Sugar Millie Style
By Karen Parr-Moody

Shawna Sheahan's booth at GasLamp Too is a whimsical pastiche of one-of-a-kind art and Mid-Century Modern finds, all in vivid color. But when Sheahan originally dreamt up the idea, she thought it would be gray and whitewashed tones accented by driftwood and antlers.

"That is obviously not what my booth looks like!" says the lithe blonde. "It's kind of the opposite — really bright and colorful."

Sheahan says that people tell her it is that sense of color that draws them in. And when they enter the space, they discover vintage items blended in with primitive and antique pieces.

Around this time last year, Sheahan attended the Bella Rustica three-day vintage show in Pulaski, Tennessee. It was there that she was hooked by the notion — what she calls a "wild idea"  — to start a booth. Them name Sugar Millie derives from "Millie," a dog she and her husband used to have, and "Sugar," a past dog of her husband's. Sheahan also runs a stationary business called Paper Millie.

While Sheahan isn't typically drawn to intricate carving (too fancy), she likes the simpler look of Eastlake pieces, such as the chair in the photo at left ($275; Booth T-186). The wood was originally in bad shape, as was the fabric.

"But I just knew it could be really beautiful," she says.

She found this fabric — a juxtaposition of zebras, wild cats and bright flowers — and knew it was perfect for the chair.

"I just think it is beautiful and whimsical and gives the chair such personality," she says. "And of course I love the colors! I love the idea of using new fabrics or paints on antiques to freshen them up and make them more modern."

People enjoy collecting Dutch pottery items, such as the hand-painted egg cup and bowl in the photo, right ($75). These pieces belonged to Sheahan's husband's grandmother's collection of pottery.  

"She had an amazing eye and we inherited many beautiful pieces from her," Sheahan says. "I think a collection of all different types of egg cups would be really cute as place holders at a table setting or just lined up on a windowsill."  

Sheahan studied interior design in college and has also taken numerous art and photography classes, so she is constantly dreaming up craft projects, such as the bird prints in the photo at left ($10 each). To make these, she printed vintage bird images on pages from a 1935 atlas and a 1950 music anthology. One will find other such handmade items at Sugar Millie: Sheahan has some crafty sisters, including one who makes collages and another who makes owl-themed pillows.

The oak library table in the photo, below, is certainly a one-of-a-kind find ($125). Sheahan found it in a basement at an estate sale (a favorite place to treasure hunt). It was covered with a laminate inset that was empty; fortuitously, Sheahan had bought  30 or more books at that same estate sale.

"I had all these book jackets that I was not using, but I felt bad throwing them out because some of them had such beautiful, very vintage-looking artwork on them," she says. "So, I had the idea of covering the desk top with them."

Sheahan thinks the desk would look great in a variety of rooms. Plus, there's that personal element of charm.

"I think what makes the piece even more special is knowing that it was someone's desk and their books," she says. "They were obviously important to her."  

The 1960s were arguably the golden age of travel, and these fabulous books from TWA would have once taken jetsetters on whirlwind tours of Italy, Spain and Portugal (photo, left; $10 each).

"I do love anything vintage-travel related," Sheahan says. "I am very drawn to maps, globes and any kind of travel books. Part of the attraction is the color and the graphics. But I think a lot of it goes back to my early years when I remember having a strong love of geography in school. This is an amazing world that God has created, and I am fascinated with how vast and different it all is, yet how small and connected it is too."

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