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.

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!


Into the Woods

Herbed Mozzarella Bread Recipe

Monmouth County never fails to deliver when it comes to home design.  There’s the eastern seashore with its mix of vintage and ultra-modern roosts built to embrace coastal living, and then out west lie the century old farms that made New Jersey the Garden State.

In between you can find everything from marvelous stately homes to garish McMansions, acres of subdivisions from every era, and finally, hidden in the hills and dales of Middletown, just forty miles from New York City, a slew of fabulous estates.  Over the years many of these properties were subdivided but, by and large, the wilderness was left intact.

When recent transplants from West Virginia had the chance to purchase a house in this section of Middletown, they were hesitant at first.  Empty nesters–they wondered–did they really need five bedrooms and four and a half acres?  Despite these initial misgivings they ultimately seized the opportunity to own an iconic home on a startlingly beautiful property.

Fortunately for us the new owners were in need of furniture and happened upon British Cottage…

Reflected in the mirror over an antique pine bench (from British Cottage) in the foyer of her new home is Angie Lambert.  Angie is a writer and a photographer,  Angie Lambert and it was great fun to exchange notes. She and her husband, Eric, bought the house in March from the original owners who had lived there for nearly 60 years!

The Frank Lloyd Wright inspired home saw many additions over the years as that family grew.  From the original, fairly modest structure wings sprouted, hither and yon, inside and out.  There are multi-level decks, bedrooms, offices, suites, great rooms, and a greenhouse.  Amazingly, in a relatively short amount of time, the Lamberts have managed to corral all these various nooks and crannies into a cohesive and charming family home.From the foyer, you are swept into the multi-story living room–which until a few weeks ago housed only the family pool table!  However, since the Lamberts were planning a Halloween/House Warming bash furnishing the living room became a priority.  And one we were happily able to help them with.  I love how the custom Hickory White Chesterfield sofa and Bergere chair, plus the two navy Century armchairs, all look like they were made for this room.

As I said earlier this is a house of many levels, and most of the rooms have multiple entrances and exits. The dining room is adjacent to the foyer and steps lead down into the kitchen.

The kitchen was renovated in the late eighties and was probably the cat’s meow at the time.  Although I am not quite sure about the green countertops–or even what material they are made of–they look nice with the terracotta floor and classic all-wood cherry cabinets.  And I mean really, how many all-white bespoke kitchens with Carrara marble will look this good after 30 years?

On the other side of the kitchen is the family room, which in case you were wondering, is where the pool table landed.  Angie repurposed a huge Pottery Barn hutch to make a fabulous workstation, added a pub table and chairs from yours truly and made another great room for young and old to relax in and enjoy.

Beyond the pool table is the greenhouse that made me–yes–green with envy.  Angie was kind enough to adopt four of my super-sized Boston ferns that were never going to survive the winter outside.

But wait.  There is more!   If you turn left, you can go back upstairs to another den/family room.  In fact, this is the room that first brought Angie into British Cottage.  She was searching for items to furnish this space, which her husband had claimed as his own.

I love how Angie (with a little help from a chum, Denise Dobken) was able to take our large heron print, an antique pine cabinet, a more transitional style coffee table and an armchair upholstered in herringbone and pull it all together. This is a teachable moment for anyone interested in home decor.  It doesn’t have to match–it just all needs to blend.  Don’t be afraid to go big and play around with scale.

But enough already.  Angie was baking and I needed to pay attention.

Herbed Mozzarella Round Recipe

Herbed Mozzarella Round
June Brown, Veneta Oregon

Served warm with soup or salad, this pretty bread is hearty enough to round out a quick meal during busy holidays.

4-1/4 to 4-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast.
1 tablespoon sugar.
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm mashed potatoes (prepared with milk and butter)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup warm milk (120 to 130 degrees)
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 to 3 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, and salt. Add potatoes and butter. Beat in warm milk until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough. Beat for 2 minutes. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Punch dough down, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into an 18-in. circle Transfer to a lightly greased 14-in. pizza pan. Sprinkle cheese over center of dough to within 5 in. of edge. Sprinkle with thyme and rosemary. Bring edges of dough to center, twist to form a knot. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine egg and milk, brush over top. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Cook for 20 minutes before slicing. Serve warm. Yield: 1 loaf

You cannot believe how good this smells and how wonderful it tastes.   It was like eating pizza from heaven, a perfect marriage of warm, melted cheese, and freshly cooked bread all enlivened by a dash of rosemary and thyme.  I don’t bake much but that is going to change!