Saying Goodbye to Summer

Ready to eat: Lobster With Grilled Veggies

I adore summer. From the clothes–or rather lack thereof–not that I am a midriff baring grandma but nothing feels better than tossing a frock over my head, fluffing my hair and flip flopping my way out the door in the morning. At  home everything is airier in the summer; my bedding is stripped down to the basics: white cotton sheets and a lightweight quilt, the shades are always at half mast, the rugs are stashed away so the floors are bare and the house stays cool.

Who cares if it’s too hot to go outside? This is why we have gardens to look upon. Even better when your rooms have a view like mine suddenly has this summer–now that new owners knocked down the century home that was there. I’ll miss the old girl, a more than one hundred year old structure that was originally the boarding house for the actors employed by a local summer theater up river (another blog in itself).

But I am really happy we are finally post-Covidly being invited over to join other neighbors, once again, to wine and dine. Especially for an al fresco spread comme ca.

Even if you don’t have neighbors to host you, the good thing about summer is there are numerous en plein air waterfront dining options in our two river communities. One of my longtime favorites (they are way older than I am) is Bahrs in Highlands. The food is delish, the atmosphere authentic and the salt air restorative.

And less we forget the reason we live at the Jersey shore is, well the shore, keep in mind the best way to get there is by boat.  If you don’t have one, now is the time to find a friend who does!

I grew up on the Shrewsbury but for cruising you cannot beat the Navesink River. Nowhere else in New Jersey (or anywhere) can you see a governor’s mansion, several historic boat clubs, numerous stately homes–and still be back in time for dinner!

The Murphy Home
Monmouth Boat Club

Seriously who needs to go to Bar Harbor with houses like this right in our neck of the, well not woods exactly, but river maybe?

Finally, eventually, there will come a time in summer when it is your turn to host; but don’t panic. If you follow my lead you will never have to actually cook, (it’s too darn hot anyway). First hop over to Sickles and pick up a tray of their already grilled vegetables.

Add some sliced tomatoes with their homemade mozzarella, then order a slew of fresh from the Maine seas lobsters from  The Lusty Lobster (they’ll even steam them for you) and dinner is ready to be served!


Summer is for friends and fun–and food!

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.

Go Green

Skillet Chicken

It’s tempting to hold this post until March, but seriously why should the Irish get to have all the green, all the time? If you are a British Cottage aficionado then you know I skew blue, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love the color green. And, in fact, nothing looks better than blue with a pop of green. But I digress.

Early last year, a long time chum arrived at the store and announced that after–I dare not say how many years–of living in Rumson she was ready to ditch the whole house and yard thing and move to a townhome. Fortunately for her, she didn’t need to look farther than her own backyard, so to speak.

In the early 1990s, the Sickles family sold their Little Silver farm to a developer, striking a deal with the town that seemed to make everyone happy. Instead of a scrum of sprawling McMansions the developer would build a thoughtful, planned community, the town would acquire a much-needed park, playing fields, and some green acres and the Sickles family could not only keep their farmer’s market but expand it.

Hence Alderbrook was born, a community of 167 two and three-bedroom, ranch and townhouse style condominiums. That looked fabulous from the get-go because, instead of grouping them on part of the land the developer cut 12 cul-de-sacs through the fields, each with an average of 10 homes, that extend to the woodlands framing the property, and wind around an interior green space.

The Alderbrook offers four models, ranging from 2000 to 3000 square feet, and because the development was geared to empty nesters, features master bedrooms on the first floor. Even better, all the homes have a two-car garage and a basement, which I’m not seeing in many townhome communities. Toss in a few Alderbrook amenities like the on-site pool, a tennis court, and a recreational facility and clearly, this is a win.

The only downside is, if you manage to get your hands on one, they tend to be a bit dated…I mean they were built over thirty years ago, and the nineties were, well the nineties; how do they look now? I’ll cut to the chase and tell you the answer is pretty darn good, but a little elbow grease is required. Let’s start with the kitchen.

I’m not going to do a before and after because that takes way too long. Suffice it to say the new owners completely gutted the kitchen, removing an oversized island and most of the walls in the dining room. Karen Barnes, at Millhurst Mills, was the mastermind behind the kitchen design and gets credit for the peninsula to the left of the stove.

The color, remember I started off saying this blog was about the color green, was all up to the wife, who over the years had been collecting thoughts about remodeling and interior home design. She was looking forward to creating a space that not only worked perfectly for her and her fellow nester but also for their children and grandchildren.

Part of the problem when it comes to empty nesting, which, around here at least, invariably involves downsizing, is what do you do with all your stuff? Especially stuff like early American brown wood antiques when all your kids and everybody else’s kids want is mid-century modern or c r a p from PB. In this case, you remove a closet to expand the dining area in the kitchen, buy some beautiful Majolica (the green plates in the upper cabinet, remember our theme) from British Cottage and call it a day.

One thing I don’t understand is how come townhomes always seem to feature cathedral ceilings. Why? Drama? Who knows, but they are a fortune to heat and cool, and difficult to decorate. Evidently, this home also came with a surfeit of molding as well as french doors to the sunroom which all got the big heave-ho. I think the result is simply elegant.

Here you get a glimpse of the role British Cottage played in all this. The stools, armchairs, and sofa are all from our store.

The upholstered armchairs are by Century Furniture in an “Inside/Out” minty green performance fabric. These were a lucky in-store find (you know, or you should know, how I love to buy the showroom samples Century offers after the High Point Markets end). But also by lucky I mean they had something to sit on while they waited for their sofa which was custom made by Hickory White, (one of the more designer-driven divisions of the mighty Sherrill Furniture) in a soft-to-touch, jade-toned fabric.

Also from Century (and British Cottage) is the family room sofa and upholstered armchair. This is possibly my favorite photo because of the little puggle (upon his matching throw) positioned in the middle of the sofa–the best seat in the house–or is he just being diplomatic? Note, once again, there is plenty of green going on here in the walls and the rug–and who doesn’t love that pop of coral in the chair–a color we also see in the area rug? Also, note how the chair has a mid-centuryesque vibe but plays well with the early American antiques in the room.

All in all my visit was quite a success. Ordinarily, I might have liked to sample some of the beverages on hand at the bar cleverly attached to the custom breakfront in the living room, but sadly snow was expected that evening and I needed to get to Sickles Market before they closed. I’d been thinking a lot lately about making one of the 11 One-Pot Winner-Winner Chicken Dinners recently featured in the New York Times and the one I picked had everything from fennel to anchovies–so getting to Sickles was critical.

JT Norman… built-ins in the living room, office, and master closet /cabinets
Karen Barnes  at Millhurst Mills…kitchen and master bathroom cabinets
Paul Gordacyk…. Kitchen and dining room table

Now onto dinner. I bought so Keith got to be the chef.

#8. Recipe from NY Times: Skillet Chicken and Rice With Anchovies and Olives


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 to 6 thighs)
  •  Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and diced, plus more fennel fronds, for serving
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped anchovy fillets
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¾ cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • ¾ cup pitted Castelvetrano or other green olives, halved lengthwise
  •  cup raisins, preferably golden
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 medium navel orange, 1/2 juiced and 1/2 thinly sliced


  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a 12-inch skillet with a lid, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium. Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel and season them with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, place the thighs in the skillet, skin-side down. Cook, undisturbed, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and the chicken releases easily from the pan. You may need to raise the heat slightly during the last few minutes if the skin isn’t browned enough.
  2. Flip the chicken thighs and cook for 3 minutes on the other side, then transfer to a plate and set aside.
  3. Discard all but about 3 tablespoons of fat from the skillet. Add the diced fennel, onion, and oregano, and cook over medium for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender. Add the anchovies, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until it begins to caramelize and turn rusty brown in color. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has almost completely evaporated.
  5. Add the rice, olives, and raisins to the skillet and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, orange juice, and a few grinds of black pepper, and bring to a simmer.
  6. Place the chicken thighs on top, skin-side up, nestling them into the liquid so only the skin is above the surface. Cut the orange slices into half-moons and arrange them around the chicken. Drizzle the orange slices with olive oil.
  7. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. (If you’d like to crisp the chicken skin, pop the pan under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes.)
  8. Top with fennel fronds, more red pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of salt. Serve hot.

Keith followed the recipe exactly and it was delish!


A Glimpse at the Cinematic Style of Nancy Meyers

Feast of the Seven Fishes Pie

Nancy Meyers

You are a nice Jewish girl who was raised on Philadelphia’s Main Line in the 1960s and you grow up to be:

  1. A Housewife
  2. A Schoolteacher
  3. A Divorced Housewife
  4. The Most Successful American Female Writer/Director/Producer in the History of Movies

If you guessed D then we are talking about Nancy Meyers, and you are absolutely correct.

There’s no doubt Nancy Meyers’ movies are phenomenally successful—the last four combined grossed over one billion dollars (2015 The Intern, 2009 It’s Complicated, 2006 The Holiday, 2003 Something’s Gotta Give), and her all-star filled casts are delightful, featuring such luminaries as Diane Keaton, paired with a feisty Jack Nicolson, and  Robert DeNiro, who gave a heartfelt turn as the oldest, most junior employee on earth mentoring Anne Hathaway’s beleaguered chief executive.

While none of this is big news – there has been many a story and blog written about Nancy Meyers – for the final project for my INTD 150 class, Design Elements for Interior Environments, I used interiors from her movies to illustrate the Elements of Design. Possibly because the set designers and decorators employed to produce these movie sets are well schooled in these concepts, and any fabulous interior has to have these elements in order to be fabulous, it was easy to make the connections. While I should make it clear Nancy Meyers did not design these rooms herself, as their writer, director, and producer it is her vision and her version we see.

The coziest living room in all of England–from The Holiday.

Briefly these are the Elements of Design: Line, Shape, Form, Color, Value–which actually refers to Light, Space and Texture.  I think you could argue that line may be the most important element. Lines are created by the furnishings and architecture of a room and actually guide us through space.

As does Nancy Meyers.  Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), the main character in the movie Something’s Gotta Give, is a divorced playwright in her mid-fifties. You only have to look inside Erica’s fabulous Hamptons home, glimpse the quality and beauty of the furniture and accessories to realize not only is she loaded (ergo successful) but she is classy and tasteful too… Note how the interior of the room pictured below speaks volumes about our heroine before even a single word is actually spoken.

While we have all drooled over this bedroom and wished this was our desk overlooking the ocean, Meyers is sending us a message loud and clear. This bedroom and office combo shows us that Erica is a single, independent woman. She can work late, or whenever she wants, because this is a room of her own.

The stage is set; so how does line play a part in this silent dialogue with the audience? We can start with the vertical lines: from the trim around the office area, to the floor-to-ceiling drapes, onto the mullions in the French doors and the bay windows.  They all direct our eyes upward adding considerable height and drama to the room. We’re impressed.

All these vertical lines are softened by the horizontal lines in the rug and the throw by the bed; their purpose is to ground the space, and enhance the expansive luxuriousness of the room. They give this room a tranquil and peaceful feeling–essential elements, one imagines, for an author. Then the curves (more lines) of the chaise and the upholstered armchair soften and unite those multitudes of vertical and horizontal lines. By placing the upholstery pieces on the diagonal our eyes focus inwards creating nearly a complete circle! Genius at work.


When lines come together they produce shapes…when you mix and match those shapes a designer, or in this case a movie director, creates a mood that showcases how your home—or movie set—feels.

Erica’s living room has a variety of shapes starting with the Mora clock’s sensuous curves, a natural, organic shape that contrasts with the hard lines and and angular edges in the rectangular windows in the transoms and stair railings. Is Meyers trying to show us that there is more than one side to our heroine’s character? Soft on the outside and hard on the inside—or maybe just the opposite–hard on the outside and soft on the inside?


Form is a three dimensional shape.

We’re going to switch movies and meet a new Nancy Meyers’ heroine. This bedroom belongs to Jules, Anne Hathaway’s character in The Intern.

In interior design, form refers to the shape of the room, furnishings, décor—the three dimensional objects that occupy the space. 

So what do these objects tell us about her character? An eclectic mix of mid-century and modern items, it’s trendy, transitional, and yes traditional—we can just see that armoire holding the tv in the far left hand corner of the room. So she’s hip, she’s young, and she’s cool. The bed is humongous, ship sized and clearly built for two. Anchoring that is a midcentury slip-covered sofa that keeps the bed in check. These forms bring strength and structure to the room, which is balanced by the rounded edges of that fabulous chaise and curved ottoman. This is someone who can break a glass ceiling–while wearing heels.


Color, of course, is definitely one of the key elements of interior design. It is used to create aesthetically pleasing combinations and also works on a psychological level. 

In It’s Complicated Meyers shifts west to California. Her character, our heroine this time, is 69-year-old Jane Adler, aka Meryl Streep. Long divorced with three, mostly grown children, she lives in a hacienda-ish home and owns and operates a thriving Parisian style patisserie in Santa Barbara.

While white slipcovers are a no-brainer these days, a predictable, washable option for a lived-in family room, Myers drops a bombshell when she accessorizes with intense orange contrasted with a pop of navy.

So what does this say about our heroine? Well, if we consulted Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology, about the properties and meanings of color in our lives—colors have qualities that elicit emotions and influence people in various ways. In this case the color orange demonstrates optimism, enthusiasm, self-confidence and agreeableness. Whew. That’s Jane to a tee.

So why that pop of navy? Because navy blue evokes feelings of power and authority–rather than the sense of relaxation and peace associated with  lighter shades of blue. Darker shades of blue tend to denote authority and importance.  No doubt who’s the boss here.


Lighting is a critical element of interior design. It can be used in dozens of ways to change the size and mood of a space and different types of lighting vary greatly in how they define the ambience of an area.

In the movies, lighting takes on a whole new dimension. It is a science and an art to make a room or a scene visible in a way that is not only illuminating, but also contributes to the “mood.”  Without adequate lighting all the other elements would vanish.

In this photo from The Intern we can see various forms of lighting from task—the kitchen pendant in the background—to ambient,  the Lindsey Adelman light fixture that hangs above the dining table—to accent, where she uses a George Nelson Bubble lamp for illumination on the console. This is a design trifecta!


Space is a fairly simple design element to understand—it refers to the physical boundaries of a room.

When you are Nancy Meyers you get to choose both the dimensions of the room you are filming and how to use that area’s space and layout to your advantage.

Meyers gets a lot of credit for the popularity of open concept floor plans. In an open concept plan the walls between rooms are removed—giving them a lofty or open feel—negative space, in contrast to the areas filled with décor, islands, sofas, and tables that represent positive space. I think that is a “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” situation, but there is no question that her kitchens are phenomenal and wide open. In Something’s Gotta Give note how the kitchen with its two massive islands opens into an equally massive family room.


Our final element of design is texture which is the feel, appearance, or consistency of a surface and can refer to rough or smooth finishes, glossy or dull surfaces, and soft or coarse textiles. Everything from fabrics and furniture to decorative accessories brings different textures into a space.  Texture is often used to provide an added dimension to a space.

While some may bemoan the neutral palate of many a Nancy Meyers’ flick, she always makes sure to shake things up with a ton of texture: plush rugs, linens, velvets…you name it, she’s got it in there somewhere.

For example, in Jane Adler’s cozy bedroom in It’s Complicated Meyers showcases mixed and matched antiques and finishes with aplomb. Then there are bamboo blinds layered under linen curtains, an upholstered headboard layered with Euro shams and snow white sheets and pillows, and what looks like a homespun linen khaki coverlet layered with a knitted tangerine colored throw. The result? A cozy and warm haven. What woman wouldn’t want that?

Meanwhile this woman had to come up with a new recipe for a Christmas Eve dinner that was easy to make but elegant to serve. Fortunately Melissa Clark, acclaimed food writer for The New York Times published this recipe just before Christmas and saved the day. And I mostly followed the recipe so it tasted amazing–it was meant to serve 8 and Keith and I nearly finished it off! Full disclosure I did not have fresh (or even dried) tarragon so I used a shake of thyme and we used regular pie crust instead of puff pastry because the latter was sold out. Next time (maybe New Year’s Eve even) I will make sure to have both on hand but honestly it was really good just the way I made it…


Feast of the Seven Fishes Pie


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved and thinly sliced (4 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 anchovies, minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour, more for rolling out pastry
  • ¾ cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup clam juice
  • 1 pound mixed mild fish fillets, cut into 1 1/4-inch thick cubes (such as cod and pollock)
  • ½ pound large shelled shrimp (16 to 20 count)
  • ½ pound large sea scallops, side muscle removed
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound puff pastry, thawed


  1. Butter a shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dish or casserole. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then stir in leeks and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook until soft, stirring frequently, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and anchovies and cook 1 minute, until the anchovies dissolve. Add wine and bring to a boil, then let simmer until the wine evaporates almost completely. Remove from heat and scrape into a heatproof bowl.
  2. In the same skillet, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook until pale golden, 1 to 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in chicken stock and clam juice, and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Simmer for 1 to 3 minutes until very thick (it will thin out as it bakes), then remove from heat.
  3. Pat the fish cubes, shrimp and scallops dry. Stir them into the sauce along with the sautéed leeks, peas, tarragon, parsley, capers and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Spoon mixture into prepared dish.
  4. Chill uncovered, for at least 1 hour, and up to overnight.
  5. Before baking, heat oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together egg with 1 teaspoon water. On a lightly floured surface, unroll pastry dough. Roll it 1/8-inch thick. Use a fish cutter or paring knife to cut out a fish from the center of dough. (Alternatively, you can cut circles from the dough and overlap them on top of the pie to look like fish scales).
  6. Place pastry on top of pie and trim edges, but don’t seal them (sealing impinges on the puffing). Brush egg wash all over pastry.
  7. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is golden, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 

(Movie photos are the from the Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment)