I ring the doorbell, and it chimes a warm welcome from somewhere inside the home of Susan and Andrew Scampini. A petite woman opens the front door – her long blonde hair pulled to the side. She ushers me in, takes my coat, and grins. A wall of colorful plates is the first thing that draws my eye. Instantly, I wonder where they came from; Did the family travel to other countries and pick them up along the way as a souvenir? Were the plates handed down from different generations? Were they gifts from friends? I can see several tables throughout the open area of her dining room, kitchen, and breakfast nook tucked into a sunny corner. Each one is set with colorful placemats, table runners, and yesteryear dresser scarves that remind me of my mom’s house. Floral and chintz-patterned dishes are a favorite of mine, but here, in Susan’s house, they’re over-the-top gorgeous. She tells me she’s been working on her spring dinner table design and, man, does it show. “These are tablescapes,” Susan explains. “I’ll blog about how to create the look later so my readers can do the same.”
Susan says people should live their life with a ‘colorful style.’ And she loves sharing daily tips on her blog, Facebook page, and Instagram feed.
In the back of my mind, I’m wondering if this is an everyday table setting or if she’s spruced it up for our interview and photographs. I’m not sure if she can tell what I’m thinking, but it sure seems like it. “I believe we should surround ourselves with beautiful things that make us happy, things that make us feel good and bring us joy. Why not serve dinner on silver platters, eat off fine china, drink wine out of our best goblets, sip tea poured into delicate bone china cups?”
I have to agree. We talk about how much I adore tea for a few minutes – how oolong is my favorite, ever since I tried it at a ‘tea 101 class’ held at Saratoga Tea & Honey last year. Hayley, the shop’s owner, also happens to be Susan’s niece. I laugh, mentioning how I’ve always enjoyed drinking tea in the afternoon – from whatever cup I happened to grab.
Last summer, I visited a tea and sandwich shop with a girlfriend and fell in love with the place. The owner had covered every table in the dining room with patterned place-mats, dishes, and teacups set on matching saucers.
Someone had painted a forest scene around the edges of my light green cup and saucer. I admired it – a lot. When I discovered I could purchase the set to bring home with me, I did just that. And I drink my teas in it all the time now.
When I ask Susan where the name ‘Hen and Horse’ came from, she smiles. “My husband’s always loved horses. Both of us have dreamt of owning a small horse farm, complete with all sorts of barnyard animals, especially roosters, hens, even a few goats.” It’s easy to picture when I look around the cozy rooms filled with decorative horses, rabbits, and roosters. “We have a bunny named Cannoli,” Susan laughs. “He’s just hiding at the moment. Who knows, you might get to meet him.”
Susan’s always loved decorating – from the time she was a little girl. “I remember spending hours in my bedroom.” She tells me with an engaging grin. “I’d rearrange everything, over and over again, till I was happy with it.”
We walk in and out of several rooms – the office, bathroom, a guest room, master bedroom, living room, and kitchen. Susan stops and tells me a story about anything my eyes settle on. And I soak it all in.
I’ve always been interested in how easy it is for some people to mix old history with newer pieces in their home, without things clashing. I believe it takes a certain creative flair – one I sorely lack.
Over the fireplace, I stare at a framed portrait of a woman. “Wow!” I exclaim. “She’s beautiful. Who is she?” Susan laughs, then begins to tell me a story.
“It used to frame a pretty little cherub.” She watches my expression. “About twenty years ago, I bought it from the Round Lake Antiques Festival. It hung in my last home for many years but never here.” At this point, we both laugh. I mean, what guy wants to see angels hanging on the wall above the fireplace, no matter how much he loves you?
When Susan decided to reframe her mom’s portrait, she thought the cherub frame would be perfect. Why not? It was beautiful. What she discovered behind the cherub was a surprise; a painted portrait of a woman she didn’t know – one that an artist had painted on wood, no less!
“It was such a shock – I’m trying to do some digging to find out who she might be,” Susan says, a thoughtful look on her face. “Until then, her name is Mary Madeline.”
Besides her incredible eye for home decorations, her belief system of surrounding ourselves with beautiful things we’ll use – Susan also makes bath salts, soaps, fullbody creams, and pizzelle cookies. I’ve bought many of her items from Saratoga Tea & Honey when shopping for unique gifts throughout the year. And eight other shops across the state carry her brand as well.
Listen, I could’ve sat and talked with this woman for another hour; it seemed as if we had a lot in common. And I could write another 1,000 words about musings in her everyday life she was kind enough to share with me.
But I won’t. I think you should pour yourself a cuppa tea and discover them yourself. You’ll feel like you’ve met a new friend. Promise.
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