It’s been nice to have a real winter this year with lots of snow. Activities in a pandemic are on the limited side so shoveling snow has had its merits and you have to admit there is nothing prettier than a fresh fall of snow.
In January we looked forward to the Super Bowl. And we even had a party–for two.
And of course now that the weather is mostly inclement we have had quite a few deliveries of furniture and accessories that were ordered what seems like eons ago but thanks to Covid disruption their arrival was delayed. However the good news is everything looks great. Like this fabulous sofa by Hickory White, the higher end, design driven division of the mighty Sherrill Furniture.
And we were thrilled to finally get our artwork order that was meant to arrive in December…and, once again, the good news is it was worth the wait. Everything is magnificent, starting with this JJ Audubon print of an Ibis…which somehow manages to be vintage, yet modern, clearly meeting that transitional genre we were hoping for.
And we have been dining well. One memorable dish was Fish and Chips. Keith is a huge fan and I don’t fry anything but we gave it a whirl one evening and enjoyed great success.
The recipe I used is by Ina Garten:
Parker’s Fish and Chips
Lay the cod fillets on a cutting board. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Cut the fillets in 1 1/2 by 3-inch pieces.
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Whisk in 1/2 cup of water and then the egg.
Pour 1/2-inch of oil into a large (12-inch) frying pan and heat it to about 360 degrees F.
Dip each fillet into the batter, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place it very carefully into the hot oil. Don’t crowd the pieces. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the oil between 360 and 400 degrees F. Cook the fish on each side for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the “chips.”
While 2020 will not doubt be remembered as the year time stood still, happily we made some progress here at British Cottage. One thing we did was go long on the Bobbin Chair. You’ve seen it at the store from time to time and you see it in books and magazines all the time.
Like in this gorgeous room by Barbara Westbrook. The Bobbin Chair is derived from the heavy, lathe-turned furniture common in the 1700’s that over the ensuing centuries evolved into something significantly lighter and far less medieval looking. Some of you might have seen a spool bed in your grandma’s house, but other than that this style did not get much play until this particular style chair worked its way into the twenty first century mix.
I love them. We get most of ours from Hickory White Furniture, the higher end, designer-driven division of Sherrill Furniture in Hickory, North Carolina. They sit like a full-blown upholstered armchair but look much lighter, and the wood frames provide architecture without looking unfinished, like those silly deconstructed armchairs Restoration Hardware was flogging several years ago.
In contrast the Bobbin chair is pretty and graceful. Don’t you just love how they look in this gorgeous room by Erin Gates?
In the fall we did them in a bold, blue animal print in a dark, practically ebony finish:
And from our December shipment this bold, geometric print with a white frame:
And just last week this snazzy version in a dark walnut finish and a geometric ogee pattern fabric arrived.
Along with this one in a Lillian August striped fabric:
Make sure you come in soon to test one out–before they get sold. While we are happy to order one–or two–for you in the fabric and finish of your choice–we are equally as happy to sell off the floor.
Meanwhile I have to hurry home. Can you believe it someone is coming to dinner? (Don’t worry, she had the vaccine.)
I plan to make Turkey Chili–and before you all start whining and saying really, you are starting off the new year with Turkey Chili–just hang on a minute. Our daughter popped in for two weeks at Christmas and established herself as family chef. Who was I to argue? After nearly 10 months of home cooking I was ready to hand over the mantle. Although when Laird said it was Turkey Chili for dinner I was first seriously underwhelmed, then concerned when I arrived home at 5:30 and saw she had not even started to cook.
I needn’t have been. This goes together lickety split and tastes scrumptious. Here are her notes:
As the instructions say, “a combination of dark and white meat really adds depth and richness of flavor, so try to find a mix, but all white meat (or a mixture of ground beef and turkey) will yield a stellar batch too.” We went with ground white meat – with a bit of ground beef thrown in for good measure!
I didn’t use chicken broth (because we didn’t have any). Instead, per the comments, I didn’t drain the beans and also added a little turkey broth. Also I dislike kidney beans, so we had pinto and black beans instead. And no bay leaves, because they were not in the cupboard. No jalapeno because I forgot to tell Dad to buy it. Green bell pepper instead of red.
But otherwise, mostly followed the recipe, at least in spirit! And it’s so fast!
1large sweet red pepper, cored, deveined and coarsely chopped
1cup chopped celery
1jalapeno pepper, cored, deveined and finely chopped
1tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped, or 1 tablespoon, dried
3tablespoons chili powder
2teaspoons ground cumin
3cups canned diced tomatoes
2cups chicken broth, fresh or canned
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
215-ounce cans of red kidney beans, drained
2cups shredded cheddar cheese
1cup sour cream (optional)
Sliced lime for garnish (optional)
Heat the oil over high heat in a large heavy pot and add the turkey meat. Cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, chopping down and stirring with the side of a heavy kitchen spoon to break up any lumps.
Add the onions, garlic, sweet pepper, celery, jalapeno pepper, oregano, bay leaves, chili powder and cumin. Stir to blend well. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Add the drained beans and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes longer. Serve in bowls with cheddar cheese, and sour cream and lime wedges, if desired.
Back in 2005 Keith and I bought the building right next door to British Cottage, 130 Shrewsbury Avenue. The front area was a storefront and in the back was a small, two story, three bedroom house. Renovating the store section was easy; we just put in a new hardwood floor and replaced the existing windows. The house part was a bit trickier with three teeny bedrooms and bath upstairs complete with the original plaster and lath crumbling hither and yon. In the end, we decided to gut the whole thing right up to the roof and create one large lofty bedroom area.
When we moved from our house in Rumson to the apartment above the British Cottage store after Sandy in 2012 (we did not flood but our neighbors did and the people who bought their property built a Tuscan mansion literally on top of us which meant it was time to bid adieu), the space at 130 became a perfect spot to park visiting children and friends. We never really decorated–just filled it up with stuff. Some stuff we liked but could not use in our current situation, other items were just too valuable to leave in the warehouse, and the rest was just clutter.
Fast forward to this benighted Summer of 2020 when we invited one of our long time customers, stuck between rentals in the red hot Jersey Shore real estate market, to crash there for a couple of months. Yikes! What were we thinking? And they needed to be in by August 1!
Some people have junk rooms–this had turned into a junk house. We needed to get it cleaned out and cleaned up–stat. One good thing is we pretty much know what furniture our lodger is bringing, seeing as we sold it all to her in the first place. Her antique pine table with extensions would be perfect for this spot in the kitchen area; then we added one of the pine cupboards we have made at our factory in Hungary to serve as a pantry/storage cabinet.
Sadly her navy blue Hickory White sofa won’t fit through the narrow doorway into the living room so for now we left the Biedermeier sofa we bought at the fabulous antique store, Green Square, in Copenhagen. (The map above the couch is an original 1900’s map of the area our Maine cottage was located.)
Directly opposite the sofa is a long wall for her 84″ pine sideboard also from our factory in Hungary and above that she can hang the tv. (I am hoping there will be a Part Two to this blog when we see how the lodgers put their own stamp on our little abode).
In the corner is an armchair from The Best Slipcover Company, a leftover from our first foray into upholstery sales. For years and years I never wanted anything that was not slipcovered but now, with the new performance fabrics, upholstered furniture is a breeze to care for and certainly easier on the eye.
Up the stairs is the loft bedroom which will be shared. Here is the little girl side featuring an original British Cottage pine bed from the very first factory we worked with in England way back when, and an antique pine chest of drawers, also from the UK, that Keith fished out of the depths of the warehouse. Hopefully he will find the knobs soon.
With everyone working–and studying–from home we thought this corner would make a perfect work/study area. We grabbed the table from the store, mostly it is used as a console table behind a sofa or in an entryway, but in this case it should be just the right size for a lap top–or desk top for that matter.
Then we made a little sitting area in front of the great kas–also purchased from Green Square many years ago–that we cannot bear to part with. A kas, (pronounced kaz) is a massive cupboard of Dutch origin similar to an armoire that was popular in the 17th & 18th centuries. Used to store linen, clothing, and other valuables, they were status symbols and family heirlooms in the Low Countries. (Thank you Wikkepedia). We knew we would never find another one we could afford so stashed it up here until the right room comes along.
Tucked snugly in an adjacent alcove is a queen bed in a matte, black metal finish from the Californian company, Wesley Allen. We find a metal bed fits into most decorating schemes and like to have one on hand to show customers when our British Cottage beds are not a go. The photos over the bed are from a series of black and white images of our daughter and her friends and their ponies taken years ago. (This is a great thing to do if you are looking for artwork; everyday images, when enlarged and printed in black and white become much more visually interesting).
The bathroom area is not huge so it was lucky we had this shelf, originally purchased at Schwung Home for the Maine cottage. Then it didn’t fit into the Fair Haven house either; happily it works perfectly here.
Over the years we have sold dozens of benches but there was something about this homely antique, Hungarian bench in the original paint that was charming so we held on to it. Above it, on the gallery wall is a set of botanical prints we bought at our neighbor and renowned local artist, Barbara Cocker’s yard sale 35 years ago that Keith discovered in the painted armoire where they’d probably been languishing for at least a decade. Surprise!
So what happens if all you have is mismatched curtains, furniture and artwork? Try taking a deep breath and tossing it all together. As long as your walls are bright and your floors clean, anything can happen.
So it is boiling hot and who wants to cook? Not me. Fortunately Laird surprised us with a mid-summer visit from Seattle and she is more than happy to take charge of the kitchen. On the menu tonight courtesy of The Washington Post:
Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups With White Beans and Arugula
Here, grilled zucchini is served up in an exciting new way: Rolled into bite-size bundles filled with lemon and garlic-seasoned mashed white beans, peppery arugula and floral basil. Light and fresh, the roll-ups taste of summer and are filled with garden flavors. With the substance of creamy beans, you can savor them as a snack, starter or as a spread of small plates.
Tested size: 4 servings; makes 12 roll-ups
3 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces each)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic (1 clove)
1/2 cup low-sodium canned white beans, such as cannellini, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups (2 ounces), lightly packed, baby arugula
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
Trim the tops and bottoms off the zucchini, then slice them lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices using a sharp knife or mandolin. Set aside the outermost slices of zucchini for another use. Brush the center slices on both sides using 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper.
Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the zucchini until tender and grill marks have formed, about 3 minutes per side.
Place the garlic onto a cutting board and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using the flat side of the knife and dull edge of the blade, mash the garlic and salt together to form a paste; transfer to a small bowl. Add the beans, lemon juice and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Using a fork, smash the ingredients together to form a chunky mash.
Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the bean mixture 1/2-inch from the end of a zucchini slice. Top with a few arugula leaves and 1 small or 1/2 large basil leaf. Roll the zucchini slice up and place seam side down on a platter. Repeat with the remaining zucchini, beans, arugula and basil.
Not many people know about Barley Point, a private island that resides alongside the tony town of Rumson and the Barley Pointers are committed to keeping it that way. The island is gated and if by some means you manage to gain access it will be only a matter of minutes before someone, anyone asks “What the heck are you doing here?”
Recently, however, we were granted a private tour by a friend whose dream house on the island was nearing completion (and a good thing too because construction on Barley Point is prohibited between Memorial Day and Labor Day). Her new home is quite literally a stone’s throw from the Navesink River and the view is breathtaking. The lots may be tiny and the houses too, but architects, like our friend, Matt Cronin, who has designed many of the newer homes on the island have made it their mission to access and utilize every square inch of allowable living space.
The original houses on Barley Point were by and large fairly modest bungalows that served as summer refuges for working-class escapees from Jersey City and Hoboken.
Then along came Hurricane Sandy and a lot of those original structures were clobbered and most ended up being demolished. The new houses are designed to withstand tidal surges and gale-force winds and come in all shapes and sizes.
What they share are multiple views of the sky and river, salt air and sandy beaches that seem far removed from the manicured lawns and asphalt jungles that reside just a channel away.
After so much fresh air and sunshine touring the ins and outs of this adorable island we were starving and needed to eat dinner right away. If you don’t dawdle you can bang this dinner out in 25 minutes flat. I thought I had figured out every which way to combine hot sausage, tomatoes and pasta but this recipe from our friend, Chef John, is terrific.
12 oz. penne, 1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed, 1/2 c. dry white wine, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained, 3 sprigs fresh basil, 1/4 c. grated Parmesan, plus more for serving, 4 c. baby kale (I used swiss chard and spinach works too)
In a medium bowl, combine sausage and wine, making sure all the wine is incorporated; let sit at least 5 minutes. (Don’t skip this step!)
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chili flakes and cook until garlic is sizzling, about 2 minutes.
Add sausage mixture and cook, breaking it up with a spoon into very small pieces until it’s no longer pink and half the liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes.
Roughly chop up tomatoes. Add them to the skillet along with basil; simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.
Meanwhile cook pasta according to package directions; drain it and return it to the pot.
Discard basil and stir in Parmesan. Toss pasta with sauce, then fold in kale. Serve with additional Parmesan, if desired.
Spring 2020 was a blur. Locked down, shut out, not home bound because I still worked my regular hours (sort of) you’d think by now I’d be all organized and ready and raring to get going but mostly I feel like I need a nap. Fortunately Keith and Bentley are much more energetic!
And the good news is that British Cottage is officially open to the public again and we can get back to doing what we love most, schmoozing, and, hopefully selling some stuff. We have tons of new products which should get your creative juices flowing and inspire you to new decorative heights. We can’t wait to hear about all the interesting projects and plans you’ve been making to refresh and renew your homes.
Fortunately too, I have lots of new recipes. But the one I want to share first is an oldie but goodie, Chocolate Mousse Pie. Keith’s cousin Mark, who is now pushing fifty, was the first to make this when he was about ten and since then it has been a family favorite. I hadn’t made it in years until this Mother’s Day when feeling a bit underwhelmed I thought I deserved a special treat–and it was well worth the effort.
The original recipe came from Bon Appetit and it is is by far the best Chocolate Mousse Pie I’ve ever made, or eaten. The secret ingredient is the much revered (or reviled) Oreo Cookie and the best thing is there are no eggs involved here, so one less thing to worry about in these oddly fraught times…the notes in italics are mine.
Serves 8 (More like 12)
21 Oreo cookies
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (buy the best chocolateand add a handful or two extra and you won’t be sorry)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3 3/4 cups chilled whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
Chocolate shavings (optional)
Serves 8 (Really more like 12)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Finely grind cookies in processor. Add butter and process until mixture is evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan to form thin crust. Bake crust 5 minutes. Transfer crust to rack and cool completely.
Combine chocolate, vanilla and salt in processor. Bring 1 cup cream to boil in heavy small saucepan. With processor running, gradually pour hot cream through feed tube and process until chocolate is melted and smooth. (It is easier to just add the chocolate mixture to the hot cream in the pan and not have to wash out your food processor twice). Transfer mixture to large bowl. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Beat 2 cups cream and sugar in large bowl to stiff peaks. Fold into chocolate mixture. Pour mousse into prepared crust. Chill until set, about 6 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.)
Beat remaining 3/4 cup cream in medium bowl to firm peaks. Transfer to pastry bag fitted with medium star tip. Pipe rosettes of cream around edge of cake. Garnish with chocolate shavings.
Last week the Wall Street Journal, after consulting over 100 experts in the design field, reported they had identified 6 new decorating trends “that are winning and waning” for the upcoming year. Some I agree with, like buying disposable furniture is out–I’ve never understood why people buy crap just because it’s cheap, or figure their kids will wreck it anyway so why even bother buying something nice?
Rather than mention that perhaps children should always be taught not to wreck anything–let’s focus on the thrift and environmental angles. This is why secondhand stores, garage sales, and your parent’s attic exist; they are all great sources for cheap furniture that is well made and fairly kid proof. Our landfills are too full and our resources too stretched to keep buying junk. So enough of not taking your parents’ hand-me-downs. Man up. Or save up and buy something worth keeping. We started in the antique business and like to think even when we sell something brand new we are selling tomorrow’s heirlooms.
The next item on the list was a bit discouraging. Evidently light or bleached floors are out–I’ll just have to concede that I may never be in because this is my house in the photo below. I have never had dark floors and really tried to give them a go in this house but there were just too many different woods involved (five) and no one darker stain would work on all of them.
Also I am fairly certain floor color has to relate to what is going on in your house–not the world at large. I think in my case dark floors would have sucked the life out of this room. The ceilings are low, the room isn’t huge and I am trying to carve out separate but equal prep and dining spaces.
Next up was wall color. The chief decorating honchos have been trying to dislodge grey as America’s go hue for several years now–unsuccessfully. Now they are all about deep olive greens (and clearly too young to remember the avocado kitchens of the 70’s) earthy reds and ochres–which is code for mustard–so beware.
The color I noticed most towards the end of last year and hope to see much more of in the future is blue. Perhaps my most favorite house I visited last year was a rhapsody in blue. Take a look at Gloria’s Rumson living room:
And I love this beautiful blue that Lori used in her west coast Florida condo.
And how can I ever forget David’s vibrant dining room in Tinton Falls? Trust me, you cannot go wrong with blue!!!
Their next observation was one I definitely agree with–straight edged ultra modern furniture is out: “We’re embracing the feminine touches and a soupçon of the romantic,” said Ms. Huh, a renowned NYC designer. Like Lori’s, Gloria’s and David’s rooms in the photos above, why shouldn’t furniture be pretty? But I also must confess mid-century modern (which was all there was in my youth and seems to be all the rage now) never floated my boat.
But there is hardly any antique period: Victorian, Queen Anne, Edwardian, you name it, that I don’t love–in moderation. And you can see all those influences in the furniture I chose for my living room. Note the antique Biedermeier secretary, the oak drop leaf table that was Keith’s grandmothers, alongside a glamorous classic Chesterfield sofa and the delightfully proportioned high hoop-backed wicker and wood Chippendale influenced armchair. Whew.
All of the upholstery is by Hickory White, the higher end division of Sherrill Furniture, and what we carry in the store. Full disclosure–I originally had planned on a navy and white scheme for this room but by the time the house was ready for furniture we had already sold it all! Fortunately we found these Hickory White showroom samples at the spring High Point Furniture Market and now, I think, they look like they were made for this room. Kudos to the great designers at Sherrill who made this all work!
Meanwhile back to the out list: colorless stone is totally over. But I adore my practically white faux marble quartz so much that I will just have to dare to be square. Like many of you I’d had it with the dark, swirly granites and really wanted to go with a more subtle Carrara marble but knew that ain’t happening with me, the original messy chef, at the wheel.
Next was slipcovers. Frankly I see nothing wrong with slipcovers and just picked up a Century sofa for the store in a dark navy and white seersucker slip that would look amazing in a small family room or beach house. But the point of the article was who needs slips when there’s tons of wonderful performance fabrics available now? Providentially I do have a fabulous Century sectional in off-white performance fabric on the floor as well…
So, in conclusion, I think the point of the Wall Street Journal article is kind of well–pointless. What matters in home decor is not what anyone else, no matter how famous, thinks is in–or out–it is about your taste and what you like.
It just makes sense to buy the best furniture you can afford, with an eye towards value and longevity, and don’t forget about comfort. Please sit on that sofa before you buy it–all couches were not created equal. My advice would be to remember that paint is relatively cheap so go ahead and experiment with color on your walls, but floors and kitchen counters are expensive to redo so proceed with caution.
And in the end, let’s face it, the whole point of having a home is to have a place of your own to feast in and be festive. One of the best dishes we had all year was stuffed turkey breast wrapped in pancetta. We’ve been trying to wean ourselves from beef and pork (not easy) and had already done the whole roast turkey thing for Thanksgiving and were beginning to despair of ever finding a meal worthy of Christmas when our daughter, Laird, found this recipe from Saveur . Try it; you’ll love it!
Happy New Year.
This preparation is inspired by porchetta—an epic Italian pork roast, the modern version of which often features a tenderloin capped with herbs and seasonings and wrapped in a layer of crispy, skin-on pork belly. The lean turkey breast is coated with a garlic and sage compound butter and layered with smoky cheese, enhancing the meats juices. And a thin layer of pancetta locks in the flavor and browns to a crispy exterior.
8 oz. pancetta, sliced about ⅛ inch thick, then unrolled slightly
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, add the butter, sage, garlic, and fennel. Mix well with the back of a spoon and season the mixture with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Use a long, thin knife to butterfly the turkey breast, carefully slicing it along the longer side, and unrolling it until it is a long, even strip, about 1½ inches thick. With the skin side facing down, spread the turkey breast evenly with the compound butter, then top with the smoked mozzarella in an even layer. Starting with the narrow end, tightly roll up the meat so that the skin is once again on top and the seam is on the bottom. Neatly layer the pancetta slices over the skin side and use cotton kitchen twine to tie the turketta tightly 3 times crosswise and once lengthwise. Refrigerate the prepared meat (unwrapped) until you are ready to cook it, up to 24 hours ahead of time.
2 hours before you plan to serve, preheat the oven to 375°F. Set the turketta in a large cast iron skillet or medium roasting pan and brush it all over with the olive oil. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 130°F, 55–60 minutes. (The lean meat will continue cooking in the hot skillet for several minutes out of the oven, so we prefer to pull it out a few degrees before it is fully cooked to around 150°F.) Remove from the oven, tent the turketta and the hot skillet loosely with foil, and let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Immediately transfer the roast to a cutting board; cut away the twine and discard. Thinly slice the roast crosswise, and serve hot.
This last note is from me. Do not fret about butterflying the turkey breast–have the butcher do it! We had great luck with the team at Sickles Market in Little Silver. And try to find smoked mozzarella–not easy but worth the effort.
I first met the woman who owns this spacious west coast Florida condo over ten years ago. One of our vendors had just started importing French Country antiques–made in China–and the quality and design were amazing for the pricepoint. (That that vendor later surfaced as one of the new RH’s leading suppliers is a tale for another day). Long story short it was this country French look that first inspired Lori, a pharmaceutical executive living in Westfield, to visit British Cottage.
Lori is at the corporate executive level that enables her to keep her digs at home intact when she is moved to a new state–so she basically needed everything. While Westfield is one of New Jersey’s premier stockbroker belt towns, the houses, though pricey, are not huge. The table you see in the photo above is just 48 or 54 inches round but with both leaves in it jumps to a respectable 90 inches. Since her Westfield days I think this table moved to her new house, and job, in Philly but now looks right at home in the sunshine state.
Heaven knows where the console table in the background was in Westfield; I think possibly behind a sofa. We loved selling this table because closed it was just 14″deep but with the hinged leaves open it was 30″ wide and could seat eight. I think the moral of the story may be if you buy wisely in the first place, you will have bought well in the long run.
When Lori was in Westfield she covered all of her walls in fabulous patterned Thibaut wallpaper in the most vibrant of jewel tones; I’d never seen anything like it before. Some of us might get adventurous in a powder room, or two, but Lori did the whole goshdarn house! So I was not surprised to see all these saturated colors in her Florida digs. Go Lori.
The condo is basically a great big concrete box but you hardly notice that with all the layering Lori has going on. The tile (limestone or marble?) is a sea of big beige but when topped with what looks like sisal and another layer of boldly patterned carpet you can see the living room take shape. She picked up the coffee table and the end table along with a few other pine pieces when she whizzed by in October and just now sent me these snaps to show how she pulled an entire decade of purchases all together.
The cabinet anchoring the television is from our factory in Hungary where they take antique pine doors and cut them down to repurpose into cabinets of varying sizes.
The antique pine and elm mule chest from Ireland in the photo below is one that Keith originally bought maybe 25 years ago when all we did at British Cottage was import antique English and Irish pine. I hated to part with it but there is only so much furniture a woman can hang on to and not be deemed a hoarder.
This cabinet, in what looks to me to be the foyer is from our French country collection (sadly bygone) and Lori bought most, if not all, of the blue and white lamps and ginger jars you see scattered throughout at British Cottage too. I will have to ask her what the wall color is; I love it.
Too much blue you say. Pshaw I say–this is just the right amount. But Lori is no one-trick pony. Her bedroom is the softest of greens punctuated by the perfect amount of pink. The bed is king sized and part of our British Cottage bedroom collection and the lamps are from us too.
Sadly that’s all the photos I have. I’m sure there is more to come: window treatments, artwork, and more–so let’s just say–“To be continued…”
While we wait for Lori to send me a recipe (you just know she has to be as fantastic in the kitchen as she is everywhere else) I’ll share this recipe that I saw in the Wall Street Journal last week. Full discretion I have not actually made it yet but may tonight. I mean clams and sausage, how can you possibly go wrong?
ByKitty GreenwaldDec. 4, 2019 2:22 pm ET
THE CHEF: JOHANNE KILLEEN
Her Restaurant: Al Forno in Providence, RI
What She’s Known For: Cooking that applies an Italian sensibility to Rhode Island’s bounty.
THOUGH THE COOKING at Al Forno in Providence, R.I., typically skews Italian, certain dishes veer in a different direction. This clam roast, for instance. “The idea behind it is definitely more Portuguese,” said chef-owner Johanne Killeen —a reflection of Rhode Island’s rich Portuguese heritage.
In Ms. Killeen’s third Slow Food Fast recipe, clams and sausage stew with tomato, onion, endive and minced chiles. Once the pot boils, it shifts to the oven to roast until the clams pop open and their brine cooks down along with butter and white wine. The chef recommends parboiling the sausage links before adding them to the clam roast, to remove excess fat. As the sliced sausages finish cooking with the clams, they release their flavor into the briny broth.
This delicious one-pot meal has remained on Al Forno’s menu for almost 40 years—a testament to the area’s exceptional local seafood as well as its vibrant Portuguese community. “Rhode Island’s clams come from clean waters,” said Ms. Killeen. She’s sourced them an hour from Al Forno since 1980. In wintertime, when little else grows that far north, the clams, and this warming stew, are at their best.
Clam and Sausage Stew
TIME: 30 minutes SERVES: 4
4 (about 1½ pounds) hot Italian sausages
48 littleneck clams, cleaned and scrubbed
3 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
1 Scotch bonnet chile, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
2 medium endives, sliced into ½-inch rounds
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¾ cup white wine
1½ cups canned chopped tomatoes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 scallions, julienned
1 lemon, quartered
Crusty bread, to serve
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Fill a small pot with salted water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add sausages and parboil until they partially cook, about 5 minutes. Drain and set sausages aside. Once cool enough to handle, after about 8 minutes, slice sausages into ½-inch rounds.
2. In a wide, heavy pot, arrange clams in a single layer. Top with onions, garlic, jalapeño, Scotch bonnet, if using, endives, red pepper flakes, white wine, tomatoes and butter. Bring everything to a boil over high heat. Add sliced sausages, and transfer pan to oven. Roast until clam shells just begin to open, about 8 minutes. Turn clams and roast until shells fully open, about 7 minutes more.
3. Distribute clam roast among 4 large heated bowls, and pour broth over top. Garnish with scallions and lemon wedges. Serve immediately with bread.
Keith and I have owned our store for 33 years and during that time our customers have had babies, moved, had more babies, moved again and then, the next thing you know, everyone flies the coop and the nest is suddenly empty.
However, for one family in Holmdel, that did not happen. With their kids mostly grown up they downsized from a more or less mansion to a relatively modest farmhouse on a couple of acres down the street–but no one is budging. The upstairs is chock full and there are a couple of more kids living over the barn. Luckily Mom and Dad are happily ensconced in their downstairs suite and convinced the more the merrier.
I can’t remember when they first came to British Cottage but I do remember toddlers, and lots of them. The young family had just spent a couple of years in London and were happy to fill their spacious home with British pine furniture. They bought hutches and armoires and large farmhouse tables and lived happily ever after until it was time for a change…
And what a change! On a gorgeous fall day I popped in to see how they transitioned to the new house, which they transformed from a chopped up, timeworn, century old building into a seamless home perfect for modern living. And it was immediately apparent that what they lost in square footage they gained back in charm and function. And I am pleased to say that they managed to reuse most of their British Cottage furniture–kudos to them. (We like to think we sell forever furniture but in this day and age of mid-century modern minimalism I am not so sure about that).
Take for example this television armoire. We still get calls from people who bought one of these in the eighties asking if we want to buy it back. (The answer is no). But I always say repurpose it; use it to store your office equipment, tools, scuba gear, golf clubs whatever. In this case this cabinet, from their former gigantic master bedroom functions as the hall closet and is chock full of all the stuff they don’t want to see but need to have. Is it big? Sure. But a built-in closet would take up just as much space, and it wouldn’t be as near as architectural.
Now, in their much smaller master bedroom, the television is mounted on the wall (over the British Cottage double dresser). Perfect.
They were able to use their British Cottage bed and nightstands in the new bedroom. Love this modern farmhouse look with the shiplap wall–which is what you might expect to see from a Joanna Gaines fan, and who isn’t these days? Not so typical is the Century Furniture loveseat in the chic chinoiserie print–clearly this homeowner has her own ideas about color and design. Although I have no clue how she got dogs to match the decor; maybe this will be the start of a new trend!
And boy do I love the master bath!
They were able to use the large (nine foot maybe?) zinc top table from their old house by building a banquette into a nook.
Even though the old house had a kitchen three times larger and a formal dining room, the homeowners like this arrangement much better. You don’t need to walk six miles to get to the fridge–everything is one step away–and, like many of us, they hardly used their old dining room so why bother to have one?
The narrow cabinet from the foyer (I think) in the old house makes a great anchor for the tv –which seems to be an essential element of the modern kitchen. Cool screen saver!
And look how the flip top table that functioned as a server in the old dining room makes a great desk here in the kitchen area.
Fortuitously a new leather sofa from Century fit perfectly in between the two matching cabinets that used to be in the second living room in the old house but look like they were made for the new family room.
As does the armless wing chair from Hickory White tucked into the corner. Clearly you can see how there is nothing cookie cutter about this house! I love how the rooms ebb and flow every which way. I don’t know who the architect was but the builder was Kurt Connor from Fair Haven and he did a fabulous job–this could not have been easy.
Here we combined two oak demi lune tables by the gang at Schwung Home to make a round table in the center hall for stacks of books or games or dining. I wonder if this was the original kitchen space from 100 years ago?
Everything about this house is unique; note the half doors to the kitchen and pantry areas–what a great way to corral all those pups–as opposed to the horrible looking and impossible to maneuver baby gates. And in this day of all white kitchens (guilty) when did you last see a Wedgewood blue pantry? Gorgeous.
Too much fun. Well almost too much fun. The most fun may be in the barn that the owners turned into a music room complete with a full bar and lounge area. No wonder the kids aren’t moving out! Note how the slipcovered sofa and oriental rug from the old master bedroom look great and add some warmth and texture to the space.
And did I mention the yard yet? The house came with several paddocks and multiple outdoor spaces. So not the ultra-manicured lawn they were used to, just a great space with room to run around, or sit and enjoy a few brews. But at the end of the day big kitchen, small kitchen, banquette or none someone has to get dinner on the table. Even with their crazy busy schedules this is one family that makes sure that at the end of the day they all sit down together for a family meal. This recipe for oven roasted chicken thighs is one of their favorites, and now mine too. Just when I think I will never find something new to do with chicken, voila!
Unlike what you see on the TV show Fixer Upper, an actual home is never done–it is forever a work in progress. There is always something that needs fixing or tweaking, day after day, month after month, year after year. But the time has come to wrap up this Fair Haven Fixer Upper blog and get back to showcasing all the wonderful Two River homes we’ve been lucky enough to help decorate this year.
Chip and Joanna always start the reveal with a before–And then an after shot: While we have yet to do much landscaping you can see we made some big changes to the property. The old driveway was demolished; it was a shared driveway from the main road for three homes and we were the guys in the middle. Now there is direct access to the new street in front of the house. That, combined with the removal of the monster maple tree growing into the basement, and all the overgrown shrubbery along with the rotten deck, really opened up the yard.
Here is Keith admiring the large bluestone patio that Mike Papa, our mason from heaven made us. Mike painstakingly handpicked every stone and then arranged it all just so. I was like hurry up already, but there is no rushing Mike. Fortunately it is lovely and just what we wanted after six years of living in an upstairs apartment–a nice wide open space to wine and dine and relax–outside.
When we were looking at the house the main attraction for me was always the great room. But you might agree with Keith that it looked way too ecclesiastical, what with the stained glass window and fixtures straight out of the Spanish Inquisition era.
I found a big mirror to hide the window and took away as much of the wrought iron as I could without having the ceiling cave in. Now it is a bit calmer and–more secular–although there is no hiding that cathedral ceiling!
We had the floors stained white. (It was the only way to have the five different woods that were used on the various floors installed in the house over the last nine decades look relatively, and I mean relatively, the same). And honestly I would have painted all the woodwork white too but, because we are the painters and I don’t do ladders, for now, I am willing to leave well enough alone–as clearly so is Keith.
All the upholstery in the living room is by Hickory White, the higher end division of Sherrill Furniture. Originally I planned for a blue and white scheme and had a large navy blue sofa and four contrasting armchairs custom made for this space. The problem is they came in in April and we weren’t anywhere near ready so they got put in the store, and guess what? They sold. Fortunately later that spring we were able to buy the pieces you see in the photos from the Hickory White Showroom during the High Point Furniture Market. I’ve wanted a Chesterfield sofa for years and it was serendipitous that the interior design team at Hickory White had put this collection all together–seemingly just for us. Leather is perfect for day to day use in what is also our TV room and the velvet and the wicker chairs add some texture and style. The coffee table came from the depths of our warehouse, as did the antique Biedermeier secretary.
The sea grass rug is from Safavieh. For years I’ve been telling everyone just get a natural fiber rug and call it a day but this is the first time I’ve actually practiced what I preach. Now I can’t figure out why I waited so long. I love the way it looks, feels and even the smell–it has a slightly grassy odor–like you just mowed the lawn.
But, by and large most of my design thoughts over the past year went to figuring out how to create a new kitchen and dining area. First we decided to eliminate the back stairs. Even though I love a back stairway this served no real purpose and the extra doorway just mucked up the kitchen cabinet layout. Next we removed all the walls between the dining room, kitchen area and foyer to create one open space.That meant the original built-in cabinet in the kitchen (which I had hoped to save) had to go.
As did the fun foyer with all the hobbit doors, and the crazy ceiling which I had no interest in keeping.
Didn’t exactly love it in the dining room either!Now we have one room with our British Cottage trestle table front and center. Keith stained it white mainly because we thought we had enough stained wood action going on in the great room and honestly couldn’t figure out what color would work with the island.
Originally I planned on a built in island with a microwave drawer but in the end thought not seeing a microwave on the kitchen counter was a lame reason to build a custom island–for $7500. This island, from a company out of Austin Texas called Four Hands, was a third the price, adds a kind of rustic, urban chic, works as a server, has some storage and gives me just the right mount of separation from the kitchen work area.
We took away half of the kitchen windows so we could fit the refrigerator along the back wall and avoid looking straight into our neighbor’s kitchen windows. The good news is the replacement windows we did install on the other side are generous in size and let in plenty of light, and–this is the best–offer prime views of our other neighbor’s lavish gardens!
In the end, and a long story involving Community Appliance and a year’s interest free line of credit, we went with the most deluxe appliances we could possibly never afford, quartz countertops that happily look like marble to me, white subway tile, and white Shaker style cabinets. (I can’t believe that I just wrote in one sentence what took me ten months to decide and execute!)
Renovating the entire upstairs was a ton of work. We (that means Keith) had to remove all the sheetrock, so we could insulate, rewire, replumb, and reconfigure the closets. Our first job was to come up to code and the second was to make it all flow. We painted all the walls and ceilings with BM China White, and the trim in Decorator’s White. Floors are bare and will stay that way for a while. We had the 90 year old fir sanded and then applied a white oil-based stain and three coats of poly. Our floor guys were concerned because the color is not even and they still show a lot of wear– but that is exactly what we were hoping for.
Providentially we had a British Cottage kingsize bed in antique black, normally a color we do not stock, in our warehouse. I pondered white or pine–but think that black adds the pop we need. Window treatments on hand included toile sheers with a charcoal vignette and they seem to work just fine for now.
What was used as a third bedroom has become our closet/dressing room. I had a dressing room growing up and it makes a small bedroom seem a lot bigger once you remove the clutter that comes with clothing and putting the wash away. Which also just got a whole lot easier because we squeezed (literally) a washer/dryer into the room too.
The other bedroom also got taken down to the studs and the closet moved to another wall.
But once painted all that it needed (and could fit) was a pair of twin beds (by British Cottage of course) and an antique pine table to get us up and running for guests. Although the ancient Laura Ashley comforters from the old, old house might not be what my rough tough cowboy grandsons are expecting, they work just fine for now.
That leaves just one room to reveal. The former garage off the kitchen that the previous owner used as an office.
We made it into more of a sunroom, replacing the engineered wood floor with a concrete-like mix that Mike created so it looks and feels like stone.
Then we put a laundry sink in the adjacent bathroom. I agonized over this decision mainly because the darn sink cost a fortune–or nearly–and it certainly isn’t at all what you would expect to see in your normal suburban powder room. But this is right by my back door and I am a very sloppy gardener. Now I don’t need to sully my brand new white ceramic farm sink, white kitchen floor, or whatever else I can get my dirty hands on!
So that wraps up our Fair Haven Fixer Upper saga. Would we do it again? Hell yes! Next time we will be a bit smarter about reading contracts. Who knew that the fine print really does matter? And I will try to think a bit harder about where outlets and lights should go. A lot of this is required by code but it it so frustrating to have switches and outlets not exactly where you want them. Same thing with plumbing fixtures; what seems okay in the rough may not be what you want in the end. But that is for next time; tomorrow, after all, is another day!
And right now I want to share my favorite new recipe of the summer: Maangchi’s Cheese Buldak or Fire Chicken from the NY Times Magazine; although I have never made the recipe the way it is written. I use whole bone-in chicken thighs that I marinate in a mixture of whatever bottled barbecue sauce is languishing in the fridge, along with a ton of hot sauce, brown sugar, garlic, soy sauce and a little rice wine vinegar. Then I saute a chopped up onion in olive oil, add the chicken with the marinade, a splash of water and let that cook for about a half hour. Add the cheese and broil then top with diced scallions. I’ve served this with leftover corn cut off the cob (amazing), basmati rice and stir-fry rice noodles. Anything goes. So whether you follow the recipe or my way–try this dish if you, like most of us I expect, need a new fabulous chicken recipe.
Maangchi’s Cheese Buldak
¼cup gochugaru (Korean red-pepper flakes)
2tablespoons gochujang (Korean red-pepper paste)
3tablespoons light brown sugar
3cloves garlic, peeled and minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1(1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1tablespoon soy sauce
½teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into ¾-inch cubes
2tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or peanut
4ounces sliced Korean rice cakes (optional)
6 to 8ounces low-moisture mozzarella, thinly sliced
2scallions, sliced, for garnish
Combine the gochugaru, gochujang, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and black pepper in a medium bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and stir until it is well coated.
If you’re using the rice cakes, swirl the oil into a large, oven-safe skillet set over medium-high heat and wait for it to shimmer. Add the rice cakes and cook, turning the cakes often, until they are a little crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the rice cakes to a small bowl and set aside. If you’re not using rice cakes, simply swirl the oil into the pan and move along to the next step.
Add the chicken mixture to the pan along with ¼ cup water. Cover and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring in the rice cakes halfway through, if using. Meanwhile, heat the broiler in your oven.
Remove the chicken from the heat. Cover the pan with the sliced mozzarella, then slide the pan under the broiler. Cook until the cheese has melted and browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle with scallions. Serve immediately, with rice.
So finally we are nearing the end of our ninth month working on our Fair Haven Fixer Upper. It all started on a whim–which led to a project that has ever since consumed most of our free time and energy–even invading our sleeping–or rather not–sleeping anymore hours. The good news is I can safely say, as we head into the final stretch, it has all been worth it. (Keith’s perspective might be a little less sanguine…)
Often when remodeling things seem to drag on and on and then, all of a sudden, you jump into warp speed. In the last month or so we’ve gotten new front and back steps, tiled, sheetrocked, painted inside and half of out. The new flooring was installed and the old flooring repaired. Then, when that combo effect looked terrible in the wide open kitchen/dining area, we went with all new hardwood. More time, more money, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet.
Fabulous Antonio tiled the bathrooms, all in subway tile. I pondered other options but in the end went with the super plain vanilla kind. It just made life easier not to have to think about all the millions of other options.
Alth0ugh, to be honest, I still spent a crazy amount of hours considering which of a half dozen different brands of white subway tile I liked best. I went with the one priced in the middle–which looked just like all the others. Here it is in the new master bath. (For those of you familiar with the house–this is where the door to the second floor balcony used to be).
The Red Bank Cabinet Co , (who are actually down the street from the store in Tinton Falls) made and installed the kitchen cabinets. Like many of you I imagine, I fretted and pondered and poured over images from Houzz and Pinterest for hours and hours and then opted for shaker style cabinets in white…which is all I ever wanted from the beginning. When will I ever learn to stop second guessing myself? Cliche, overdone, so what, who besides me really cares? (Certainly not Keith, he is like, just pick the cabinets already). Anyway they look fresh, crisp, clean and classic. Perfect.
I selected quartz countertops at Bedrock Granite–also just down the street from British Cottage at 803 Shrewsbury Avenue. All my life I wanted marble countertops and now, when I finally had the chance, I choked. The fact is while I love cooking, I am not so devoted to the clean up part…How could I possibly rationalize paying more for marble when I knew I wouldn’t lift a finger to maintain it? Sometimes you just have to be honest with yourself. So quartz it is.
Meanwhile we pondered about what to do about the outside. We had hills of weeds too deep-rooted to pull, patches of poison ivy and a lumpy landscape draining every which way but out. So after calling numerous excavators, and not getting a call back, (or if we did, an estimate we could live with); Keith and I, along with our fearless mason, Mike Papa, who channeling his inner Zeitgeist as the Master of the Machine Universe, dug, crunched, dragged, scraped and basically moved tons of dirt while we raked up and discarded all the brush. It was a long day but between the three of us we managed to get the whole property graded.
Actually it was an exhausting bone-crushing day but well worth it to have a whole yard unchoked by weeds, bermless and relatively level. And then, after many truckloads from the fab folks at Rysers, gravel instead of mud in our driveway; sheer bliss.
Last week most of the interior trim and doors were installed. This week brings more trim, the kitchen countertop, overhead lighting, appliance and plumbing fixture installations. After that the floors get sanded and finished and we’re in. Let’s hope.
Meanwhile, after all this digging, raking, and wheelbarreling we were starving. No matter that salad season is upon us, all anybody wanted was a hungry man kind of dinner. This recipe from Ina, the wiz, Garten was perfect. It is enough for two meals–possibly three–and well worth the effort. (Needless to say I have tweaked this quite a bit mainly because I never have all the correct ingredients, (like heavy cream or whole milk, so I just add a bit more butter)… but clearly Ina’s way is the very best).
Tomato Meat Sauce:
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground lamb
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 large cloves)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 can (28 ounces) crushed toma-toes in puree
Kosher salt and freshly ground
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalt-ed butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nut-meg
Salt and freshly ground black
1 1/2 cups freshly grated
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup Greek-style yogurt, such as Fage Total
3/4 pound small shells
1. For the sauce, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the beef and lamb, and saute over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until it’s no longer pink, crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. Drain off any excess liquid, add the wine, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and cayenne, and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the bechamel, heat the milk and cream together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until simmering.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.
Add the flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes.
Pour the warm milk and cream mixture into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until smooth and thick.
Add the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the tomato and meat sauce, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the eggs and yogurt and set aside.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente.
Don’t over-cook because the pasta will later be baked.
Drain and set aside.
5. Add the pasta to the meat and tomato sauce, and pour the mixture into a baking dish. Spread the bechamel evenly to cover the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown and bubbly. Set aside for 10 minutes and serve hot.
Serve with a green salad and a nice bottle of something red and enjoy!