always felt these colors, and the ones on old quilts must have sunk into me for inspiration.
Sometimes in the natural course of living at our house, a bunny ear will get chipped — poor Jemima Puddleduck jumps into the sink sometimes, has tiny chips, all hard-earned nicks, out of her bill — so I just take my little paint brush, watercolor the chip, and make her whole again.
I think Beatrix Potter, forever content and walking the country roads in heaven’s edition of her beloved Lake District, looks down and likes it when I’m painting on a duck bill taking good care of her baby. ♥
Speaking of Beatrix Potter, there are many wonderful biographies you can read about her life. She is much more than her books, she made a life at a time when women weren’t supposed to do that. You will love her, she’s total inspiration!
Also, you can join the Beatrix Potter Society!
P.S. One more thing. . . would you like to see the Peter Rabbit Room decorated for Christmas?
I think bunnies prefer a woodland Christmas, especially when it’s snowing outside, so I changed the bedspread to a woodsy green and I asked Joe to make a garland out of the boxwood in our garden so I could fashion a little woodland shrine for the Peters above the dresser.
and I included 11-year-old me, to watch over the Peters (or vice versa).
‘Course we needed some carrots and birds for the hedgerow garland, and snow, in the form of white pom-poms and a white feather tree with boxwood sprigs tucked in that sits between the bunnies and snowy trees, next to the small collection of Beatrix Potter’s “little bunny books” Joe got for me in England.
And last but not least, looking for more woodland views, I exchanged the watercolor that was hanging here originally for an oil I did of our garden, thinking Peter might like to forage under the fence in the midnight hours. ♥
Later that night, I thought I heard some squeaking. I came back into the room to find the Peter’s celebrating with a bonfire, wrapped in blankets, eating carrots! They liked it! I was so proud. See the clay mushroom on top of the book on the right? I got that at the Armitt Museum in Ambleside, up in the Lake District when we went to Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm ~ the card too, that’s a print of her actual painting of the mushrooms ~ they are my treasures. (You can see how lovely her woodland paintings are by clicking on the link above to the Armitt. I have included many links, i.e. “Rabbit Holes” for you to dive into in this post!)
I think this is the part about women that most men don’t quite understand. We love to play house. Love it to the point of no end. It’s relaxing and makes us happy. I brought Joe in to see the bonfire and he looked at me with the most quizzical look on his face, and never said a word, just a slight shake of the head and a one-sided smile which I took to mean that he wished he could be me. Next life, my honeyman, next life. ♥
So that’s the Peter Rabbit Room in all its glory, “a treasure of home.” I hope you liked your tour! One more thing, this room often has something in it that makes it even better, is all any room needs . . . the perfect prop, the detail that excels above all others . . .
Have a wonderful day girlfriends. So long from me and my little friends! xoxo ♥
P.S. Check out the wonderful movie, Miss Potter! One of my favorite parts is when her Peter Rabbit drawing “goes live.”