Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I am so jealous of your turkey....

Mr. Poultry ~ Dutch Touch Art

I am actually quite envious of my American readers and friends this week. I much prefer the date of your Thanksgiving. Our low-key Canadian Thanksgiving is a much earlier (October) and much more sedate. Yes, the turkey dinner, but really that's about it, one big meal. Your timing is better, having it a month before Christmas is much more exciting, sort of a prep for the biggest holiday coming up as it opens the Christmas season. You get the added benefit of Christmas decorations in stores and streets which makes your celebration all the more festive. And you keep all the men out of the way with all those football games....genius! Even though our family lived on the Canadian side of a border town, my Dad worked in Michigan. We always celebrated American Thanksgiving so it was a day off school for us as we headed over to see the Thanksgiving parade, then headed home back across the bridge for turkey and pumpkin pie. For one day a year we pretended to be Americans (actually half of my siblings are) and we were always awed by the American way. You just seem to know how to have a party! You know, I can be ready at a moment's notice.

Mr. Wild Turkey ~ Dutch Touch Art

To all my American readers and friends, have a safe, warm, and wonderful Thanksgiving with your families.

I shall be thinking of you all.


Both hand-painted oils from Dutch Touch Art

Monday, November 23, 2009

My kind of prissy store......

By the time I was 6, my mother had likely relized she had created a prim, but polite little fashionista. I insisted on wearing white gloves to go along with my long blonde ringlets (it was the 50's) and little handmade princess dresses whenever we went socializing. As the only daughter with 4 brothers, I was a willing girly girl all the way. At 7 yrs. old we moved across the border from Michigan to Canada and right next door to a rambuctious Irish family of 4 girls. They took one look at this fussy and girly import and pretty well told me to lose the immaculate white Keds, flowing hair, and princess attitude if I had any illusions on joining their club. I must have wanted new friends and new adventures (being prissy was getting boring) because I lost the tiara real quick, got a pixie haircut, quit cleaning my white Keds and joined in all the fun. I got to thinking of this recently (not that my old friends have ever let me forget it) when we happened upon this exquisite store in Cannes recently.

Another illusion that I operate under is that I am the detail person in my household. I was so busy absorbing the window display seen at I Pinco Pallino that I failed to notice something and I still can't quite believe it. It was my husband who casually said "did you notice the hem?" Wait, this can't be happening, that the logical, non-creative one in this marriage would notice this exquisite detail and I would miss it? My reply " Yes, of course I did". I have to preserve my reputation.

I Pinco Pallino is an upscale and Italian-based chain of children's clothing stores. Which means you can usually find one in major cities during your European travels. It could only be princes and princesses of royal or celebrity lineage who could actually buy and wear these clothes, but what exquisite detail, style, and craftmanship. It is a not-to-be-missed store for anyone who appreciates beautiful things and truthfully it is more lovely than this interior web photo suggests (love the floor). I could have bought that ivory window display outfit just to look at and admire, it truly was that gorgeous with the lace skirt, fur jacket with embroidered crest, and suede boots! But I did mention my husband was the logical one didn't I?

A hearfelt Thank You to all the readers and fellow bloggers who commented or emailed me directly with thoughts of lovely support during my poorly-timed recovery. I haven't forgotten the seasonal countdown has started ........and we have some Christmas wrapping and gift ideas to get going on so I am resting and getting there slowly but surely. PS. Pricey bed linens are worth every penny.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lights, cameras......and real estate

In order to survive a case of the Shingles (which I realized I had about halfway over the Atlantic 10 days ago) you must take liberal doses of very hefty pain killers. You need to rest, a exceptionally good and lengthy ipod playlist, non-depressing Oprah shows, and you need to stay away from commenting on any other blogs while laying about in a pain-medicated state. Otherwise, people might take you serious and as we all should know............sounding serious and ingesting pain meds do not mix. You probably shouldn't blog either although I have checked and my previous travel post reads relatively normal considering my necessary consumption that day. I didn't purchase that apartment in Nice I mentioned but it did lead me to leave a glib comment on a one of my favorite blogs last week while in said pain-medicated state and that led to another email which I will get to in a few minutes.

First, if you wanted to get a bunch of friends together and rent this gorgeous Provence farmhouse named La Goutte D' Or (named after a local variety of figs) for a week, you could do so for 1,525 - 2,300 Euros per week depending on the season. It sleeps 8 so you do the math as I am not sure I am capable yet of doing it for you (even though I have reduced the pain meds). I find these enticing offers of rental properties on the Provence-based blog The Provence Post. As a freelance and travel writer, blogger and expat Julie Mautner has lived in St. Remy since 1999 so she knowledgeably shares local travel information that future travelers or homeowners would find helpful when heading to this region. Traveling aside, I find her blog highly entertaining as she blogs about the food, wine, and happenings of her adopted home. Julie posted this past week (click here) on the show House Hunters, the American producers of the hit show House Hunters International on HGTV are looking for homeowners looking to relocate or buying a second home outside of the US. You can see where this is going don't you? No, I am not moving to Nice and cannot participate in making myself an international TV star but if you know anyone from any country who is "lively and interesting" and is lucky enough to be seriously searching for a property in France or anywhere outside the US and who would like to be featured on House Hunters International, then you should tell them to quickly contact producer Holly Schwartz. Lights, action, a camera crew and some funds for your time........could maybe cover some foreign moving costs. The camera-ready buyers must be seriously planning to buy and be available for filming for 3-4 days in early 2010. The Pietown production is also looking for "animated and engaging" English-speaking real estate agents who sell property outside the US. Call me if it works out for you, I am so going to need another vacation when I recover and anywhere international will do. Visit the website or contact Holly Schwartz at for more information.

Both photos via blog ~ The Provence Post

Monday, November 16, 2009

A bit of the French Riviera........

I did, I did...............missed you that is. But I sure did enjoy visiting another part of the world and spending time with that romantic man of mine. It was an incredible trip and I thought I would share just a few of my favorite photos as I ease back into the work groove and everyday life. This first photo is my favorite, a street in Sorrento, Italy (my favorite town to revisit for a longer stretch) and a reminder when touring these European towns and cities to always take time to look up. Isn't it an incredibly beautiful building?

I didn't notice the wording on this beach sign until I was downloading this photo taken along the spectacular Amalfi Coast. I would love to see this "Bikini" beach in the summer, it looks like a fun place to soak up the rays.

The ride along the Amalfi Coast was breathtaking and not for anyone with a fear of heights. It's landscape is surreal in it's majestic and rugged beauty. We live in the flattest part of Canada so this stretch was particularly captivating to me. Such natural beauty........ we couldn't shoot photos fast enough as we navigated the countless twists and turns.

The Trevi Fountain in Rome has to be one of the most beautiful fountains in the world. It was extremely busy with tourists and the guard told us the only time to see it without masses of people is around 5-6 in the morning. If staying in Rome I think it would be most worthwhile to pick up an espresso and quietly wait as the sun rises and shimmers over this glorious piece of history.

Trevi Fountain ~ Rome, Italy

When we came out of the Vatican and St Peter's the sky turned a weird colour and I saw a few bystanders make the sign of the cross. It was a reflective moment as most just stood still and absorbed the somber mood in St. Peter's Square. Probably more than a few were thinking it was some kind of sign from you know who. No really, it was that weird. Maybe it was just me (spiritual but not religious) but I don't think I was alone in feeling a profound feeling of awe.

As we stood there in St Peter's Square and turned to leave, the lights came on in the Pope's apartment........

Thankfully, on to some of that incredibly reflective sunshine in Nice and Cannes a few days later. Our weather had been windy and overcast up to this point, certainly nothing that hindered our enjoyment but our ship did miss two ports, Livorno and Marseilles, because of strong winds. I used those days to sleep in after a series of 6 am wake-up calls, pamper myself with a massage and manicure, and have others get my unruly hair back in order. If I was going to miss Florence, Italy and a lovely arranged lunch in St. Remy de Provence at least I was going to feel good about it.

Just relaxing on the Cote d' Azur . The Promenade des Anglais in Nice. My kind of place.

I was entranced with the detail and brilliant colour of these shaped marzipan fruits and
des cochons seen in the outdoor markets in Nice.

My husband was taken with this most civilized approach to daily reading outside a cafe in Cannes.
I think he fancies himself living the life of a French artistrocrat.

Upon our return we (jokingly) emailed this photo to our son with the following message "Please don't expect any inheritance in the future as we have decided to leave absolutely no funds behind and we have purchased this lovely little spot in Nice which overlooks the Mediterranean coast. We are sure you understand and approve. ~ Love Mom and Dad XOXO

Return email from said son " Need nothing.......spend away starting now" Love Ozzie ~ XO

All photos by Jim Chase

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Interiors Series - Kitchens

If you have been a reader for a long time, back when I started this blog, you will remember this kitchen. It is my absolute favorite. Something to do with the room height, the cabinet finish, and it reminds me of Flamant, a favorite home store in Paris. It is utter and perfectly understated perfection. It would make me cook on a deliciously grand scale

I tend to analyze the design elements in any room I admire. I have always had a "thing" for upholstered banquettes in a kitchen and this one I find particularly appealing. It is an more inviting type of seating that suggests a conversational meal. Banquettes have become popular in kitchens lately. I think it is an attempt to fashion a more leisurely, restaurant vibe at home. Why I like this one is that it doesn't have that high-fashion restaurant look, especially when used with the wood table and hardwood floor. Look a bit further and there is one design stroke that makes this room so sophisticated. Not the antlers, though I love that quirk, but look to the charcoal black doors. Now picture the room if those doors were painted white. Not nearly so striking is it? Sometimes one designer decision can turn a beautiful room to fabulous.

If I could committ long term to a painted cabinet finish, this wouldbe it. I may have shown you this one before by desinger Elaine Griffin simply because I find this particular green finish to be more sophisticated than most. One I could live with for years. The colour of hardwood with the copper hood, the wall paneling wrapping around the room, this room would be beautiful in the natural light of day or as the day moves to evening. and it has one of those side butler pantry I always wanted, I can't believe I didn't fit it in.

Wouldn't this start your day with glorious colour and perk up those sleepy eyes? Designer Suzanne Tucker also takes green cabinety but plays it againest a lucious pumpkin (apricot?) for a more exhuberant effect. I love inside window casings painted in that french green. I have always wanted to do that somewhere. I once had all the window casings, baseboards, and doors painted in a almost black in a open kichen/family room for a client. With all the ivory kitchen cabinetry, ivory walls and furnishings, it was spectacular (if I do so so myself) and the black window frames actually framed their spectacular wooded view much better than a standard white of ivory would have. My point, look at your room openings as something that can provide a whole new turn-of-events inthe colour scheme of your room.

Another view.

Remember me showing you the work of Canadian designer Brian Gluckstein? The curved library-bathroom a few days ago? Everyone wants to copy his work, hence the logo across every photo. Here is one of his kitchen designs fromback aways, another I am sure plenty would just like to say " I'll just take that one" . Those open shelves, the blackboard hood, then the blackboard wall? Pure genuis.

Makes me want to cook again.

Can I go this petite and simple when it comes to downsizing?
In a minute........ if it has all that light, that celing, those windows and that view.
Absolutely charming by designer Jill Sharp Brinson

Design 1by Baden Baken-UK/Photo 2, 4, and 5 via House Beautiful/Photo 5 via Canadian House & Home/Photo 6 from Gluckstein Design-

Friday, November 6, 2009

Interiors Series - Bathrooms

The other day my husband were both in our Ensuite at the same time which actually rarely happens, different schedules, different habits . We were each at our own sink doing our nightly routines when it struck me that the life of the bathroom has certainly come a long way in the past 100 years. From a pitcher and jug of water and an outhouse in the first part of the century to the mid century when one main bathroom was the norm for any large family, to the present day when just about everyone in any given house has their own sink. Even our kids have their own bathroom. Does this generation know how lucky they are? Not only do we now think there should be two sinks in any given ensuite, but this functional room has become one of the most well-appointed rooms of the house. There is nothing more satisfying than a well designed bathroom, it releases an incredible feeling of indulgence, the perfect way to start and end your day.

Years ago my design partner and I had the pleasure of meeting celebrity designer Vincente Wolf in one of the largest and most prestigious showrooms at High Point. Soft spoken and gracious, he accepted our profuse gushing in the most surprisingly humble manner. I have long admired his inate talent and incredible ability to do contempory design in such a timeless and luxurious fashion. After all these years my respect has only grown as I have noticed he stays true to his vision without being sidetracked by current trends or distractions. Do you know he has a most popular blog {click here} where he actually takes the time to answer reader's questions? Now, what does that tell you? Note the well-executed details in one of his more recent bathroom projects. The custom limestone tub is partially raised and enclosed by a glass wall and his skill in bathing the room in diffused light. The incredible refinement seen in his vanity design, am I gushing again?

If you actually take apart these design elements, you can see that this is a classic example of it isn't how much you spend, it's how you bring it together. Designer Karyl Pierce Paxton brought together the elements perfectly and exucuted the design with a pleasing restraint. That vanity could have been a standard vanity at one time but may have been given a coat of black paint and a new Carrera marble top. The floor the classic black and white tile pattern. The porcelain footed tub is maybe the original. The artwork and chandelier could be found at any price point. The chair or something similiar could be easily duplicated. I make it sound so easy, but this kind of talent for taking the right components and mixing them up in a pleasing way is what separates the good from great. Though it might be hard to find the fabulous view out those doors, this understated bathroom overlooks a private courtyard.

The Romans did know how to indulge in bathing, mind you in a more social way, but they did know their stuff having invented plumbing and all that. Borrowing classic Roman elements will always give any bathroom an elevated dose of refinement. Designer J. Randal Powers used the symmetrical placement of an architectural cabinet feature on the rear wall along with the round window to capture the essence of a Roman bath. It's all in the details when planning a bathroom build or reno and this room illustrates that careful thought will always bring stunning results.

Bringing in unexpected accessories, in scale and style, add the extra level of style. Isn't that oversized ginger jar just perfect there? Notice how the floor tile is laid to match the main angle of the vanity and the architectural detailing around the room perimeter.

I loved the suggestion of fun in this bathroom. The Ann Sacks glass mosaic tiles manage to be sophisticated and whimsical at the same time. The symmetrical treatment and rigid tile lines designed by designer Jay Jeffers is perfectly crossed by the unexpected mirror shapes. Sometimes it's good to colour outside the lines. Or think outside the box, however you want to look at it.

The right wallpaper can make or break any room, no wonder we spend hours deliberating on it's choice. And you should. This choice goes to show you that the most daring colour choice can often be the most spectacular. Designer Amanda Nesbit uses a raspberry Manual Conovas pattern to take basic white to a whole new level in one wallpaper application. If a colour moves you, find a place to use it.

Design 1 by Paolo Moschina/Design 2 by Vicente Wolf/Design 3 by Karyl Pierce Paxton/Design 4 by J. Randal Powers/Photo via The Inspired Room-Cottage Living/Design 6 by Jay Jeffers/Design 7 by Amanda Nisbet. All photos via House Beautiful.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Interiors Series- Library

As soon as the leaves turn autumn coloured, my thoughts turn to creating a library space. I don't have a library but I do have a beautiful living room with the perfect space that is being underused at this time in our lives. This has been on my mind for a few years as I love the imposed learning suggested by a library setting. I see it in my head. Looking out to a snowstorm, bathed in the warm glow of a beautiful lamp and surrounded by piles of reference books, stationery, maybe a jigsaw puzzle (I don't know where that is coming from lately) and the whole weekend stretched out ahead of me. So the hunt is on for a large and slightly-distressed library table, a fabulous and huge lamp, a great chair and it (almost) makes me want the snow to start falling. It is all about that hibernating mode I feel coming up.

Look closely at this vivid original artwork used in a House Beautiful show house. The image of Andy Warhol by artist Robert Moody was created using Koi fish? I have always favored black cabinets and love how designer Filicia paired it with the yummy butterscotch leather and book jackets in vivid colours. Leaning artwork on bookcases is easy and so effective.

My brother who is a commercial pilot would love this painting and setting. A small bar cart and the attendant accouterments can instantly add a civilized, Mad Men element to any library. It almost goes hand-in-hand don't you think? I can totally see Don Draper in this restrained room.

Lighting, the moody yet practical kind is hugely important in libraries. Not only do you need good lighting for reading all day long (and who is going to move once settled in?), but multiple types work best in a room full of books. Picture lights, wall sconces, and lamps, the more the better.

When Canadian (now international) superstar designer Brian Gluckstein first showed his brilliant version of a library-bathroom years ago with that curved bookcase, everyone went crazy and then anyone who reads wanted one. He is a master at architectural detailing. I bet there is more than one Toronto home with a variation of this design. It is the best of both worlds and really, does it get any more civilized than this?

My perfect library table setting.

Photos 1 and 2 by Filicia via House Beautiful/Photo 3,via HB/Photo 4 -designer Alessandra Branca via HB/Photo 5 by Gluckstein Design/photo 6 by designer Myra Hoefer via HB


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