The Pineapple, The Sea Captain and How a Legend Began…

Sailors are known for their stories. You’d be hard-pressed to go to any ocean enthusiast’s house and not hear a tale of the extraordinary fish caught, or the summer storm turned sour, or the port city that lured like a siren song.  But did you ever hear the story about the pineapple? The one that tells how it became one of the most iconic symbols in the world? Today in the Vintage Kitchen, we’ve got a legend on the table.

There are a few versions surrounding the pineapple and how it became known as the universal symbol of hospitality. Some stories claim it was a gift of peace offered to foreign explorers by local Caribbean tribes.  Other stories state it was a sought-after souvenir traded around South America until it eventually was welcomed in Europe for experimental gardening. Another explains that it was a status symbol of the very rich and the very royal who used it as a party decoration to signify the extent of their wealth, visually reinforcing the fact that they could indeed offer the best of everything to their guests, no matter what the cost. But our favorite version in the Vintage Kitchen, of how the pineapple came to be a hospitality icon, is the one that dates to the 1700s in the time of the sea captains.

That legend states that merchant trading ships like this…

A Chesapeake Bay style sloop was a common merchant ship traveling between the West Indies and the Eastern Atlantic coast.

carried cargo (mainly sugar, tobacco, rum, and molasses) back from the Caribbean islands to various ports in New England. Included in their bounty was the exotic tropical pineapple, a fruit so unusual in its beauty, so incredible in its sweetness and so valuable in its price, it was treated delicately just like its most precious counterpart, sugar.

When the ship was back in port and safely unpacked, the captain would return home to his New England house with a pineapple in hand.  He would spear this fruit on the front garden gate to signify to friends and neighbors that he had returned from his ocean voyage and was ready to entertain visitors with good stories and good food.

The centuries-old houses of Kennebunkport, Maine where many a sea captain lived.

With just the right amount of whimsy and practicality, it is not hard to see how such a story and such an action could have spread throughout the village, and then the state, and then the coastline, so that within time, hundreds of garden gates across many states were bearing pineapples – a symbol of friendly invitation, warm welcome and kind generosity.

Pineapple gates in Odessa, DE

No one yet has accurately been able to authenticate the first-time connection between pineapples and hospitality, but this sea captain story may help explain why you’ll find pineapples incorporated into outdoor architectural details all over the East Coast from Maine to Florida.

Appearing in gardens both ancient and new…

Permanent pineapples in the garden.

…history tells of America’s long-standing love affair with this hospitable fruit.  You’ll see it on the front doors of old houses like this one…

The historic Hunter House in Newport, Rhode Island built in 1748.
There’s the pineapple above the door, welcoming all who enter.

and this one…

Virginia’s Shirley Plantation, completed in 1738, which boasts a three-foot tall pineapple in the middle of the roofline…

and in the decorative details of brand new, modern days houses…

Pineapple-themed door knockers, welcome signs, doorbells, and house number plaques announce an age-old symbol on brand-new exteriors.

You’ll also find them indoors…

Most often as finials on front entry staircases…

blending classic and traditional elements from past centuries to the present century…

Pineapples in all modern ways useful… ice bucket, lamp, bookends, flower vase.

Last week we added a new vintage pineapple to the shop…

This one was neither a finial nor an exterior facade detail but instead at one point in its life had adorned the top of a fountain.  The fountain wasn’t as big as Charleston’s famous Waterfront Park pineapple…

Waterfront Park, Charleston SC

but she is an ideal size for many design possibilities including lighting, decoration, and display.  And she carries forth the sea captain’s theme of good stories and good food in a most beautiful way.

Even though we might never be able to uncover where and how the pineapple became involved with the convivial idea of good hospitality, we still love the idea of one fruit bringing together three centuries worth of parties and people. Critics would say that the sea captain story is flawed because pineapples were expensive and traders wouldn’t put a small fortune out in plain view for anyone to steal. But hospitality is about extending and offering, not squandering and hiding, so clearly, the argument could go either way.

If you were a sailor in the 1700s, at sea for long stretches of time, with life and death equally close at hand, perhaps you needed a little frivolity upon returning home to family and friends and the pineapple provided just that. A simple yet beautiful billboard. One that symbolized rich with life lived instead of rich with monetary wealth.

Cheers to the legends that stick around and to the fruits that travel through time!

Channel your own inner sea captain and set the stage for your next night of entertainment. Find the vintage fountain topper pineapple piece in the shop here!


Get the Look: Inside Adele’s Library

Adele's flat above the This, That and the Other Store in West Norwood where she filmed the at home video of Someone Like You
Adele’s flat above the This, That and the Other Store in West Norwood where she filmed the at home video of Someone Like You

Celebrity decorating. It is something of endless fascination to Ms. Jeannie, mostly because the sky is big as far as budget, space and service, which yields a million varied possibilities.  But while some really incredible rooms can be put together when you combine a team of decorators, exotic materials and bold statement pieces, sometimes the overall effect, while pretty as a magazine cover lacks the personality and individualism of the dweller who lives there.

Famed 20th century decorator, Sister Parish often said “all good decorating is about memories.” That’s so true and so relevant to people who like to decorate with antiques. Today we are going to look at one sensational singer’s library and examine how she has mastered the perfect balance between style and sentiment.


Adele’s new album, 25 officially releases this week, but we are going to look at one of the videos from her past album, 21, which was filmed in her humble flat where she was living just as fame started flirting. The video gives a wonderfully intimate glimpse into her personal space and the style she calls her own. By utilizing a fireplace mantle, one bookshelf and the wall in-between, Adele manages to pack a lot of detail into a moderately sized space. Let’s look…

There are lots of odds and ends tucked into her shelves: pictures of her dog, a giant rubber band ball, a mini figurine of a man running, a horse marionette, sand art. Story and memory and intrigue wind their way up and down and across. The overall look is eclectic which makes it interesting, unique which makes it personal, and unfussy which makes it fresh. Sister Parish would have definitely approved!

Using Etsy as her shopping source, Ms. Jeannie recreated Adele’s library look with these following items  (click on each picture for more information)

Vintage Fowler's Preserving Jar from epochco, $25.58
Vintage Fowler’s Preserving Jar from epochco, $25.58
Cream Beethoven Bust made by mahzerandvee, $70
Cream Beethoven Bust made by mahzerandvee, $70
Hand Carved Horse Marionette from Buddahagal, $28
Hand Carved Horse Marionette from Buddahagal, $28
Bathroom Vanity Mirror from SecretWindowMirrors, $76
Mirror from SecretWindowMirrors, $76
Antique Spelter Figurine from SquirrelMidden, $130.31
Antique Spelter Figurine from SquirrelMidden, $130.31
Colorful Ceramic Horse from KukuliMarket, $38
Colorful Ceramic Horse from KukuliMarket, $38
Puppy Love Photograph by Kalstek Photography, $33.00
Puppy Love Photograph by Kalstek Photography, $33.00
Colorful Rubber Band Balls by BeFashinoablyOnTime, $3.50
Colorful Rubber Band Balls by BeFashinoablyOnTime, $3.50
Vintage Dachshund Figurine by VIntageGoofball, $9.95
Vintage Dachshund Figurine by VIntageGoofball, $9.95
Antique Seth Thomas Wood Mantle Clock from OneReDunn, $129.99
Antique Seth Thomas Wood Mantle Clock from OneReDunn, $149.99
Ostrich Egg by BrocAndPop, $88.15
Ostrich Egg by BrocAndPop, $88.15

If decorating is a challenge for you, or you feel confused or uncertain as to where and how to begin to define your own interior style – take Adele’s lead and start with your book shelf. Like a mini room unto itself, bookshelves offer a vast amount of possibility when it comes to display and self expressionism. They can be changed and redecorated over and over again most easily.  They offer a great blank canvas to play around with and they have the most effortless ability to really anchor a room as far as a focal point.

Ms. Jeannie encourages you to get beyond the typical effort of just lining up some books in a row and calling it done. Go and explore the little loves of your heart and watch your bookshelf come to life! And of course if you are looking for any books to fill out your shelves, there’s always Ms. Jeannie’s shop to help in that department.

On a side note, in 2013 Adele moved out of her cozy flat into this big beauty in Surrey. Ms. Jeannie imagines there’s a few more bookshelves there in need of her good style sense!

Adele's House in Surry, England

Happy decorating dear readers!