In the Works

Italian Sausage and Peppers Recipe

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 Journal sometimes 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
  • Kosher salt
  • 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.

Kips Bay Showhouse

Quiche Lorraine Recipe

Philip Mitchell Design
Mark Sikes
Alexa Hampton
Barbara Ostrom
Bunny Williams

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.Navy Blue Sectional in the Philip Mitchell Kips Bay ShowhouseAnd 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.Bar Set Up in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing room 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.
Coffee Table in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing Room

Coffee Table in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing RoomEverywhere 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.

Except maybe this. It was a showhouse after all.You can read about all the other fabulous Kips Bay Showhouse 2018 rooms here: Architectural Digest Gallery Tour  

Quiche Lorraine

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)

Thanks to Nicole Holland, I can show you how the Quiche was served.
I always  include a recipe in my blogs and seeing as I already featured Challah French Toast I 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.

Quiche Lorraine

    • 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

PREPARATION

  1. Fry bacon until crispy.
  2. Chop bacon and combine with cheese and onions, then place mixture in pie shell.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper then pour into pastry shell.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated 425 degree oven. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 30 more minutes.
  5. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting

Kentucky Derby Day

Herbed Orzo with Feta Recipe

Given the rotten  weather we’ve been having these days the only way I was sure spring was here was when I was drinking mint juleps and watching the Kentucky Derby. We were happy to be invited to a small gathering of friends, parents, children–and dogs at the Lindekin home in Shrewsbury–second generation British Cottage shoppers by the way.  Which is good  because it confirms that the love of decorating is genetic and sad because we are clearly getting up there.

Their house is painted a cheerful yellow with two bay windows flanking the front door; it may technically be a starter home, but I could easily see finishing up here. The yard is huge and the house is bigger than it looks because the previous owners were very careful not to let the large extension they put on in the back impact on the charm of the original structure.

When you walk in the living room is on the left. And on the right is what was the dining room but now is a kind of an enlarged foyer. There was a huge debate about what to put in this room–clearly they nailed it!

Now all the dining takes place in the extension, which also houses the flatscreen televison, and man cave elements like the huge leather couch –and the bar.  The cabinet anchoring the TV is a British Cottage find, as are the vintage French fish prints.Then there is a huge farm table (from British Cottage) that this evening was all set up for a glorious buffet supper.Which all the guests, and hosts, enjoyed immensely.


Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

Steaks and salmon were cooked on the grill and served with a variety of fixings.  My absolute favorite was the orzo salad–

The recipe is from the always terrific Ina Garten aka “The Barefoot Contessa” and tasted amazing. I am so thrilled to have a flavorful  replacement for my former summer fave–that old-fashioned Potato Salad made with buckets of Hellmans mayo.  This was like winning an exacta–less calories and easier on the arteries!

Photo: James Merrell

  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound orzo
  • For the Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • To Assemble:
  • 4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup pignolis, toasted
  • 3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
  • 15 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.

Copyright 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, All Rights Reserved

Back to the Farm

Scottish Shortbread Recipe

Built by German immigrants in 1840, Tip Top Farm in Colts Neck started out as a relatively modest asparagus farm, but by the mid-1900s it had become the country manse of the Chairman and chief stock holder of the National Starch Company.  Now it is home to a thoroughly modern 21st century family.

Along the way there were additions; to the house, and property–at one point the farm was nearly 50 acres. Unfortunately there were subtractions too–in the 1980s the property was subdivided and all the farm-related buildings were razed to make way for the houses that sprouted up next.

Fortunately the main house stayed intact, albeit with a bit of tweaking; each of the owners has left their mark.  In lots of ways the story of Tip Top Farm is like a historical novel, the various occupants and their fortunes and misfortunes, mirrored the economic and historical events of their time–Downton Abbey here we come.

While walking through this house is like walking through a time machine; you would never mistake it for a museum. Even though they kept many of the original architectural details like thick crown molding, multiple fireplaces, hand-hewn beams and wide plank floors, over the the last 18 years the current owners painted, updated and transformed every single room– Happily stopping by British Cottage for furnishings and accessories each step of the way.  What a relief to finally visit this fabulous home I’d heard so much about. And trust me it did not disappoint!

I’ll start with the formal living room which is textbook ready for a lesson on how to make a room that is often all buttoned up and off limits–attractive–and cozy.  The overstuffed furniture,  working fireplace and centrally located flatscreen tv keep this room in play. There is no doubt it looks refined but comfort rules.

I liked how they anchored the television with an antique credenza, clustering the oft unlovely family photos below. These look great, and note how the vintage metal frames complement the tarnished brass feet and back railing of the sideboard.Next up is what was originally the library and now I would call it the family room.  I was happy to be reunited with the oversized clock face we bought ten years ago for our Potting Shed from heaven in the second Stately Homes by the Sea Showhouse.  Not many people would have thought to put it here, but you have to admit it does pack a punch. The pine bench to the left is nearly 10 feet long and neatly fills the space–as it did in our upstairs hallway until the homeowner spied it!Next up is the dining room.That is one of our fabulous flip top tables in the window. Closed it is the perfect console table but open it can sit eight.  Everybody wants a more informal style dining table these days–but with a leaf–and mostly they don’t exist. So the two or three times a year you need more dining space this extra table cracks it.  Note that tucked under the console table is a bench for–you guessed it–extra seating.
The red sideboard is another British Cottage find.  Really distressed and on the industrial side so I admit I to being a bit perplexed when this went on the truck, but as you can see it is perfect for the spot.

Adjacent to the dining room is the bar/lounge/sunroom.  Once a screened in porch, it is now a four season room with a wall of windows that really brighten up this part of the house. We bought the antique pine sideboard in England  years ago and it is massive. By now you may be sensing a common thread -these homeowners are absolutely fearless when it comes to decorating.

Another case in point is this most fabulous breakfront we found at Green Square Antiques in Copenhagen. It is an antique Scandinavian pine piece that the owners of Green Square had shipped to Poland to have lacquered. Then it was shipped back to Denmark and finally on to us in New Jersey; it is easily 8′ tall.

Finally I made it to the kitchen and the first piece of British Cottage furniture purchased for this home-the pine corner cupboard.  Although the kitchen was totally renovated a few years ago, the cabinet stayed. I love everything about this room: the porcelain tile “wood” floor, the gorgeous tin ceiling, and the swivel chairs in a bold fabric.On the other side of the kitchen there is a breakfast room with a barn door concealing the pantry on one side. And custom cabinets on the other.Instead of built ins for this breakfast nook/butlers pantry the owners had us make two cabinets to flank a painted pine chest with drawers. Note another decorating secret in action–you can be fearless with green because all greens go together. If you don’t believe me think of a forest.

In the middle sits the nuts and bolts of the kitchen. But note how they still made room for some decorative elements. I’d completely forgotten about the fabulous antique Mora clock in original paint from Sweden…and couldn’t believe I’d sold it. Darn. It is stunning.

But so was the rest of this kitchen. The stained glass window where a door once hung, the gorgeous marble countertop which is really Calcutta-Grey Quartz. (Information that makes reading to the bottom of this blog totally worth the effort.  There are pages and pages written about whether to not to use marble in  a kitchen…this is the answer.)

Recipe for Scottish Shortbread

While there was still so much to see and admire I couldn’t ignore the refreshments any longer.  Who would looking at this mouth-watering display?  Strawberries and scones and homemade Scottish Shortbread. Heaven.  Definitely time for a cuppa as my English mother-in-law would say.

The original recipe from the owner’s grandmother, in her handwriting.  Short and sweet and totally delicious.

1 Cup Butter (1/2 Lb)
1/2 Cup Very Fine Sugar
2 Cups Flour
Blend together thoroughly.
Bake 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Chez Bernadette

Roasted Chicken Legs with Potatoes and Kale Recipe

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.

  It turns out to be Blue Sea Foam by Benjamin Moore.

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.

original-200812-r-roasted-chicken-kale.jpg

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.

Ingredients:

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:

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Serve With:

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.

Year End Wrap Up

Johanna Roselle’s Bolognese Sauce

Inspiration is everywhere.

 We began 2017 at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, happily wandering through room after room of priceless artwork, and decorative objects from all over the world. Often people remark on how beautiful our store looks, and are amazed that neither Keith nor I have a background in design.  Over the years we’ve gotten very good at selecting and presenting the objects we sell basically by just looking at everything, everywhere.  Most of the largest museums have several floors filled with completely furnished rooms from different periods and even other countries on exhibit–making it possible to soak up several centuries of interior decorating–in just one afternoon.

Next up in January was Atlanta and the America’s Mart, literally over a million square feet of the latest and greatest in Home Furnishings and Accessories, and we wandered around there for several days.  Besides thousands of vendors and products, America’s Mart featured a series of room-size vignettes styled by a half dozen leaders in American interior design.Everything old is new again.                                                                                          While the first interior is from 18th century England, on display at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the second by a very 21st century Austin Texas designer, you can see similarities.  Pattern, color and texture are blended, not matched.  And some objects are simply  timeless, like blue and white porcelain, or an architectural mirror. Which leads me to the next bit of wisdom.

Don’t be so quick to get onto the next trend.                                                      Sometimes a tweak, an addition or a subtraction is all you need.   Maybe adding a contemporary lamp, or a modern painting  will add a dash of spice to a room that is beginning to look dated.  In the photo above, the owners of a fabulous century home were over their formal, darkwood dining room, but they were not about to give up on elegance either.  The answer?  An oversized rustic table partnered with contemporary art and an antique crystal chandelier.  Who wouldn’t want to linger over coffee and dessert in this room?

It doesn’t hurt to try something new.                                                                          One of the happier moments at British Cottage has been the introduction of upholsteryWe started with Hickory White, a third generation, family-owned company from North Carolina and then in the spring added Century Furniture.  Also, family owned and based in North Carolina, Century offers us access to the new miracle fabric, Crypton and a whole host of different designs.

Listen to the experts.                                                                                                       When we get the chance, we buy the floor samples at the Century and Hickory White showrooms when we go to the furniture markets.  That way we get the latest fabrics (which may not be in stores for months) and the newest styles–put together by world-class designers for the next season’s looks in home furnishings.  Along the way, we get a free lesson in design. I mean, who ever thought you would find mid-century modern at British Cottage?  But we loved this sofa with chaise by Century Furniture so much we decided to give it a shot.

Don’t be afraid to take it up a notch.                                                                              We get why RH went all gray.  It takes some thought (and balls) to add in color, but the payoff is huge when you do. Lillian August used these ancestor portraits in her showroom and after thinking about them for a year we decided to get them.  That pop of color and the scale of this artwork makes the whole store look better.  Lastly, have some fun.                                                                                                                   Decorating is all about making your home, and by extension, your life more enjoyable.  It does not have to be perfect; it has to be welcoming.  When I grew up in Rumson 1000 years ago many of my friends lived in huge houses with huge rooms with matching carpets and couches and window treatments and guess what?  Nobody was allowed in them!

Meanwhile, our kid-centric, (there were six siblings plus innumerable chums) pet-friendly house was filled with mismatched, hand-me-down furniture and we had people everywhere. No rooms were off limits; the sunroom might house a ping pong table one year, a pool table might be in the dining room the next.  Trust me, the joint was always jumping.

Mealtimes were huge in our family.  Our happiest moments were when our mom  (of Anglo-German descent who, fortunately for us, grew up next to a large Italian family in Rhode Island) cooked up a Sunday Sauce with Sausage and Meatballs.  However, I think we might have enjoyed this Bolognese Sauce from the Roselle family just as much.  Gene, and his wife Johanna, live in Tinton Falls and have been British Cottage customers for years.  It took nearly a year of pestering, but I finally got the recipe!

Johanna Roselle’s Bolognese Sauce

Add a glug of olive oil to a large cast iron pot, and saute 1/4 pound of diced chopped pancetta until brown.  Then chop and add one  medium sized onion, one stalk of celery, half a red pepper, and four large garlic cloves then cook until soft–about eight minutes

Add one and a half pounds of ground pork or two pounds of ground sirloin (I mixed them together when I made this recipe because it is a known fact I am unable to follow directions). Add salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about ten minutes on low heat.

Raise the heat to medium and add one and a half cups of whole milk and a dash of grated nutmeg and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated–stirring frequently.  Then add one cup of dry white wine, and cook until that nearly evaporates.

Add two cans of plum tomatoes roughly chopped and one cup of chicken stock and gently simmer for at least one and a half hours.    Keep remembering to stir the pot and add more milk if the sauce gets too thick.  Add some fresh basil at the end.

Serve over pappardelle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

And don’t forget the Christmas Crackers.  Happy Holidays!

 

Classics are Forever

Pickled Shrimp with Fennel recipe

When a customer from North Jersey called last week to check on the status of her classic farm table from our factory in Hungary–meant to arrive in May but now coming in June, sadly–she told us the same table she was waiting for was featured in a Rumson home in this month’s HGTV Magazine!

So naturally, we immediately ran out to buy a copy to see whose table she was talking about…

And sure enough, there was our British Cottage table!  But it didn’t start out with this Rumson family.  About 15 years ago a couple from Spring Lake had had it with the traditional layout of their perfectly located home. He cooked, she loved to entertain, the sequestered formal dining room and barely adequate kitchen were not working for their lifestyle.  So they blew out the back of the house, and the wall separating the dining room and the kitchen and made a fabulous room overlooking their fabulous garden. They added new cabinets and state of the art appliances then anchored the whole shebang with a custom British Cottage farm table.

And lived happily ever after, until she wanted a pool and more yard, and a house with more robust proportions.  So they bought some acreage a bit further south and built their dream home, again with a dream kitchen, again anchored by their British Cottage table.  But when retirement loomed, the idea of moving to Charleston, South Carolina, and enjoying all the accompanying amenities of that beautiful city outweighed their happiness in their New Jersey abode.   So off they went–really south this time–and bought a vintage townhome in that vibrant city.

Sadly the British Cottage table did not make the trip.  Too big for even the proposed renovated kitchen in Charleston, they pondered its fate. Fortunately, there was a nephew moving to Rumson who volunteered to take the table.  

And this, by the way, may be the best thing about British Cottage tables–they never go out of style.  Maybe, like our customer, you move on and opt for a new look but someone, somewhere will want your farmhouse table.  Trust me.



PS.  Happily we were able to find a fabulous distressed walnut table from a bespoke furniture company in England to make the trip to Charleston. Along with a photo of that table in situ my friend sent this recipe which evidently is Charleston’s favorite hors d’oeuvre.

Pickled Shrimp with Fennel

Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

Ingredients

  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 pounds large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 small serrano or bird pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup thinly sliced white onions
  1. Slice fennel bulb thinly, reserving fronds. Chop fronds to equal 1 Tbsp. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water.

  2. Bring 1 Tbsp. kosher salt and 2 qt. water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Remove from heat; add shrimp, and let stand, stirring once, 1 minute or just until shrimp turn pink.

  3. Transfer shrimp to ice water, using a slotted spoon. Reserve 2 cups hot cooking liquid in a medium bowl. Let shrimp stand 10 minutes, stirring once. Transfer shrimp to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving ice water in bowl.

  4. Whisk lemon juice and next 4 ingredients into reserved hot cooking liquid until salt and sugar dissolve. Place bowl in reserved ice water, and whisk lemon juice mixture until cooled to room temperature (about 10 minutes).

  5. Remove lemon juice mixture from ice water; discard ice water, reserving chilled bowl for shrimp. Stir together onion, fennel slices, chopped fennel fronds, and shrimp in chilled bowl. Pour cooled lemon juice mixture over shrimp mixture. Cover and chill 1 hour to 2 days. Serve with a slotted spoon.

    The recipe ends here and I have no idea what you do next.  Just eat the
    shrimp?  Serve it on toast?  Salad?
     To be continued…

Home Again

Gorgonzola and Pecan Salad Recipe

Basically, we have been on the road all spring, finding inspiration and beauty everywhere we go.  Nothing, however, tops young Charlotte here. Our newest grandchild, and look, at just seven months, already a lady who does lunch!We started out in April in North Carolina at the  High Point Spring Furniture Market where thousands of furniture manufacturers from all over the globe presented their wares to retail buyers–also from all over the globe.  One of the many highlights was at Hickory White, the company that makes most of our custom upholstery.  (Don’t worry; Keith is only looking so glum because he has just figured out exactly how much we spent there!)

Although I always say never paint your walls dark blue, this Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore really was stunning.  The rug is from Fiezy, all wool and surprisingly affordable.  See how it ties the whole room together and softens the intensity of the wall color?  We did not buy the rug (only because it was not for sale), but we did buy this fabulous ecru velvet Chesterfield sofa along with the two coordinating armchairs. Classic, elegant, vintage, but with a smattering of modernity, that is our British Cottage story.

But I digress, back to little Charlotte.  After High Point we flew to Omaha to visit with the littlest Nelsons; we’re up to three now!  Naturally, we had to check out the local furniture scene.  Which was easy because there is basically only one player in town–maybe even the state–and that is the Nebraska Furniture Mart.  Owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, it is a colossal 420,000 square feet on a 77-acre site.  It’s huge.

Sadly, big was not better.  I think Warren needs to hire me.  While I get that a store of this magnitude has to appeal to a variety of tastes and budgets, I refuse to believe that the Midwest really deserves furniture this, I hesitate to say ugly, let’s go with design challenged–and it wasn’t inexpensive!  After walking one million miles at the High Point Spring Furniture Market I can personally attest there is no shortage of well-made, attractive, and affordable furniture.  Looking at this vignette, you have to wonder;  is this really the best a billion dollar company can do?  Crank it up.  Go get those Fiezy rugs and a coffee table that doesn’t clash with everything.  While you’re at it, rethink your artwork.  And accessories.  Come on Warren, it’s definitely time to up your game; hire some new buyers, and show Nebraska some style.

But time to move on.  Next stop was Seattle to visit with our daughter, and of course, we had to go to University Village to see the latest Restoration Hardware extravaganza.  Hopefully, they had a billion dollars because that is what this four story, 60,000 square foot structure must have cost.It was architecturally awesome; I loved the polished concrete floors, the M.C. Esher-esque seemingly never-ending series of arched doorways, symmetrical room settings, and the high-reaching ceilings.  Sadly the products were every bit as lacking, in their own way, as the items at Warren’s Nebraska Furniture Mart.  Not that they were ugly or poorly designed but, after you’ve seen one crystal chandelier, one upholstered linen chair, and one low-slung couch, there’s fifty more to look at.  Enough already!

In the RH world, we all live in grey hued palazzos, with fragmented light, dispelled by 1000 watt crystal chandeliers that look like their last home was Versailles.  We spend our days lolling on oversized sofas and dining like lords on massive plank topped tables.  It’s all too Brobdingnagian and blah for my taste, even with all that bling.But we had other fish to fry:

Sights to see:

And beers to drink:Nordstrom’s to shop:And Farmer’s Markets to frequent.  

And lest we forget, dinners to eat and family to visit.

Peter Morse’s Gorgonzola and Pecan Salad

No matter where you are, or what is on the menu, you can never go wrong with Peter’s Salad.  When you were married, like Peter was, to a fabulous chef, it is not easy to get some play at the table.  Yet with this salad, rest assured, he got game.

I always made sure when inviting the Morse family over to dine, that Peter would be in charge of the salad.  Invariably he would arrive laden down with supplies, including several heads of romaine lettuce, and start rummaging around the kitchen for my non-existent salad spinner.  He was ever hopeful, but it never appeared, so he would sigh and then, finally get down to washing, then hand drying, all that lettuce.

Next up was the dressing.  In a large wooden salad bowl, he would take a fork and smush up a nice hunk of gorgonzola cheese.  (Peter always measured precisely but I just toss in chunks depending on how many I am serving–figure about a quarter of a pound per head of lettuce.)  What does really matter is the quality of the cheese–don’t use supermarket brand or pre-crumbled in a plastic container cheese.  And don’t use blue cheese either.  Spend the money and get some decent gorgonzola and your guests will love it–and you.

After smushing the cheese, add enough olive oil to turn it into a soft paste. Figure 4 or 5 tablespoons or so per quarter pound of cheese.  You want it to be almost like peanut butter in consistency.  Then add a tablespoon (or two–you will have to do this to taste) of red wine vinegar to make it more liquid, but make sure not too liquid; this is a pretty thick dressing.

Next, add about 1/2 cup of pecans–chopped finely.  (And you can substitute walnuts or other nuts but really pecans taste the best). Stir into your mixture and let sit until you are ready to dine.  Then just tear up your lettuce leaves into a bit larger than bite size pieces, add to the bowl, toss and serve.

There are lots of ways to enhance this recipe.  You can toast or caramelize the nuts; add some ripe pear, or toss in a few cranberries.  But I like Peter’s way best; it’s simple and delicious and that always works for me.

 

Challah-lujah

Challah French Toast Recipe

The house on the Hill
The House on the Hill

Essentially Keith and I have the best jobs in the whole world.  For the last three decades we have paid ourselves to go shopping–which happily requires rambling throughout Europe and the United States looking for fabulous products to feature in our Red Bank, New Jersey store.

And that’s just the beginning.  Because once we’re done shopping, interesting people (for the most part) come visit our store in search of the perfect piece for their home, or second home, sometimes even for their restaurant or hotel.  And it is always interesting, even great fun, to learn a bit about their lives, personalities, tastes and vision.  Over the years our client list has grown, and grown and includes rock stars, politicians, plumbers, celebrity chefs, magazine editors, even some of the more infamous housewives of New Jersey–you just never know who is going to walk through the door next.

Usually once something sells, that’s it.  When I say adieu I hope for the best; rarely do I get to see how our things look in situ.  So I was quite pleased  to accept an invitation to view the rather myriad British Cottage purchases from over the years, in this home, certainly one of Monmouth County’s most iconic properties.  I would have gone even if brunch was not included!

Originally built in the mid 1800’s as a lighthouse on a hill on the eastern Middletown border, this house exudes charm and personality.  From the entrancing private lane, you enter through the iron gates to a lushly landscaped, circular drive topped by this simply lovely home.  I want to say it is the icing on the cake, or the jewel in the crown–it is really super.

Periwinkle Blue DoorI walked through the periwinkle blue door straight into a kitchen right out of the original Smallbone Catalogue.

Freestanding Viking StoveSmallbone is an English firm famous for introducing “unfitted kitchens” to the United States.  Totally bucking the trend of build-in, built-up,   over-built kitchens that are now the norm, an unfitted kitchen features freestanding furniture and appliances and a variety of finishes and materials.  Utterly charming, yet totally serious with industrial strength appliances, this is my dream kitchen.

Dining Room Table from British Cottage

Next up is the dining room featuring a huge farm table from, you guessed it, British Cottage.  The owners were over the traditional polished mahogany look with its requisite pads and table cloths and wanted a table that would encourage lingering dinners and withstand spills and splatters.

The chandelier, also from British Cottage, is a European antique we bought at auction, elegantly bouncing light off the charcoal walls and illuminating the owners’ artwork.  This space, which is at once modern and traditional, comfortable and elegant–is the look that defines 21st century decor.  These days nobody wants rooms that are too fussy or fancy, but a touch of class is always welcome.

While my host was putting finishing touches on our meal I ran upstairs to take a peek.  I loved the unexpected punch of color on the landing from the antique chest of drawers in a brilliant shade of original blue paint.  We imported it from Hungary, and it’s now looking fabulous right here in New Jersey.

Antique Chest of Drawers in Original Paint from British Cottage

The master bedroom has a British Cottage bed and small dressers that double as nightstands.  When they renovated the house a couple of years ago the owners made a vow to simplify, opting for calm serenity–but, of course, with the aforementioned pops of color to keep it happening.

British Cottage Kingsize Bed, Pine Bed

Upstairs, besides the master bedroom (which has an en suite bathroom to swoon over), there is an enchanting guest room and bath, another bedroom they use as a dressing room and a spiral staircase that leads to a ladder that leads to the cupola where the lighthouse used to be.  It is like the stairway to heaven; you keep climbing and climbing and finally you get there.  You can literally see for miles!

What you see through the window is the barn that houses a full size office space, a gym and a movie theater/media room.  Instead of whacking a full size addition onto the original house they opted to outsource those activities to the existing four stall barn and keep the original structure intact.  No McMansion here and what a relief it is.

And by the way, as it turns out, this property is for sale. Trust me, if I hadn’t already gone through the throes of downsizing, empty nesting and purchasing a cottage in Maine, I would be seriously tempted. For anyone in this so-called gig economy who needs a workspace at home, there is no way you would not be productive here.

But enough meandering. I was there for a reason–time to get fed!

Chris’s Challah French Toast

French toast is perfect for brunch.  Bread soaked in egg, later soaked in butter and maple syrup…great.  But challah, soaked in cream and eggs and sauteed in butter is truly ambrosia.  Food for the gods!

Challah (sounds like holla, rhymes with gala) is a fabulous Jewish braided bread made with a rich, eggy dough.  You can find it at Wegman’s or Whole Foods (or make your own, if you are feeling ambitious).

To make the French toast, start by slicing the challah in one inch thick slices.  Soak slices in a mixture of six eggs, 1 1/2 cups of light cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a tablespoon of sugar for about 3 minutes on each side.

Heat a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add your soaked challah and cook for three minutes or so on each side.  Serve with a few pats of butter and maple syrup.

Fresh fruit, bacon, scrambled eggs and mimosas all added to the fun…I was invited for breakfast and almost stayed for dinner!

Domestic Arts 101

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.
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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.
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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.
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(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.

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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.