June swept by me and now July promises to do the same. However, right now I have a quiet moment so I can get to a few updates.
Let’s start at The Monmouth Museum – From June 1 to September 3 they have a timely exhibit for all of us home decor addicts. They are showing artwork with sofas and while the official stance is the art stands alone, the sofa is secondary, personally, I like it when it all matches. Here is what they paired with our British Cottage entry. Nice huh? Try to get there. The museum is in Lincroft on the Brookdale Community College Campus and there is a great children’s wing so maybe pop in on a rainy day.
Meanwhile, we are assisting with a mixed bag of design projects that showcase the variety of living situations in our two rivers area. First, there is the Alderbrook update, where a very young at heart senior is curating a lifetime of possessions into a thoroughly up-to-date transitional interior. Then there is the Atlantic Highlands petite chateau where the owners have reclaimed their second story from their young son. And are in the process of transforming it from a playground into a sophisticated master bedroom suite and home office for the work at home most days professional mom. This is the before. You are not going to believe the after but because this is a work in progress we all have to wait for the wallpaper to arrive…
Keep your fingers crossed. We’re counting on fabulous wallpaper from Thibaut and a to die for bed from Century to make this transformation a success.
Meanwhile who wouldn’t welcome an excuse to hang out at this updated Shingle Style home in Fair Haven, literally steps away from the Navesink River, where almost empty nesters are creating a sophisticated coastal haven? Think the first-class berth on the QE2, no starfish and fishing nets here!
While we are not designers, after thirty years of shifting furniture around we’ve developed pretty good eyes and are usually happy to weigh in if asked. At the store we marry the new with the old, casual with chic, and farmhouse with modern every single day so we are well aware of the challenges you face. It is all about showing the things you love to their best advantage whether you are just starting out, or easing into retirement.
Speaking of taking things you love and mixing them up; try doing that with green, red. orange and yellow peppers. Add some hot Italian sausage and you have a fabulous, fresh dinner that tastes like summer.
The Wall Street Journalsometimes skews a little too right for my taste but their weekend features section is totally on the mark and my new recipe go to source. This is from their “Slow Food Fast” column.
Comfort-Food Classic: Italian Sausage and Peppers
(Recipe by Chef Mashama Bailey of the Grey, in Savannah, Ga.)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds sweet Italian sausages
2 pounds hot Italian sausages
6 bell peppers, a mix of red, yellow, orange and green, cored, seeded and julienned
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
Crusty bread, for serving
1. Swirl 2 tablespoons olive oil into a heavy pot over medium heat. Add sausages, working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, and cook until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove sausages from pot and set aside.
2. To the same pot, add peppers, onions and garlic. Sauté until vegetables soften, about 15 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, remaining oil and vinegar. Return sausages to pot and turn gently to coat. Braise until tomatoes reduce to a sauce that cloaks peppers, about 10 minutes, adding splashes of water if pot looks dry. Serve with crusty bread.
For a while I’ve been off showhouses not being a huge fan of modern, slick interiors in garish colors, or the reverse, all grey minimalism. But this year’s Kips Bay Showhouse had three of my favorite interior designers: Mark Sikes, Alexa Hampton and Bunny Williams / Elizabeth Swartz on deck…so Keith and I motored into the city on a particularly bleak Sunday in late May.
Located on East 76th street between Park and Lex in a 51 million dollar townhouse that is the largest on the NYC market today (read all about it here: (Upper Eastside Mansion for Sale), this showhouse had seven floors and countless rooms featuring the talents of the creme de la creme in home decor today. So for your forty dollars you basically got a master’s class in design–not bad.
We started in the foyer–you could have sworn you were in Paris–then stepped into a spacious elevator that zipped us to the top floor which was entirely dedicated to an in-home spa space. Crazy.
On the floor below that was our highlight of the day: the Drawing Room by Philip Mitchell Design. OMG Just when I had practically convinced myself that my days as a retailer were numbered because the upcoming generations don’t collect things, don’t want things, don’t need stuff–Philip Mitchell’s Drawing Room was the bomb. Anchored by a massive navy blue sectional festooned with a plethora of toss pillows bordered by a seemingly random selection of art, it was love at first sight.And it kept getting better. Everywhere you looked there was more, and, impossibly better, accoutrement. I’ve always loved the Bunny Williams bar set up in her Connecticut house and this was to rival that. Then there were the overstuffed chairs, flanked by baskets filled with books and magazines, flanked by ottomans, flanked by tables, flanked by–you get the picture. I could just see myself sitting in this chair, feet elevated, sipping a Gin Fizz, devouring a juicy novel. Coffee tables were all piled high with collections (note to self– take all unpolished antique brass candlesticks out of purgatory stat), more books, even plants. Who said orchids were so over? Note too all the stools and benches encircling the coffee table practically begging you to put your feet up and enjoy the flow.
Everywhere you looked there was more to see and enjoy. Game table. Check.Cozy corner with wicker chairs. Check.Tall shelf nestled in alcove filled with blue and white porcelain. Check. Vintage dog bed. Check.I could go have stayed there forever but there were seriously another twenty or thirty rooms left to peruse so off we toodled.
Mark Sikes was up next.
Part of Mark’s shtick is his adoration of iconic beauties and he rolls with the idea that one of those lovelies has this totally gorgeous bedroom. It worked for me, not an iconic beauty however, but still a lover of blue and white, fab wallpaper, incredibly detailed soft furnishings, vintage objets d’art and antique furniture.The four poster bed was gorgeous, and I love how the base is upholstered to match the headboard and footboard. Pops of royal blue abound, and just imagine sinking into this upholstered velvet armchair after a glam evening out on the town. I’m not really a huge fan of complex window treatments but l was bowled over by this pinch pleat swag curtain that probably has a proper name–probably French–c’est tres jolie in any case.Mark used a contrasting fabric as a shower curtain and skirt for the bathroom vanity which I gather is all part of his new fabric collection for Schumacher. Well done!
We hated to leave but Alexa Hampton was waiting–not really–but her room was the next on our A list. Alexa has been on our British Cottage radar ever since we fell in love with her collection for Hickory Chair last spring at the High Point Furniture Market. Rich in color and texture, sophisticated and inspiring; we couldn’t wait to see her Kips Bay living room.
Decorated to the nines and terribly chic, I get it; but sadly it could not make my heart sing.
Definitely my fault because I am not very fond of red. And that is all I see here. So even though I love love love the secretary, and all the attention to detail…In the end it was all too fin de siecle for me–but I embraced the opportunity to see a master’s work. I had to marvel at the artistry that created the tromp l’oeil painted tented walls–and ceiling! And the vision and creativity of the designer to put this all together.
And that is the point of showhouses (beyond of course the charities they support). You get to actually see and experience a variety of decorative options. Some may be out of your comfort zone or beyond your budget. But you get to get the idea.
Take Barbara Ostrom’s dining/living room. Noted for her over-the-top decor she did not disappoint here. (We first met Barbara at the initial Stately Homes by the Sea Showhouse in Rumson. She was probably the best-known designer on the roster and created a most opulent and stylish dining room–think Versailles, while we poured our heart and soul into the decor of a minuscule bedroom upstairs in the servants’ wing.)
I loved the placement of furniture and all the objects in her room, which I think may have been intended as a formal dining room, but Barbara being Barbara threw in a living room as well. The dining section features a beautifully set table–another Barbara-ism. And note the Andrew Tedesco mural on the ceiling. Like many of the Kips Bay designers the ceiling was treated as a “fifth wall” and it was literally a highlight of the entire room.And speaking of stuff, Barbara is fearless when it comes to decorating a room. The paintings are from all periods, including one by John Mellencamp, while the bibelots range from the Han dynasty to the present day. As always the color palette is on the vibrant side; in this case high gloss peach from the Farrow and Ball archives.
But I am sure if you are still reading you are wondering if I am ever going to wrap this up. Let’s end with Bunny Williams, co-chairman of the 2018 Kips Bay Showhouse and designer par excellence.
Bunny and her partner Elizabeth Swartz designed a room that was not a fantastical representation of anything–it looked to me like what I think a real life mogul would have in their real life living room in their 51 million dollar mansion off Park. Sophisticated, sleek, expensive, but still relaxing. A place to loosen your tie, plop your feet up and wait for the butler to bring your slippers and serve you a martini made just the way you like it.
There were two comfortable seating areas, fabulous art on the walls, a mixture of antique and contemporary furniture and some pops of color but nothing too too.
Meanwhile I just have to tell you about our brunch. You simply cannot go to New York on a Sunday and not have brunch. We didn’t have plans and fortunately stumbled upon a Belgian Brasserie at 240 East 75th Street almost immediately. Honestly it did not look the most engaging of venues, but it was drizzling, we were parched and famished so in we went.
The good news: the interior was spotless, our server excellent and the food terrific. I had my own mini Quiche Lorraine while Keith had French Toast from heaven.
B.Cafe (Belgian Brasserie)
I always include a recipe in my blogs and seeing as I already featured Challah French ToastI think it has to be the quiche. My problem is although I love quiche I’m not very good at making it. Here is a recipe from Epicurious that might change that. However, I would use ham instead of bacon, like they did at the B. Cafe.
1 Pre-Made pie Pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie
12 slices bacon
1 cup shredded Emmental cheese
1/3 cup minced onion
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups light cream
salt and pepper to taste
Fry bacon until crispy.
Chop bacon and combine with cheese and onions, then place mixture in pie shell.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper then pour into pastry shell.
Bake for 15 minutes in preheated 425 degree oven. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 30 more minutes.
It is amazing how rarely I get to Rumson now that I live in Red Bank (which is sad because it is literally two miles yonder). So it was nice to be invited along on a delivery there the other day; our friend Bernadette got a spring refresh, and I got to visit the old neighborhood.
While you might think Rumson is just one ritzy mansion after another, once you get off the main drags there are many unique homes on a much smaller, and you could argue more charming scale. In this case what was once a fairly modest cape has, over the years, sprouted wings and els, and is now quite a robust beauty. I guessed Bernadette’s house was built sometime in the 1040’s but I guessed wrong. Like many homes along the Shrewsbury River shoreline, this house was barged over from Sea Bright over 100 years ago! There are so many things to love about this house but my favorite might be the Dutch door. I have wanted a Dutch door my entire life and Bernadette’s is absolutely the most perfect shade of blue.
Fortunately, Bernadette is a much better housekeeper than I, because her house was camera ready when I ran through at 9:30 in the morning snapping photos of the various British Cottage items she’s purchased over the last couple of decades(!) while Keith did the heavy lifting on the delivery.
I started in the kitchen. This table from British Cottage is at least 25 years old. That is the good thing and the bad thing about selling great furniture; it never goes out of style, never breaks, and thus never needs replacing (sad for us, great for our customers). This kitchen has been remodeled two or three times and our classic pine farmhouse table always makes the cut.
In the dining room, I spied a white porcelain bowl from our Chinese export collection under a painting by Barbara Cocker—another former neighbor and longtime West Park resident. She was quite famous locally and in Nantucket, her summer haunt, for her riveting coastal paintings. Until I saw Bernadette’s I had forgotten I always wanted a Mrs. Cocker painting. Sigh.
The other thing I would like to point out in the dining room is the gray cabinet. So often people own a mahogany or cherry breakfront, or china closet, that works like a dream but looks like it belongs at Winterthur—too ponderous and heavy for our laidback coastal décor. Bernadette had hers painted gray; a brilliant move that keeps the dining room still formal, but not too. (Needless to say, you should NEVER do this to a period antique but it is quite acceptable to repurpose quality machine made pieces from the 20th century).
A quick stop in the living room for a snap of one of our orb chandeliers with the crystal centers. So many people talk about putting a chandelier over a coffee table—but it takes a certain amount of courage to do it. And look. What a pay off! Instant architecture with a focal point that literally brings light into play. Brilliant.
Next, I dashed upstairs to see how our paneled bed turned out. We normally only sell the whole bed, but in this case, just a headboard was required. It’s bolted to a frame so it doesn’t flip or flap. And I must say quells the argument that you can’t but a bed in front of a window–of course you can.
All’s left is to see how the family room revamp worked out. What do you think?
This is the den that was created when a master bedroom was added to the east side of the house. We brought in the Gustavian style console table, painted a soft gray, for under the front window, added two square gourd lamps, and a couple of mirrors and side tables to give a little structure and depth to this serene space.
Even the dad corner looks pretty good!
The clock was ticking–we open at ten–but I couldn’t leave Bernadette’s without a recipe in hand. She promises this is delicious–I haven’t had a chance to get to the kitchen to try it myself. The kale worries me a bit; I want to embrace it but so far have failed. Bernadette assures me that will all change once I make this fabulous recipe from Food and Wine.
Roasted Chicken Legs with Potatoes and Kale
For this easy one-pan dish, Grace Parisi roasts chicken legs on a bed of potatoes and kale so the meaty juices keep the vegetables moist. Prep takes just 10 minutes and the resulting meal serves eight or makes for excellent leftovers. There’s very little clean-up as everything bakes up together and can be served straight from the pan. It’s super healthy from the kale and lemon, but also hearty because of the roasted potatoes.
1 1/2 pounds tender, young kale, stems and inner ribs removed
1 1/2 pounds medium Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 whole chicken legs (about 10 ounces each)
1 teaspoon paprika
Lemon wedges, for serving
How to Make It:
Preheat the oven to 450°. In a very large roasting pan, toss the kale, potatoes, and onion with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread in an even layer.
Set the chicken on a cutting board, skin side down. Slice halfway through the joint between the drumsticks and thighs. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the paprika and set on top of the vegetables.
Cover the pan with foil. Roast the chicken in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for 30 minutes longer, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Transfer the chicken to plates and spoon the vegetables alongside. Serve with lemon wedges.
Combining chicken, greens, and potatoes, this one-pan recipe is a meal in itself, but it would also be delicious with homemade hummus or other easy spreads like a cucumber-yogurt dip.
In the olden days, decorating was the wife’s job; real men played golf, watched sports on the telly and stayed out of the kitchen. Clearly those days are over. Real women go to work, real men cook and everybody has a say in decorating. But he likes mid-century modern and she wants comfort and warmth. Holy smokes! What do you do?
You compromise and together you create your own signature look.
Take, for example, this Rumson carriage house. When the new owners took possession they brought with them the husband’s significant modern art collection and his design sense which was perhaps a bit formal, while the wife was angling for an up-dated, yet comfortable, elegant, yet child-friendly end of the spectrum.
First thing they did was transform what had been a formal living room into a lively gallery of amazing art, complemented by a modicum of seating. The idea was to marry comfort with spare and sleek. They wanted room where the art could shine, adults enjoy a cocktail and their three children to romp–the walled off living room, like husbands who don’t decorate, a thing of the past.
For a while it was perhaps it was a bit too stark but once they replaced a burnished hunk of copper coffee table with this painted wooden table from British Cottage the living room finally came together.
The modern, copper coffee table that was in the living room happily found a new home in the family room where it compliments the metal work on the fireplace and anchors the massive leather couch.
(I’m not sure whose idea was the basketball hoop over the fireplace in the family room–we would have loved this when we were kids). They added a couple of custom Hickory White side chairs in navy plaid from British Cottage that swivel so you can either have a conversation or watch the game on the television on the wall opposite the couch.
Perhaps my favorite room is the dining room. They kept the previous owner’s chandelier–from the days when the house was decorated in an over-the-top chateau style–and it looks pretty and romantic. The husband was quite sure how he wanted the custom British Cottage table to look, striking and vibrant in dark oak which works beautifully with the linen-like but really Sunbrella slipcovered sidechairs chosen by his wife. The plain white walls and woodwork were a bold choice in this time of paint the world fifty shades of grey but it really lets the art and the architecture shine.
We’ve been making house calls to this home for the last couple of years and every time we go it looks better and better. I think every nook and cranny has engaged the attention of both spouses and each has allowed the other their vision creating a lovely, family friendly home in the process. Not easy.