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…

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!

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!