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Friday, April 30, 2010

Kentucky Derby Party

Tomorrow is Derby Day and a great excuse to throw together a quick party! I have to admit that I was never really that interested in the Kentucky Derby until I met my husband who's extended family has been very involved in Kentucky horse breeding for a long time. My mother-in-law will literally stop answering the phone tomorrow around 2 p.m. because she will be glued to the television coverage of the race which starts at 6:24 p.m. In any event, this year the race managed to sneak up on me and here we are a day away from it with no plans, but it's not too late to whip up an improptu cocktail party to be a part of this fun event.
One of the great things about the Kentucky Derby is that it literally draws all walks of life. You can buy tickets to the Infield where you can party like you did in college in crazy costumes with beer pong tables (but probably won't be able to see the race) or you can go to Millionaires Row (if you have the means to get there) where everyone is in their finest seersucker and custom made Derby hats. Either way color is key. Since this is a last minute party make it easier on everyone and go with the one that comes more naturally for your friends. My friends tend to be colorful (in oh so many ways) so I'd probably just keep it simple and tell everyone to where their best brights. No need to go shopping...just pull out some Lilly or even some of your most colorful J. Crew. Then grab a straw hat-the bigger the better-add a great ribbon and a big bold flower-real or faux- and/or some feathers and you've got yourself a Derby hat.
If you are going the college party route just throw some burgers on the grill. Otherwise, keep it simple and think spring. A great cheese and charcuterie platter and some asparagus spears wrapped in proscuitto are easy to make and equally as delicious. I've noticed lots of hat shaped cookies in the bakeries these days in honor of mother's day which would also work well for the derby so they would be great to include as something sweet.
And last but certainly not least, you MUST have mint juleps. The Early Times Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby and note that it calls for you to let the syrup overnight, but not all recipes do. They are preferably served in a sterling mint julep cup, but if you don't have enough of those laying around a glass hi ball will work just fine.
The race takes place a Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY and can be seen at 6:24 p.m. on NBC.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Etsy Pick of the Week: Scarlet Fig Fabrics

While many of the artists on Etsy are very talented hobbyists you can also find some special editions by very successful professional artists. These fabrics by Scarlet Fig are an example of that. Artist Laurie Wisbrun has her first collection for Robert Kaufman called Tufted Tweets coming out next month, but you can find other original limited edition designs available only on Etsy.
She has these adorable and colorful prints digitally printed at Spoonflower which I've featured in a previous post. I love her use of color and the animal prints are perfect for a kids room.
So if you can't find what you're looking for in a fabric store or if you want something truly original, don't forget to take a look on Etsy and you will likely be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

OPEN HOUSE: Book Shelf Styling

My friend Kim just had a custom built in installed in her living room and has been posting pictures of the progress she's been making on them on Facebook. She and her husband just finished renovating a beautiful home in Newport's Historic Point Neighborhood and while I new they had fabulous taste, I was floored at how amazingly styled her built ins were, especially considering she did them without the help of a designer. They're also fabulous because your eye, both in the pictures and in person, is drawn away from the flat screen television. Book shelf styling is one of those things that people really seem to struggle with so I asked her if I could come see them in person and find out how she pulled them all together to give you a few tips in pulling your own shelves together.
The first thing she did (even before the shelves were built) was find a picture in a magazine of the look she was going for. If you aren't starting from scratch then just find a picture that has a similar amount of shelves as you do or the color scheme you want and adjust it to fit your space. If you have adjustable shelving that will be a huge help and if you are starting from scratch make sure you include that feature. For instance, she knew she was going to put a model boat over the television, but couldn't find one to fit quite right so she ended up having to raise the shelf above it so give yourself some flexibility if you can.
There are a few things that make these shelves look so great. First, she limited the color scheme and stuck to blues and whites with accents of red and brown. Too many colors just become distracting. Secondly, the colors are used repeatedly throughout the shelves. She didn't put everything with red in it in one section despite the fact that people are prone to group like colors. Where it does make sense to group like colors tightly is with the books. Here, different color book bindings are used throughout the shelving, but they are not intermixed. All the blues are together and all the whites are together, and if you look closely you'll notice that even the red coral is resting on a stack of books with red writing on the bindings. It's all in the details! She even went out and found more books that would work in the space to achieve the look she was going for. Another thing that destined Kim for success is that she went shopping with an open mind. She knew that she wanted the white ceramic items, but wasn't set on it having to be a fish or a flower or anything else. When she found the first pineapple she decided to go with it knowing that it was actually perfect since it's the welcome symbol of Newport, and then she went on to look for more similar items, but without making everything overly matchy matchy. Ok, so now for one of the best things about this built in...drumroll please....most of the items on these shelves are from Home Goods or used bookstores! You know how I love a bargain, and here is proof that you don't have to spend loads of money to have a house that is magazine (or shall I say blog) worthy. So take a look at your shelving and see if you can make a few small changes to make your own a little more stylish and I guarantee you'll feel better. Remember that it's ok to let them evolve, but don't leave them jam packed with "stuff". Happy decorating!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Repetition Repetition Repetition

I had so much fun on the Newport House Tour this past Sunday. All of the houses had incredible architecture and most of them had some truly fabulous decor. I went with six other highly critical women and we pretty much all agreed that we'd just like to run home and grab a few family photos and then move right into Seaweed that afternoon. This house is situated at the very end of Newport's famed Cliff Walk so maybe it had something to do with the views (below) overlooking Bailey's Beach and the rocky Atlantic coastline. However, the decor by interior designer David Hammond of New Canaan, CT was also incredbily desirable.
What was most interesting about the decor is that they used the exact same rugs and upholstery fabric in every room of the house. On the one hand, I think there is so much fabulous fabric out there, why on earth do such a thing, but on the other, with such spectacular views, why distract from them. The other genius thing about it that we can all use in our own lives is that it makes the furniture so much easier to re-arrange or to move from house to house. There were variations in the shape of the chairs and some of them had nailhead trim or other accents, but the fabric tied each room together. It was even on some upholstered headboards in the bedrooms. But how nice would it be to want to move a chair or couch to another room and not have to worry about whether it is going to match what is already there? This is a great idea for the person who likes to re-arrange their furniture on a regular basis. The walls were also almost all painted the same neutral color, but the wainscotting varied from room to room (see top photo), my favorite of which was the diamond pattern wainscotting, and there were some pale accent colors in beach tones on some of the ceilings and walls. All of the moldings were a beautiful bright white. I imagine they were probably originally a deep cherry or some other dark wood, but the white made it so much more light and airy like a beach house should be. This monotone look also worked well because the rooms of the house, including the bedrooms, all flowed from one to the next so it was nice not to have each room competing with the other. Unfortunately, because this was a house tour and not a designer showhouse, the details of what fabrics and products they used were not listed, but I've rounded up a few items that could provide a similar look on a much smaller budget.
This Tanzania Sisal Rug by Natural Area Rugs with its wide texture is similar to the ones used in the house except theirs had an even wider texture and I'm almost certain it was wool because it was so soft underfoot and it's driving me crazy that I can't find a similar one online so this is as close as I could get.
A neutral fabric like this Sauvage fabric from Donghia makes it easy to accessorize the same fabric differently in each room.
The lamps were mostly oversized and glass with large cylindrical shades like this Bell Jar Table Lamp from West Elm. However, be warned that clear glass lamps have no way of hiding the cord (my guess is that they photoshopped the cord out of this image and if not they need to share their secret on how to hide it). I love this style, but it is so frustrating to see the cord trailing. Whoever solves this design dilemna will be a genius in my book!
Additional lighting is provided by oversized hurricane lanterns like these Modern Hurricanes from Ralph Lauren.
Most of the accessories were oversized pieces of coral, sea fans (below) and other sealife (including a partial skeleton of what I think was a whale that was A-MAZ-ING) like these from Sea Shell City. They also had beautiful pewter and silver accessories in sealife shapes and the walls were mostly covered in nautical themes prints and maps.

The repetition wasn't limited to the main rooms in the house. All of the bathrooms were done in navy and white with a matte finish, but they did have some fun here and there like adding a Crystal Ship Chandelier like this one from Z Gallerie to one of the bathrooms to add a little sparkle.
Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to see the kitchen which is situated on the basement level (for the former servants of course) but I'm sure that was fabulous too. I LOVE color, but I seriously was ready to go home and paint my entire house white after touring this house. And it's my understanding that this is the family's summer home so it was probably a bit easier to edit to a more simple style, but I think there are some great lessons learned that can be used by all of us whether we live on this grand scale or a much, much, much, much smaller one.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Less is More

It's no secret that I love finding great deals on great items at antique stores and yard sales. Buying second hand is one of the greenest things you can do because you are saving a product from a landfill and you are affecting the supply and demand chain in preventing the need for yet another product to be manufactured. On the flip side of this, I have way too much stuff and to add to this, one of my best friends who doesn't know what the word moderation means when it comes to shopping just moved to NYC and gave me 18 garbage bags full of stuff (and I'm not exaggerating) she couldn't take with her to her tiny new apartment-a large majority of it still with tags on it from places like J. Crew and Anthropologie. The good news is that I REALLY needed a new wardrobe and we are the same size, however, I couldn't possibly wear everything even if I tried. I have sorted and sorted and finally have just decided that a lot of it needs to go so it has motivated me (that, and the fact that my husband has had it with all the bags of stuff still lingering around the house) to have a yard sale tomorrow. The timing is actually great because my parents have also decided to drop off every item I had left from my childhood in their home, and I've reached a point where I'm settled enough into my house that I have a pretty good idea whether or not I'm ever going to use the fabrics and curtains that I've been holding on to for a few years now. Since my sister is planning for her move in to their new house too she's going to add some stuff as well. So if you are in the Middletown area and are looking for some great clothes, housewares, fabrics, jewelry, or anything else, swing by. Help the planet and your home or fashion wardrobe at the same time and you'll be helping me feel a huge weight lifted off my chest.

Etsy Pick of the Week: Trophy Bottle Stoppers

I often struggle with what to do when I have an item that is in good condition but that I have no need for and can't imagine anyone else does either. My inner earth saver can't bear to toss it in the garbage knowing that it's just going to sit in a landfill, but I also want it out of my house. Sports trophies from when I was a kid are a perfect example of the type of item I struggle with...until now. IKC Designs is an Etsy shop that upcycles vintage trophies into wine bottle stoppers. I'd be much more likely to win a trophy for wine drinking over sports these days anyway. You can choose from bowling, tennis, and many other themes, although I think this 4th place trophy stopper is my favorite. Who gets a trophy for 4th place?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Win the HGTV Green Dream Home

I happened to catch part of the HGTV Green Dream Home tour on Sunday night and thought it would be worth sharing. You can enter to win the HGTV Green Dream Home every day until June 4th. I have to be the devil's advocate here and say that I think there is a fair amount of greenwashing going on here (I mean they are including a giant SUV with your new green home) and they could have made some much better choices in terms of making things greener and still being stylish, but the house did earn a Gold Certification from the National Association of Home Builders because of it's building materials (not decor) and systems and I still wouldn't mind winning it. The house is in Plymouth, MA in the Pinehills community which is set on over 3,000 acres with 2 golf courses and 7 miles of walking trails and has a village green with small businesses including a fresh food market. It is only about an hour from me so it would be the perfect weekend retreat for us.
The covered porch helps keep the house cool in the summer and the front of the house is open to walking trails instead of the street which I just love.

I really like the wide plank wood floors and the red quartz island countertop. It would be too much throughout the kitchen, but is a great pop of color in an otherwise mostly white space. Plymouth is in cranberry country so they chose red as the accent color throughout the house.
I also really love the wood plank wall treatment and the coffered ceilings with beadboard inserts.
The living room is a little bit of a hodge podge in my opinion. There are aspects of it that I really like, but I find that the coffee table, side chair and zebra pillows are competing for attention. Individually they are all great pieces, but not together.

I love the laundry room which is ironic since my husband does the laundry. Maybe I should say I love the flower sink and island in the laundry room. That's the part of it where I'd be spending my time.

I also think these basket lined shelves are a great way to make a recycling center more attractive.
The tower room would be a great space for me to go for inspiration and a few quiet moments away from the kids.
And lastly, the outdoor kitchen is nicely tucked behind barn doors. I have a small obsession with barn doors that you are soon to see more of as I've been planning a big post on them. This could all be yours, plus $100,000 and a GMC Terrain. Don't forget that you can enter to win the HGTV Green Dream Home every day through June 4th. Good luck!

Monday, April 19, 2010

D.I.Y.: Vegetable Garden

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day this week, I've decided late in the game that all of this week's posts should be eco-friendly. I have to say that in some ways I hate how everybody tries to capitalize on Earth Day and finds a way to put a spin on how eco-friendly they are. Every day is Earth Day in my house. Like many New Englanders, I was raised to conserve resources and protect the beauty of nature that surrounds us on a daily basis and that's what we teach our children as well. It's not about giving up modern conviences, but being aware of the chain of reaction that each of our decisions creates and what small steps we can take to create whether it be buying organically, recycling, using no VOC paint or walking that 1/2 of a mile to grab a gallon of milk instead of hopping in the car. After all, ultimately it is not the house we live in but the Earth that is our home so it seems crazy that so many people pay no attention to it when they are trying to beautify their abodes. Anyway, since my almost 4 year old son and I started planting our vegetable garden today, I decided I would start there. A fairly simple but highly effective way to help the planet and make your home that much more appealing.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables is an amazingly gratifying thing on many levels. First off, there is nothing like walking into your back yard and grabbing everything you need for a salad or that perfect tomato and fresh basil for a tomato mozzarella salad (my favorite!). Not sure what's for dinner? Check the garden to see what's ready! Secondly, it is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint because there are no transport costs for your food. And lastly, you save an incredible amount of money on food. A tomato plant that costs you $3 is going to yeild well more than $3 worth of tomatoes should you buy them at the store. If you plant fruit bearing trees and shrubs, your landscaping is essentially working for you and makes your proprty more attractive if and when you sell it as well as for you.

There are several ways to go about growing your own fruits and vegetables. If space isn't an issue, you can pretty much just find yourself a very sunny spot and dig yourself a garden to get started (although it's a good idea to have your soil tested-any toxins in the soil will get into the food). Raised garden beds are very popular and have a lot of benefits including holding water better, being easier to tend to and being able to control the soil content better. My husband built two 3' x 6' raised beds last year using basic lumber and a few brackets and wood stakes, but you can also buy a raised bed kit (top) or get directions from the DIY Network (note: You shouldn't need to rent a sod cutter or spend the amount of money or hours listed to put in 1 or 2 raised beds). Make sure you don't use pressure treated wood as the chemicals in it aren't safe and will leach into your food. Also, think about if you need to put up some protective fencing around your beds. I have a dog, a curious baby, and a lot of rabbits in my yard that like to nibble in my garden so I've found it to be essential for us. If you don't have a lot of land to work with, but have some vertical space, you can also grow on a trellis (center). At one local garden center I even found a Macintosh Apple tree that grows flat against a trellis. I am dying to get it for along one of my fences. And if you are renting or only have a balcony or patio, container gardening (bottom) is really easy. I actually try to do all of my tomatoes in containers and herbs also do great pots. Anything that doesn't spread like crazy should work pretty well in a pot.

When deciding what to grow, first think about what you really buy a lot of. My son loves fruit so when we were selecting shrubs for our house, we planted two blueberry bushes of different varieties. Last year we planted strawberries (which are perrenials, meaning they come back every year), canteloupe, watermelon, green beans, snap peas, lettuce, mesculen mix (very easy), cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, basil, rosemary, and chives. Since everything isn't ripe at the same time, this gave us a nice variety throughout the summer and fall. However, keep in mind how many people in your household will eat each item and how much of it they will really eat. I had so much zucchini last year and am the only one in my house that eats it, that I was running out of ways to prepare it to keep it interesting. Of course, most neighbors and food banks are happy to take any excess you might have.

If you have kids it's also a really great activity to do together and a great way to give them an idea of where their food comes from. They seem to like vegetables better when they've had a hand in growing them themselves. If you are a little nervous about it, go to your local garden center or check out the Gardener's Supply Company web site where you'll be able to find people that will be happy to help get you growing in the right direction. Happy digging!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wedding Planning: Fall-ing Fast

I was so thrilled earlier this week when I received a call from one of my closest friends telling me that she had gotten engaged over the weekend. Yay! I am so excited for her, but I have to admit that every time I hear someone is getting married, I want to jump right in on the wedding planning (whether I'm supposed to be involved in it or not). I am pretty sure my obsession with it is a diagnosible disorder, but there is something about planning a wedding that is so different than just planning any party-perhaps it's the fact that people have a tendancy to just go all out for weddings. If I had the money to throw a full on sit down dinner party for 200 people once a year, chances are I would do it, but since I don't, I feel the need to live vicariously through anyone I know that happens to be doing it. And since my friend got engaged on Sunday and had the date and location booked on Tuesday (which is only mildly quicker than me getting engaged on a Friday and my mother having me in New York City at the Saks wedding dress sample sale the following Monday) I decided that it wouldn't be too soon to throw together my thoughts on a direction she could go in (should she so happen to want my input-not sure she does, but just in case) based on the few things she told me she had already decided or was thinking about 24 hours ago.
The wedding is going to be in late October of this year at Harvest on Hudson in Westchester county overlooking the Hudson River which should be absolutely gorgeous, and it will be a mid-day event. Based on the time of year, the one thing about the decor she has decided is that she wants to use etched pumpkins as the the table numbers. Based on that, I started thinking "rustic" along the lines of moss and twigs, partially because of their natural elements and partially because moss green and brown perfectly complement a beautiful shade of orange so that the pumpkins can be tied in very easily. Pumpkins and gourds are a perfect accent for events for this time of year, but there is always a fine line when you choose a wedding theme to take it just so far that it doesn't become kitschy. The pumpkin table numbers, some pumpkins scattered about the cocktail tables and monogrammed pumpkins (above) with the new monogram of the couple would be fabulous at the entry or on a stairway or mantle, and would be just enough to make the statement. Moss Covered Monogram Letters (top-and I actually found an image with my friend and her fiance's inititals!) by Spotted Leopard hung with gorgeous orange ribbon on the entry doors would set the tone.
Since I was thinking rustic and I keep coming across these bird's nest wedding accessories on Etsy, I thought this would be a perfect event to tie them into. Besides the natural aspect of the bird's nests, I think the idea of focusing on the love birds is also sweet. This small nest with chocolates (colors can be custom selected-I think green chocolates and orange ribbon) by nholt is the perfect table assignment/favor combination. The tag can read the guest's name and table number.
The nests could be on a table at the entry under two topiaries (maybe even moss covered ones) with a banner with the couple's name and date as seen on Martha Stewart.

This ringbearer's nest by Gardenside Studio is just too cute and is so much better than a satin pillow!

And just to make it all tie together, the groom and groomsmen could even wear bird's nest boutonnieres (but maybe sans feather) by Pomp and Plumage. I strongly encourage anyone planning a wedding to steer away from flower boutonnieres. I have yet to see one that has lasted long enough to still look decent in pictures so go with something that isn't so prone to wilting if possible.
My friend is thinking about wearing the wedding gown that both her mother and grandmother wore, but having it re-made to be a bit more modern. I think the unbelievable Kiss corsage by emersonmade could be a fabulous addition and be that connecting piece between vintage and modern and would bring in just a touch of orange. They have smaller pins and boutonnieres too. The 3 Flower Dahlia Pin (below) would be adorable on a simple white dress for the flower girls and could tie them nicely to the bride with her corsage.
Of course there are lots of adorable flower girl dresses out there and this moss green and champagne one by Pegeen would work very well if she wants something a little more formal for them.
Or this super simple white flower girl dress with a chocolate brown ribbon by Us Angels at Nordstrom would be lovely and perfectly appropriate for a mid-day event.

As for flowers, the options are virtually endless, but for the centerpieces there should be at least a touch of orange to pick up the pumpkins on the table. I think a moss covered container of some sort or something with twigs or vines worked into it would be wonderful.
The combination of oranges, pinks, and greens and the different textures of this bouquet from Martha Stewart is amazing.
Sayles Livingston creates a lighter palette of the same colors here with a larger focus on green which is a bit more refined looking.

Or a deeper shade of roses mixed with berries, also by Sayles Livingston, makes for a truly elegant bouquet or centerpiece.
Last, but certainly not least, the cake! If you took the fondant leaves off of this moss colored ribbon cake by Konditor Meister (best bakery ever!) and replaced them with coordinating fresh flowers or even a moss monogram cake topper, it would be brilliant.

So now that I got that all sorted out for her, all she has to do is pick out the wedding band and the menu.

My friend has been so kind as to say that we will be able to follow her wedding planning on Chateau & Bungalow so as the months go on we'll see if she likes any of my suggestions. She is an incredibly talented and creative person in her own right so she certainly doesn't need my help, but I'll still have fun with least in my own mind. Maybe I should start working on bridal shower ideas.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Etsy Picky of the Week: Heather Rawlinson Organic Screen Printed Fabrics

London based designer Heather Rawlinson creates these beautiful pieces of screen printed organic cotton fabrics using solvent free, waterbased inks. Because of the nature of the printing each piece of fabric isn't particularly large, but is ample enough to easily create pillows or other smaller household objects. Each print is available in a variety of colors and at prices ranging between $10 and $16 for each piece or buy the fabric pack (above) for only $95 (and shipping is very inexpensive so don't be afraid to order from across the pond).

The quality and attention to detail is clear in this close-up of Spot in aqua.

I also love this ABC print for a child's room. It could easily be made into a pillow, but I think framing it and hanging it would be even better. Since it comes in a variety of colors, a series of 3 of them would be a great statement. They recommend the 20" Ribba frame from Ikea. Another great Etsy find!

Neighborhoods of Newport House Tour

Have you always wanted to get a peek inside Newport's private mansions? Now is your chance! Next Sunday, April 25th you can tour 5 of Newport's most amazing private homes as part of the Neighborhoods of Newport House Tour put together by St. Michael's Country Day School. The houses included this year are Seaweed, Broadlawns, Sulthorne, Pelham House and Beacon Rock. This would be a fabulous girls day and a great day trip if you are in the RI, CT, or MA area.



Pelham House

Beacon Rock
Tickets are $35 if purchased by April 22nd or $40 thereafter and can be purchased online. Please note that there are some restrictions on the tour so be sure to read through everything on the web site if you plan on attending. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and boxed lunches are available to order at the time of ticket purchase. Hope to see you there!