Design & Décor, Entertaining

Mountain High

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When I walked into my dear friend Ruthie Watts’s charming, cozy mountain retreat in Highlands, North Carolina, she asked me if I noticed anything different about her living room. Knowing it well, it only took me a quick second to spot the newly faux-painted television cabinet doors (Ruthie is a talent extraordinaire, especially with faux paintings which always bear her signature wit and humor.) On these “shelves” were many accessories you’d expect in a living room (pottery pieces, jugs and plates, topiaries and potted plants) plus books looking for the world like the real thing- with amusing titles: Pearls & Other Nacres, Trompe L’oeil for Dummies.  How touched I was when I realized that my new book, Living Newport: Houses, People, Style, was one of the four stacked books on the “shelves.” What a compliment and introduction to my few days in her special part of the world which included a talk, book signing, luncheons and dinners that she and friends had planned.

Ruthie (or “Tall R” as I affectionately call her) has been a painter, especially a muralist, for years, with a long list of happy clients. There is no end to the outlet for her talents – from hand painted personalized invitations, to the bedrooms in her North Carolina mountain aerie. In a day and age when no one has “time” for these gracious, generous, fascinating gestures, Ruthie is in full-on mode. Oh, did I mention she’s also a celebrated cook? For once, I did what I’ve been saying I wanted to do as a lucky guest – record each of the bedrooms, and share them with friends who don’t have the opportunity of staying over. Ruthie’s humor is as much a part of her paint style as it is her personality (“Tall R” also stands for raconteur). There’s a theme here, twigs, wood and flora that well suit a mountain house, homespun with a chic twist.

As in her bedroom…
Only Ruthie would paint an upholstered headboard in grapevines and leaves, then twine it with the real thing for the ultimate 3-dimensional touch. The theme of vine and leaves also accents the lambrequin and borders the inner edge of the draperies.

Love her wooden door plaques!

Do you think John Lennon would approve?  Ruthie is also a master of collections – this guest room boasts a large set of strawberry dishes and odd pieces, as well as an old Italian pottery birdcage dressed with fraises des bois.

My favorite. How magical is this?! – taking advantage of a tiny space that in anyone else’s home would be a liability. A wrought iron custom-made bed seemingly nestles into a field of Queen Anne’s lace whose tall stems are painted on all four walls. The only other piece of furniture this small space can accommodate is a white-washed “stick” chest and cabinet that provides a cool complement to the white flowers.

Mountain High

And the Queen Anne’s lace continues as a theme for her dinner – with fresh versions of this wonderful wild flower on all the dining tables, inside and out.

Thank you, Ruthie.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

4 thoughts on “Mountain High

  1. Beattie
    I have loved reading your blogs and you are so very talented!
    I was disappointed I was unable to attend your lecture in June. I know everyone enjoyed your talk and Ruthie was very kind to include me. I loved seeing pictures of her house and I am sure you had a fun and festive time.
    I wish you a wonderful summer and look forward in seeing you in the near future.

    1. Allene, I missed seeing you. Thank you for your kind words. Are you headed back to London?
      Happy summer, wherever you are, Bettie

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