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 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 long time 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).

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 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!

More High Point High Jinks

Banana Bread Recipe

img_7203Keith and I are huge fans of the show, Fixer Upper.  I confess to having spent countless evenings mesmerized watching to see what a hundred grand could do in Waco Texas–where we live in NJ that’s basically a master bath.

So sadly when we visited the Magnolia Homes Showroom at the High Point Furniture Market it was a bit disappointing.  Overall we were not overwhelmed by the furniture; it all seemed a little underbuilt.  We kept looking for a Clint Harp kind of table but instead most everything was like the coffee table in the photo above, flimsy with a kind of post-modern vibe so I didn’t even bother to take many pictures.

One exception was the beds.  I thought quite a few of them had that romantic,  je ne sais quoi that makes furniture exciting.  This vignette to me reflects the Joanna Gaines we have come to love:  romantic, country style that is surprisingly sophisticated.
img_7208-907x1024I have a vendor who makes a bed like this and now I just might get it.  I just love the iron canopy, the dark hue and the dreamy styling.

And I thought the beds for little girls were both sweet and charming.img_7207-854x1024All the bedding was lovely and from a company called Bella Notte Linens. I had just purchased similar bedding for the store from a company called Amity Home so it is nice to know Joanna and I are on the same page.

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One thing I totally loved in the Magnolia Homes showroom was the kitchen; it was classic Joanna with subway tile, a farmhouse sink and a massive island topped with zinc.  With freestanding shelving instead of upper cabinets, wide-planked flooring, and an industrial-style chandelier, it was inviting and practical. (Although not so sure about the galvanized garbage can.)

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Banana Bread Recipe

What I am sure about is that this kitchen looks like a fun place to whip up a loaf of homemade Banana Bread; here’s Joanna’s recipe and boy is it delicious!

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High Point High Jinks

Salami Roll Up Recipe

Keith and Joanna GainesMaybe one of the more famous people we did not meet at High Point, but certainly it felt like Joanna Gaines was everywhere!

Twice a year thousands of vendors and buyers gather in High Point, North Carolina to preview the coming season’s latest introductions to the furniture industry.  Although Keith and I design most of the items we sell it is always instructive and illuminating to see what the trends are, and it’s also terrific fun to purchase items that complement the British Cottage Collection.  After all how many people get to pay themselves to shop?

Along the way we also pick up words of wisdom and design ideas from some of the leading designers and innovators in the trade.  Here is Windsor Smith— a leading force in the Los Angeles design industry whose elegant interiors are a masterful mix of elegance, modernity, tradition–and yes–comfort.  Next to her is Carl Dellatore, editor of “Interior Design Mater Class: 100 Lessons from America’s Finest Designers on the Art of Decoration” published by Rizzoli this October.  If you buy only one book on design this season–this is it.
img_7235-2 Down a few flights of stairs were Barclay Butera and Kathy Ireland–also powerhouses in the California design world. We have always loved how Barclay manages to meld beach house cool with an English manor house sensibility, and we all know that anything former model, Warren Buffet confident, and entrepreneur Kathy Ireland touches is sheer gold.  When she says color is making a comeback; we listen.
img_7248-2 Fortunately we are so on trend, because we had already purchased this fabulous couch and chair at Hickory White.

img_7030-3Not sure you will see a salmon pink wall anytime soon at British Cottage, (and I will source the Benjamin Moore color for those of you who have asked), but the couch and two chairs should arrive in a few weeks.  We like to buy the Hickory White floor models.  Why not take advantage of their professional design savvy and add to our inventory at the same time?

And in for a penny, in for a pound as the pundits say, we also bought this couch and chair, again in a rosy hue.

img_6994But fear not, we did not go completely pink, we also purchased this lovely, royal blue velvet sofa and two complementary armchairs.

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Usually it is all work and no play for us at Market.   Cocktails are free and flowing throughout the showrooms, but we have found drinking and shopping is a volatile combination that results in expensive mistakes.  And while there is always fabulous entertainment in the evenings, we never get to go; we are simply too tired from walking at least ten hours a day at the show to venture out in the evenings.  Fortunately for us, on a late sunny Saturday afternoon Maggie Rose was practicing for her upcoming performance, and we got an advance preview.

Fabulous!img_7253

I like to end my blogs with a recipe, but food is beside the point at the High Point Furniture Market and largely forgettable except for one item:

Salami Roll Ups

It was late in the day, actually early evening, and we were trying to squeeze in one last show room before we went back to our hotel.  We watched as a 70+ year-old woman, with hair like all Keith’s aunties in England had back in the days when a perm meant tight curls in an unnatural color, walked slowly up the stairs with a plate of appetizers.

Perhaps she had some connection with the staff and was delivering a special treat welcoming them to High Point, rewarding them for a good days work?  I have no idea.  But we were starving, and offered a sample we were thrilled to say yes.

Cue the flashback!  The last time I remember having a salami roll up was back in 1969 when a friend’s mom hired a bunch of us to prep and serve hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party she was hosting on Chappaquiddick.  My mother was more the Wispride on a Triscuit kind of gal so I thought these roll ups were just about the most wonderful things in the world–and very exotic.

Fast forward to today, and I can say while a Salami Roll Up is not the chicest of treats,  they sure do taste good.

Here’s the recipe:

Take a quarter of a pound of good hard salami thinly sliced.  Put a small wedge of cheddar cheese and a sweet pickle on top of each piece of salami. Roll and secure with a toothpick.  Serve.

The Visiting Nelsons

T-Bone Steak Dinner Recipe

I’m pretty sure the last thing my son and daughter-in-law expected was for me to write about their house after we visited them last week in deepest Nebraska.  With a three week old infant, a toddler and a proud kindergartener just getting three meals on the table and everyone dressed in the morning is challenging enough.  No one has the time, or the inclination to worry about home decor at this stage. But hey, I liked their house so much I couldn’t resist.

colins-house

Built just last year in a subdivision outside of Omaha, my immediate thought when I learned of the purchase was great, ho-hum Midwestern tract housing-does it get any worse that that?  Well I could not have been more wrong.  Not only does their house have great curb appeal (even in this photo I cribbed from Zillow), with a lovely stone foundation, rocking chair ready front porch and an interesting roof line.

But also the interior is just as nice with exactly the right amount of architectural details, a thoughtful floor plan, hardwood–not engineered flooring and although not huge, very spacious.  In fact their house amazed me by how livable it was and I realized how having a house that is actually designed for the people living in it, a twenty first century family, makes their life a whole lot easier.

My homes have always been old, requiring tons of imagination, effort and cold hard cash just to make them function. We’ve turned porches into playrooms, attic space into master bedrooms, added bathrooms and laundry rooms, jacked up sinking garages, and waterproofed basements. We have enjoyed making our houses into homes but we have never had a house that was designed for a modern family.

Our first two houses had detached garages designed to stable the horses! The next house had an attached two car garage in which you could squeeze in maybe one mid-size auto but certainly not two trucks like their house does with its three large car attached garage.  Whoever thought of that was brilliant–space for two plus-sized family cars and all the bicycles, toddler vehicles and lawnmowers.  You, and your spouse, can actually park your cars in the garage and walk straight into the house.

Then you enter an ample mud room and off come the shoes, and jackets, purses and back packs get hung.  Not rocket science but still…img_6546-755x1024

Mudroom for children
Even the little guys can put their things away.

Next up is the kitchen.  Not huge, but with a center island, double ovens, a plus size fridge, a walk in pantry, and still room for a kitchen table, all you could wish for.

Light granite kitchen island
Kitchen Island in a granite that looks like marble

And I loved that there was another, separate dining area. Home office by day for the modern working mom, but just steps from the kitchen to make entertaining a breeze, and a bit more elegant than sitting on top of the actual work space.

Country French Dining Table
We don’t sell these tables any more but I wish we did. Inside there is a butterfly leaf that extends the table to 100″.

There is no formal living room.  The space off the kitchen is the family room with tv and just enough toys and books to keep the kids busy but not so many that they can’t be quickly put away when bedtime approaches or company is coming.

img_6549-720x800Wisely they opted to finish the walkout basement adding carpeting, a bedroom and a full bath.  Perfect for visiting grandparents and perfect for two little boys stuck inside on summer days when the temperature is over 100 or in the depths of winter when snow and ice reclaim the prairie.

img_6483-768x1024Upstairs there is a master bedroom suite with a fireplace, sitting room (where the treadmill sits), master bath and walk in closets, then three more bedrooms and an upstairs laundry room.  Here is our newest baby modeling the upstairs quest room with all its fabulous British Cottage furniture.

British Cottage Pine Bed

Now, what do you eat in Omaha?  Steak of course.

T-Bone Steak Dinner

Sprinkle T-Bone steaks from your Uncle’s farm in South Dakota with salt and pepper and grill. Serve with baked potatoes topped with sour cream and fresh chives, and the last of the carrots from the garden roasted in the oven.

Super!

Our Empty Nest

 

IMG_0153I could never understand when my customers would downsize; who would give up five bedrooms and a couple of acres for a patch of grass and neighbors literally on top of them?  But then it happened to us.  Not overnight, but gradually.  First one kid, then the other went to college. Then one went to grad school; the other got a job–in Houston.  Even when the first got a job in NYC, she never came home that much.  Meanwhile the dogs died but the lawn, the taxes, and the upkeep on the house kept growing, and growing.

After the hurricane, when our waterfront home was one of the few on our street that did not flood, we sold our house to a neighbor with small children and a boat and a hankering for the life that only those who live on the water share.  It was time for us to move on.

So we moved to Red Bank and a 2000 square foot apartment with, for the first time in our lives, new everything–plumbing, electric, appliances and bathrooms…because when we renovated British Cottage in 2005 we added an apartment above the store.  Part of the structure dates back to the late 1800’s so we removed the old ceilings and exposed the beams so the great room has a vaulted ceiling and we took down all the walls so that the kitchen, dining and living area are all one great room.  At the same time we added a large master bedroom and bath, guest room and bath/laundry room.

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The biggest challenge to moving was culling our furniture collection.  Part of the fun of having a five bedroom home, at least for us, was in the furnishings.  When we first moved to the apartment our daughter said we looked like we were hoarders but gradually we have pared and re-pared and I think, while certainly not minimalist, we are adequately furnished.

The test was this weekend when for Father’s Day our son and his two and a half and five year old sons came to visit for five days…would our empty nest be a welcoming abode or a nightmare for the young ‘uns to navigate?

Fortunately it turned out to be the latter.  With two couches and two armchairs centered around an enormous “Bricklayer’s Coffee Table” (for those of you not in the know this was invented by the guys whose innovative furniture designs helped take Restoration Hardware from a frumpy collection of brownwood furniture to the height of chic over the last decade), there was plenty of space   fire trucks and cars around the perimeter of the room.  Because the coffee table was made from already scarred planks of vintage wood, there was no danger of damage from the boys running vehicles and occasionally each other over the surface.

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Same with the couches,  both are vintage and then some.  One is a Gustavian settee we bought when we used to shop for antiques at Green Square in Denmark.  That is upholstered in a sturdy white canvas material. The other, an ancient Chippendale style sofa we picked up at a second-hand store twenty five years ago,  is on its third re-upholstery, this time in a dark denim cotton blend that is virtually indestructible.IMG_0111

We are fans of the unfitted kitchen; especially when the kitchen is open to the rest of the living space.   There are only lower cabinets and we had them made at the factory in Hungary that builds all of our custom furniture, in the same style as our British Cottage hutches.  In the center we designed an island that proved the perfect spot for our young guests to dine.

Besides the open plan, what makes this apartment so appealing is 9′ ceilings in the new part that give an airy quality to the entire space.  Even though our bedroom is a good size, with ample space for our British Cottage kingsize bed, it just feels spacious, which I think is important when there are two sharing one room.           IMG_0137

There is even room for a sitting area in an alcove overlooking Chestnut Street; so while not a waterview there is always something to see when looking out the bay windows.IMG_0141

Maybe my favorite room is the master bath.  Not the least bit opulent by today’s standards, just a simple, tranquil, open space.  Designed for us by the Hutchinson’s of Matawan Kitchen & Bath, with a soaking tub and an enclosed shower, plain white subway tile and the same hardwood oak floor we used throughout the house.  We made the vanity by sinking two overmount sinks into a British Cottage cabinet base, then added an antique armoire for towels.IMG_0127

Even though we probably have more stuff than the average bear; it all seems to work out.  Nothing too precious, or if it is then it was up high beyond the reach of little hands, and a great time was had by all.  Same time next year?IMG_0108

 

 

On Golden Pond

The World’s Best Fish Stew

       Like most visitors to Maine it was love at first sight.  I was 16 and working for the summer as a mother’s helper for a local Rumson family and they carted me along with them to their summer place on Prouts Neck. Most famous for being home to Winslow Homer it is a glorious peninsula composed of rocky crags on two sides and a sandy crescent on the third.  My little charges and I spent our days on the beach and climbing the cliff paths that circled around the neck, and it was a summer I will never, ever forget.       

      A similar thing happened to my sister when she first got to Maine, but she was her twenties and smart enough never to leave.  She landed on the Pemaquid Peninsula–just far enough north not to be completely overrun with tourists, but still filled with the requisite amenities that make Maine so delightful: a lighthouse, fabulous ocean vistas, lobster pounds serving the freshest and best seafood imaginable, estuaries, tidal pools, and even a sandy beach.

       We visited her many times over the years, and finally when we were empty nested we took the plunge, sold our family home, repaired to our apartment over the store in Red Bank (always the plan when we renovated a decade ago) and bought ourselves our own Maine cottage.

       As much as we love the ocean views, we opted for lakeside because our little lake (which is technically a pond because it is just shy of the required five miles) warms up so we can comfortably swim all summer.  And is great for sailing our little boat, and kayaking, and paddle boarding and running our little outboard to our hearts’ content without the fear of being swept out to sea.

       Naturally given the nature of our business, having our own home to furnish and decorate just adds to the pleasure of living in Maine. The first thing we did, and I know this is going to cause a lot of groans, was paint all the original knotty pine paneling Benjamin Moore’s China White and all the fir trim White Dove…. Yes, sacrilegious in some minds, but fully supported by legions of Scandinavians  who know how best to live in northern climes.  White makes smaller spaces live larger, reflects light and makes the day brighter and me, and happier.  (And we all know that when mom is happy–everyone’s happy.)

       Next we stripped the floors to a natural pine.  I love light floors because they hardly show the dust or dirt or wear and when they do one swish of the mop and they look as good as new.  With two small grandboys and a third sibling on the way, we want to make all of our visitors feel welcome and not fret over natural, and heaven knows with small boys around sometimes unnatural, wear and tear. You never know what they will get into or up to!

       We had new kitchen cabinets made for the galley style kitchen, mostly because I they smelled and I assumed  they were moldy.  When we took them out we found it was dead mouse–not mold–that we were smelling, so it turned out to be an even better decision to get new ones. We were able to insulate and mouse-proof, and yes, they are now white so the whole area looks larger and so much more inviting than before.

       Decorating was a challenge as there is essentially only one room on the main floor for cooking, dining and living.  We had to have a large farm table, after all we are British Cottage.  Even so, the one we chose has a metal base so it doesn’t look too massive, even though it is 96″ long and can seat twelve–squished–but still.  Our chairs are upholstered in black linen; not the fabric you would think of for a lakehouse but I thought they would have to do double duty as extra seating when entertaining a crowd so they may as well be comfortable.  And what else is Scotchguard for?

       I think cheap couches are a false economy.  Usually the fabric choices are awful.  And they can be really uncomfortable to sit on because the cushions are made of synthetic materials that are (besides being toxic) either too dense or too sloppy for relaxing properly–which is, after all, the whole purpose of a vacation home. So we have a really good couch, but we had two slipcovers made in a cotton blend that looks like linen and wears like steel.

      The armchairs in the room are slipcovered as well so if accidents happen–the clean up is minimal.  I kept the fabrics light, threw in some blue and white lamps and a fabulous antique wooden coffee table with traces of off-white paint that looks great but can take a beating.  Are you sensing a pattern yet?  This is just our fabulous Jersey Coast style–in Maine.

        I try to use antiques when decorating as much as possible.  With furniture that has been used over and over again by family after family one more nick or scratch is not going to be the end of the world; it’s just another part of the journey.  The whole point of decorating is to make your part of the world a little happier for you and your family.  If you build it right, they will come.

The World’s Best Fish Stew

This recipe originated with Kate Shaffer, owner of Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Westport, Maine; naturally I’ve taken some liberties but basically it goes like this:

 Heat a glop of olive oil in a large pot, the more decorative the better because this is what you will be serving from.  Add a pinch or two of thyme, tumeric, fennel, saffron and crushed red pepper.  If you don’t have any of those on hand try some oregano or basil.  Heat just for a few seconds then add a large yellow onion & 2 celery stalks chopped up and 4 cloves of garlic minced.  If you have fresh fennel on hand and like the taste–add that.  For me a  little fennel goes a long way so I usually skip this step. Another step I usually skip is adding 1/2 a yellow pepper–only because I don’t have any in the house.  Then cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 Add a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes and their juice and squish them up a bit.  Fill the empty tomato can half with water and half with white wine–this is the bit I like because it means it is time to start cocktail hour.  Cook the mixture until it boils and them simmer for at least 15 minutes or as long as a couple of hours–the idea is to let those spices really season the stew.

 Just before you are ready to eat and the stew has simmered and is very hot, add your fish.  Any kind of fish works; I like a couple of pounds of cod or haddock the best.  Then add whatever else you like.  I generally splurge on 6 or 7 of the priciest fresh scallops and shrimp the fishmonger has on hand and chuck in a bag of mussels (make sure to take them out of the bag and scrub them first).  Cook until the mussels open and serve with some fresh parsley and a loaf of good bread and the freshest butter you can find.  Scrumptious.  Thank you Kate.