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!

 

March Madness

Lamb Ragu Recipe

Spring at British Cottage
Praying for March to end

Some poets say April is the cruelest month but my bet is on March.  Spring finally gets here but all there is to show for it is a few lousy daffodils gasping for life in a tangle of dead leaves.  The only thing to do when it is still too early for cocktail hour is to hunker down with a good book or two and wait it out.  Fortunately I buy coffee table books like other people buy candy so there is usually a large stack just awaiting  perusal.

"Beautiful" by Mark D. Sikes
Mark D. Sike’s “Beautiful”

One I recently enjoyed was by Mark D. Sikes, whose blog, Chic People, Glamorous Places, Stylish Thingswas such a sensation a book deal followed. Beautiful  All-American Decorating and Timeless Style is the result, an engaging glimpse of a master at work.   In room after room Mark starts with pale walls and pale carpets, then adds another layer, then another with a bit more color and structure and the next thing you know there is a profound sense of elegance and comfort.

And I just love that he is totally passionate about blue and white, something we share here at British Cottage, and something that may contribute to the air of harmony you find in his rooms.  Think of faded blue jeans worn with a crisp white shirt and a fabulous navy blue blazer. The look transcends gender and genre, casual yet always stylish, and that is what, I think, we all wish for our decor.

Looking "Beautiful" at British Cottage
Looking beautiful at British Cottage

Fussy feminine rooms with swags and knick knacks, yuck.  All brown leather and mid-century modern, double yuck.  The best way to describe Mark’s ethos is to evoke Nancy Meyers and her Something’s Gotta Give house.  Nancy is crazy about Mark’s style and even wrote the introduction to his book.  What is her style?  Coastal chic?  Country home casual?  I don’t know what to call it.  But I like it.

This book shows you how it is done.  How to style coffee tables and side tables, add pops of color and accessories, arrange your seating–always tricky–and get it to all to work–even trickier.  If you don’t want to buy the book you can always tootle over to British Cottage; we’ve got all the right stuff to pull this look together.

Accessories can make your rooms beautiful
British Cottage Showroom

Lamb Ragu

But before you curl up with a book on this windy and raw Sunday, now would be the perfect time to take a moment to toss a few ingredients together and cook up a hearty stew.   With fresh lamb in the markets what could be better than this lovely Lamb Ragu?  Just four hours later and it’s buon appetito!

You can do this with lamb shanks but I usually just buy a boneless leg of lamb–it is all in one piece and easier to handle.  Salt and pepper then sear on both sides in olive oil in an oven-proof pot.

Remove the lamb from the pan and add about 4 ounces of diced pancetta and quickly fry –you don’t need to do this but I think it adds tons of flavor to the mix.  Put the lamb back into the pot along with two or three onions coarsely chopped and 5 cloves of minced garlic,  some celery and a carrot or two–I like mine finely chopped so it disappears into the sauce. Then pop in one large can of whole tomatoes and one-half can of a decent red wine.  Add a bay leaf, some thyme, a pinch of hot red pepper flakes and put in a 350-degree oven for 3 1/2 to four hours.  That’s it.  Some will say saute the onions, celery, and carrots first but I say–don’t bother.  You have books to read.

Lamb Ragu

Remove the pan from the oven and shred or chop up the meat.  Put it back into the sauce and serve over the pasta of your choice (I like to use pappardelle) and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Accompany  with a tossed green salad, a loaf of garlic bread and a couple of bottles of chianti and even the people who for years have been telling you they don’t like lamb will love it.  Trust me.  Hopefully, they’ll leave you with enough sauce to freeze and you are all set for your next Sunday supper–lasagna.

 

 

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.

September Already!

Sorry, August clearly got away from me. 

Between exhibiting at the NY Gift Show, visiting with my son Colin and his wife, Melissa, who enjoyed a little r&r at the Jersey shore (cooler than Houston, but not by much) and just my usual days at the store, I missed my August blog.  However, not to worry, I have great plans for September.   

Basically we have covered bedrooms and dining rooms, I think,  but have we ever talked about the foyer?  It’s huge.  If you haven’t cleaned in weeks, there’s dishes in the sink,dust bunnies reproducing as only rabbits can, it doesn’t matter–as long as your foyer is well designed and attractive.   The reason I say this is strangers have no reason to go any further into your house.  Play dates can be dropped, business can be conducted, and neighbors can peek in without anyone knowing you haven’t made a bed in weeks. 

All it takes is a little planning and some cunning.  Banning the children and your husband from the area may sound mean, but that is why mudrooms and garage entries were invented.  Put some hooks and a bench by the back door and only allow relatives and close friends access to that part of the house.  They know you so there is no use pretending.  

Next you need to find a piece of furniture which is not too deep, unless you have a McMansion and then you have help so this blog really does not apply to you. 

In your case all you need is a gorgeous round table and a fabulous flower arrangement–I recommend my new best friends from the gift show, Diane James and her daughters, Caroline and Cynthia.  They make the most beautiful flower arrangements you can imagine–their wholesale customers include Neiman Marcus and Gumps.  Just go to their website, DianeJamesHome.com and you will see what I mean.  They are not inexpensive but when you consider one arrangement could last a really long time (the flowers are all artificial but you would never guess unless you touch them).  And Caroline blogs three days a week, clearly an overachiever, but it is fun to read.     However, I digress.  For those with moderate to small foyers, the answer is a table or a chest. 

Something with a few drawers to stash the bills, park your keys, and hold a hairbrush.  Next comes a beautiful mirror, which not only makes the space look larger but also affords you the opportunity to make sure your hair is neat, teeth brushed, and zipper zipped before exiting your home or answering the doorbell.      

Next some lamps, a basket, or a small flower arrangement to put on the furniture you selected.  Try to leave very little of the top showing for two reasons.  The first is beauty, second you prevent family members from leaving their junk on the top.  And try to refrain from parking family photos here.  Unless someone in the family is a supermodel, these belong in more personal spaces (like the backstairs or an upstairs hallway).  

Now I fully intend to illustrate this blog with photos from the store and home (I actually have two of the vignettes I described because I could not figure out which one I liked best) but first I need to eat lunch and then pay my September bills…but after that I’m on it!  have a great day and enjoy this fabulous weather.Cheers!  Tricia