Happy Mother’s Day

Phew. Is it me or are things really back to normal? Local traffic is terrible so people are clearly out and about again and again.  And am I the only who does a double take when I see someone in a mask?  All good. Even better, spring is in full swing making now the best time to fly through the house, throw open the windows, literally and figuratively dust off the cobwebs and get that house in shape for summer fun.

Remember fun? Growing up we never had the best house or the best snacks but that didn’t stop the whole neighborhood from hanging out at our house. Our house was the fun house. Dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, even ducks were welcome.  Inside and out there was space to breathe. We all need to remember to breathe–just breathe.

Usually I blog about a whole house but today I’m just going to share some images I’ve taken or that people have sent to me over the last couple of months. Like this one with a furry cat atop a reclaimed pine coffee table from British Cottage. The chairs are from Homegoods, the corner cabinet vintage and the parquet floors were the cat’s meow–in the 1960’s! But somehow it all comes together.

This photo comes from my friend Andrea who cleverly revamped her fifties-ish Colts Neck cape into a light-filled transitional space with a gorgeous open plan kitchen. Anchored by this free standing pine cupboard and farmhouse table from British Cottage. The best rooms are the rooms that everyone uses–and trust me with a family of chefs in the wings, this kitchen gets used a lot!

It wasn’t so easy getting this British Cottage table to a brand new home just blocks from the beach in Montauk, a vibrant beach community at the way end of Long Island. Montauk has more of a down-to-earth could be Cape Cod feel than the Hamptonesque posh that comes to mind when we think of Long Island, and I can only imagine the multitudes of meals, games and chats that will be enjoyed around this table.

One thing I can never stress enough is the importance of lighting if you want to freshen up a space. And that does not mean turning up those horrendous high hats, cans or whatever you want to call them. (In fact if you are building a new house or renovating ignore your architect, your builder and your electrician and don’t put them in).

There’s plenty of other ways to get light into your life. I particularly like table lamps for ambient and task lighting. Fortunately many of my customers agree so we sell a lot of lamps–like this pair of blue and white porcelain ones in the cozy living room below.

For a more modern take on lighting you can’t beat this architectural pendant that is now residing in Fair Haven along with a sideboard, table and chairs all from British Cottage. We love this relaxed country house vibe that combines a ton of pattern with texture to make this dining room truly reflect the homeowners’ aesthetic and fun loving personalities.

The idea is to make your house your home. There are no rules, or at least none that can’t be broken.  No matter what day it is, your home is where your heart is so enjoy!

Meanwhile I had to decide what to have for my Mother’s Day dinner and found this recipe from the fabulous Ina Garten that combines two of my favorite Italian meals, Lamb Ragu and Baked Ziti into one. Keith signed on as the chef and the result was delish!

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1½ cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
  • 2 cups (½-inch) diced carrots (3 large)
  • 2 cups (½-inch) diced fennel, cored (1 medium)
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, such as San Marzano
  • 2½ cups dry red wine, such as Chianti or Côtes du Rhône, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed with your hands
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound rigatoni, such as De Cecco
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • ²⁄₃ cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound fresh salted mozzarella, divided
  • ½ cup freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp parsley, minced (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a medium (10 to 11-inch) heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and fennel and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown. Add the lamb, garlic, and fennel seeds and cook for 8 minutes, breaking up the lamb with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, 2 cups of the wine, the oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, partly covered, for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the remaining ½ cup of red wine.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 2 tablespoons salt and the rigatoni and cook according to the directions on the package, until barely al dente. Drain.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Add the rigatoni and toss well. Grate half of the mozzarella on a box grater and add it to the rigatoni mixture. Add the lamb mixture, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper and toss well.

Transfer a 10 × 14 × 2-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Slice the remaining mozzarella and arrange it on top. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is hot and bubbling and some of the pasta is crusty on top. Sprinkle parsley evenly on top. Serve hot.

Canyon Cool–in New Jersey

Coconut-Almond French Toast

Originally from New Jersey but living west of Chicago and suddenly (it just seems to happen) empty nesters, a nearer-to-retirement couple was faced with a major housing dilemma. Clearly, their home with its thousands of square feet and multitude of rooms was too big for two (heads up: you can get a lot more bang for your buck in the middle of America).

They had tried Florida but that was not floating their boat, and with all their kids happily settled across the heartland–been there, done that– they happened to hear the siren call–of the Jersey shore. Let’s face it; it’s why we all still live here. There’s easy access to the beach, golf enough if you do, only 45 minutes from Newark Airport, an hour from the city, with a temperate climate (especially when compared to Chicago) and with siblings galore already in situ they decided yes, you can go home again.

Making this kind of move mid-Covid was not the easiest but they lucked upon a 60-ish cape on a large corner lot on a little hill in Little Silver and pounced. It needed work–I believe the term is gut renovation–but with the help of their architect, local hero Steve Gassert and the team at Continental Construction, they have a lovely new home in just under a year.

First off they jettisoned the formal living room, combining it with what was a congested kitchen and adjoining laundry room to make one open, unified space. He’s the cook with an Italian pedigree so space for family dinners, breakfasts, lunch–you name it–was not negotiable–there had to be room at the table for everyone.  And I admit to feeling a bit skeptical when they said this ten-foot table would work in the space but clearly there was nothing to worry about.

It’s tempting to bring the kitchen cabinetry into the dining area for additional storage, but if you can find furniture (like these pine cabinets from British Cottage) you get a decorative boost without sacrificing function.

The kitchen was stunning, with a massive island and gorgeous appliances and I apologize for so few photos of it but my eyes were on this generously sized sofa/console from our store.  No one wanted to look at the back of the sofa, which is all you saw upon entering what I believe to be a newly added great room, but what size and sort of table would be best in the space?  As part of the discussion, it was great to see the solution. There’s nothing like a bit of distressed paint to add some charm to a newly built, light-filled room.

Kitchen Glimpse

I couldn’t stop marveling over this gorgeous pantry/wet bar area. Not that fabulous, state of the art kitchens aren’t to die for, but seriously I have never seen anything like this generous space, located right next to the kitchen, just a stone’s throw from the dining room, and open to the back veranda.  Genius. Not only is it a killer bar, (love that mirrored subway tile) but it also serves as a way station to make entertaining al fresco a breeze!

Through the doorway you see to the left is the primary bedroom. While stairs are nary a problem now–it just makes sense to build with an eye toward the future.

Also vaulting the ceiling here was another great idea–the extra height gives the space room to breathe and adds a spa-like vibe.


Note how they made the shower accessible–this is just smart. I’ll never forget the hurdles Keith’s mom had to go through to take a shower when her knees were shot. She was living in senior housing in England, built for seniors, but the shower was in a bathtub. What were they thinking?

Often I am underwhelmed by the space that is dedicated to laundry rooms these days. I mean the wash goes in the washer, over to the dryer, and back in your drawers. Here the equipment is neatly tucked away in a closet adjacent to the primary bedroom–and home of the primary laundry doers. Perfect.

Yet another good idea is this media room/den. Sometimes someone wants to watch football and someone else wants to sip scotch, read a book, or drink tea-toute seul. It’s nice to have separate, adult spaces for adults.

It’s even better to have a whole, walk-out basement for when the young adults visit and all the cousins come over. Not to mention it’s a handy space to have with a drummer in the house; it’s the perfect place to practice without rattling your spouse–too much.

With two more en suite bedrooms upstairs, it’s amazing how large this house lives in its deceptively small footprint. In terms of square footage, it might be a big downsize from their old house in Illinois, but in terms of amenities, it gets five stars.

Although the true test of any blog is the recipe I always ask for, a selfish play to enlarge my repertoire as I grow older and tired of almost everything I already know how to make. This could be just the thing for Easter morning. (Via the Food Network Kitchen.)

Coconut-Almond French Toast

The buttery coconut-almond crust makes this French toast casserole truly special and offsets the creamy, fluffy texture of the bread. You’ll want to assemble the dish the day before to give the bread time to soak in the custard.


French Toast: 

Unsalted butter, for greasing dish

9 slices Texas Toast or other thick-sliced bread

6 large eggs

3 1/2 cups half-and-half

5 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Coconut-Almond Crust:

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes

1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sliced almonds

5 tablespoons granulated sugar

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pinch salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk

Confectioners’ sugar and berries, for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish.
  2. For the French toast: Lay the bread slices in one layer (it’s OK if they overlap a little) on a baking sheet. Bake the slices (to dry them out a little) for 6 minutes, then flip and bake for 6 minutes more. Set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Dunk each bread slice in the egg mixture to coat thoroughly and shingle the slices in the buttered casserole dish. Pour any remaining egg mixture over the bread. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  4. For the coconut-almond crust: Put 1/2 cup of the coconut, 1/3 cup of the almonds, granulated sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor and process until very fine. Add the butter, egg, and egg yolk and process well to form a smooth paste.
  5. To assemble the casserole: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the coconut-almond mixture evenly over the soaked bread slices. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup sliced almonds and 3 tablespoons coconut and bake until puffed and lightly golden and the custard is set (the center of the casserole will no longer jiggle when shaken), 45 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool for 1 hour before serving, or serve at room temperature.
  6. Serve with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and berries if using.

Location, Location, Location

Chicken Basil with White Wine and Artichoke Hearts

I’ll never forget my first meeting with a real estate agent. I was 25 years old and looking to buy a small bungalow in Rumson when the middle-aged been around the block a few times agent leaned his paunch over the desk, shook his index finger vigorously in my direction and proclaimed: “There are three things that matter in real estate, location, location, location.”

Even though the guy was a bit of a plonker, what he said is nonetheless true, which is why Fair Haven NJ is such a coveted spot. Sure you can buy a larger house, or get a bigger yard for less money in a neighboring Monmouth County town. And those towns probably have just as good schools and equally safe and scenic environments, but what sets Fair Haven apart is its network of closely-knit neighborhoods that are incredibly child friendly. Where else do most kids ride their bikes to school, stroll out to lunch at local restaurants, or cycle themselves to baseball (football, tennis, soccer) or even sailing practice?

So, when they found out they were expecting twins, it was a no-brainer for our clients, a  couple, who had met and bonded in NYC, to look for a home in Fair Haven which is just around the corner from the Jersey Shore town where one of the moms had grown up.  Add grandparents at the ready, plus only a 40-minute ferry ride to the city to the whole family-centric vibe, and the deal was sealed.

Fortunately, in an extremely tight market, they managed to score a four-bedroom home on a lush corner lot with hardwood floors, custom millwork, and a fairly modern kitchen. At the time they were a bit underwhelmed by the interiors, all in off-white, creamy monochromatic tones that screamed suburban torpor.  But, in barely 8 months, they have managed to not only get those babies born (and sleeping through the night) but also introduced a design-driven, maximalist flair to their home.

You will probably guess from these photos that one of the owners is a professional interior designer just by the mix of design elements that blend more than match, a stylistic achievement often sought after but rarely accomplished. And her partner is no slouch either with a few remodels in her past and probably design in her DNA if we take her –full disclosure–longtime British Cottage customers–and very talented, decor-driven parents into consideration.

I mean just take a look at this dining room. From the robust, reclaimed pine farm table and whitewashed sideboard from British Cottage, to the startling realism of the painting, the architectural pendant, and the iconic William Morris Strawberry Thief wallpaper there’s tons to catch the eye. The fact that nothing matches but the room with all its variety is still balanced and harmonious is a decorating trifecta. The table grounds the profusion of print, while the painting by Michael Fratrich provides a focal point demonstrating how a fabulous piece of art can anchor a space.

Across the way in what they call the adult living space, the walls are painted in the same dark green with a hint of blue hue you see in the wallpaper. The color is called Weekend Upstate and the manufacturer is one I am not familiar with, Backdrop Paint an online find that clearly panned out. Often the idea of four chairs placed in a grouping seems like a better idea than it looks but in this case the size of the chairs is in proportion to the rest of the room. I love how their curved shapes are repeated in the lighting fixture and coffee table–even the round bellies on the fish prints from yours truly.

(So is the bookcase but that was a local estate sale purchase–evidently, the secondhand market in British Cottage wares is excellent).

Although we all love our adulting areas, more often than not you will find this busy couple cuddling up in the family room with the children. If you look under the layer of toys you’ll find a healthy splash of Hale Navy (by Benjamin Moore) on the walls, an awesome stacked stone fireplace, serious art, and a stunning lighting fixture that lets you know this is one room to be reckoned with.

Lately, the all-white kitchen (still my personal favorite) has been taking a bit of criticism but I think the highlighting of the island with that pop of navy goes a long way to appeasing the naysayers. Also, note how fab these updated pendants look–they’re relatively simple and contemporary and give the space some added depth.

And it is important to remember when fearfully confronting a large white box that wallpaper is your friend. And the best place to start may well be the powder room. See how they used this dynamic wallpaper to totally transform a ho-hum space into a visual delight and major design win.

Meanwhile, who said playrooms had to be a train wreck? Once again a sure hand with wallpaper proves to be a solid design move by adding a blast of pattern that gives the room (one that we would usually might rather not see) a ton of visual interest.

Sometimes, just a striking photo (another British Cottage find) is all you need to make things interesting and anchor a space–in this case, the upstairs landing.

Our clients are not afraid of quiet moments. Clearly, with twins and full-time jobs, it is essential to have a bedroom that exudes calm and fosters serenity. With its comfy, oversized chaise lounge for naps, the transitional shelf unit from British Cottage to corral the collections, and a ton of natural light, this spa-like setting makes you feel like you are on vacation and not the momager for a minute–or two.

The only thing out of place was little Olive’s bed, but that’s what happens when the first child has four legs and makes their own rules!

Finally, it was time to bid adieu–the babies were due to wake up from their morning naps and I had to get to work but stopped to snap one last photo.  I loved the paintings by Guy Hembling, the Rumson artist and builder, (and big brother of a childhood friend of mine) and I have to find out where that chandelier came from. You’ll notice throughout this house there is quite a unique mix of antique and new, refined and rustic, pattern and none, and it is those juxtapositions that make this home so charming. It is sophisticated without being overwhelming and the perfect backdrop, in a great location, for the whole family to enjoy for years and years to come.

But I wasn’t leaving without a recipe. I think this one checks off all the boxes.

Seriously how can you go wrong with a chicken, basil, artichoke, and wine combo? I did add a pint of cherry tomatoes that had to be used up, along with some grated cheese but you could easily leave those out.

Chicken Basil with White Wine and Artichoke Hearts

Cook the pasta of your choice to just about al dente and put it aside.

Heat a glug of olive oil and a healthy pat of butter in a large saute pan. Add a tablespoon or two of minced garlic and a pint of cherry tomatoes and cook on low for about five minutes. Then add one pound of boneless chicken breasts cut into 1/2 ” cubes, a teaspoon of chicken bouillon, a handful of minced fresh basil, and a large jar of drained artichoke hearts and cook on medium heat for a minute or so.

Then cover the mixture completely with dry white wine and cook on high until the bottom of the pan is slightly brown; be careful not to stray too far from the stove while doing this!

Cover again with white wine, add the al dente pasta of your choice and cook down for a minute or so.  Top with more basil and grated parmesan cheese and serve.

Coastal Meets Chic

Chicken Pot Pie

My clients were devastated to find out that their deposit was being returned and what they thought would be their new, forever home in Sea Girt was sold to someone else. “Sue”! we cried and, trust me, they did consider it but in the end, they bought a vacant lot nearby, hired their own contractor, and built their dream home–their way.

For those of you not in the Jersey Shore loop, Sea Girt is a teeny tiny town of barely one square mile tucked between Spring Lake and Manasquan and the Atlantic Ocean, and only 2000 exceedingly lucky people get to live there. The borough is a lovely seaside community with oodles of small-town charm and scenic beauty–think Nantucket–except you don’t need a ferry to get there.

Needless to say land does not come cheap in Sea Girt and if you are fortunate enough to snag a building lot you have your work cut out for you trying to maximize a whole lot of living in a relatively small footprint. Here, I think, getting a corner lot was key and the double exposure that ensures the house is bathed in natural light throughout the day. This is a definite plus because the owners wanted a home to showcase their art almost as much as they wanted one for themselves and good lighting was essential to the plan.

Their intention all along was to shed the Victorian furnishings, oriental rugs, and vintage tchotchkes from their prior abode and start anew with a cleaner, more modern aesthetic featuring American artistry and craftsmanship. So from the moment, you walk through the front door and into the spacious foyer (with ten-foot ceilings and stunning crown moldings) you are surrounded by art.

Not just paintings, but also the lighting and the case goods are all artisan-made. The chandelier comes from Hubbington Forge a company based in Castleton, Vermont noted for its iconic designs, innovative technology, and uniquely American craftsmanship. Meanwhile, the console table is just one of many items in the home created by Huston and Company (makers of fine custom furniture in Kennebunkport, Maine) expressly for this home.

Ok, ok I get it; you are asking yourselves so what the heck did British Cottage have to do with all this bespoke, all-American craftsmanship brief? Well, besides acting as moral support (it is daunting to build and furnish a new home) and a sounding board (there are countless design decisions from the stain on the floors to the paint on the walls to ponder) we provided all the upholstered furniture for the new house.

As most of you should know by now we work with Century and Hickory White Furniture, manufacturers of some of the best furniture made in America today. Where hardwood kiln-dried frames, eight-way hand-tied springs, and custom seat cushions that are a patented mix of down, foam, and springs (so you have bounce without pancakes) are standard. In upholstery it’s what’s inside that counts so don’t be fooled by a pretty package–you have to check under the hood!

From the sectional in a navy Crypton by Century in the lower level media room to the Hickory White armchair in the master bedroom you’ll find something from British Cottage on nearly every floor of this four-level home (yes Virginia, there is an elevator).

Clearly, this upholstered armchair by Hickory White in the master bedroom is lovely. But note how it complements not only the fabulous chest on chest in solid American walnut from Huston and Company but also the Japanese woodblock print by Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai. Pretty eclectic and super fun.

Then, in an interesting pivot reflecting the homeowner’s penchant for things Scandinavian, there is a ground-floor guest room with a Gustavian-inspired four-poster bed (from Century furniture). I’m all in! I’ve tried and tried again to shoehorn this bed into my own master bedroom but my eaves get in the way. Darn.

While we may have put our two cents’ worth into many aspects of designing and implementing the decor of this lovely home, the kitchen was an in-house collaboration between spouses. The nuts and bolts were all on the husband, a professional chef who had been making do for years in the old 1930s Tudor that could barely fit his professional range.

Clearly, that is not the case here. While the footprint is relatively small, everything you could ever want from the Wolf double ovens to the side-by-side Sub Zero fridge freezer is here. What makes it special, I mean we’ve all seen white kitchens with high-end appliances before is where the wife comes in. It was she who called for the bespoke backsplash of Motawi tile handcrafted in Michigan and the solid black walnut top on the island handmade by Charles Parenteau, a custom woodworker from nearby Colts Neck, NJ that makes this kitchen a work of art.

When I asked for a recipe to go with this gorgeous kitchen the chef of the house told me every Thanksgiving he makes Turkey Pot Pies to give to his friends and family. He adapts a recipe from Chef Jean Pierre. Here’s his note:

Hi Trish, Here is a link to Chef Jean Pierre for his recipes and videos. He is an excellent teacher and entertaining to watch. I would substitute the chicken with poached turkey. I also make turkey stock.  I omit the bacon and medium dice all the vegetables using carrots, celery, parsnips, and butternut squash, tossed with olive oil salt, and pepper roasting these on a sheet pan to par-cook them. Chef Jean Pierre has all instructions on making the stock, roux, and even vegetable cuts. His video is easy to cook along to.

Below is Chef Jean Pierre’s recipe. I used it as a guideline to use up my leftover Thanksgiving turkey. I skipped the bacon, the peas, and the whipping cream and made a broth with Better Than Bouillon laced with more than a few glugs of leftover white wine for good measure. And I skipped the egg wash.

The result was phenomenal. The two of us ate nearly the whole pie!!! I could have this every night for the rest of my life it was so good. Of course the secret is the puff pastry–all the other pot pies in my life were made with regular pie crust that got leaden and soggy. Who knew?

Chicken Pot Pie


½ pounds Bacon sliced 1 ½ lbs. boneless and skinless Chicken Breast cut into bite size 6 ounces Mushrooms sliced 1 tablespoons Fresh Sage chopped, ½ if dried 1 tablespoons Fresh Thyme chopped, ½ if dried 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne 1 cup defrosted Peas 1/2 cup chopped carrots parboiled 90%   2 tablespoons minced Garlic 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg  2 tablespoons Parsley chopped

For the Sauce:

  • 6 ounces of Sweet Butter
  • 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 large Onion cut into small dice
  • 6 cups Chicken Stock, add more of needed
  • 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Prepare the Dish:

  • 1 sheet Puff Pastry Dough
  • 2 Egg Yolks, mixed with 1 tablespoon of Milk


Preheat Oven to 400ºF / 205ºC

Make the Pie:

  • In a deep fry pan (the Chef used a non-stick wok), add the bacon and sauté until it renders it fat. Add the chicken and sauté until light golden brown and season with salt and pepper.   Add the mushrooms and cook until they have released their water.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 5 to 7 more minutes. 

Make the Sauce:

  • In a saucepan add the butter and when melted add the onion and cook them until translucent.  Add the flour, mix well, then add the stock slowly with a Wisk.  Add the cream and cook the sauce AT A VERY LOW HEAT for at least 10/15 minutes

Prepare the Dish for the Oven:

  • Add the chicken and mushrooms to the sauce and mix well.  Pour in your baking dish and wait at least 15/20 minutes to let the steam out before you put the dough on top. Place the dough like the Chef did in the video! Brush the top with egg wash and bake until the dough is golden brown (about 30 minutes)

High Point High Jinks

Broken Meatball Lasagna

For the last decade Keith and I trek twice a year to the High Point Furniture Market in North Carolina and land arguably right into the heart of the United State’s furniture industry. We wander through millions of square feet of showrooms forever trying to find the always elusive stand outs that speak to our creative (and commercial) visions.

This is a far cry from previous decades when we poked around the nooks and crannies of musty warehouses scattered throughout England searching for the antique stripped pine pieces that in some quirky twist of fate had become the heart of the American Country look.

Now antiques are only a small part of our business. At some point we realized we can only sell one pine dining table per family in a lifetime, but that same family will buy multiple upholstered sofas and chairs. Luckily we were able to secure accounts at two of the finest manufacturers of American-made furniture, Sherrill and Century

And while all this upholstery is custom–we–or you choose the fabric and style, the great thing about High Point Furniture Market is buying the showroom samples.  Like this fabulous room setting by the internationally known designer, Phoebe Howard who, along with her husband Jim, is the mastermind behind the  Mr. and Mrs. Howard for Sherrill Furniture Collection. Over the years, Phoebe’s knack for creating stylish spaces has evolved into her own brand of decorating which I really like–traditional sure, but with a fresh and pretty spin.

I’m a hopeless Buffalo Check fan and I totally fell in love with this upholstered chair. And I thought the green would be a nice addition to the store which tends to skew a bit blue.

And it was so much fun to go downstairs to the Sherrill showroom, meant to be more nuts and bolts, but you would never know to look at this setting incorporating that beautiful floral print along with a gorgeous boucle on the sofas. (You will be able to see for yourselves in a month or two, reader we bought them all!)

And the Howards aren’t the only stars in the Sherrill Universe. Hickory White is another design-driven division and we bought a number of room settings there. 

We could not leave without purchasing this sofa. It was gorgeous in a tweedy grey menswear fabric, but what really sang to me was the accompanying upholstered armchair in a grade Z30 (that means fabulous–and expensive) fabric, with suede insets on the sleeves….be still my heart. I may have to do some editing at home so it can live chez moi!

Unsurprisingly  we were bowled over by this furniture version of a rhapsody in blue.

I mean how could we pass this up? Blue. Check. Bobbin chair. Check. Coordinating swivel? Check.

Unfortunately in the photo below the desk is partially obscuring the two leather wing chairs we bought but you get the idea. (And you can see how each vignette is more lovely than the next.) I’m not a huge fan of saturated color anywhere but this makes me want to go home and paint all my walls blue.

Yet another designer division of Sherrill is Lillian August for Hickory White. In the northeast when we hear the Lillian August name we tend to think of all the stores in New York and Connecticut that were owned and operated by her two sons (which I think may all be out of business now). But Lillian, like Phoebe Howard, is an extremely talented designer with a striking and unique affinity for color, texture and pattern. We bought her room setting below because we liked its interpretation of modern casual cool.

Century Furniture was our next stop and while equally as put together not quite as much fun because very few of their showroom samples were available for purchase. However we did manage to persuade them to part with this sofa in a textured white performance fabric–

Along with two swivel chairs in a bold Sunbrella print that will be perfect inside or out.

We also too made a quick detour to Thibaut.


Thibaut, headquartered in our very own New Jersey makes some of the world’s most glorious wallpapers and fabrics and are noted for their beautiful traditional and transitional designs in signature color palettes. We knew they made their own custom upholstered furniture, but we did not know that they are offering a 12 week turn-around on a select group of upholstered pieces. And just six weeks on a select group of frames and fabrics! All this was very exciting to hear–we have fabric swatches if you are interested. It costs a little more but if you ordered now your things could be here for this Christmas–not next!!

All in all it was all good fun. Not quite the same as trawling through the English countryside but maybe 2023 will be the year to renew our relationships across the pond. Now it is time to think about dinner. Can you stand one more chicken recipe? This comes from Bon Appetit and Laird made it for us when we were visiting Lake Chelan for my nephew Kye’s wedding. While I was tempted to mess with the recipe Laird put her foot down and made it exactly as written and it was really, really good.

The Cousins

Broken Meatball Lasagna

Broken Meatball Lasagna

Step 1 Using a sturdy wooden spoon or rubber spatula, vigorously stir 1 large zucchini (about 12 oz.), peeled, finely grated (about 1½ cups)1½ cups panko1 tsp. dried oregano1 tsp. garlic powder1 tsp. paprika1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, and 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. kosher salt in a large bowl until combined and nearly paste-like. Add 1 lb. ground chicken½ cup finely chopped dill, and ½ cup finely chopped parsley and mix until fully incorporated (you don’t need to worry about overmixing here; mixture will be soft).

Step 2 Heat 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high. Using a #16 cookie scoop (about ¼ cup), portion out half of meat mixture (meatballs don’t need to be perfectly round; rustic-looking is good) and add directly to pot. Cook, undisturbed, until well browned underneath, 5–8 minutes. Carefully turn meatballs over and cook until second side is golden brown, 5–8 minutes (it’s okay if meatballs still look misshapen). Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate. Pour 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil into pot and repeat process with remaining meat mixture.

Step 3 Return all meatballs to pot, then add one 28-oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes, lightly crushing with your hands as you go, 1 large shallot, thinly sliced, and remaining 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt. Reduce heat to medium, cover pot, and cook meatballs and sauce, gently stirring occasionally (it’s okay if meatballs start to fall apart), until sauce is slightly thickened, 15–20 minutes.

Step 4 Meanwhile, whisk together 8 oz. fresh ricotta1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest, and a large pinch of salt in small bowl until smooth; set lemony ricotta aside.

Step 5 Cook 10 oz. lasagna noodles, broken into 2–3 pieces, in large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente.

Step 6 Using tongs, drop noodles into pot with sauce and cook, stirring gently, until sauce coats pasta.

Step 7 Divide pasta among shallow bowls and spoon dollops of reserved lemony ricotta over each. Top with two 3×2″ strips lemon zest, thinly slicedfinely chopped dill, and grated Parmesan

Modern Farmer

Chicken Thighs With Tomatoes and Feta

Just before I was born (sixty-plus years ago) my parents moved to Rumson. They’d met at the University of Rhode Island and moved to North Jersey where there was a family business to support their ever-increasing brood. By the time I came along (number three) they were done with apartment living, and because they loved all things involving beaches and boating, they followed the newly built Garden State Parkway fifty miles south to the Rumson peninsula which was, if not the actual start of the Jersey Shore, pretty darn close.

While we were definitely water babies (three more followed moi) it always made sense to me growing up that New Jersey was known as the Garden State. Everything west of us was farming–from the next town over, across the whole of Monmouth County, straight through the rest of the state all the way to Pennsylvania.

But in the ensuing years, hundreds of those farms were turned into malls, Monmouth and Freehold, shopping centers, The Grove, townhomes, (that’s what happened to Sickles Farm), plus huge communities designed for senior living. And houses, thousands of houses were built, from modest capes to those dreadful McMansions–to accommodate the soaring population.

Which is a long-winded way of saying it was refreshing to visit a newly built home in Colts Neck on twenty-plus acres of farmland that was staying a farm. The house on the property had seen better days so it made more sense to build anew rather than attempt a renovation. While I hesitate to use the term modern farmhouse here because in these days of HGTV-inspired decor it has been over-used and abused, this house is most certainly a functional and aesthetically pleasing home on a farm that is modern in outlook whilst happily employing elements that smartly reference its farming vernacular. 

It’s set back from the road with a long driveway and a great lawn flanked by huge trees that must be hundreds of years old.  While the house itself is not massive, it sits squarely on the property, long and low, with attached buildings and detached barns like multiple wings spreading hither and yon. And best of all, it has one of my favorite things, a welcoming front porch. 

I could have stayed there all afternoon chewing the breeze while watching the grass grow but I was on a mission. It was time to check out how the bits and bobs, the furniture and accessories the new owner with her daughter as wingman had purchased over the last year or two fit into their new home. Straight away, for the win, I loved how this antique pine cabinet looked like it was made for this nook in the welcoming foyer.

Next thing you know you’re in the great room which runs from one end of the house to the other and encompasses the kitchen, dining, and living areas. Usually, I write a lot in my blogs but in this case, I think the pictures really tell the story best. Note the shaker-style simplicity of the space punctuated by massive wooden beams with their barn-like appeal, the texture, and grandeur of the massive stone fireplace, the centrally located gathering table, and the open plan kitchen.

That kitchen features custom-made cabinetry by Town and Country (located just blocks from our store) and not only looks terrific but works well for a family that loves to cook. The large wooden island topped with Taj Mahal quartzite — a beautiful natural stone–sits center stage under a large chandelier in an antique brass finish that matches the hardware on the cabinets. (For even more details check out this article in DesignNJ magazine).

It is a good rule of thumb that no matter how big your island might be it is always nice to have a kitchen table nearby. (Table under the tv and chairs are from British Cottage).

Another room I really loved was the primary bedroom. I mean just because you live on a farm doesn’t mean you can’t have a little sophistication and elegance does it? This fabulous bed by Century Furniture (via yours truly) sets the stage for a stunning retreat–and note how great the lavender tones look with that grey paint on the walls.

A little more casual, but no less cool is this bedroom with our classic British Cottage pine bed.

And when partnered with an oversized antique pine chest of drawers and a streamlined sofa by Century, it makes it feel like a studio apartment sort of– the perfect hang-out space.

There are also tons of fun nooks and crannies in the house. Like this sunny spot in the mud room where a small bench from British Cottage is the perfect perch for changing out of muddy boots–or window gazing.

And I can’t not mention the guest suite over the mostly detached garage, which features a loveseat from Century (and British Cottage) along with our reclaimed pine coffee table.

Perhaps my favorite thing up there is the Smeg refrigerator which I can’t take any credit for but I love how it looks and really want one of my own someday.

But it is growing late. And I plan to go home now and make this dish the homeowners (did I say they were fabulous cooks?) shared with me. They really like it with shrimp too but I think I’ll start with chicken. The weather has finally cooled down–we’re actually on our fourth day of rain–and this one-skillet recipe looks like just the thing to take the chill off. Brrrr!

Chicken Thighs With Tomatoes and Feta – Epicurious

Reunion Times

Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan

When I graduated from high school in 1972 it was the best of times. Finally we were the seniors; we had drivers’ licenses and extended curfews. We relished the recently implemented university style curriculum and open campus. The rigid dress code was abolished and we happily tossed our circle pins and Villager skirts with their matching Pappagallo shoes for blue jeans and open toe sandals.

But it was also the worst of times. A war was raging in Viet Nam and all student deferments for the draft–except for divinity students– had been eliminated. A lottery system was established and suddenly at age 18 we realized life could be extinguished by the random act of some stranger plucking a number from a bin.

Earlier, in our junior year, we learned firsthand how painful an extinguished life could be when one of our most beloved classmates died in a car accident. Our class bonded in a state of shock and disbelief. Strangers hugged, all of us wept and with one boy’s passing, we learned grief as well as Algebra 2 that year.

Fifty years later lots of those bonds, although stretched by time and distance, still exist and this summer a group of us got together to celebrate our past and, for one weekend at least, not worry so much about the future. Friends came from all over the country to revisit their old hometowns, Rumson and Fair Haven, and it was great fun to catch up.

And it was a great opportunity for me to join those out-of-towners and run around and visit with some who stayed and see firsthand how, as fellow empty nesters, they were handling the whole decamping, downsizing, and relocating thing.

One of my faves was a house that was literally on the beach in Sea Bright. In 2012, after Hurricane Sandy pummeled a two-story home adjacent to the town beach, that property was eventually sold to a developer who knocked the original house down. And then, by simply switching the new structure’s orientation, was able to build two homes front to back on the single lot. My friends live in one of them.

Admittedly due to updated coastal building codes, we are talking about flood-prone Sea Bright after all, there are quite a few steps in this four-level home (luckily there is an elevator). But what a great idea to line all those flights of stairs with family photos! And what a good idea to put the century old chair on the landing for those in need of a breather–a lucky junk week find over forty years ago from Rohallion, a notable Rumson estate. 

Besides the stairs, the next biggest worry is window washing–which is a very small price to pay with views like this.

One of the highlights of the visit, for me, was to see the pitch pine breakfront front and center in this lovely beach house–that we had sold to the owner’s mother over thirty years ago! This cabinet has its own Sandy story too. Left standing in nearly a foot of water after the mom’s house was flooded, it cleaned up beautifully–except for one high water mark stain in the inside of the bottom cabinet. My friend said her kids thought she should paint the backboards a contrasting color; let’s hope she doesn’t listen to them. I think it looks great just the way it is.

Enough with the antiques though; I loved the modern kitchen and the wide-open floor plan. That backsplash is amazing. I’m not sure if it is quartz or granite on the island but whatever it is has definitely just the right amount of pattern to complement what’s going on in the rest of the space.

But the highlight, the piece de resistance as you will, of this home is the fabulous views. They’re everywhere, and seriously, when standing on the third-floor balcony, you felt like you were aboard ship.

Up there this empty nest is more like a seagull’s nest, with views and vistas all around. We could have stayed and soaked up that salty air all day–but there were things to do and people to see so we sadly said goodbye.

When, after nearly two weeks of my oldest friends coming and going and wining and dining, the party was finally over, and things settled down, it was a little sad. Thus I was especially heartened to find this recipe for Eggplant Parmesan from Food & Wine in my inbox. How in the heck did those internet spies know not only that Eggplant Parm is my absolute favorite dish but that I also had a garden full of fresh eggplants and juicy tomatoes? Normally I would make my own marina sauce but (surprise) I actually mostly followed the recipe and used a jarred  Jersey Fresh tomato sauce I found at Sickles and it was scrumdiddlyumptious. So delicious that even though this recipe is meant to serve 8, Keith and I polished it off in two nights!

Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan

Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan



Pat eggplant dry. Drizzle both sides of eggplant rounds with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil in preheated oven until lightly golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Let cool for 10 minutes. (Because I am not a broiler fan, I cooked the baby eggplants skin side up in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes).

Step 4 Reduce oven temperature to 425°F. Layer tomatoes and mozzarella slices between eggplant rounds, slightly overlapping, on a baking sheet. Drizzle with marinara sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan, top with breadcrumb mixture, and bake at 425°F until cheese is melted and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with basil, and serve. (I kept the oven at 400 degrees).

Summerize your Home-Part 3

Sue Beaton’s Brownies

I know, I know, enough already with these summerize your home blogs. Once was cute, two okay, but three–get over it already right? But I just can’t. Not after reading the Design and Decorating feature in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal: What’s Hot, What’s Not, This Summer”.

Evidently they, she actually, Sarah Karnasiewicz, asked hundreds (my italics) of design pros for the latest trends in al fresco living. Ironically everything in their forecast was the complete, utter, total, whole shebang opposite of what I think. Sigh.

But let’s give it a quick run through and see what you think. We’ll start with stools.

The classic garden stool, the iconic Chinese porcelain standby that used to come in only blue and white but has been updated in any color you desire, the one that is exactly the right height for a drink or a foot or as an extra perch is now sigh, rocking “an everyman look” that you can buy at any big box store. Instead of saying hurray, finally I can find something I like at Lowes, the word is passe and this is what’s in:

Yuk. Give me the classic garden stool any day.

Next up. Blah upholstery. “According to the experts, conservative colors like white, tan and navy are on the way out.” In: next generation performance fabrics in rainbow hues and a variety of textures.

That’s why I have a garden. I like my lawn furniture, low impact and low key.

Next up is resort style umbrellas, the more scalloped, fringed and layered evidently the better. Maybe in the south of France but my 1930’s Tutor would be overwhelmed by all that frou frou.

The good news is, there is no right or wrong way to decorate but I’m going to stick with my classic, traditional garden furniture and accessories and let my surroundings: the sky, shrubs, flowers and trees do the heavy lifting to make the space interesting and attractive.

Now it’s almost time to join Bentley on the couch for a nap. But first I needed to make some Brownies. In another recent Wall Street Journal article the author makes a convincing case for not using a brownie mix–but then supplies a recipe that looks intriguing–but exhausting. While I try to avoid dessert my sister was coming to visit and I thought she might like some of our mother’s brownies–I know I would.

Sue Beaton’s Brownies

Sue Beaton’s Brownies

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons butter, more for greasing pan–melt together and add to eggs and sugar
  • 1  1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  •  1/2 tsp baking powder
  • salt
  • nuts

350 degrees 15-25 minutes

Sue Beaton’s Brownies

I must have made these Brownies dozens of times, a long time ago though, and I felt I could have used a little more direction, but in the end just used common sense and it worked out fine.

I microwaved the butter with the chocolate until it was melted. (Those double boiler days are happily a thing of the past). While that cooled I whisked the eggs with the sugar, then added the cooled chocolate mixture, then the flour and baking powder.

My mom always used to butter (okay margerine) then flour the pan but I liked the parchment idea from the WSJ recipe so I went with that. And she always used Baker’s Chocolate but I happened to see Scharffen Berger Baking Chocolate when I was picking up eggs at Sickles and went for the upgrade. It was packaged in grams, not ounces, so I may have used four ounces not the three the recipe calls for and probably would if I make these again.

I’m not sure why the cooking time says 15 to 25 minutes. My batch needed the whole 25. And the good news–the result was a very tasty, very chewy, very moist brownie–just like I remembered. Whew.

Meanwhile here’s the Wall Street Journal recipe:




  • Cooking or baking spray
  • 12 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, such as Guittard or Valrhona, 60-72% cacao
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1¼ cups all purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the middle position. Line a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang so the brownies can be easily lifted from the pan. Spray lightly with cooking or baking spray.
  2. If using dark chocolate bars (as opposed to baking wafers or chocolate chips), chop ⅔ of the chocolate (8 ounces) finely using a serrated knife and place in a large, heatproof bowl. Chop remaining ⅓ (4 ounces) into ½-inch chunks. Set chocolate chunks aside in a small bowl.
  3. Add butter to chocolate in heatproof bowl. To melt chocolate using a double boiler: Add 2 inches of water to a pot and bring it to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to low and place heatproof bowl on top. (Make sure bottom of bowl doesn’t touch simmering water; otherwise the chocolate might “burn” and the texture will become grainy instead of melting into a smooth emulsion.) Stir occasionally with a rubber spatula until melted. Alternatively, to melt chocolate in a microwave: Place heatproof bowl in microwave and microwave at 30-second intervals. Once chocolate starts to melt on bottom and sides of bowl, use a rubber spatula to mix it. When mostly melted, stop microwaving and stir to melt completely. Once chocolate is melted, stir in salt and vanilla.
  4. In a large bowl, combine eggs and both sugars. Whisk vigorously until homogenous. While whisking, drizzle in melted chocolate, and continue whisking until combined. Sift in flour, and whisk until just combined. Stir in reserved chocolate pieces.
  5. Pour brownie batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, save for some melted chocolate, about 35 minutes.
  6. Remove brownies from oven and place on a cooling rack until cool enough to handle, at least 15 minutes. Lift brownies out of pan with parchment paper and cut into squares before serving.

Summerize your Home–Part 2

Cobb Salad

So we talked about how the change of seasons can be a reason to clear the decks and clean out the clutter, especially when we are talking about summer when less is more. Like bikinis, miniskirts, and muscle tees–bare just feels better in the summer.

But, let’s face it, for many of us that ship has sailed and we are far happier rocking a mumu these days–yet the good news is our homes can still benefit from a serious dressing down. When I was a kid we actually had different slipcovers for summer and winter. In winter they were a chocolate brown, a color I loathe to this day, and in the summer they were a leafy, green flowered chintz which I adored.

Switching slips is probably not an option for most of us–but you could change the toss pillows. Stash anything velvet or wool in the attic and treat yourself to a vibrant cotton print. Do the same with your throws. Put those fleece blankies away now and break out the linen.

If your hardwood floors are in decent shape, roll up your area rugs and put away your vacuum cleaner for the summer, especially if you are at the beach. It is so much easier–and cooler to do a quick sweep with the broom.

Treat yourself to new cloth napkins and wicker placemats and, suddenly, setting the table will be less of a chore. Even better, set the table outside. Sure it is hot out there–but that’s the point of summer. Embrace the heat now because that yard  will be snow-covered before you know it.

And you’ll need some flowers, hopefully, vibrant and colorful–but just plain old green branches work to bring some of that natural lushness outside–in. The fancy word for this is biophilia and Biophilic Design is all about incorporating nature into our indoor environment.

Natural elements in the home actually help lower our blood pressure and decrease tension. It just makes sense; creating a calming space with a visual connection to nature can’t help but  improve our wellbeing, health and productivity.  Actually there is a whole other blog here, easily, discussing biophilia but I will leave that for another day. Right now it is time to focus on dinner.

I love salad for dinner but it is a hard sell for Keith. Growing up in New Jersey when it really was The Garden State, and way before air conditioning was the norm, we ate salad all summer: homegrown tomatoes topped with tuna or chicken salad, chef’s salad, pasta salad, carrot salad, fresh from the garden lettuce topped with blue cheese dressing salad…yum.

Keith is unconvinced. It could be because he is from England where it never got warm enough to make salad a pleasant way to  beat the heat. I’ll never forget the summer Keith’s brother and girlfriend were visiting and one day, when we were discussing what to have for dinner, she actually started to cry. She could not tolerate one more night of a cold meal–she wanted meat, roast meat, cooked potatoes–and gravy. I said knock yourself out.

And she did. Even though it was easily 100 degrees in our kitchen she made a pork roast, along with a veritable mountain of potatoes and seriously buckets of gravy. And guess what? They ate every last mouthful! But I digress.

The one salad we both agree makes a great summer dinner is Cobb Salad. It takes a little planning because you need to have a ripe avocado and some bacon in the house but that’s about as challenging as it gets. If you want to be fancy you can marinate the chicken beforehand. (If you’re lazy like I am just use whatever bottled Italian Dressing you have in the fridge). You can also cook the chicken on the grill which is nice–but you must never, ever skip the bacon. Add a loaf of crusty bread to the mix if someone you know can’t live without a starch and it’s all good. Enjoy!                                                                                

Grilled Chicken Cobb SaladIngredients:

6 Bacon Slices                                                                                                                                 Lettuce                                                                                                                                            2 to 3 Tablespoons Vinaigrette                                                                                               1 Pound Thinly Sliced Chicken Cutlets                                                                               4 Ounces Crumbled Feta Cheese                                                                                           1 Hopefully Fresh Tomato                                                                                                         1 Ripe Avocado                                                                                                                              

First cook the bacon.

You can easily broil or saute the chicken in minutes but it is always a win if you can outsource that chore–especially if it is really hot–and get someone else to cook it on the grill.

Meanwhile toss the lettuce (or arugula ) with the vinaigrette. Place on a platter, add the bacon and bitesize pieces of avocado and tomatoes in separate rows–do not mix–top with feta.  C’est tout. 

And maybe open a beer…

Summerize your Home

Smoky Chicken Enchiladas

Okay, I get it. It’s been a rough year what with the kids back to their crazy schedules and your spouse always dumping all his/her work s h i t all over the house, not to mention you’re on a deadline and still somehow have to get to that soccer/lacrosse/baseball game by four.

You need a vacation. We all need a vacation. But that, in the end, doesn’t solve anything really. What you need to do now, while the kids are still in school and hopefully you-know-who is mostly back in the office is take a moment to make a few simple changes that will go a long way towards making your home the place where you really want to spend the summer.

It’s not hard. It just takes a bit of planning and some heavy editing. 

  1. Clutter is your enemy. Clear the gangplanks–now. Those piles of shoes by the backdoor–remove anything that is outgrown, soleless, or holey. If you have a mudroom do the same with the multitudes of jackets, hats, and winter gear. This is what Goodwill is for.
  2. No mudroom, rethink that front closet, remove the door, add some shelves and hooks, maybe a fresh coat of paint and voila! No closet? Add some hooks and a handy bench with storage–do something, anything to ease the bottleneck.
British Cottage Pine Bench

3. Making an entrance. Your foyer is huge. People are coming over again–this is where you make your first impression–you have to clear out the accumulated mail and packages. File, recycle, and use them to fire up the grill but there should be no stacks of papers or magazines or for that matter anything–anywhere. Treat yourself to a console table or chest with a bit of storage for the essentials. Then you can add a great piece of artwork or a mirror, maybe even some lamps or a  new chandelier and things really will be looking up.

You can go fancy with a heavily distressed chest of drawers from Century Furniture.
Or casual with a reclaimed teak table.

For that massive foyer, you have no idea what to do with.
And mid-century is always a win these days.

Speaking of wins, our favorite meal this spring has been from a recipe I tore out of The Wall Street Journal years ago. I love enchiladas but can’t be bothered with the whole cook the chicken for hours, shred it and then stuff it into tortillas—it’s just easier to get take out.

This version, however, is easy as pie–and full disclosure I have actually made it with store-bought salsa for the sauce bit (thank you Paul Newman) and it’s just as tasty.

Smoky Chicken Enchiladas

  • 2 dried ancho chilies, stems removed
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 (28-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pinch of spicy paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 14 corn tortillas
  • 1½ pounds shredded rotisserie, poached or roast chicken
  • 9 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated
  • 1 generous handful of cilantro leaves
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced


  1. Place dried chilies in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Cover bowl with a plate and let chilies rehydrate until they become pliable about 5 minutes.
  2. Set broiler to high. Season onions and garlic with a pinch of salt. Spread vegetables across a baking sheet. Broil until well charred in spots, 2-3 minutes. Remove from broiler and set aside. Set oven temperature to 425 degrees.
  3. Place tomatoes, paprika, oregano, charred onions and garlic, and rehydrated chilies along with their soaking liquid in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring liquid to a simmer and cook until onions and chilies soften about 7 minutes. Off heat, use a handheld blender or food processor to purée to a thick, smooth, uniform sauce, taking care with hot liquid. Set sauce back over low heat and gently simmer to keep warm.
  4. Coat the bottom of a 9-by-9-inch baking dish with a thin layer of sauce. Arrange a single layer of tortillas over sauce, trimming edges to fit. Scatter a loose layer of chicken over tortillas and top with a loose layer of grated cheese. Continue layering sauce, tortillas, chicken, and cheese until the dish is nearly full. End with a layer of tortillas, a layer of sauce, and a final layer of cheese.
  5. Bake enchiladas on the top rack of oven until cheese topping bubbles and browns in spots, 15-20 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and scallions and serve immediately.