How Memories of My Senior Trip Revived a Garden

© 2020 Cathy White
© 2020 Cathy White

A Vintage Garden 

What could be more beautiful than the surround of nature? Especially this time of year…two thoughts came to mind when envisioning a fresh, Spring look for a dining room.  

Somewhere in my thoughts, it had felt like I’d already been to that place. I’d imaged huge pane windows with a garden side view, luminous toporaries , life size garden statures with splashes of water flowing from fountains, all strategically-placed.

Not that I would fill the room with all these things, again, it just felt like a place that I’ve been, because the feel was so recalling. 

Have you ever had that experience where you’re trying to pinpoint a memory? Knowing it’s somewhere floating in your head …and if you can just catch it …it would all make sense?

Briefly, pondering the thought over the next few days, I ‘d gravitated to the thought of old school vintage space, with the intention that I would incorporate Mom’s white ceramics. 

Either they would be center stage or that they would be delicately arranged  among some other things, in various places around the room, like if you’re hosting or attending a small evening or you’re “away”…I believe we all deeply share that sentiment. Grateful to be here but still “away”. 

Replicating an indoor garden. Yes, I guess an “vintage” garden room. 

So like opening a garden shed and relishing dusty treasures …on the table I gathered things that were decades old, pieces where I remembered where in my Mom’s living room, when my kids were small. Sun faded angels in her sunroom and placed them on the table as I thought she would … with some of my things that are fairly new by 3 years or so. Planning with what was already accessible with the mindset of thriftiness that but most of all …incredibly meaningful . 

Reflecting of where I could draw inspiration… I’d visited a few garden rooms at historic sites but still nothing came to mind until  my senior trip from high school resurfaced…. And that was it! I finally found this place in my head…It was the Kapok Tree Restaurant, In Clearwater, Florida…I’m not sure why it didn’t come to mind before. Because this trip with my graduating class and was one of best moments of my life!

Use an inspiration from a trip, destination, occasion or emotion to revive a memory.

Filled with beautiful turquoise beaches and small sea turtles ; in Clearwater we visited the legendary Kapok Tree Restaurant. Known for its “over the top” theme and lavish gardens the restaurant was built around a Kapok tree growing straight out of the ground.

It was so out of this world (especially at 18) that I can’t honestly say exactly what I ordered …probably pizza!  But, the sounds still were so vivid from the clanking of the forks, to tables of laughter, to the silhouettes of soft music and symphony of fountains. And there, there’s the mountains of green lush trees and the garden I’d imagined. 

The story is, Richard B. Baumgardner, the then owner, grew the Kapok tree, from a seedling tree he’d brought back from India. Inspired by Walt Disney, he wanted to build a place too that would make each and every guest experience a life time memory. With that he built the Kapok Tree restaurant and Italian gardens on his 65 acreage of land.

One of eleven locations the restaurant in Clearwater. After his death this acreage was purchased in ‘91 at auction ironically by Sam Ash Music & Kapok Special Events Center & Gardens and later beautifully restored.  

After I’m thrilled to know that the Kapok Tree is still making memories. 

To this day, it remains one of the most fascinating restaurants I’ve ever visited. Filled with beautiful gardens, Italian decor and splashy fountains, you may find it inspiring too!

There’s a few pictures available here… Please be my guest!  

Draw inspiration from a memorable occasion for your room makeover…

It’s true some of the most unique spaces can be created by reflection. It should feel, look, sound and taste like where you’ve been.

Putting it all together ….

© 2020 Cathy White


First an atmosphere that was light & airy; reflective a vintage garden. (This space is multipurpose & used for meetings, reading, and work lunches during the week)

After the holiday the table can be bare without the tablecloth. Maybe your revival is a room of  tropical scents with seashells waiting to be seen. This is where you can mix and match various styles. There’s no competition will color here staying within no more 3 shades lighter or darker. Starting with the largest pieces complimenting elements should flow in scale with repeat of form; like the rounded topiaries, the base and laying wreaths; You can see there’s a repeating pattern. 

On the table was the perfect place for Mom’s vintage pitcher. The tablecloth worked nicely… I got it for an occasion I hosted last year- but it didn’t match the color scheme …so this was a pleasant surprise…it really works here and it is as graceful as it is lovely…I would compare it to a lady’s dinner dress or formal man’s tie. The hem could be better but it flows right on to the floor.


Gee Moda Tablecloths

Gi Moda Table linens  85 x 85 $12.99! 

Currently Round Tablecloths and Napkins are inventory

Tip: “Comfort always goes before design.”

© 2020 Cathy White

The Cup

My husband & I went to Jerusalem for the first time in 2016 and I purposely brought shopping list for home,

After seeing quite a few symbolic cups, we agreed this hammered texture cup was spiritually reflective of Christ’s Life and Passion. 

Depending on what’s going on in the dining room it may not be displayed … the reality is, that it only serves as a visible reminder …what counts  is understanding the why. 

© 2020 Cathy White

Design Concept: Restraint

Using Restraint is something we often don’t see or may not recognize.- it’s a design term that engages silence to speak as clearly as its objects.

This is an important concept that I think many people from time to time do. Like a traffic violation (we fail to stop) – we keep layering and layering as it is not enough – I look to share that more on another post, but please consider that or ask an honest friend when too  much is too much. It’s like Coco Chanel’s advice about dressing with accessories: “Before going out look in the mirror and take one thing off”.

Honestly speaking, if there was only one idea I would be to be committed to, it would be this philosophy… for me, it’s mentally liberating & quietly elegant. There’s not alot of use  of objects and “sometimes” the space is left intentionally bare.   

The Vintage Swan vase  was used in my Mom’s sun room. It’s a bit too fragile to hold water … so faux tulips may be put in them instead. It’s at  least 30 – 35 years old, so it’s not exactly vintage. Vintage is classified as an item being at least 50 years old. I don’t recall how she used it …but she definitely has great taste! 

To replicate this look if not using a fireplace …I would suggest  a chest of drawer, highboy and or mid-high cabinet or bookcase and use an application to get a vintage feel. 

If you’re up for it – check out  the book I have “Rescue, Restore & Redecorate”  by Amy Howard 

And for step by step instruction and product.

© 2020 Cathy White

Need a dining solution for holding cutlery …use a vintage glass that’s lost its mate. It could also be a large coffee cup or pitcher.

In the middle is a cast iron candle holder.

To the far right my brother-in-law loves consignments and introduced to this place in Baltimore, MD they also meet great community needs like job training – but everything is reused, reclaimed or repurposed. If your in the area or will you might find some great things.

Take away: Use a memory to revive a room. 

Now, does that mean buying a whole new dining set our living room set? It all depends on your original plan, unless that was your original plan. What could it also look like? It may look like buying a candle that reminds you of your last vacation (e.g. pina colada , coconut candle) A painting or pic that reminds you of a place that you’ve gone or you want to visit. It may look like swapping a color for Spring to liven up a wall or to the change a worn out set of dishes for completely different style …or revamping  your playlists with new uplifting or relaxing music to fill your existing room. At Home – It all depends on what’s right for you!

The Seasonal Hostess

© 2020 Cathy White