Friday, December 31, 2010

A look to the future ...

Yesterday we discovered this large ice sculpture set up on the common in the center of our town. We have never had an ice sculpture greeting us on our way to and fro before. Who put it there? Will there be more? After seeing it, I could picture a whole common full of sculptures much like First Night in Boston. I will let you know if I see any more pop up before midnight ...

Monday, December 27, 2010

A holiday angel ...

Last Wednesday, I received the news that a friend of mine had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm. Stacee was 41 and has left behind her husband, four young children, a large extended family and many close friends. Her passing brought together our community and put meaning behind the holiday spirit of celebrating the people who share our lives. It is still hard to imagine that she will not be with us any longer. Stacee was always extending herself to others, coordinating community events, laughing out loud at the funny day-to-day experiences that fill a life. She will be missed and remembered.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Secret Santa gifts ...

After spending an afternoon running around doing holiday errands last weekend, I returned home to discover a Secret Santa had left a gorgeous arrangement of red flowers and winter greenery on our front porch. The boys were actually the first to discover the red velvet wrapped vase (so pretty!) Along with this surprise bouquet was a family of decorated ginger bread cookies (four boys, a mom and a dad) that we promptly devoured. Thank you, SS (and cookie decorating elves) for brightening our day!

If you are looking for some last minute surprises for the people on your list, may I suggest a few? (Consider leaving flowers and treats as suggestion number one : )

How about a basket of goodies?

Or something luxurious?

Perhaps something bold?

Or maybe something personalized?

Are you looking for something unexpected?

Or would something bright and sparkly do the trick?

Something cute and practical?

Or maybe just “a little something?”

All of these items can be found at New England Fine Living along with some one-of-a-kind items from my design collections (while supplies last ; )

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Setting a holiday table at the BDC

Mix natural elements with a generous serving of shiny objects, add a dash of artistic details along with a shot of traditional touches, and your holiday setting is sure to sparkle!

Last week I attended a Boston Design Center lecture and presentation featuring holiday table settings as influenced by Historic New England properties and collections. The table settings were displayed on the 6th floor of the BDC, where the yearly Dream Home event takes place (click here after reading this post to see views of designed spaces
from previous shows).

One of three tablescapes on display at the BDC

A Bauhaus-influenced Dining Room, circa 1938
The Gropius House of Lincoln, Massachusetts
{Photo from Historic New England website}

The Gropius House was the inspiration behind one of the three modernly-festive tablecapes. The Gropius House was the New England home of Walter Gropius, founder of the German design school known as the Bauhaus, and his family members from 1938 to 1983. His wife, Ise, willed the property to Historic New England (at the time it was called The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities) to be used as an historic house museum. Wendy Hubbard of Historic New England presented numerous images of this unique property including this view of its modern dining room. Note the pair of Sori Yanagi Butterfly Stools by the fireplace, leather and chrome chairs by Marcel Breuer, and the round Eero Saarinen tulip table which were loosely interpretted with modern design pieces from the BDC, along with items from the collection of reproductions offered for purchase through
Historic New England.

Placemats were fashioned out of “Shoot for the Moon” wallpaper reproduced by Christopher Norman for Historic New England, and the outside was brought in with this table from Janus et Cie adorned with fresh cut greens, pine cones and faux bois silver candlesticks. Simple black and white ceramic Japanese place settings, as favored by Gropius, complete this modern winter tablescape.

In the second two vignettes, designers Susan Newberg and Phylllis Tracy of Neptune 1 Studios showcased pieces from their collections of decoupaged plates inspired by historical wall-coverings.

The dark blue colorway of “Shoot the Moon” provides a rich backdrop to this table setting featuring plates designed with scenic images captured from the 18th-century English wallpaper that still adorns the Jerimiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Susan Newberg, whose graphic design expertise has brought new-life to these historic wall-coverings, is pictured here with designer Rosanne Palazola. All of us have design pieces represented at New England Fine Living in Middleton, Massachusetts.

Nancy Faye Glass (a design friend of mine that I met while working on The Stevens Estate in North Andover) and Phyllis Tracy are both wearing designer fashions from the Peabody Essex Museum boutique. I recognized Nancy’s black and white wool dress-coat as a piece from the Iris Apfel collection.

Iris would love this third table setting adorned with birds, feathers, and jewel-toned glassware and botanicals. The plates are designed with sectional representations of the pretty and bright floral paper that graces the walls of one of the glamorous rooms in the Beauport Sleeper-McCann House in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Interior decorator Henry Davis Sleeper actually designed homes for members of Hollywood’s elite including Joan Crawford. His design sensibility was intelligently whimsical and theatrical.

I am putting “visit the Beauport

on my 2011 to-do list!

Neptune 1 Studios Decor Chinois Collection is available at The Martin Group at the Boston Design Center and online through Historic New England. Click here for more retail locations.

Neptune 1 Studios at New England Fine Living:
JOJ Frost Collection and The Lee Mansion Collection

Neptune 1 Studio’s Ashley Bowen Collection
is also available at New England Fine Living

Contact Neptune 1 Studios if you are interested in carrying their line or commissioning a piece.

If you are in the design profession in the New England area and are interested in learning more about Historic New England and their curated collections, they have a new design group membership that includes visits to the historic properties on their register among other benefits. For more details on the Ogden Codman Design Group Membership click here.

{Images from Historic New England website}

For a wealth of information on historical architecture and design in New England,
click here to view past issues of Historic New England Magazine online.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Simple holiday containers

Shiny red and green apples in a rustic wooden bowl.
Design credit goes to a friend of mine from the
Village Garden Club who displayed
this at our holiday party.

An easy arrangement that I created with
two small poinsettia plants, some freshly cut
evergreens, and twigs spray painted white.

It is a daunting task to undertake holiday decorating while in the midst of house renovations, so I am trying to keep things simple this year. Since late last week, we have had a very good house painter here, taking care of number 8 on my 10 week to-do list. He has been great ... he shows up each morning at 9am and often stays well past 5pm if he is in the middle of finishing up something. So far, he has painted the foyer ceiling, the 2nd floor hallway ceiling, the 3rd floor hall ceiling, 9 doors with trim, baseboard, stair risers and walls. He probably has one or two more days left before finishing up. I have been doing my best to keep the kids out of his way while he works (not always easy as we are down to one bathroom which is right in the middle of his work zone.) After the new year, expect lots of pictures of newly decorated spaces!

If you live in my area and know Chris LoConte, I highly recommend him! I will be posting more about his
work at a later date (but please don’t try to
book him till he is finished here : )

My pair of porch containers got winterized by surrounding the small potted boxwoods with cut greens and rose hips from my garden.

Organic pine cones in a glass hurricane
are paired with a brightly colored
peacock feather and sparkly lights.

Later this week, check out
for my next column featuring the
12 top holiday bargains I found
at The Christmas Tree Shop.

If using candy as a decoration,
be prepared to refill!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A “slow home” gets a new room

2004: First winter in our New England “farmhouse

We live in an old house. Built in 1904, it was at one time a dairy farm with a large barn and around 15 acres of land. All but two of these acres were sold to other parties, with some deeded to the town as conservation land, a large section was developed and is now a street with a handful of homes, and the last six acres belongs to a neighbor behind me. Those six acres were scheduled to be a development of homes, but many of the acres were determined to be conservation land so the project stopped at just one. Knowing that someone could not build behind us or next to us was one of the main reasons we felt this property would be a worthwhile investment. It can be quite unnerving to buy a home in a neighborhood that you fall in love with, only to look out your window one day and
see the landscape change before your eyes!

We bought our current house in spite of
room-after-room of dated wallpaper.
Today I wish we had saved more
of it then just this swatch.

There were other reasons that we fell
head-over-heels for
this property:

1. It felt like a “town and country
home, located within walking distance to the center of town and most of the schools, yet the backyard felt like a rustic retreat from modern day.

2. Our house is situated in a way that it gets full sun
in the backyard with lots of great interior light throughout the day. Shaded farmer porches in front are a welcome place to sit. Tall evergreens stand at
the properties edges, adding both privacy and
natural beauty.

3. This home is bigger than our last house, but still manageable in size, with plenty of room to grow
(barn will one day be a family room, over garage will one day be office space ... )

4. The dining room probably sold us. We did not have a formal dining room in our last house that was big enough for our young family, let alone for entertaining guests. This dining room is plenty big and is centrally located in the perfect spot to enjoy it every day, not just on holidays.

5. While we realized some areas could use increased storage and energy-efficiency, we figured we redesigned our last home — how hard would it be
to do it again???

If only feathering our nest was this easy!

Well of course it has taken us much longer this time around to complete our home renovation projects. When we were working on our last home we raised the roof before we had any children, started our kitchen addition when we were expecting number two, finished new kitchen and bath by the time number three came around, and then finally got around to all the final details just in time to put it on the market and simultaneously find out number four was scheduled to arrive six months after closing on our new home. To say it has been a challenge to renovate with four little ones under foot is to put it mildly! And as our little ones have grown, our visions for our current home have changed at about the same pace. When we were surrounded with babies, we needed to be close at hand, but now we have a bit more breathing room ...

A sneak peek of our newly completed master bedroom.

Today I am happy to report that as of last night we have officially finished one of the major renovations that has been on our construction “to-do
list ... the master bedroom that we built from scratch is a reality! What was once an inaccessible attic space is now a brand new room with a new set of stairs, new carpet, freshly painted new walls and it even has the newest type of insulation. We slept in it last night for the first time (our twelve-year-old actually helped us move the bed upstairs ... we have come along way!) and it felt like we had traded in “this old house for a new and improved version. I always knew this house had room to grow, I had just imagined it would be laterally not vertically! Some day we may do that addition we dreamed about, but for now, we are happy with this new arrangement which is actually more energy/cost efficient in the long run than a large-scale addition would have been.

Find out how your home rates by taking this

test available online at Slow Home Studio.

While we could tell our home had inherent value, we mainly bought it based on a gut feeling. It felt like the home I had grown up in and it seemed like it could be improved upon without too much effort (okay, we were off just a little bit with that part!) What sold you on your home? Are you comfortable living in it or are there areas that could use improvement? There is a great test available that evaluates the quality of a home’s design. It is called The Slow Home Test and it is great if you are looking to solve design issues in your current home or if you are looking to buy a dream-home of your own. I recently mentioned this test in a post on the Slow Home movement that I wrote for (which BTW sells some really great custom designed lighting and home decor pieces). The Slow Home movement is all about creating homes that feel as good as they look. Learn more about it by checking out the following links:

Later I will post some true “after pics of our new space. I really should be decorating for the holidays about now, but I’d much rather be accessorizing our new room than pulling out boxes of ornaments and wrestling with strings of lights! How long do you think I can put it off without the kids noticing that we don’t have a tree, yet? ; )

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday open houses this weekend

Last night was the Holiday Stroll in Andover.
I stopped by to visit Paula Bakies of Acorn Interiors at her new retail location at 10 Essex Street.
Lots of people came in to take a look at her new space, have a few treats, and see some of the work that
is leaving her showroom ...

An array of ottomans includes a
(all white) and three “afters.These are available for purchase or can be
custom-designed by request. Let me know
if you need help choosing fabrics : )

Window treatments and ottoman for a girl’s room
designed by Lisa Pasquale (who happens to be
from my home town and is very talented!)

Paula transformed these vintage
chairs into modern beauties.

After leaving Acorn Interiors, I headed over to
another holiday open house at TaggArt Studio
is on Salem Street in Wakefield
. I took some pictures
of what you can find there on Saturday from
10am to 4pm, which is the last day
of their holiday trunk show ...

Some really pretty pieces of inspirational jewelry
designed by Linda Govostes-O’Neill

Gratitude journals and inspirational collage
gift items created by Marianne Snow

Music to celebrate the holidays
by local talent Noel Smith

Mary has a lot of beautiful original works of art available, but this one caught my eye. And remember when I said art lessons would make a great gift? Mary offers many classes for children and adults. Contact her for schedule details.

And don’t miss Beth Hylan of Studio B who is back in Wakefield just for this show. She has made a new home for herself in Concord, MA at Nesting on Main so you may also visit her there on Sunday from 12pm to 6pm during their Holiday Open House.

A gift I bought myself at New England Fine Living:
velvet purse with gold owl clasp from Vintage Wares

It is nice to know that I do not have to resort to mall-shopping this holiday season when there are so many creative shopping venues available locally.
If only I had more time to visit them all!