Take a look at what’s luring city-dwelling designers to the rural apple capital of Georgia.
Written, produced and directed by Brian Patrick Flynn with lifestyle photography by Robert Peterson
My shelter magazine editor friend who we’ll refer to as Muffy Neckpunch has a vendetta against green apples. In fact, he/she hates them very, very much. It’s quite fascinating to me because the easygoing smartypants doesn’t really have an aversion to anything else, just green apples. His/her green apple hatred is not in regard to taste or nutrition, but strictly in relation to how green apples look in images as props. To me, this is quirkily amazing and makes me like him/her even more, although I personally love me some green apples. So much that I decided to buy my mountain house in Ellijay, Ga., the apple capital of the state. Everywhere you look, there are apples. There are red apples, green apples, pork chops and apple sauce, candy apples, Adam’s apples, apple bread, Johnny Appleseed, apple hats, apple-shaped dog collars, apple signage, and even a renowned apple festival. When it comes to apples, the city of Ellijay’s got it covered, son.
I fell in love with Ellijay for several reasons, ones not related to apples. First up, it’s only 1 hour, 20 minutes (80 miles) from downtown Atlanta which makes it more of a commute than an actual trip. In Los Angeles, I’d spend that much time trying to get from West Hollywood (where Jeff Goldblum lives) to Los Feliz (where Jon Hamm lives) which is a whopping distance of 4 miles (which, by the way, includes roughly 35 stoplights). Next, its mountainous, blue sky landscape is completely unlike the concrete and glass metropolis sitting 40 highway exits to the south. Lastly, Ellijay is packed with mom-and-pop-owned antique shops and flea markets, ones with amazing prices due to low overhead. That being said, Ellijay is pretty much a designer’s wet dream.
Just a few days after closing on my log construction scruffyman’s house, then tearing out its doors and windows and opening up its exterior walls to the kickass view, I decided to get familiar with the town. From upholstery-caliber throw blankets and inspiring colors and textures, take a look at how city-dwelling design professionals can really take care of business out in apple country. Well, except for Muffy Neckpunch; he/she’s probably better off just sticking with his/her un-Granny Smith life in the Big Apple.
You’ll know you’re in Ellijay when you see big ass apple markets off the highway. How does one know what an apple market looks like, you ask? Well, by the enormous hand-painted signs which read “APPLE MARKET”. Those usually give the apple markets away. Whether they’re open for business or closed for the season, there’s tons of inspiration to be found at these golden delicious and granny smith meccas. A lot of the crates which transport the bundles to and from the orchards are made of weathered wood planks, amazing materials for wall cladding and/or custom tables. Ever try sourcing weathered planks online only to find they’re unaffordable or impossible to ship? Yeah, that supersucks and makes me hate the Internet kinda-sorta, but not really. Try your nearest small town and ask for the manager at an orchard or local farmer’s market. It’s likely they’ve got a pile of damaged crates out back they’ll let go for next to nothing. Also, how about that door 22-feet up on the apple market building, the one that leads you straight to sudden death? Yeah, that’s not inspiring, but I do love that shade of barn red on the exterior. Lastly, I know the mason jar thing has been done to death, but when arranged in multiples, mason-jarred product makes for great shelf styling, right?
After playing around with all things apple, you’ll find yourself entering Main Street Ellijay. Visitors know they’re about to enter antique shopping porn-topia once they see the signage for Ellijay Marketplace, a huge auction-like flea market which holds true auctions every Friday evening. Trucks pull up and unload, and then the locals start to bid on all the old stuff which takes over the rustic farm tables and asphalt ground. There’s tons of vintage books and traditional dining chairs as well as weathered metal toy trucks and mountain gear like snow shoes, old school fishing rods and antique lanterns. And while most of these things are rather affordable, the average price for an antique lantern is $85. WTF? Why does everyone want antique lanterns so bad? Does Ryan Gosling collect them or something? The adorable town square is lined with antique stores, boutiques and industrial garages where many of the antiques are restored or cleaned up before being put out on the sidewalks or along the interior shelves of the stores. Sometimes I feel like I need a tetanus shot before I walk past some of these fine (albeit rusty) establishments.
TJ & Company Antiques is usually packed with Southern decorators and interior designers searching for insane deals. Anyone looking for brass, rustic patio furniture, vintage toys and dolls, or original works of art will definitely not leave empty-handed.
My very first shopping trip to Main Street Ellijay resulted in vintage wool tartan blankets at $25 each. And with each of these blankets measuring 2-3 yards in length, just think of how great they work as chair or pillow upholstery. Case in point: See that tartan throw I found for $25? It’s perfect for upholstering an IKEA Henriksdal barstool. Sure, this same fabric can be found through Ralph Lauren at $150 per yard, but why not get creative and save some of that cold hard cash for something else, something apple-related and locally grown? Now excuse me while I go scarf down some of this delicious candied apple sauce and listen to Fiona Apple.