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.

Shape

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

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

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.

Value/Light

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

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.

Texture

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

INGREDIENTS

  • 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
 

PREPARATION

  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)

Happy Mother’s Day

So last year at this time things, admittedly, were looking a little bleak. Locked up, locked down, whatever, so I made myself a Chocolate Mousse Pie for Mother’s Day and pledged to moved on. But not much happened…I didn’t write the great American novel, clean out my closets, or even my dresser drawers so in the fall I decided I would go back to college. 

My BA is in English Lit but I’ve been importing antiques and selling furniture for the last 36 years or so and actively engaged in interior design all along the way: renovating 6 or 7 properties from studs to thickly settled, designing custom furniture for the store, and participating in a number of showhouses. (Below is a photo of the AndersonCampanella Potting Shed (be still my heart) we furnished for one of the VNA’s Stately Home-by-the-Sea Designer Showhouses at  Sheep’s Run in Rumson. But I digress…)

It was in August when I realized that because there was  literally  nowhere to go, it was the opportune time to actually focus on the field that seemed to have chosen me.  Fortunately there is a nationally renowned community college, Brookdale Community College , ten minutes from the store offering classes in Interior Design so I bit the bullet, took the plunge and signed up for:

I really wanted to take CAD, computer assisted drawing but this was a prerequisite. The good news was my class was held in the classroom. I’m fairly certain remote learning would have not have worked for me; zoom is not my friend.

At first it did not go very well.

Printing has been my nemesis since first grade, but I persevered and learned more about creating a cohesive set of drawings that would convey an interior design plan than I thought was possible. There are multiple multiple factors and details to consider when designing a home, and I think we covered them all. No joke. Never cast aspersions on community college learning; this course was incredibly challenging. 

Below are the drawings for my final project which included an electrical plan, custom millwork and furnishings for a two bedroom house.

Phew, and did I mention presenting it all in Power Point? What was I thinking? Thank heavens my daughter, Laird, came home for a Christmas break and at the last minute walked me through the program; otherwise I would have walked into my final with a Mood Board and a bunch of samples and flubbed the whole thing.

But I got through it and even, thinking back, rather perversely enjoyed obsessively worrying about something other than Covid, the elections, the economy and my nearest and dearest scattered across the globe. So much so that I may have been the first in my class to sign up for the next semester.

Of course, after the first actual class, I was in total despair. At least I knew how to print, and read architectural drawings, and place furniture so figuring out the first semester was largely achieved by getting an eye test and new glasses (so I could see what I was doing) and concentrating on the task at hand, but this, this attempting to make my computer make a legible plan was insane. I stunk.

I won’t bore you with my trials and tribulations, but somehow, finally, I managed to figure it out. It wasn’t easy but here are the results. This time my final project was to design a 3200 square foot interior design office. Along with the electrical and furniture plans and millwork…

Then, the plans were uploaded into a laser printer and cardboard was cut into bits so the drawings created a scaled model, building, walls, floors, furniture, and all… Pretty cool huh?

It was totally cool when it all came together exactly like I planned–amazing what a little technology and lots of Elmers Glue can do. I located my firm in a repurposed industrial building with 12′ ceilings, exposed brick walls and polished concrete floors. Not super huge at 3200 square feet, but spacious enough for three offices, conference room, complete kitchen and furniture showroom. Stay tuned…maybe I’ll build it someday!

And now, here we are back to Mother’s Day and that eternal question, what should we have for dinner? This year I am voting for lobster from Doug Douty’s Lusty Lobster, and  Chocolate Mousse Pie, of course.

Heads Up for 2020

Pancetta-Wrapped Roast Turkey Breast (Turketta) Recipe

Last week the Wall Street Journal, after consulting over 100 experts in the design field, reported they had identified 6 new decorating trends “that are winning and waning” for the upcoming year. Some I agree with, like buying disposable furniture is out–I’ve never understood why people buy crap just because it’s cheap, or figure their kids will wreck it anyway so why even bother buying something nice? 

Rather than mention that perhaps children should always be taught not to wreck anything–let’s focus on the thrift and environmental angles. This is why secondhand stores, garage sales, and your parent’s attic exist; they are all great sources for cheap furniture that is well made and fairly kid proof. Our landfills are too full and our resources too stretched to keep buying junk. So enough of not taking your parents’ hand-me-downs. Man up. Or save up and buy something worth keeping. We started in the antique business and like to think even when we sell something brand new we are selling tomorrow’s heirlooms.

The next item on the list was a bit discouraging. Evidently  light or bleached floors are out–I’ll just have to concede that I may never be in because this is my house in the photo below. I have never had dark floors and really tried to give them a go in this house but there were just too many different woods involved (five) and no one darker stain would work on all of them.

Also I am fairly certain floor color has to relate to what is going on in your house–not the world at large. I think in my case dark floors would have sucked the life out of this room.  The ceilings are low, the room isn’t huge and I am trying to carve out separate but equal prep and dining spaces.

Next up was wall color. The chief decorating honchos have been trying to dislodge grey as America’s go hue for several years now–unsuccessfully. Now they are all about deep olive greens (and clearly too young to remember the avocado kitchens of the 70’s) earthy reds and ochres–which is code for mustard–so beware. 

The color I noticed most towards the end of last year and hope to see much more of in the future is blue. Perhaps my most favorite house I visited last year was a rhapsody in blue. Take a look at Gloria’s Rumson living room:

And I love this beautiful blue that Lori used in her west coast Florida condo.

And how can I ever forget David’s vibrant dining room in Tinton Falls?  Trust me, you cannot go wrong  with blue!!!

Their next observation was one I definitely agree with–straight edged ultra modern furniture is out: “We’re embracing the feminine touches and a soupçon of the romantic,” said Ms. Huh, a renowned NYC designer. Like Lori’s, Gloria’s and David’s rooms in the photos above, why shouldn’t furniture be pretty? But I also must confess mid-century modern (which was all there was in my youth and seems to be all the rage now) never floated my boat.

But there is hardly any antique period: Victorian, Queen Anne, Edwardian, you name it, that I don’t love–in moderation. And you can see all those influences in the furniture I chose for my living room.  Note the antique Biedermeier secretary, the oak drop leaf table that was Keith’s grandmothers, alongside a glamorous classic Chesterfield sofa and the delightfully  proportioned high hoop-backed wicker and wood Chippendale influenced armchair. Whew.

All of the upholstery is by Hickory White, the higher end division of Sherrill Furniture, and what we carry in the store. Full disclosure–I originally had planned on a navy and white scheme for this room but by the time the house was ready for furniture we had already sold it all! Fortunately we found these Hickory White showroom samples at the spring High Point Furniture Market and now, I think, they look like they were made for this room. Kudos to the great designers at Sherrill who made this all work!

Meanwhile back to the out list: colorless stone is totally over. But I adore my practically white faux marble quartz so much that I will just have to dare to be square. Like many of you I’d had it with the dark, swirly granites and really wanted to go with a more subtle Carrara marble but knew that ain’t happening with me, the original messy chef, at the wheel.

Next was slipcovers. Frankly I see nothing wrong with slipcovers and just picked up a Century sofa for the store in a dark navy and white seersucker slip that would look amazing in a small family room or beach house. But the point of the article was who needs slips when there’s tons of wonderful performance fabrics available now?  Providentially I do have a fabulous Century sectional in off-white performance fabric on the floor as well…

So, in conclusion, I think the point of the Wall Street Journal article is kind of well–pointless. What matters in home decor is not what anyone else, no matter how famous, thinks is in–or out–it is about your taste and what you like. 

It just makes sense to buy the best furniture you can afford, with an eye towards value and longevity, and don’t forget about comfort.  Please sit on that sofa before you buy it–all couches were not created equal. My advice would be to remember that paint is relatively cheap so go ahead and experiment with color on your walls, but floors and kitchen counters are expensive to redo so proceed with caution.

And in the end, let’s face it, the whole point of having a home is to have a place of your own to feast in and be festive. One of the best dishes we had all year was stuffed turkey breast wrapped in pancetta.  We’ve been trying to wean ourselves from beef and pork (not easy) and had already done the whole roast turkey thing for Thanksgiving and were beginning to despair of ever finding a meal worthy of Christmas when our daughter, Laird, found this recipe from Saveur .  Try it; you’ll love it!

Happy New Year.

Pancetta-Wrapped Roast Turkey Breast (Turketta)

Pancetta-Wrapped Roast Turkey Breast (Turketta)Matt Taylor-Gross

This preparation is inspired by porchetta—an epic Italian pork roast, the modern version of which often features a tenderloin capped with herbs and seasonings and wrapped in a layer of crispy, skin-on pork belly. The lean turkey breast is coated with a garlic and sage compound butter and layered with smoky cheese, enhancing the meats juices. And a thin layer of pancetta locks in the flavor and browns to a crispy exterior.

What You Will Need

Yield: serves 4-6
Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 14 cup minced fresh sage leaves
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced (1 Tbsp.)
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 whole, single boneless turkey breast, skin-on (2 lb. 2 oz.)
  • 2 oz. smoked mozzarella, diced
  • 8 oz. pancetta, sliced about ⅛ inch thick, then unrolled slightly
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, add the butter, sage, garlic, and fennel. Mix well with the back of a spoon and season the mixture with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Use a long, thin knife to butterfly the turkey breast, carefully slicing it along the longer side, and unrolling it until it is a long, even strip, about 1½ inches thick. With the skin side facing down, spread the turkey breast evenly with the compound butter, then top with the smoked mozzarella in an even layer. Starting with the narrow end, tightly roll up the meat so that the skin is once again on top and the seam is on the bottom. Neatly layer the pancetta slices over the skin side and use cotton kitchen twine to tie the turketta tightly 3 times crosswise and once lengthwise. Refrigerate the prepared meat (unwrapped) until you are ready to cook it, up to 24 hours ahead of time.
  3. 2 hours before you plan to serve, preheat the oven to 375°F. Set the turketta in a large cast iron skillet or medium roasting pan and brush it all over with the olive oil. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 130°F, 55–60 minutes. (The lean meat will continue cooking in the hot skillet for several minutes out of the oven, so we prefer to pull it out a few degrees before it is fully cooked to around 150°F.) Remove from the oven, tent the turketta and the hot skillet loosely with foil, and let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  4. Immediately transfer the roast to a cutting board; cut away the twine and discard. Thinly slice the roast crosswise, and serve hot.
  5. This last note is from me. Do not fret about butterflying the turkey breast–have the butcher do it! We had great luck with the team at Sickles Market in Little Silver. And try to find smoked mozzarella–not easy but worth the effort.
Laird and Keith and our Christmas feast.

Homing

Meat Pie Recipe

Homing refers to an animal’s ability to return to a place after traveling far away from it. While I know Keith loves living in the United States (he’s been here over 40 years for heaven’s sakes!) there will always be an England in his heart.  So it was brilliant to pop over the pond and soak up some real ale, visit with the relatives, and just be in that special British kind of groove for a couple of weeks this fall.First stop was in Surrey where we met up with Keith’s Auntie Pat.  No proper English home is without a garden and Pat always has one of the best. Love her hanging basket and bold use of color, so warm and welcoming.Next stop was arguably one of the most famous gardens in the United Kingdom: Sissinghurst, in nearby Kent. Originally owned by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson and now the National Trust, it is a must stop for garden lovers and English lit majors the world over. Vita was a Bloomsbury Group original, lover of Virginia Woolf, and gardener extraordinaire.

In her own words: “My liking for gardens to be lavish is an inherent part of my garden philosophy. I like generosity wherever I find it, whether in gardens or elsewhere. I hate to see things scrimp and scrubby. Even the smallest garden can be prodigal within its own limitations… Always exaggerate rather than stint. Masses are more effective than mingies.” Trust me there are no mingies at Sissinghurst!

It wasn’t huge, as English gardens go, but with allees and walls and hedges and borders, vistas, large and small abound. And the totally famous White Garden, even in fall, was a masterpiece of design with a lush fullness and texture that belied its ostensible lack of color. Green is a color after all. There was not a corner left untended–or unplanted and every turn brought another awesome vignette.I probably took two hundred more photos; everywhere I looked there was a better shot.  But, eventually cocktail hour approached and we were meeting a cousin at a fabulous pub and B & B in Tonbridge  so it was time to get a move on.

And time for a pint.Next we headed to Bognor Regis, a classic and classy seaside resort made famous by King George the V, and our home for the next few days while we enjoyed our niece Chantal’s wedding festivities.Between the seaside and the architecture Bognor Regis is a great place to stay so if you go to that part of the English coast give Brighton, the better known city just to the east, a miss–overcrowded and over-rated in my opinion–and stay in beautiful Bognor.  The wedding was a civil ceremony in the town hall in nearby Chichester. Here we are with Keith’s brother and his partner. (I decided against the fascinator; tempting as it was I felt it best to leave that look to the natives).  The reception was a double decker bus ride away at the groom’s parents nursery and garden center just outside of town.Sadly all good things must pass, even weddings with six surfboard salutes; it was time for us to get to work. First stop, Christies Auction House in London to see how master U.S. designer Michael S. Smith curated that week’s sale. The brief was to show how antiques can be incorporated into everyday design–a no brainer except it seems for everyone under 40 these days.For probably around $10,000. (if the auction estimates were to be believed) you could furnish a living room–and dining room! Granted they were not period antiques, but who cares? Everything in the salesroom, whether antique or merely vintage, was well made, decorative and well worth the cost. We would have and probably should have and may well do in the future.The other designer setting up the exhibition was Martin Brudnizki and his styling was to die for.Check this out.And this:There was just a mad assortment of things old and new and what a great treat to see how these two design Ninjas put this with that and altogether came up with a whole room you just wanted to take home. Kudos to Christie’s for coming up with the idea to show objects in situ.

Our next foray was to Kings Road. Home to iconic shop after iconic shop, it is a little bit of heaven for anyone with a penchant for interior design. Osborne and Little were showing Nina Campbell’s new line.The latest from George Smith was on display.Timothy Oulton (familiar to Americans through his RH connection) had just opened a new store called Bluebird. And clearly was channeling Michael S. Smith’s Christies vibe.Then we spent a long time at Trowbridge Galleries, the leading purveyors of art photography in England, and a vendor we are considering for the store.Next stop was the London  Design Centre,Chelsea Harbour .They were madly putting the finishing touches on many of the showrooms in preparation for the London Design Week. Loved the color of these sofas; clearly you can’t go wrong with pumpkin this fall.  It was a great way to wind up our trip and a fabulous opportunity to see the latest in home decor from a whole slew of world-class designers and renowned retailers.  But eventually all good things must end; it was time for us to go home.

Meat Pie

But I couldn’t stop thinking about the meal we had at Chantal’s wedding. Everyone was served a meat pie and then gravy, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots were placed on the tables family style. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!So I googled meat pies until I figured out how to do it.  Here’s the Nelson Family version.

Meat Pie

First make your favorite beef stew.  I delegated this to Keith and he made  a Beef Bourguignon, using his favorite recipe from The James Beard Cookbook.  The first night we had this in classic stew form, the next night we made meat pies.  All you need to do is buy some puff pastry–it comes in your freezer section and thaws in the microwave if you forget, like I did, to take it out of your own freezer.

Using an inverted glass, cut circles out of the dough and place in greased cupcake tins.  Fill with stew–a good trick I read and followed–is keep the filling on the dry side.  Next top with a pastry lid, using a fork to press the dough around the edges to seal the pies shut. Cut two small slits in the top, and brush on some egg white. Cook in a pre-heated 390 degree for 30 minutes.

Not bad for a first try–easy as pie! Keith was happy to have a taste of home and now you can too.

11:43:33

In the Works

Italian Sausage and Peppers Recipe

June swept by me and now July promises to do the same. However, right now I have a quiet moment so I can get to a few updates.

Let’s start at The Monmouth Museum – From June 1 to September 3 they have a timely exhibit for all of us home decor addicts. They are showing artwork with sofas and while the official stance is the art stands alone, the sofa is secondary, personally, I like it when it all matches. Here is what they paired with our British Cottage entry. Nice huh? Try to get there. The museum is in Lincroft on the Brookdale Community College Campus and there is a great children’s wing so maybe pop in on a rainy day.

Meanwhile, we are assisting with a mixed bag of design projects that showcase the variety of living situations in our two rivers area.  First, there is the Alderbrook update, where a very young at heart senior is curating a lifetime of possessions into a thoroughly up-to-date transitional interior. Then there is the Atlantic Highlands petite chateau where the owners have reclaimed their second story from their young son.  And are in the process of transforming it from a playground into a sophisticated master bedroom suite and home office for the work at home most days professional mom. This is the before. You are not going to believe the after but because this is a work in progress we all have to wait for the wallpaper to arrive…

Keep your fingers crossed. We’re counting on fabulous wallpaper from Thibaut and a to die for bed from Century to make this transformation a success.

Meanwhile who wouldn’t welcome an excuse to hang out at this updated Shingle Style home in Fair Haven, literally steps away from the Navesink River, where almost empty nesters are creating a sophisticated coastal haven?  Think the first-class berth on the QE2, no starfish and fishing nets here!

While we are not designers, after thirty years of shifting furniture around we’ve developed pretty good eyes and are usually happy to weigh in if asked.  At the store we marry the new with the old, casual with chic, and farmhouse with modern every single day so we are well aware of the challenges you face.  It is all about showing the things you love to their best advantage whether you are just starting out, or easing into retirement.

Speaking of taking things you love and mixing them up; try doing that with green, red. orange and yellow peppers. Add some hot Italian sausage and you have a fabulous, fresh dinner that tastes like summer.

The Wall Street Journal sometimes skews a little too right for my taste but their weekend features section is totally on the mark and my new recipe go to source.  This is from their “Slow Food Fast” column.

Comfort-Food Classic: Italian Sausage and Peppers

(Recipe by Chef Mashama Bailey of the Grey, in Savannah, Ga.)

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausages
  • 2 pounds hot Italian sausages
  • 6 bell peppers, a mix of red, yellow, orange and green, cored, seeded and julienned
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Crusty bread, for serving

1. Swirl 2 tablespoons olive oil into a heavy pot over medium heat. Add sausages, working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, and cook until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove sausages from pot and set aside.

2. To the same pot, add peppers, onions and garlic. Sauté until vegetables soften, about 15 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, remaining oil and vinegar. Return sausages to pot and turn gently to coat. Braise until tomatoes reduce to a sauce that cloaks peppers, about 10 minutes, adding splashes of water if pot looks dry. Serve with crusty bread.

Kips Bay Showhouse

Quiche Lorraine Recipe

Philip Mitchell Design
Mark Sikes
Alexa Hampton
Barbara Ostrom
Bunny Williams

For a while I’ve been off showhouses not being a huge fan of modern, slick interiors in garish colors, or the reverse, all grey minimalism.  But this year’s Kips Bay Showhouse had three of my favorite interior designers:   Mark Sikes, Alexa Hampton and Bunny Williams / Elizabeth Swartz  on deck…so Keith and I motored into the city on a particularly bleak Sunday in late May.

Located on East 76th street between Park and Lex in a 51 million dollar townhouse that is the largest on the NYC market today (read all about it here:  (Upper Eastside Mansion for Sale),  this showhouse had seven floors and countless rooms featuring the talents of the creme de la creme in home decor today.  So for your forty dollars you basically got a master’s class in design–not bad.

We started in the foyer–you could have sworn you were in Paris–then stepped into a spacious elevator that zipped us to the top floor which was entirely dedicated to an in-home spa space. Crazy.

On the floor below that was our highlight of the day: the Drawing Room by Philip Mitchell Design. OMG  Just when I had practically convinced myself that my days as a retailer were numbered because the upcoming generations don’t collect things, don’t want things, don’t need stuff–Philip Mitchell’s Drawing Room was the bomb. Anchored by a massive navy blue sectional festooned with a plethora of toss pillows bordered by a seemingly random selection of art, it was love at first sight.Navy Blue Sectional in the Philip Mitchell Kips Bay ShowhouseAnd it kept getting better. Everywhere you looked there was more, and, impossibly better, accoutrement. I’ve always loved the Bunny Williams bar set up in her Connecticut house and this was to rival that. Then there were the overstuffed chairs, flanked by baskets filled with books and magazines, flanked by ottomans, flanked by tables, flanked by–you get the picture.  I could just see myself sitting in this chair, feet elevated, sipping a Gin Fizz, devouring a juicy novel.Bar Set Up in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing room Coffee tables were all piled high with collections (note to self– take all unpolished antique brass candlesticks out of purgatory stat), more books, even plants. Who said orchids were so over? Note too all the stools and benches encircling the coffee table practically begging you to put your feet up and enjoy the flow.
Coffee Table in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing Room

Coffee Table in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing RoomEverywhere you looked there was more to see and enjoy. Game table. Check.Cozy corner with wicker chairs. Check.Tall shelf  nestled in alcove filled with blue and white porcelain. Check. Vintage dog bed. Check.I could go have stayed there forever but there were seriously another twenty or thirty rooms left to peruse so off we toodled.

Mark Sikes was up next.

Part of Mark’s shtick is his adoration of iconic beauties and he rolls with the idea that one of those lovelies has this totally gorgeous bedroom. It worked for me, not an iconic beauty however, but still a lover of blue and white, fab wallpaper, incredibly detailed soft furnishings, vintage objets d’art and antique furniture.The four poster bed was gorgeous, and I love how the base is upholstered to match the headboard and footboard. Pops of royal blue abound, and just imagine sinking into this upholstered velvet armchair after a glam evening out on the town.  I’m not really a huge fan of complex window treatments but l was bowled over by this pinch pleat swag curtain that probably has a proper name–probably French–c’est tres jolie in any case.Mark used  a contrasting fabric as a shower curtain and skirt for the bathroom vanity which I gather is all part of his new fabric collection for Schumacher. Well done!

We hated to leave but Alexa Hampton was waiting–not really–but her room was the next on our A list. Alexa has been on our British Cottage radar ever since we fell in love with her collection for Hickory Chair last spring at the High Point Furniture Market. Rich in color and texture, sophisticated and inspiring; we couldn’t wait to see her Kips Bay living room.

Decorated to the nines and terribly chic, I get it; but sadly  it could not make my heart sing.

Definitely my fault because I am not very fond of red. And that is all I see here. So even though I love love love the secretary, and all the attention to detail…In the end it was all too fin de siecle for me–but I embraced the opportunity to see a master’s work.  I had to marvel at the artistry that created the tromp l’oeil painted tented walls–and ceiling!  And the vision and creativity of the designer to put this all together.

And that is the point of showhouses (beyond of course the charities they support).  You get to actually see and experience a variety of decorative options. Some may be out of your comfort zone or beyond your budget.  But you get to get the idea.

Take Barbara Ostrom’s dining/living room. Noted for her over-the-top decor she did not disappoint here. (We first met Barbara at the initial Stately Homes by the Sea Showhouse in Rumson. She was probably the best-known designer on the roster and created a most opulent and stylish dining room–think Versailles, while we poured our heart and soul into the decor of a minuscule bedroom upstairs in the servants’ wing.)

I loved the placement of furniture and all the objects in her room, which I think may have been intended as a formal dining room, but Barbara being Barbara threw in a living room as well. The dining section features a beautifully set table–another Barbara-ism. And note the Andrew Tedesco mural on the ceiling. Like many of the Kips Bay designers the ceiling was treated as a “fifth wall” and it was literally a highlight of the entire room.And speaking of stuff, Barbara is fearless when it comes to decorating a room. The paintings are from all periods, including one by John Mellencamp, while the bibelots range from the Han dynasty to the present day. As always the color palette is on the vibrant side; in this case high gloss peach from the Farrow and Ball archives.

But I am sure if you are still reading you are wondering if I am ever going to wrap this up. Let’s end with Bunny Williams, co-chairman of the 2018 Kips Bay Showhouse and designer par excellence.

Bunny and her partner Elizabeth Swartz designed a room that was not a fantastical representation of anything–it looked to me like what I think a real life mogul would have in their real life living room in their 51 million dollar mansion off Park. Sophisticated, sleek, expensive, but still relaxing. A place to loosen your tie, plop your feet up and wait for the butler to bring your slippers and serve you a martini made just the way you like it.

There were two comfortable seating areas, fabulous art on the walls, a mixture of antique and contemporary furniture and some pops of color but nothing too too.

Except maybe this. It was a showhouse after all.You can read about all the other fabulous Kips Bay Showhouse 2018 rooms here: Architectural Digest Gallery Tour  

Quiche Lorraine

Meanwhile I just have to tell you about our brunch. You simply cannot go to New York on a Sunday and not have brunch. We didn’t have plans and fortunately stumbled upon a Belgian Brasserie at 240 East 75th Street almost immediately. Honestly it did not look the most engaging of venues, but it was drizzling, we were parched and famished so in we went.

The good news: the interior was spotless, our server excellent and the food terrific. I had my own mini Quiche Lorraine while Keith had French Toast from heaven.

  B.Cafe (Belgian Brasserie)

Thanks to Nicole Holland, I can show you how the Quiche was served.

I always  include a recipe in my blogs and seeing as I already featured Challah French Toast I think it has to be the quiche.  My problem is although I love quiche I’m not very good at making it.  Here is a recipe from Epicurious that might change that. However, I would use ham instead of bacon, like they did at the B. Cafe.

Quiche Lorraine

    • 1 Pre-Made pie Pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie
    • 12 slices bacon
    • 1 cup shredded Emmental cheese
    • 1/3 cup minced onion
    • 4 eggs, beaten
    • 2 cups light cream
    • salt and pepper to taste

PREPARATION

  1. Fry bacon until crispy.
  2. Chop bacon and combine with cheese and onions, then place mixture in pie shell.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper then pour into pastry shell.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated 425 degree oven. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 30 more minutes.
  5. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting

Kentucky Derby Day

Herbed Orzo with Feta Recipe

Given the rotten  weather we’ve been having these days the only way I was sure spring was here was when I was drinking mint juleps and watching the Kentucky Derby. We were happy to be invited to a small gathering of friends, parents, children–and dogs at the Lindekin home in Shrewsbury–second generation British Cottage shoppers by the way.  Which is good  because it confirms that the love of decorating is genetic and sad because we are clearly getting up there.

Their house is painted a cheerful yellow with two bay windows flanking the front door; it may technically be a starter home, but I could easily see finishing up here. The yard is huge and the house is bigger than it looks because the previous owners were very careful not to let the large extension they put on in the back impact on the charm of the original structure.

When you walk in the living room is on the left. And on the right is what was the dining room but now is a kind of an enlarged foyer. There was a huge debate about what to put in this room–clearly they nailed it!

Now all the dining takes place in the extension, which also houses the flatscreen televison, and man cave elements like the huge leather couch –and the bar.  The cabinet anchoring the TV is a British Cottage find, as are the vintage French fish prints.Then there is a huge farm table (from British Cottage) that this evening was all set up for a glorious buffet supper.Which all the guests, and hosts, enjoyed immensely.


Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

Steaks and salmon were cooked on the grill and served with a variety of fixings.  My absolute favorite was the orzo salad–

The recipe is from the always terrific Ina Garten aka “The Barefoot Contessa” and tasted amazing. I am so thrilled to have a flavorful  replacement for my former summer fave–that old-fashioned Potato Salad made with buckets of Hellmans mayo.  This was like winning an exacta–less calories and easier on the arteries!

Photo: James Merrell

  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound orzo
  • For the Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • To Assemble:
  • 4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup pignolis, toasted
  • 3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
  • 15 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.

Copyright 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, All Rights Reserved

Back to the Farm

Scottish Shortbread Recipe

Built by German immigrants in 1840, Tip Top Farm in Colts Neck started out as a relatively modest asparagus farm, but by the mid-1900s it had become the country manse of the Chairman and chief stock holder of the National Starch Company.  Now it is home to a thoroughly modern 21st century family.

Along the way there were additions; to the house, and property–at one point the farm was nearly 50 acres. Unfortunately there were subtractions too–in the 1980s the property was subdivided and all the farm-related buildings were razed to make way for the houses that sprouted up next.

Fortunately the main house stayed intact, albeit with a bit of tweaking; each of the owners has left their mark.  In lots of ways the story of Tip Top Farm is like a historical novel, the various occupants and their fortunes and misfortunes, mirrored the economic and historical events of their time–Downton Abbey here we come.

While walking through this house is like walking through a time machine; you would never mistake it for a museum. Even though they kept many of the original architectural details like thick crown molding, multiple fireplaces, hand-hewn beams and wide plank floors, over the the last 18 years the current owners painted, updated and transformed every single room– Happily stopping by British Cottage for furnishings and accessories each step of the way.  What a relief to finally visit this fabulous home I’d heard so much about. And trust me it did not disappoint!

I’ll start with the formal living room which is textbook ready for a lesson on how to make a room that is often all buttoned up and off limits–attractive–and cozy.  The overstuffed furniture,  working fireplace and centrally located flatscreen tv keep this room in play. There is no doubt it looks refined but comfort rules.

I liked how they anchored the television with an antique credenza, clustering the oft unlovely family photos below. These look great, and note how the vintage metal frames complement the tarnished brass feet and back railing of the sideboard.Next up is what was originally the library and now I would call it the family room.  I was happy to be reunited with the oversized clock face we bought ten years ago for our Potting Shed from heaven in the second Stately Homes by the Sea Showhouse.  Not many people would have thought to put it here, but you have to admit it does pack a punch. The pine bench to the left is nearly 10 feet long and neatly fills the space–as it did in our upstairs hallway until the homeowner spied it!Next up is the dining room.That is one of our fabulous flip top tables in the window. Closed it is the perfect console table but open it can sit eight.  Everybody wants a more informal style dining table these days–but with a leaf–and mostly they don’t exist. So the two or three times a year you need more dining space this extra table cracks it.  Note that tucked under the console table is a bench for–you guessed it–extra seating.
The red sideboard is another British Cottage find.  Really distressed and on the industrial side so I admit I to being a bit perplexed when this went on the truck, but as you can see it is perfect for the spot.

Adjacent to the dining room is the bar/lounge/sunroom.  Once a screened in porch, it is now a four season room with a wall of windows that really brighten up this part of the house. We bought the antique pine sideboard in England  years ago and it is massive. By now you may be sensing a common thread -these homeowners are absolutely fearless when it comes to decorating.

Another case in point is this most fabulous breakfront we found at Green Square Antiques in Copenhagen. It is an antique Scandinavian pine piece that the owners of Green Square had shipped to Poland to have lacquered. Then it was shipped back to Denmark and finally on to us in New Jersey; it is easily 8′ tall.

Finally I made it to the kitchen and the first piece of British Cottage furniture purchased for this home-the pine corner cupboard.  Although the kitchen was totally renovated a few years ago, the cabinet stayed. I love everything about this room: the porcelain tile “wood” floor, the gorgeous tin ceiling, and the swivel chairs in a bold fabric.On the other side of the kitchen there is a breakfast room with a barn door concealing the pantry on one side. And custom cabinets on the other.Instead of built ins for this breakfast nook/butlers pantry the owners had us make two cabinets to flank a painted pine chest with drawers. Note another decorating secret in action–you can be fearless with green because all greens go together. If you don’t believe me think of a forest.

In the middle sits the nuts and bolts of the kitchen. But note how they still made room for some decorative elements. I’d completely forgotten about the fabulous antique Mora clock in original paint from Sweden…and couldn’t believe I’d sold it. Darn. It is stunning.

But so was the rest of this kitchen. The stained glass window where a door once hung, the gorgeous marble countertop which is really Calcutta-Grey Quartz. (Information that makes reading to the bottom of this blog totally worth the effort.  There are pages and pages written about whether to not to use marble in  a kitchen…this is the answer.)

Recipe for Scottish Shortbread

While there was still so much to see and admire I couldn’t ignore the refreshments any longer.  Who would looking at this mouth-watering display?  Strawberries and scones and homemade Scottish Shortbread. Heaven.  Definitely time for a cuppa as my English mother-in-law would say.

The original recipe from the owner’s grandmother, in her handwriting.  Short and sweet and totally delicious.

1 Cup Butter (1/2 Lb)
1/2 Cup Very Fine Sugar
2 Cups Flour
Blend together thoroughly.
Bake 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Chez Bernadette

Roasted Chicken Legs with Potatoes and Kale Recipe

It is amazing how rarely I get to Rumson now that I live in Red Bank (which is sad because it is literally two miles yonder). So it was nice to be invited along on a delivery there the other day; our friend Bernadette got a spring refresh, and I got to visit the old neighborhood.

While you might think  Rumson is just one ritzy mansion after another, once you get off the main drags there are many unique homes on a much smaller, and you could argue more charming scale.  In this case what was once a fairly modest cape has, over the years, sprouted wings and els, and is now quite a robust beauty. I guessed Bernadette’s house was built sometime in the 1040’s but I guessed wrong. Like many homes along the Shrewsbury River shoreline, this house was barged over from Sea Bright over 100 years ago! There are so many things to love about this house but my favorite might be the Dutch door. I have wanted a Dutch door my entire life and Bernadette’s is absolutely the most perfect shade of blue.

  It turns out to be Blue Sea Foam by Benjamin Moore.

Fortunately, Bernadette is a much better housekeeper than I, because her house was camera ready when I ran through at 9:30 in the morning snapping photos of the various British Cottage items she’s purchased over the last couple of decades(!) while Keith did the heavy lifting on the delivery.

I started in the kitchen.  This table from British Cottage is at least 25 years old.  That is the good thing and the bad thing about selling great furniture; it never goes out of style, never breaks, and thus never needs replacing (sad for us, great for our customers). This kitchen has been remodeled two or three times and our classic pine farmhouse table always makes the cut.

In the dining room, I spied a white porcelain bowl from our Chinese export collection under a painting by Barbara Cocker—another former neighbor and longtime West Park resident.  She was quite famous locally and in Nantucket, her summer haunt, for her riveting coastal paintings.  Until I saw Bernadette’s I had forgotten I always wanted a Mrs. Cocker painting. Sigh.

The other thing I would like to point out in the dining room is the gray cabinet.  So often people own a mahogany or cherry breakfront, or china closet, that works like a dream but looks like it belongs at Winterthur—too ponderous and heavy for our laidback coastal décor.  Bernadette had hers painted gray; a brilliant move that keeps the dining room still formal, but not too. (Needless to say, you should NEVER do this to a period antique but it is quite acceptable to repurpose quality machine made pieces from the 20th century).

A quick stop in the living room for a snap of one of our orb chandeliers with the crystal centers. So many people talk about putting a chandelier over a coffee table—but it takes a certain amount of courage to do it.  And look.  What a pay off! Instant architecture with a focal point that literally brings light into play. Brilliant.

Next, I dashed upstairs to see how our paneled bed turned out. We normally only sell the whole bed, but in this case, just a headboard was required.  It’s bolted to a frame so it doesn’t flip or flap. And I must say quells the argument that you can’t but a bed in front of a window–of course you can.

All’s left is to see how the family room revamp worked out.  What do you think?

This is the den that was created when a master bedroom was added to the east side of the house.  We brought in the Gustavian style console table, painted a soft gray, for under the front window, added two square gourd lamps, and a couple of mirrors and side tables to give a little structure and depth to this serene space.

Even the dad corner looks pretty good!

The clock was ticking–we open at ten–but I couldn’t leave Bernadette’s without a recipe in hand.  She promises this is delicious–I haven’t had a chance to get to the kitchen to try it myself.  The kale worries me a bit; I want to embrace it but so far have failed. Bernadette assures me that will all change once I make this fabulous recipe from Food and Wine.

original-200812-r-roasted-chicken-kale.jpg

For this easy one-pan dish, Grace Parisi roasts chicken legs on a bed of potatoes and kale so the meaty juices keep the vegetables moist. Prep takes just 10 minutes and the resulting meal serves eight or makes for excellent leftovers. There’s very little clean-up as everything bakes up together and can be served straight from the pan. It’s super healthy from the kale and lemon, but also hearty because of the roasted potatoes.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds tender, young kale, stems and inner ribs removed

1 1/2 pounds medium Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

8 whole chicken legs (about 10 ounces each)

1 teaspoon paprika

Lemon wedges, for serving

How to Make It:

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 450°. In a very large roasting pan, toss the kale, potatoes, and onion with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread in an even layer.

Step 2

Set the chicken on a cutting board, skin side down. Slice halfway through the joint between the drumsticks and thighs. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the paprika and set on top of the vegetables.

Step 3

Cover the pan with foil. Roast the chicken in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for 30 minutes longer, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Transfer the chicken to plates and spoon the vegetables alongside. Serve with lemon wedges.

Serve With:

Combining chicken, greens, and potatoes, this one-pan recipe is a meal in itself, but it would also be delicious with homemade hummus or other easy spreads like a cucumber-yogurt dip.

Year End Wrap Up

Johanna Roselle’s Bolognese Sauce

Inspiration is everywhere.

 We began 2017 at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, happily wandering through room after room of priceless artwork, and decorative objects from all over the world. Often people remark on how beautiful our store looks, and are amazed that neither Keith nor I have a background in design.  Over the years we’ve gotten very good at selecting and presenting the objects we sell basically by just looking at everything, everywhere.  Most of the largest museums have several floors filled with completely furnished rooms from different periods and even other countries on exhibit–making it possible to soak up several centuries of interior decorating–in just one afternoon.

Next up in January was Atlanta and the America’s Mart, literally over a million square feet of the latest and greatest in Home Furnishings and Accessories, and we wandered around there for several days.  Besides thousands of vendors and products, America’s Mart featured a series of room-size vignettes styled by a half dozen leaders in American interior design.Everything old is new again.                                                                                          While the first interior is from 18th century England, on display at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the second by a very 21st century Austin Texas designer, you can see similarities.  Pattern, color and texture are blended, not matched.  And some objects are simply  timeless, like blue and white porcelain, or an architectural mirror. Which leads me to the next bit of wisdom.

Don’t be so quick to get onto the next trend.                                                      Sometimes a tweak, an addition or a subtraction is all you need.   Maybe adding a contemporary lamp, or a modern painting  will add a dash of spice to a room that is beginning to look dated.  In the photo above, the owners of a fabulous century home were over their formal, darkwood dining room, but they were not about to give up on elegance either.  The answer?  An oversized rustic table partnered with contemporary art and an antique crystal chandelier.  Who wouldn’t want to linger over coffee and dessert in this room?

It doesn’t hurt to try something new.                                                                          One of the happier moments at British Cottage has been the introduction of upholsteryWe started with Hickory White, a third generation, family-owned company from North Carolina and then in the spring added Century Furniture.  Also, family owned and based in North Carolina, Century offers us access to the new miracle fabric, Crypton and a whole host of different designs.

Listen to the experts.                                                                                                       When we get the chance, we buy the floor samples at the Century and Hickory White showrooms when we go to the furniture markets.  That way we get the latest fabrics (which may not be in stores for months) and the newest styles–put together by world-class designers for the next season’s looks in home furnishings.  Along the way, we get a free lesson in design. I mean, who ever thought you would find mid-century modern at British Cottage?  But we loved this sofa with chaise by Century Furniture so much we decided to give it a shot.

Don’t be afraid to take it up a notch.                                                                              We get why RH went all gray.  It takes some thought (and balls) to add in color, but the payoff is huge when you do. Lillian August used these ancestor portraits in her showroom and after thinking about them for a year we decided to get them.  That pop of color and the scale of this artwork makes the whole store look better.  Lastly, have some fun.                                                                                                                   Decorating is all about making your home, and by extension, your life more enjoyable.  It does not have to be perfect; it has to be welcoming.  When I grew up in Rumson 1000 years ago many of my friends lived in huge houses with huge rooms with matching carpets and couches and window treatments and guess what?  Nobody was allowed in them!

Meanwhile, our kid-centric, (there were six siblings plus innumerable chums) pet-friendly house was filled with mismatched, hand-me-down furniture and we had people everywhere. No rooms were off limits; the sunroom might house a ping pong table one year, a pool table might be in the dining room the next.  Trust me, the joint was always jumping.

Mealtimes were huge in our family.  Our happiest moments were when our mom  (of Anglo-German descent who, fortunately for us, grew up next to a large Italian family in Rhode Island) cooked up a Sunday Sauce with Sausage and Meatballs.  However, I think we might have enjoyed this Bolognese Sauce from the Roselle family just as much.  Gene, and his wife Johanna, live in Tinton Falls and have been British Cottage customers for years.  It took nearly a year of pestering, but I finally got the recipe!

Johanna Roselle’s Bolognese Sauce

Add a glug of olive oil to a large cast iron pot, and saute 1/4 pound of diced chopped pancetta until brown.  Then chop and add one  medium sized onion, one stalk of celery, half a red pepper, and four large garlic cloves then cook until soft–about eight minutes

Add one and a half pounds of ground pork or two pounds of ground sirloin (I mixed them together when I made this recipe because it is a known fact I am unable to follow directions). Add salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about ten minutes on low heat.

Raise the heat to medium and add one and a half cups of whole milk and a dash of grated nutmeg and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated–stirring frequently.  Then add one cup of dry white wine, and cook until that nearly evaporates.

Add two cans of plum tomatoes roughly chopped and one cup of chicken stock and gently simmer for at least one and a half hours.    Keep remembering to stir the pot and add more milk if the sauce gets too thick.  Add some fresh basil at the end.

Serve over pappardelle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

And don’t forget the Christmas Crackers.  Happy Holidays!