View From Thornhill Farm

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Before there were collages of product and collections of quotes, there were often words on the back pages of decorating magazines.  House Beautiful was the first shelter magazine that I began buying and reading when I was just out of college.  Part of the pleasure of reading House Beautiful was not only exposure to the creativity of design, but turning to the back page and reading Dee Hardie’s tales of her family’s life in an old farmhouse in Maryland. Her life was not extraordinary.  What she did was pay attention.  Well before it was a catch phrase, she was present in her life.  She appreciated the significance of what turned up in her children’s pants pockets, and by telling her stories she made me pay a little closer attention myself.

I enjoyed Dominique Browning’s editor’s column for HG for the same reasons. And I read with equal delight the entirely different narrative of Mayer Rus when he wrote The Testy Tastemaker for HG. He told me once that writing the column filled him with anxiety.  (There’s a local columnist who once said that writing a regular column is like being married to a nymphomaniac; it’s fun in the beginning.) But the thing that all of these writers brought to their trade, was a very personal view of home and design.  Michael Boodro’s editor’s letters for Elle Decor come the closest today, (though I always wish they were longer) but this sort of narrative is largely lost.

Dee Hardie died last week from heart failure; she was 89.  I so regret that I did not make the effort to try and meet her, or at the very least write to let her know what her stories of everyday life meant to me.  I owe her a lot.  I feel sure there would be no Mrs. Blandings without her.

Many thanks to Meg Fairfax Fielding of Pigtown Design for sending me Hardie’s book, Views from Thornhill courtesy of Book Thing a few years ago.

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21 thoughts on “View From Thornhill Farm

  1. How our lives can take a turn because of our memories and the impression others make on us. Indelible at times.

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena
    More Books for the Holidays!

  2. Dee Hardie was an author that I liked and I have both her books — that one and the Hollyhocks and Lambs book as well. They are treasures to be sure. Sorry to hear that she has passed.

  3. Dee Hardie's Views from Thornhll essays in House Beautiful were one of my favorite things about the magazine. I always appreciated her point of view. I am so sorry to hear of her passing.

  4. Dee Hardie's column and book were a comfort to read. Because of Dee, I learned of the Angela Thirkell books which were as delightful as Dee's own writings. Thank you for letting us know of her passing.

  5. …i grew up reading my mother's magazines…dee hardie…and gladys taber were always my favorites…we "saw" their wonderful homes…thornhill farm and still meadow…through their beautifully penned words…they were there…long before there was a martha or bunny or charlotte…they touched something deep inside of us…something that a photograph cannot reach…something that remains to this day when we hear the word home…blessings laney

  6. Oh, I am sad to learn this, I felt just the same about her, read and re-read her columns and drew a great deal from them. Although I soak in images with relish, the collaboration between writer and reader permits much deeper insinuation into our hearts and minds, and lets us feel connected to strangers in a unique form of intimacy. As you say, I wish I had met her, but I felt I knew her in a lot of ways. And so fascinating to chart the chain of influence in all of our lives, sometimes takes a loss to recognize how far it extended. Thanks for this, lovely to remember her, and to ponder those connections radiating in all directions.

  7. Perhaps it's because we're a similar age, but your observations and impressions of these writers exactly reflect my own experience and opinion. The charm, innocence and simplicity of their writing seemed to speak to me, personally, or perhaps we simply shared a similar attitude. That attitude was/is a deep appreciation of the beauty to be found in the everyday things around us. It's what helps to keep me grounded. While I'm sorry to hear of Ms. Hardie's death, her gentle words shall live on, inspiring others.

  8. Lovely tribute! After reading Meg's comments about Dee Hardie yesterday, I went to Amazon and ordered both her books. I know I am expecting treasure to arrive in my mailbox. I thank you both for sharing this wonderful writer with me.

    And I agree with another commenter: of course, there IS you!!! I look forward to every blog post.

  9. I admit to shedding a few tears when I learned of the passing of Dee Hardie. I, too, began reading her essays in my late teens or early twenties, and her inspiration is one reason I am a writer. Her homey style, and her ability to find the woven magic of daily life–a style you share, and which I greatly appreciate in your writing–are rarities, particularly these days. Those essays were the first thing I turned to when House Beautiful came each month. If only shelter magazines still contained thoughtful writing instead of gushing society adulation. It's a loss on every front.
    Thank you, Patricia, for your engaging and charming work. It is a consolation.

    J.F. Riordan

  10. I enjoy your posts each time they come out. I am also a fan of Dee Hardie's writings and am sad to learn of her death. If you have not read her first book, published in 1985, Hollyhocks, Lambs and Other Passions, I recommend that you. Additionally, I would like to acknowledge another wonderful House Beautiful contributor who followed Mrs. Hardie…Phyllis Theroux. You would enjoy her magazine posts(I hope they have been archived), as well as some of her books/memoirs. Merry Christmas and I look forward to your future posts

  11. How very strange… I always ADORED reading Dee Hardie and bought her books as well. She was someone I wanted as a neighbor. I was thinking about her, for the first time in years, just last week and wondered if she were still living. Talk about an odd telepathy…

    She was just so real. I remember her column about re-doing her daughter's room when she went off to college and her daughter bursting into tears and telling her that she had just destroyed her entire childhood. I probably thought of this when you wrote about re-purposing your eldest son's room (but of course, he did NOT grow up in this room – different altogether).

    I'm so sorry to hear Dee is now lost to us forever. I wish I had met her and gotten to see Thornhill Farm. Hopefully, she's now reunited with the son she lost at such a young age.

  12. Your post so beautifully expresses my own feelings. I, too, discovered Dee's column and House Beautiful magazine when I was in my early 20's. I saw Meg Fairfax's blog post on Dee earlier today and was flooded with memories. You are so spot on about writer's like Dee and Dominique Browning who find the extraordinary in the ordinary. In my opinion you can add your name to the list. Thank you for this great tribute. Susan Adler Sobol

  13. So sorry to hear that Dee Hardie has passed. I so enjoyed & looked forward to all her columns & felt that she was a friend. Thank you for letting us know.

    I also have enjoyed your writing.
    Thanks so much…
    Mary Elizabeth

  14. I grew up reading all these columns and they shaped my own writing tremendously. I submitted a story once -years ago= to Stories of Home- in House Beautiful, I think? It was accepted but the editor kindly wrote to me and encouraged me to keep writing and submit more. I have as many Dee Hardie's books as I can find out of print. A lovely, full life of small moments is all I've ever asked for.

  15. Thanks for the shout-out! Do you have the other book? I see it at the Book Thing on occasion and will be happy to pick it up for you.

  16. I loved this post. As a teen I loved Dee Hardie and my mother and I followed her for years. I was sad when she quit House Beautiful. She influenced my view of the world while the magazine influenced my view of interiors and love of Decor. Thanks for your remembrance of her.

  17. I always “connected” with her writings. She was the inspiration that caused me to have SUNFLOWERS painted on the side of my barn … because she had HOLLYHOCKS on hers !

  18. Dee and Tom were wonderful, warm people who treasured their large family. She was comfortable with old, new, and many things in between. When HB took a turn to the glossy, her voice no longer fit. That was more of a loss for the magazine than they ever knew.

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