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 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!