Friday, November 25, 2016

A Little Trip to England...

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Now that you are done with all that cooking, you may be craving a little vacation. If you can't get away, you can take a little trip to England without ever getting on a plane. Look no further than Ben Pentreath's new book English Houses. Ben is a renowned architectural and interior designer, writer, shopkeeper and blogger. I adore his blog and his cozy shop in London. I think he has the most exquisite taste. He is a classicist but with a sense of fun and youthfulness. From the moment you open his gorgeous book, you will be transported to some of the most beautiful homes in England. Each one is hand-picked by Ben because they exhibit that iconic English style of architecture and interior design that he loves. Since he is both an architect as well as interior designer, several of his own projects are featured, including his own homes which are located in London and Dorset. At the end of each chapter, he gives us paint colors, wall paper names, furniture and lamp designers, and many other sources that we can use in our own homes. You will learn so much. And you will feel as if you have just gone on a little vacation!

 Here are some of my favorite things about this book --

Ben's London House

I have been admiring this sitting room, via Ben's blog, for years and it was so interesting to learn about the details. It is in a rooftop flat in Bloomsbury in an early Georgian house. In this room Ben used layers of contemporary fabrics, furniture and lighting combined with antique furniture and engravings. He wanted to create a mood that is at once modern and traditional, restful yet richly-colored. The walls are covered in grass cloth and the color comes from the chairs, cushions, ottoman and piles of books.

The map wall features a framed map of John Roque's Cities of London revealing 18th-century London. I love the use of individual framed parts of the map to form a whole.

The master bedroom is papered in Seaweed Lace by Soane Britain

The guest bedroom is papered in William Morris's Willow Bough

The Old Parsonage in Dorset

This is Ben's country home

The walls of the drawing room are painted "Parsonage Pink" by Patrick Baty. The lamps on the table behind the couch and the cushions on the couch add so much pattern and charm to this lovely space. This room makes me want to curl up with a cup of tea and my favorite novel.

The bedroom is painted a velvety olive-brown by Patrick Baty

The kitchen is painted Farrow & Ball's archive color Wet Sand. The Aga stove and the dresser give this country kitchen so much personality.

The book features 10 additional homes belonging to Ben's good friends. They include apartments in London, manor houses in the countryside, and a castle in Cornwall. One of them is a 17th-century country house in Northumberland. I loved learning about the grand stairwell which is "painted a rich sunny yellow to counter the cold Northumbrian light and bring warmth to the heart of the home." Such a good idea! Another home is the London apartment belonging to Lulu Lytle, the owner of Soane Britain. She has used bold colors, patterns and stripes throughout to create a joyful, beautiful environment. Her apartment is a great lesson on not being afraid of color. Her home has a "snug," a small cozy room for relaxing. I had not heard of this term before, but that word says it all. And in Hardy country there is an ancestral manor house with an exquisite conservatory. It is truly gasp-worthy, if there is such a word. Most of us will never have a conservatory, but as Ben says at the end of the book about all these houses: "...each contains a kernel of an idea that is in some way universal, from which you can draw happily and cheerfully -- and, with increasing confidence, make your own." I agree, that conservatory makes me want to have more plants in my house. What all of these houses share is a timelessness and sense of personality that make each space a living and breathing place. This book is filled with ideas on how to accomplish that very thing. It is all about the art of making a home. With the holiday season upon us, this book couldn't be more timely. And it would make a great holiday gift!

Photos via here

Monday, November 14, 2016

Embracing the Season

Right now many of us are craving coziness and comfort. We want to make our homes warm and welcoming and spend time with our loved ones. November goes by so fast, culminating in everyone's favorite holiday -- Thanksgiving. In the spirit of creating some "comfort and joy," here are twelve things I am most looking forward to in November. It's all about slowing down and savoring the season.

1. The Days Getting Shorter

Believe it or not, I look forward to the days getting shorter. Being from the East coast originally, where the weather was cold and nothing felt better than getting home and warming up in front of the fireplace, I always loved the shorter days of winter. We may not have that cold weather right now, especially where I live, but as the nights arrive earlier it feels cozy to light the candles, set the table with flowers, and have friends over for a weeknight dinner. 

2. Some Really Good Television --

There is so much good television right now. I have been watching "The Crown" which is airing on Netflix. This beautiful new series, created by Peter Morgan, is about the life of Elizabeth II and begins with her accession to the throne at age 25 in 1952. Peter Morgan wrote the film "The Queen" and the play "The Audience;" "The Crown" feels like the natural next step in his work. I have watched the first five episodes and am riveted. I loved the actress Claire Foy as Anne Bolyn in "Wolf Hall" and she is excellent as Queen Elizabeth. And what a sumptuous production. It is filled with so much history, for example the Great Smog of 1952 in London. I didn't know about this. Have you started watching this series? The episode on the coronation is brilliant. Notice what a big role the Duke of Windsor has in this story. Which makes a lot of sense, since Elizabeth wouldn't have become Queen if he hadn't abdicated the throne. He changed history forever. I would love to know what you think!

3. Reading a Classic Novel --

It's the time of year to hunker down with some good classic novels and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf is the one I am reading right now. "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers..." And so begins Virginia Woolf's modernist masterpiece which consists of one day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway. As she goes about her day getting ready for her party, we are in her head as she moves back and forth in time -- recalling her youth, interacting with the people around her and evaluating her life. Her loves, regrets, fears, joys, and general observations of life are all woven throughout this stream-of-consciousness novel. Her character is revealed layer by layer. At the same time we are in the head of another character, a young man named Septimus Smith who is suffering from shell shock after World War I. Through this character Virginia Woolf explored the topic of mental illness, a subject with which she was very familiar. Other characters are vividly portrayed: Peter Walsh, Sally Seton, and Richard Dalloway -- all have played an important role in Clarissa's life. And from their perspective, we learn of the impact she has had on them. Woolf was doing something new with Mrs. Dalloway -- writing a novel that reflects the way people really think. She also wrote some of the most beautiful prose you will ever read.   

4. Travel --

Fall is such a great time to travel, especially to the East Coast to see the glorious fall foliage. We were in New York in October where we saw the amazing exhibition Charlotte Bronte: An Independent Will at the Morgan Library and Museum. If you get to NY before the New Year, be sure to visit the Morgan. The Bronte exhibition will be up until January. This is the kind of exhibition savor. In fact, I will probably go again when I am in NYC in December. If you go, be sure to check out the original manuscript of The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens which is always on display at The Morgan at this time of the year. The Morgan is a treasure trove and a place to celebrate the written word. It is one of my favorite places to visit and I go every time I am in New York.

5. Pumpkins and Mums

This is the classic combination for fall

6. The color orange

It really makes things pop! Here is our Thanksgiving table, 2015

And the garden, 2010

7. Plaid

Plaid feels tailored and crisp, just like fall.
These candles from Anta in Scotland would be perfect for the holiday season!

8. Cooking 

This weekend I had my family over for dinner and made Ina Garten's "Roasted Italian Meatballs" and "Kale Salad with Pancetta and Pecorino" from her new cookbook Cooking for Jeffrey. They were delicious!

9. Hot Mulled Cider

Tis' the season for hot mulled cider. Go here for my favorite recipe.
Photo via here

10.  A Delivery from Heywood Hill

I can't wait to see what Heywood Hill sends me for November. Go here to read more.

11. Listening to podcasts 

Listening to podcasts is another way to slow down and savor the season. Miranda Mills from Miranda's Notebook has just launched her podcast series Tea and Tattle and the first one is about Hygge, the Scandinavian philosophy of togetherness and coziness. Just what we need right now. Go here to listen.

12. Thinking about Christmas

This is the month to order tickets for "The Nutcracker." Going to this ballet in December is a magical holiday tradition.

By the way, I hope you had a fun Halloween. We went trick-or-treating with our little granddaughter who was dressed up as Madeline, the character from the Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans.  She was adorable!