Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dinner and romance ...

I have already begun thinking about tablesettings for our Valentine's Day dinner. Something romantic, candlelit and feminine is how love translates in my mind, particularly at a tablesetting. Sweet. Simple.

So, I took my table for a test drive this morning (left) and started with one of the most serious antiques I own. It's an Italian-made tablerunner from the early 1800's that I purchased from a museum. They didn't collect textiles, so they put the bequeathed beauty up for sale, and I swooned over the handsewn silk and velvet creation in the most alluring shades of dusty rose.

Simple white china with gold edging is topped by a floral patterned china. I've added the sweetest butterfly napkins to complete the placesetting. A really old silver bowl holds dried rose buds and candles complete the look. Truly effortless. I believe this may be the one.

But, hold on. I've found some other looks that may be worth considering, too.


 

If it's a cold evening, maybe I should consider a cozy fireside setting like the one above (left) via iFood TV. But, if warm weather is forecast, setting a table for two on the patio might turn out as lovely as the image above (right) from Anchorage Daily News.


I'm not really a traditional red heart kind of girl, but this placesetting from Pepper Design is adorable. 

For me, there are five must-haves to make Valentine's Day a rousing success:

1. A loved one
2. Flowers
3. Chocolate
4. Champagne or Sparkling Wine
5. Superbly prepared meal

Let's jump directly to Number 4. If you can afford a good bottle of French champagne (there truly is no other), then absolutely do it. But, if the wallet is a bit slim (and I'm all for saving when I can), why not buy a perfectly good sparkling wine. My favs are:



Risque, a Blanquette Méthode Ancestrale (sparkling wine) produced and bottled by Les Vignerons du Sieur d'Arques in Limoux, France--for Toad Hollow, a Healdsburg, California label.

Risque is a "vin vivant" (lively wine) with what The Wine Enthusiast describes as "a crisp and fruity sparkling wine with low alcohol (6%) and the taste of fresh green apples and pears. Softly effervescent with just enough sweetness to seduce your palate as an aperitif or tempt you when you want something perfectly naughty to finish ... or, perhaps ... to start again!"

Then, there is the #2 sparkling wine on my list, the Domaine des Baumard Cremant de Loire Carte Turquoise. It is a very clean and crisp Chenin Blanc cuvée, with nicely fresh acidity. According to The Wine Enthusiast, Carte Turquoise offers a "rich, complex blend of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc made by one of the top producers in Anjou. The ripe fruits have kept their freshness, leaving a generous but crisp wine, with a delicate, elegant mousse."

You can be sure one of these wines will be served with dinner and romance on Valentine's Day! Now, I just need to decide on the tablesetting.

Stop and smell the roses ...

When planning my (almost) annual trip to Paris, I always like to plan a visit to someplace that:
1) captures my imagination,
2) is new to me, and
3) makes a long-lasting impression.

Since I'm planning this year's visit, I have found a distinctly Parisian establishment that fits the bill and is close to our rental apartment.

Voila! I have chosen Odorantes.

It is so much more than a floral haven created by Emmanuel Sammartino and Christophe Hervé, who are amazing floral artists. Odorantes is a scented mecca located on rue Madame for anyone who cherishes the luxury of fresh flowers and the allure of Paris' design asthetic.

As if their sheer beauty was not enough, each bouquet is wrapped with a poem tucked inside. Ooh la la!


But, equally impressive is the uber luxe gray and black interior decor. This chic color scheme is the perfect canvas to showcase the elegant bouquets as well as the intriguing taxidermy displayed throughout the store.



Sammartino and Hervé are master florists who specialize in the most romantic of flowers, roses. They only sell select roses grown near Paris, including the Black Baccara, a rare and delicious black rose. I might also mention that this isn't your run-of-the-mill neighborhood flower shop. The quality of stock and the pricing is for true petal connoisseurs.

9 rue du Madame, 75006
01-42-84-03-00

Mirror, mirror on the wall ...

Can anyone deny the charm of an antique mirror? Though the hands of time may rub the silver bare around their edges, aged mirrors take on an even greater beauty in their reflected character.


Image above shows time-worn glazing in a rustic wooden frame being sold by Modern 50.


 

Looking for a stunning focal point to bring instant floor-to-ceiling drama to a room? I think you've found it! Images above from Blossom Interiors (left) and Coco+Kelly (right).  

Love that certain 'je ne sais quoi' antique mirrors bring to a room, but don't have the dollars to invest? Why not try out a simple project that recreates the look?

 


The antiquing process on mirrors like these (shown above) from Traditional Home magazine is a relatively simple project. With a mouse click you can check out the DIY mirror antiquing tutorial. All you need is a little paint stripper and muriatic acid as demonstrated in the tutorial images below.


Dining rooms are often the first room to get the 'whole wall' mirror treatment. But, using these reflective surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms can create character in rooms that are usually associated with being sterile and bland.

 

Backsplash image above via Material Girls (left) and cabinet doors resurfaced with antiqued mirror from House Beautiful (right).

With new antiquing skills acquired from the tutorial, I may just jump right in and give it a try on a couple of my mirrors!

Have seat, will travel ...

I have been to casual events where guests have been asked to bring their own chair. Perhaps, next time I'll take a cue from these great luggage conversions and tote my seat in style.


Upcycle bulky, old luggage into fabulously fun chairs. Brilliant! Particularly appealing in a child's room, the suitcase chair (above) is by South African designer Katie Thompson.


Thompson adds tufting for a nice finishing touch to the upholstered trunk seating. Images are two of her great reuse projects for well-worn suitcases.


Thompson's upcycling artistry retains the unique character of the original suitcase while upcycling creates an electic combination of styles and finishes on each chair.

Dear Katie Thompson, you have inspired me!

Mudroom basics ...

Including a mudroom was one of the best ideas of a home addition project we completed over 10 years ago. In fact, if we had someone standing in the mudroom taking a traffic count, I would guess that it is the most used room in our house. We are in and out of the house dozens of times each day - from house to garden, from house to studio, from house to workshop - constantly passing through the mudroom.

What our space shares in common with other well-used and much appreciated mudrooms is adherance to some very basic principles:

Location: Just inside the most frequently used family entrance
Floors: Hardworking materials that can stand up to heavy traffic and are easy to clean
Seating: Bench seating for slipping on or off dirty shoes
Hanging: Hooks to hang coats, hats and scarves
Storage: Shelves, cubbies or baskets for storage

Our mudroom, which is very similar to the one at left designed by KC Interiors, also serves multiple functions by containing our recycling station, pet food and supplies, gardening tools, as well as housing a rather extensive basket collection.


 

If you aren't planning a new addition, but like the idea of dedicating an area to function as a mudroom, consider converting a hall closet with a few hooks and bench like shown in the photo above (left). Or, simply add the coat hooks and seating just inside the back door as in this image (above right) from designer Sarah Richardson.


Mudrooms can be minimalist with just the basics like the one (above left) created by Miles Redd, or can be an extension of a home's decor as in the personalized space designed by Kalu Interiors (above right).


I really like this mudroom (above) with all of the components of a beneficial and truly functional space. High marks here for getting all the basic components right combined with great decor and oodles of sunlight. Perfection! Image via Lilac Lane Cottage.

 

Form, function, character abound in these mudrooms. Above photos via HGTV (left) and Outback Finish and Trim (right).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Barn conversions ...

I find the organic, back-to-basics simplicity of a barn conversion so fresh and appealing. It just seems that every converted barn comes with historic fabric woven into its old beams.


You need not travel to the UK to find gems like these, since they are everywhere a agrarian society was present. But, some of the most outstanding conversions seem to arise from British barns, like the two above. Image (left) shows conversion work in progress by Kingfisher Joinery. At right, Rebekaha from Urban Wheelhouse posted a contemporary-styled beauty on her blog.

Photos at left and above via All About You, showing the conversion of a barn and sawmill in East Sussex.
Of course, I have my photo favorites to share as well. The pics of the two rooms below are from my old photo clippings, so I have no idea of the source. But, they are some of the best looking barn conversions! I know, it's not just the reconstruction and finish-out, it's also the great decor that adds tons of lively character.



All I can say is, "Wow."

Be kind, re-wine ...

Making use of old bottles seems to be one of those recycling projects that is environmentally sound and easily accomplished. There are so many ways to create functionally-useful and artistically-sculptural pieces from reclaimed glass bottles.


You know it's hip when Pottery Barn introduces a chandelier (above) to create a Napa Valley style dining ambiance with recycled wine bottles.

The lighting fixtures (below) are great examples creatively-inspired upcycling with used wine bottles.

 


The lighting fixture at left even comes with a DIY instruction guide from Oregon Live. The three-bottle sconce (right) from Meyda has character galore.



Personally, I love wine bottles that have been upcycled to create simple hurricane tea lights. I have three that were given to me as a gift and use them frequently on the patio. The hanging hurricanes by David Guilfoose (above left) are similar to mine, while the footed tealights are sold at many outlets through The Green Head.


I am constantly forgetting to water my plants. It is 'survival of the fittest' at my house!

However, since I spotted these 'plant nannies' using inverted wine bottles filled with water, I may be on my way to green thumb status. Sold by Napa Style.

I've been searching the web looking for glass cutters and kits so I can try my hand at making use of the oodles of wine bottles that are lining my studio walls. The best deal I have found is Ephrem's Bottle Cutting Kit available online.

I want to harvest the used wine bottles lining my studio walls and take them from this ...


to something similar to the glassware by Bottlecrop that I found on Etsy ...


Or, maybe I'll make a table or shelf like these ...

Small table via Chic Provence (left) and shelving by Zero Waste Design (begrudgingly admitting to my husband that beer bottles can also be useful, as shown above). The Zero Waste Design website provides instructions and drawings for many of their upcycling projects.

I'm just a click away from ordering my glass bottle cutting kit. When I complete a project or two, I'll post pics.
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