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Turns out my grandma was a trend setter |

Turns out my grandma was a trend setter

I never knew Grandma Sell was so chic.

She didn’t seem it when I was a kid visiting my grandparents’ farm by Clara City.


Dora was a small woman, but with the strong, steady constitution of farm women who scratched through the Depression and knew what was expected in life.

The old farm house was white clapboard, with a spring-loaded screen door that cracked like a rifle when it closed. The old gray-green linoleum was indestructible, a flooring that contained some chemical mixture that rendered it impervious to wear and tear, dropped cast iron skillets, tears, punctures or buckling.

The kitchen was the center of activity and filled with sturdy and usable things close at hand. Nearby, in a little hall that went out to the back, a wooden door on the floor — although it was usually propped up and open — led down 2×6 stairs to a cool, earthy smelling root cellar. Shelves were lined with mason jars filled with produce and fruit, some canned meat and some undefinable things. Onions, carrots, rutabagas and potatoes — some sprouting eyes — filled wooden boxes.

As it turns out, everything in, on and around grandma’s old house are now the hottest home design trends.

All the home improvement shows, “This Old House,” “Flip or Flop,” “Fixer Uppers,” and the rest are consumed by “country” or “shabby chic” design.

Joanna Gaines, the current Martha Stewart of TV, and husband Chip, have built not just a top cable show with “Fixer Uppers” but a home decor and publishing empire, spun around their Magnolia brand. When she takes over a remodeled home toward the end of one of their shows it’s like grandma’s house — with more expense and artistic staging — is recreated.

There is a rough-sawn, long, wood farm table with benches and maybe one of the red-topped Formica tables with the chrome trim.

She puts up a slate blackboard for an artistic touch, the kind grandma might have had in the kitchen to write down notes or recipes.

She uses exposed rough-hewn beams, big country cupboards, wooden produce crates, old bottles and antique coffee grinders, just like in grandma’s place.

Some of the interior walls in the renovated Fixer Upper houses always have a peeled-paint surface. The only difference is that in grandma’s house the paint was peeled from years of wear while Joanna spends hours and money creating a faux-cracked paint look.

And like Henry Ford who said you could get his Model-T in any color you wanted so long as it was black, every decorator on every TV show today paints every wall variations of white and gray. Come to think of it, grandma actually had more color in her house with a variety of flowery, busy wallpapers.

Sometimes Joanna rounds up a couple of old saw horses, paints them yellow and throws an old house door over them to make a table. Add some of grandma’s embroidered table clothes or doilies and the design is complete.

Joanna even puts in mini root cellars or sorts — potato and onion storage bins that are made to look old and cost $149.

The stainless pop-top canister that grandma used to store food waste before she brought it to the garden is again a requirement in any green-friendly, compostable, modern kitchen.

And mason jars are big. They use them at garden parties to serve drinks with fruit in them. Or they wrap some twine around them, stick a candle in and hang them for decorations.

One thing I’ve never seen Joanna do that grandma did: Grab a chicken by the leg with a long wire chicken catcher, chop its head off, dunk it in boiling water, pluck it, gut it and then bring it inside and lay it on the kitchen counter.

Now that would be good DIY TV.

Tim Krohn can be contacted at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 344-6383.

Category: Skillets  Tags: ,  Comments off
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