There’s no place like home, a Western home that is. I’m not talking about a home located in the West but a home decorated Western. Since Petticoats and Pistols is for readers who love the West, old and new, I figured some of you probably bring that love of the West into your homes as I do. I admit I may have gone a little overboard but what can I say, I’m a Western writer and I have a big imagination.
Return with me now to yesteryear as Ben Cartwright and his sons gather in the main room of the Ponderosa Ranch house to discuss the latest cattle rustler or homesteader. A massive stone fireplace dominates the room with an opening big enough to hold a cord of wood. The smoke-blackened mantle is fronted with a pair of mounted longhorns to remind folks what the Ponderosa is all about. Though just a set, the Cartwright’s home and decor exemplified the Old West. Granted not the real Old West, but the Old West of our imaginations, our hearts and Hollywood.
Finding Western furniture and accessories is not the challenge it used to be, but if you want your decorating to have “heart,” you need to haunt junk and antique stores, garage sales and the back rooms of feed stores. That’s where the treasures are. There are no rules for this kind of decorating. In fact, you need to think outside the box and give everyday things an unexpected use. An old cast iron stove makes a terrific bedside table. Throw a colorful serape over your dining table and serve potatoes and rolls in granite ware. Never mind the chips and scars. Some of the best granite ware serving pieces lived their former lives as spittoons, chamber pots and thunder mugs, but I suggest you wait until after everyone has eaten before you saying anything.
Call it cowboy style, cowboy chic, lone star living, bunkhouse design or simply Western decorating—it’s a decorating style that brings the past into the present that reminds us of our heritage and of a simpler way of life.
Above is one of my guest bedrooms—it’s Western, Native American and Mexican. It reflects my love of color and the genre I write in. The most expensive item in the room is the bed ($700), which was custom made but only because at that time there were no stores carrying Western furniture. The desert scene side table my daughter found in an abandoned condo. The Indian headdress came from a yard sale. The tins were collected over a decade. I found the poster of Joaquin Murrietta online and had it framed. (My first book, Touch The Dawn, is about Joaquin Murrietta). The valances cost about $40. I sewed two together and hung them from a rod—super easy and lots of effect. There is a cowhide rug on the tile floor, which you can’t see.
Above is another guest bedroom and it has a more Victorian flare. The walls are faux painted to look old. The velvet drapes are right out of Gone With The Wind. My grandmother’s handmade crazy quilt hangs over the bed and another quilt that I found at an antique store serves as a bedspread. The cabinet is at least one hundred years old; the drawers are all dove-tailed. On top of it, are several old quilts I picked up at yard sales. I found the iron bed at a yard sale for $60. This room was more like a museum than a guest room and sadly has since been torn apart and most of the items sold off. The room now houses sick or orphaned kittens and cats for Have A Heart Humane Society, the pet rescue me, my daughter and my husband operate.
I bought this old cast iron stove from someone who had it tucked away in their garage, oiled it up and outfitted it with dried peonies from my yard and collectibles.
Some years back, Country Sampler decorating magazine did an article on my house following a bathroom addition and a kitchen remodel. After reading their magazine for several years and seeing very little on Western decorating, I called them and next thing I knew, they were flying out to photograph my house. When I was decorating this bathroom, I tried to tell the faux painter that I wanted the walls to look like old adobe, the way I imagined the adobe homes of Tucson to look in the 1870’s. You could say I was in the moment because I was writing about 1871 Tucson at that time and still am—I love that time period! The bathroom floor is vinyl and very easy to clean. The wood is oiled oak. That is not the morning sun coming through the window but a lighting trick their photographer used. The boots, the pot, the cactus all help the Western feel. The bathroom is entered via a chipped batwing door just like in the saloons.
Sometimes the best ideas come from our worst mistakes. I thought the ceilings in the dining room would be the same in the kitchen because the two rooms were connected. Wrong. The solution—a tin ceiling which was not expensive but tricky to hang because the tin edges were sharp as razor blades. I wanted the kitchen/dining room to look like an old general store, thus the chicken wire on the cabinets. The French doors open to a former bedroom that is now my office. You can see a small—and I do mean small—sampling of my Western research books and papers.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the mini tour of my home, which is in a rural area of a small California town on 2.5 acres. Instead of a herd of cattle, we have a herd of dogs—that we rescue and find new homes for.
The Peacemaker and The Seeker are Ebooks available at Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble. The Healer will be out in October. And finally, Oscar Goes Camping, an adorable little book that helps support homeless pets, also on Amazon. Please visit my website at ChelleyKitzmiller.com and join my newsletter (Chelley@ChelleyKitzMiller.com) so you can keep up with my books and find out what’s going on with the pet rescue.
I’m giving away a $5 gift card for some wonderful See’s Candy to one person who leaves a comment.