Rachel Ashwell, otherwise known as the High Priestess of the rustic, super-feminine, petal-pushing brand Shabby Chic, opens a collection of six cottages in Texas called The Prairie. The interiors, of course, are kitted out in her signature aesthetic–chintz, pink striped walls, slip-covered sofas, dainty chandeliers, raw wood. Whether you’re a devotee or not, it’s always fascinating when someone takes that leap. Here, Rachel talks about fulfilling a lifelong dream and her design vision: Marie Antoinette goes to Texas.
Tell us about why you decided to open the Prairie.
Decorating a hotel has been a lifelong dream of mine. My lifestyle places me in hotels of all kinds around the world. The formula I’m always looking for is hard to find: luxury, comfort and the local culture.
I think I may have been Texan in my previous life. The architecture of flakey barns, the sappy country music, the wide open spaces…
What appealed to you about this former ranch?
I had frequented it for eight years, and I knew its treasures and potentials. It’s the perfect size (the perfect number of bedrooms) for me to demonstrate the diversity of my aesthetic and to create a creative and nurturing destination.
Now the fun part: Let’s talk about the décor.
I wanted to find a balance of embracing the Texan aesthetic and Rachel Ashwell shabby chic couture. Comfort and authenticity were my two priorities. We partnered with Farrow and Ball paint and wallpaper for the Meadow Manor. I also sourced some beautiful vintage wallpaper, which we used sparingly in Meadow Manor and the Rangers Lounge.
We updated the bathrooms, refreshed all rooms with fresh paints. We embraced all the original patinas and raw woods (some of which were a darker palate for me). The furnishings, furniture and bedding were a combination of our signature oversized, slip-covered sofas and vintage.
We embraced some classic Texas decorative like an antler chandelier (to which we added some couture lampshades), metal lantern light fittings, corrugated metal walls and ceilings, claw foot tubs.
My overall vision was Marie Antoinette goes to Texas. This gave me the license to combine typical primitive Texas wood with fancy gold carved chairs and sumptuous velvets with poplin florals.
Favorite design elements:
I inherited a few taxidermy items with the property, some deer, moose and elk heads. While I would never have purchased these, I decided to honor them and gave them floppy vintage floral hats. They have taken on personalities of their own.
We also added the Union Jack flag to our flagpole, that had originally the US and Texan flag. This is a powerful and profound vision for us as we drive down our long gravel driveway.
What do you want guests to experience?
The Prairie has a spiritual creative quality. It inspires writing, daydreaming, conversation. It’s a visual poem.