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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry, Merry Christmas!

I thought I was being brave last year venturing into orange, but when my husband said he'd like to see purple, his favorite color, in the decorating scheme, I was a bit concerned I couldn't pull it off... tastefully.

Then after an exhaustive search, I couldn't seem to turn up anything that didn't look like it belonged in the eighties or a teenage girls room. Ironically, I discovered from a few retailers purple was the "in" color last year.

So I found myself hours from starting the tree decorating with no real plan other than I loved the tree last year and the year before. I still wanted to use orange, but maybe in a more subtle natural way. That of course meant drying dozens of orange slices. A short time later I got a call from my husband declaring he found purple glass balls. He was at Home Depot,  now I was really nervous. Turned out no cause for concern was necessary. He came home with 2 large boxes with a mix of shiny and matte balls that conjured up visions of sugar plums! 

Each year I think the current tree is my favorite, but this year I finally realized they are all my favorites because they start with the same basic mix of things made by my kids and all the sentimental ornaments we've collected over the years.

Who would have thought orange and purple would be my favorite combination ever- well at least this year!


Friday, October 11, 2013

The Great Pumpkin Craving And A Favorite Muffin Recipe!

I go through it every year, that seasonal addiction that has me obsessing over pumpkins. Don't you?

Bet you can't eat just one!

The origin of the original recipe is unknown, I tore it from a magazine long ago. Over the years I've  made changes here and there until it had that perfect combo of spice and moist richness. It's a holiday staple in our house and a family favorite. This is my first time sharing it...with anyone!

Rebecca's Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12 count muffin pan with very soft butter using the butter wrapper or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl combine and set aside:
3 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1tsp salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves

In a large bowl, beat until creamy:
1 stick unsalted butter-softened
2 cups sugar

Then add:
1tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1 C. applesauce
1 C. canned pumpkin

2/3 C. apple cider*

Begin mixing in dry ingredients, alternating with the apple cider*.  Stir in nuts and raisins last.

Add 1 1/2 C. golden raisins (regular can be substituted)
Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans (if you're a nut lover)

Bake 18-20 minutes.

Sweet Twist:
Skip the nuts & raisins and top with your favorite cream cheese icing and turn it into a cupcake! Or mix softened butter with a bit of maple syrup and spread on warm muffins. Serve with hot cider for the perfect treat sitting by a roaring fire!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuesday Tip

Consider giving something you thought was really ugly a complete overhaul. The results may surprise you!
The client sent me this photo taken at night, I'd swear, just to demonstrate how ugly and hopeless the chair was in it's current state. It had been recovered in this red stripped, somewhat shiny,  fabric a decade ago. The little blue fabric swatch she tossed on the back indicated to me she was open to the possibility it could have a new life. That and a story she told me of how this was the chair that her husband used to sit on, with a board laid acrss the arms, so he could do his homework as a child. I pounced on it! And not just because of sentimal reasons...

but also becasue this chair had the right proportions, was well made and so interesting with the barley twist details! Not what you normally see on an Arts and Crafts style chair.  A bobbin or spool chair would have been a handsome addition to the room. But I didn't see the point when I knew this one would do just fine. We took the blue velvet seat from an occasional chair, just to have a look since the client thought she wanted blue to be one of the predominate colors in the room.

Purist's look away, or least try to keep in mind I was trying to save this chair from a life sentence in a basement. The new ebony color, proved to be just the stroke of genius that many of you got a good laugh over last year! It certainly yielded the desired effect to overhaul this baby.
 And, of course the perfect fabrics...

made the transformation complete. The cream toss pillow with the carmel velvet "conversation bubbles" is from John Robshaw and the wool plaid is from Kravet.  As you can see, we ended up with just a hint of blue-gray in the plaid I selected. I joked with the client that if she comes home one day and the chair is missing, it's at my house. Her response? It better not be because now it's one of her favorite pieces too!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

From McCartney To The Mundane, It Was A Sensational Summer!

Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
Although autumn arrived a few days ago, my mind still lingers on summer.  It was all the things summer is suppose to be- lazy, crazy and full of wonderful memories.  And though I did intend to take a break from blogging  for a month or so,  somehow it turned into the whole summer. It went by in a blink.

It has also been an adjustment period with many changes occurring in a very short period of time for all members of the household. But  most significantly, this was the first time, in years, our family has had this amount of consecutive time together.  So other than attending to my design work,  my only focus was to savor every single day, every single minute possible with the ones I love.

Scenes from our summer, from the mundane to the magical...

Spectacular giant urns and...

and  Limelight hydrangea have been on my wish list for some time. Lunch on the patio of 
The Red Fox Tavern in Middleburg, Virginia.

So inspired by the above, we added a new little garden of our own with Limelight's this year.
It wouldn't be summer without my blue hydrangea, and shrimp tossed with fresh garden herbs.
Summer is always a great time to catch up on your reading, especially for those attention mongers.
A stop in a favorite local flower shop to visit,  which just happens to be just a few doors away from a favorite French bistro.
As I reviewed my photos, I couldn't help but notice, this breakfast from one of our trips 
shares the same colors as the flowers above.
 I swear I didn't use all that butter!
At a little European inn we visited in June.
And  a visit here....

And a few steps away here. 

Then in July...This was my birthday present!!!!
It was an amazing performance and exciting show. Sir Paul's voice sounded remarkably the same as I remember back in his Wings days. A truly memorable evening, put it on your bucket list!

Like these people did! Nationals Park, Washington D.C.

Which usually looks like this.  GO NATS!

Later in the summer we headed up the east coast to swim with the sharks. Kidding, the fin on the left belonged to a beautiful, friendly dolphin in a school swimming within feet of my husband.
A spectacular spot to enjoy ocean breezes,  watch passersby and....

indulge in a frozen coke and hotdog with cranberry slaw!

Benches everywhere to enjoy the beautiful gardens and pool views.

As well as stylish, comfy chairs to sit and have a cocktail before dinner.

Some meals were a bit more refined: scallops, lobster tail and fresh produce.

While others were not!!!
This was waiting for us in our room upon arrival. Very convenient to toss in one's beach bag! 

After sun, sand and surf, we collapsed here. 

A view from our seats at the Kennedy Center before the crowds piled in for The Book Of Mormon
in August. It was  a great show, very funny!

I am going to miss the intoxicating scent of my Gardenia topiaries, but am looking forward to the fall season and spending time with my blog friends and readers once again.
Hello again, how was your summer?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day!

It's been more like autumn these past few days in Virginia, this morning was chilly and foggy. But when the sun broke, I grabbed my clippers...
White peonies, one of the very best things about the month of May!

Couldn't think of a better way to enjoy my coffee. Seems so peaceful right?

Ah, what you don't see- significant pouting and completely unimpressed with my morning haul.

At least these will be here after I attend to others!
Enjoy Your holiday!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tuesday Tip

Shop at home!!! There could be a collection hiding in the back recesses of cabinets, cupboards, drawers, storage boxes or the attic.
This is just one of the pocket watches belonging to my client. The red crocodile wallpaper is from Schumacher and was slated for the powder room, but ended up on a waste can instead! Don't worry, the PR was covered in a goreous paper.

And such was the case with the project I just completed. The client told me she had no collections. But when we started the process of pulling things out, she remembered something and we went upstairs and she showed me these:
The collection of pockets in this old shadow box belonged to the wife's side of the family.
The two on the right were from the husband's side.

She asked if we could do anything with it?  This is the sort of thing that gets me really excited when I'm working with clients. Initially, I wanted to use them as art, since she had just a few pieces and we were practically starting from scratch in that area too. But as things progressed and the rooms came together, I thought a table display was the way to go.
The best part of taking apart the shadow box is that it solved the mystery of who these pocket watches belonged. Someone had taken the time to pen a name with each one, such a lovely gift for the client!

The client polished all the combined pockets watches from both sides of the family and turned them over to me for a solution.  I put them in a simple glass display box lined in green velvet, leftover from chairs that were reupholstered:
I took this from the floor to get the best view.

All six watches gathered together for all to enjoy. The photographer loved this idea and said he has pockets watches and might have to copy it- that made me smile. I can't wait to see his photos capturing them!

After the pocket watch discovery, I asked the client what else she might be "withholding" and it turned out she had these:
Things ended up on the buffet when space ran out on the dinning table the day everything got pulled out for our meeting to review accessories.

Ten silver Jefferson cups, all inscribed with initials or dated to commemorate a special event such as a wedding or birth,  packed away in her buffet. They now are prominently displayed in a glass fronted cabinet near the kitchen to be enjoyed everyday!
The cups are on the upper left. Sorry for the blurry picture, but I helped myself to the bar after the photo shoot- kidding. But I did enjoy a glass of wine with my clients to celebrate their new spaces.

Btw, this is Tuesday Tip #75.  It doesn't seem possible!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Do You Need An Accessories Intervention?

I think from time to time most people can benefit from one, unless of course you are a minimalist- then I would hope that the few things on display are extremely interesting,  high quality or useful in some way.

L'Objet dragon candle in porcelain jar.
 Yes, this little guy was pricey, but long after the intoxicating scent is gone
 the container can hold anything from jewelry to paperclips to lipsticks!

Often people fall into a rut and keep buying the same things over and over. I find women tend to buy too many small objects- as if they can't commit! Before they know it, they've amassed a lot of items that they don't even like all that much,  serve no purpose and do absolutely nothing to enhance a room!

This particular client loves the beach and shells, but this wasn't working:
This was in the kitchen after the reno, but before the backsplash went in. A real head scratcher.
Uh...we need an intervention!

This was added instead. And her love of shells? Incorporated in more sophisticated ways.
The first step of an intervention is to shop at home! Initially, clients always dread this process. I have them pull everything out of everywhere. I even ask if I can shop their other rooms just in case they missed something. Afterwards, they feel always feel more organized and have a much easier time of getting rid of clutter and unnecessary objects.

Yes, we've all heard it many times before- accessories are the last layer, personalize the space, tell a story etc, etc, etc.  But, they can also bring a room down just as easily as they can elevate one. That's why an intervention is so often necessary. Survey the goods, then hand select the best and most useful items.
Once everything is out in view, I group the like items together- that way I can tell very quickly what there is to use and what problem areas may be present. Can you spot them?
 This client had too many glass items, too many small objects, a lot of shiny items and no flower vases.
We need an intervention!!!
I don't like buying things for my clients just to fill a void. I always prefer to use what a client has, add what they need and let those little voids fill themselves up naturally over time or add fresh flowers or plants. So often, it's really just a matter of using things you already have in a new way or by placing it in a different room. From the items gathered above, here are a few of the ways I used them around her house:

The client already owned these beautiful hurricanes. The shell orbs were found in a new local shop and the client loved them, but worried about their periwinkle color. My response, don't worry about the color and let's buy them- she never expected me to use them in her hurricanes! They are now on the dining room table and one of her favorites things.

I purchased this bowl for the client and dubbed it the mermaid bowl as a reference to the beach.
 The shell and twig were the clients and are made of graphite.

The client's brass candlesticks, that she didn't previously care for,  now
 look so pretty with their newly added unusual green pattern tapers.
Sometimes, a different arrangement is all that's needed to acquire a new found appreciation of things you already own and such was the case with with Abe. He once belonged to the client's father and got moved from room to room. He now sits, with dignity, on a library table.
The Lincoln bust now resides on the library table, with old keys found in the bottom of a drawer.
The brass julep cup and green bowl are new. They both serve a purpose, one holds matches the other flowers!
But, I'm no snob when it comes to accessories and I'll shop anywhere from Target to antique shops! However, I still keep my design peeves in mind, no matter what!
I think it's perfectly fine to pair a pricey  porcelain candle jar with an inexpensive faux shagreen
box from Target on a Swedish wood table!
 And when I do shop, I select each item with a specific client in mind and hope that it serves a function whether it's the soft glow of a candle in a wonderful scent, an attractive magnifying glass to read the fine print,  a handsome box to stash all the remotes, a vase for flowers, or a pretty pencil cup.
The tray and brass julep cup are new, the antler was found by the client's son
and the glass orb/paperweight I shopped from the clients office!

 It's rare that I ever buy exact the same accessory for different clients. It  has to be something pretty fabulous and flexible for me to buy multiples.

And, such was the case with Target's Nate Berkus faux shagreen storage box and the brass julep cups from my bloggy friend, Sue, owner of the fabulous online store!

Tomorrow's Tuesday tip will show a few ways of incorporating what client's already own into  beautifully displayed collections!