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.
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.
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.
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.
Speaking of wins, our favorite meal this spring has been from a recipe I tore out of TheWall 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
FYI: 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
2tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 to 6 thighs)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and diced, plus more fennel fronds, for serving
1medium yellow onion, diced
1teaspoon dried oregano
¼cup roughly chopped anchovy fillets
5garlic cloves, minced
¼teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1tablespoon tomato paste
¾cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
1cup long-grain white rice
¾cup pitted Castelvetrano or other green olives, halved lengthwise
⅓cup raisins, preferably golden
2cups low-sodium chicken broth
1medium navel orange, 1/2 juiced and 1/2 thinly sliced
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.
Flip the chicken thighs and cook for 3 minutes on the other side, then transfer to a plate and set aside.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Top with fennel fronds, more red pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of salt. Serve hot.
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.
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 upholstery. We 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!
In the olden days, decorating was the wife’s job; real men played golf, watched sports on the telly and stayed out of the kitchen. Clearly those days are over. Real women go to work, real men cook and everybody has a say in decorating. But he likes mid-century modern and she wants comfort and warmth. Holy smokes! What do you do?
You compromise and together you create your own signature look.
Take, for example, this Rumson carriage house. When the new owners took possession they brought with them the husband’s significant modern art collection and his design sense which was perhaps a bit formal, while the wife was angling for an up-dated, yet comfortable, elegant, yet child-friendly end of the spectrum.
First thing they did was transform what had been a formal living room into a lively gallery of amazing art, complemented by a modicum of seating. The idea was to marry comfort with spare and sleek. They wanted room where the art could shine, adults enjoy a cocktail and their three children to romp–the walled off living room, like husbands who don’t decorate, a thing of the past.
For a while it was perhaps it was a bit too stark but once they replaced a burnished hunk of copper coffee table with this painted wooden table from British Cottage the living room finally came together.
The modern, copper coffee table that was in the living room happily found a new home in the family room where it compliments the metal work on the fireplace and anchors the massive leather couch.
(I’m not sure whose idea was the basketball hoop over the fireplace in the family room–we would have loved this when we were kids). They added a couple of custom Hickory White side chairs in navy plaid from British Cottage that swivel so you can either have a conversation or watch the game on the television on the wall opposite the couch.
Perhaps my favorite room is the dining room. They kept the previous owner’s chandelier–from the days when the house was decorated in an over-the-top chateau style–and it looks pretty and romantic. The husband was quite sure how he wanted the custom British Cottage table to look, striking and vibrant in dark oak which works beautifully with the linen-like but really Sunbrella slipcovered sidechairs chosen by his wife. The plain white walls and woodwork were a bold choice in this time of paint the world fifty shades of grey but it really lets the art and the architecture shine.
We’ve been making house calls to this home for the last couple of years and every time we go it looks better and better. I think every nook and cranny has engaged the attention of both spouses and each has allowed the other their vision creating a lovely, family friendly home in the process. Not easy.
Keith and I are huge fans of the show, Fixer Upper. I confess to having spent countless evenings mesmerized watching to see what a hundred grand could do in Waco Texas–where we live in NJ that’s basically a master bath.
So sadly when we visited the Magnolia Homes Showroom at the High Point Furniture Market it was a bit disappointing. Overall we were not overwhelmed by the furniture; it all seemed a little underbuilt. We kept looking for a Clint Harp kind of table but instead most everything was like the coffee table in the photo above, flimsy with a kind of post-modern vibe so I didn’t even bother to take many pictures.
One exception was the beds. I thought quite a few of them had that romantic, je ne sais quoi that makes furniture exciting. This vignette to me reflects the Joanna Gaines we have come to love: romantic, country style that is surprisingly sophisticated.
I have a vendor who makes a bed like this and now I just might get it. I just love the iron canopy, the dark hue and the dreamy styling.
And I thought the beds for little girls were both sweet and charming.All the bedding was lovely and from a company called Bella Notte Linens. I had just purchased similar bedding for the store from a company called Amity Home so it is nice to know Joanna and I are on the same page.
One thing I totally loved in the Magnolia Homes showroom was the kitchen; it was classic Joanna with subway tile, a farmhouse sink and a massive island topped with zinc. With freestanding shelving instead of upper cabinets, wide-planked flooring, and an industrial-style chandelier, it was inviting and practical. (Although not so sure about the galvanized garbage can.)
Banana Bread Recipe
What I am sure about is that this kitchen looks like a fun place to whip up a loaf of homemade Banana Bread; here’s Joanna’s recipe and boy is it delicious!
Maybe one of the more famous people we did not meet at High Point, but certainly it felt like Joanna Gaines was everywhere!
Twice a year thousands of vendors and buyers gather in High Point, North Carolina to preview the coming season’s latest introductions to the furniture industry. Although Keith and I design most of the items we sell it is always instructive and illuminating to see what the trends are, and it’s also terrific fun to purchase items that complement the British Cottage Collection. After all how many people get to pay themselves to shop?
Along the way we also pick up words of wisdom and design ideas from some of the leading designers and innovators in the trade. Here is Windsor Smith— a leading force in the Los Angeles design industry whose elegant interiors are a masterful mix of elegance, modernity, tradition–and yes–comfort. Next to her is Carl Dellatore, editor of “Interior Design Mater Class: 100 Lessons from America’s Finest Designers on the Art of Decoration” published by Rizzoli this October. If you buy only one book on design this season–this is it.
Down a few flights of stairs were Barclay Butera and Kathy Ireland–also powerhouses in the California design world. We have always loved how Barclay manages to meld beach house cool with an English manor house sensibility, and we all know that anything former model, Warren Buffet confident, and entrepreneur Kathy Ireland touches is sheer gold. When she says color is making a comeback; we listen.
Fortunately we are so on trend, because we had already purchased this fabulous couch and chair at Hickory White.
Not sure you will see a salmon pink wall anytime soon at British Cottage, (and I will source the Benjamin Moore color for those of you who have asked), but the couch and two chairs should arrive in a few weeks. We like to buy the Hickory White floor models. Why not take advantage of their professional design savvy and add to our inventory at the same time?
And in for a penny, in for a pound as the pundits say, we also bought this couch and chair, again in a rosy hue.
But fear not, we did not go completely pink, we also purchased this lovely, royal blue velvet sofa and two complementary armchairs.
Usually it is all work and no play for us at Market. Cocktails are free and flowing throughout the showrooms, but we have found drinking and shopping is a volatile combination that results in expensive mistakes. And while there is always fabulous entertainment in the evenings, we never get to go; we are simply too tired from walking at least ten hours a day at the show to venture out in the evenings. Fortunately for us, on a late sunny Saturday afternoon Maggie Rose was practicing for her upcoming performance, and we got an advance preview.
I like to end my blogs with a recipe, but food is beside the point at the High Point Furniture Market and largely forgettable except for one item:
Salami Roll Ups
It was late in the day, actually early evening, and we were trying to squeeze in one last show room before we went back to our hotel. We watched as a 70+ year-old woman, with hair like all Keith’s aunties in England had back in the days when a perm meant tight curls in an unnatural color, walked slowly up the stairs with a plate of appetizers.
Perhaps she had some connection with the staff and was delivering a special treat welcoming them to High Point, rewarding them for a good days work? I have no idea. But we were starving, and offered a sample we were thrilled to say yes.
Cue the flashback! The last time I remember having a salami roll up was back in 1969 when a friend’s mom hired a bunch of us to prep and serve hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party she was hosting on Chappaquiddick. My mother was more the Wispride on a Triscuit kind of gal so I thought these roll ups were just about the most wonderful things in the world–and very exotic.
Fast forward to today, and I can say while a Salami Roll Up is not the chicest of treats, they sure do taste good.
Here’s the recipe:
Take a quarter of a pound of good hard salami thinly sliced. Put a small wedge of cheddar cheese and a sweet pickle on top of each piece of salami. Roll and secure with a toothpick. Serve.
I’m pretty sure the last thing my son and daughter-in-law expected was for me to write about their house after we visited them last week in deepest Nebraska. With a three week old infant, a toddler and a proud kindergartener just getting three meals on the table and everyone dressed in the morning is challenging enough. No one has the time, or the inclination to worry about home decor at this stage. But hey, I liked their house so much I couldn’t resist.
Built just last year in a subdivision outside of Omaha, my immediate thought when I learned of the purchase was great, ho-hum Midwestern tract housing-does it get any worse that that? Well I could not have been more wrong. Not only does their house have great curb appeal (even in this photo I cribbed from Zillow), with a lovely stone foundation, rocking chair ready front porch and an interesting roof line.
But also the interior is just as nice with exactly the right amount of architectural details, a thoughtful floor plan, hardwood–not engineered flooring and although not huge, very spacious. In fact their house amazed me by how livable it was and I realized how having a house that is actually designed for the people living in it, a twenty first century family, makes their life a whole lot easier.
My homes have always been old, requiring tons of imagination, effort and cold hard cash just to make them function. We’ve turned porches into playrooms, attic space into master bedrooms, added bathrooms and laundry rooms, jacked up sinking garages, and waterproofed basements. We have enjoyed making our houses into homes but we have never had a house that was designed for a modern family.
Our first two houses had detached garages designed to stable the horses! The next house had an attached two car garage in which you could squeeze in maybe one mid-size auto but certainly not two trucks like their house does with its three large car attached garage. Whoever thought of that was brilliant–space for two plus-sized family cars and all the bicycles, toddler vehicles and lawnmowers. You, and your spouse, can actually park your cars in the garage and walk straight into the house.
Then you enter an ample mud room and off come the shoes, and jackets, purses and back packs get hung. Not rocket science but still…
Next up is the kitchen. Not huge, but with a center island, double ovens, a plus size fridge, a walk in pantry, and still room for a kitchen table, all you could wish for.
And I loved that there was another, separate dining area. Home office by day for the modern working mom, but just steps from the kitchen to make entertaining a breeze, and a bit more elegant than sitting on top of the actual work space.
There is no formal living room. The space off the kitchen is the family room with tv and just enough toys and books to keep the kids busy but not so many that they can’t be quickly put away when bedtime approaches or company is coming.
Wisely they opted to finish the walkout basement adding carpeting, a bedroom and a full bath. Perfect for visiting grandparents and perfect for two little boys stuck inside on summer days when the temperature is over 100 or in the depths of winter when snow and ice reclaim the prairie.
Upstairs there is a master bedroom suite with a fireplace, sitting room (where the treadmill sits), master bath and walk in closets, then three more bedrooms and an upstairs laundry room. Here is our newest baby modeling the upstairs quest room with all its fabulous British Cottage furniture.
Now, what do you eat in Omaha? Steak of course.
T-Bone Steak Dinner
Sprinkle T-Bone steaks from your Uncle’s farm in South Dakota with salt and pepper and grill. Serve with baked potatoes topped with sour cream and fresh chives, and the last of the carrots from the garden roasted in the oven.
Our furniture goes to the most lovely homes but rarely do I get to see them in person. Keith makes the deliveries and usually I merrily send him about his way. But Sunday I joined him on a jaunt to Quoque, a town, that to me, is all about the best Long Island living can offer. Sure there are multiple monstrosities masquerading as homes but there are also many terrific looking, normal sized houses that offer families fresh air and sunshine just sixty miles outside Manhattan.
The house we delivered to probably started life as a smallish ranch. But with the breezeway now a foyer and the former two car garage a den and the roof line altered to cathedral height it is certainly something else entirely today.My first advice to any novice interested in my decorating opinions is always to stay clear of jewel tones. Clearly this delightful great room proves me wrong. I love how the bold color adds definition to the space and provides a framework for all the diverse objects in this room. But also note how the glass coffee table, light rug and furniture keep the mood happy. As does Uncle Bowwow’s portrait to the left of the fireplace!
Next to the sitting area is a large farmhouse table made of old pine barnwood and next to that is a massive island separating the galley style kitchen from the rest of the room. It looks like it works fine for two–or what happens sometimes I am sure when you have a house in Quogue–twenty!
But the whole point of a summer house is not the interior is it? Sure there are rainy days and evenings spent playing scrabble, but really you want to be outdoors. And what makes this house so terrific is the fabulous swimming pool just steps from the kitchen. Who needs the beach?And as if the gorgeous pool wasn’t enough, the landscaping then is the icing on the proverbial cake. With both sun and a shade perennial gardens there is always something blooming magnificently.
Now let’s talk about lunch.
Recipe for a Perfect Summer Lunch
Go to the farmer’s market in August and buy the freshest tomatoes, slice and layer with some fresh mozzarella and lots of fresh basil leaves–and I mean fresh when I say it three times. This will not work with tired tomatoes or droopy basil or supermarket cheese.
Top with home made vinaigrette or just use some of Marie’s Original Salad Dressing. Serve with a loaf of french bread and a nice chunk of good butter.
For thirty years Keith and I have traveled to Europe to buy container loads of antique–primarily pine–furniture. We started in England, then went to Holland, Denmark and finally Hungary purchasing hundreds of items to sell in our Red Bank, NJ furniture store. At some point we started adding furniture made from old wood, and then new wood, to meet customer demand for specific items. When our factory in England went bust after one recession or another—our Hungarian supplier of antique pine started building for us.
The big news this year is that we are now producing our own line of furniture made with weathered oak to meet the demand for the grey, drift-woody tone that originated in Belgium but has been happily adopted by the savvy American furniture buyer.
In addition to the oak items we are also introducing a whitewashed pine finish:
All the new items meant long days of hard work, figuring out what to make and how–but eventually dinner time would roll around. One of our favorite restaurants in Eger is called FeherszarvasVadasztanya. The food served there is rustic and hardy, and we always make sure to fill up on the Beef Goulash.
Love this menu!
Cut a couple of pounds of well-larded chuck steak into chunks and toss with 2 tablespoons FRESH paprika (not the stuff that has been sitting around for the last couple of years), a tablespoon of flour, a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of caraway seeds–if you have them.
Pour some olive oil in a heavy casserole dish and brown the meat in batches until it’s golden and crusted and set aside.
Scrape the bottom of the pan and add two thinly sliced onions and one green pepper thinly sliced also, and more oil if needed. When the onions are soft remove the peppers and add the leftover flour and spice mixture to the pan and stir.
Add the beef and water to cover, making sure to scrape and mix in all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pot and put in the oven at 350 degrees for two and one half hours. Remove the lid and add the cooked peppers and cook for another half hour until the meat is very tender.
Taste for seasoning. In Hungary, this is served with spaetzle-a soft egg noodle that I don’t have a clue how to make but adore. Being essentially lazy I just ladle the goulash over the regular supermarket variety egg noodles. A dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives is always nice. As is a bottle of Bull’s Blood, or Egri Bikaver, a fabulous red wine blend from Eger.