When I first saw my client’s renovated farmhouse I was intrigued by the unusual layout. A stone double fireplace juts into the living room like the prow of a ship. The hand-hewn beams on the ceiling and walls add further character, while the open plan offers interesting possibilities. In short, I couldn’t wait to get started.
The family loves the outdoors, and they wanted a useful, understated, attractive design using durable materials. Working in counterpoint to the colonial era framework, the design features a lively mix of the contemporary and traditional.
Upon entering you see an inset wood burning stove faced by four club chairs in textured wool with brown leather seats. My first nod to the outdoors is the animal skin-like fabric covering the chairs, and an animal skin rug that helps define the seating area. The trays atop the ottomans provide storage or, when flipped, allow for comfortable leg stretching. A more traditional skirted table and chair provide the link to the second of the three seating areas. This alcove, with the second inset fireplace, is dominated by the baby grand piano, with a large ottoman covered in another pattern of faux animal. There is one fabric used on all the windows, a linen with embroidered diamond pattern.
Across the room is the final seating area, with comfortable sofa, two oversized leather ottomans and quilted leather swivel chairs. The ottomans with their leather straps are evocative of a bygone age of travel, perhaps an African safari. The whole room has echoes of outdoor adventure, combined with an up to date elegance.
My clients sold their impressive house in South Orange, and are dividing their time between a home in LA and an apartment in Montclair. The building in Montclair was constructed in 1901, with high ceilings, oversize windows and plentiful light. The views of Manhattan are dramatic, especially at night. I loved the opportunity to work in a space so full of character. Now that we’re almost finished it’s interesting to contrast the before and after views.
The design mirrors my clients’ sophistication, the elegant, contemporary feel accented by antique accessories from their collection. The large sectional has bench seat cushions for a sleeker look, opposite two swivel chairs covered in a Greek key velvet and linen fabric. The colors are pale grays against white moldings. Lighting includes a pair of ceiling fixtures in alabaster and antique torcheres. The dining table is a custom piece in glass with wood borders to reveal a decorative base. Dining chairs are covered in velvet and linen with a geometric pattern, a nice counterpoint to the fabric on the living area chairs. The custom cabinetry displays an antique dinnerware collection.
There are still significant pieces to come, but I think the overall design direction is clear. The Montclair building is a classic and I’d like to think my design will stand the test of time as well.
Starting work on a complete, back to the studs renovation of a 1970s ranch style home in Livingston. The home is attractive to my clients because the one story layout and generous dimensions suit an airy, contemporary design. The plan includes all new plumbing and lighting, wood floors, enlarged bathrooms with new fixtures, and a new family room and remodeled kitchen. Walls will be opened and the remodeled entry way will feature a larger door and glass transom.
I love my clients, having worked with them on multiple projects, and the contractor and craftsmen are all experienced pros that make my job a lot easier. The space may be little more than a skeleton at the moment, but in my minds eye I see a light, minimalist, modern oasis that fits my clients to a tee.
The Romans conquered the Provence region of France two thousand years ago, and the ruins of many of the structures they built are ubiquitous. Some of the sites have been rebuilt many times, to become country homes that survive today. Some have been thoroughly renovated and turned into vacation rentals.
I’ve always wanted to stay in one of these ancient, yet modern properties, and I finally got the chance. My friend held her annual family gathering at a beautifully restored villa near Aix-en-Provence. She graciously invited us to join her. We stayed for two days of sun and culture, and it was everything I imagined. The villa’s indoor kitchen is supplemented by a fully outfitted outdoor kitchen and dining area adjacent to the swimming pool, encompassed by weathered stonewalls and columns. A narrow canal leads to a Japanese style fishpond. The canal is home to dozens of frogs whose full-throated cries at times threatened to drown out dinner conversation. Day trips in this heavenly part of France include medieval monasteries and walled cites perched on cliffs.
Sun and culture; Provence provides this mix in spades.
We are strolling down the main street of the tiny French town of Lauris near Aix-en-Provence when my friend Beatrice notices a gentleman watering the hanging plants on one of the buildings fronting the street. He informs us that he is the owner, the home is for sale, and would we like a tour? Of course we would, and as we enter this extraordinary home time slows to a crawl. We step into a foyer with a 1940s tile panel, a dress display wearing a Renaissance gown, and a marble staircase leading to the bust of a woman in front of an antique mirror. The rest of the home follows this pattern: a blend of styles and eras that create a casual yet richly cultured patina.
In the lower level the owner found a hidden chapel behind a thick wall, possibly for secret masses held during the wars of religion in the 1600s. On the top level there’s a charming half covered verandah with a large glass and metal colored panel as divider. I can visualize intimate candlelit dinners discussing Voltaire and Rousseau.
The owner, a retired French diplomat, is ready to sell and, while his home is atmospheric in the extreme, it’s so personal, so idiosyncratic, that, while I loved to visit, I wouldn’t want to live there. Besides, when I buy my Provençal retreat, it simply must look out on a field of lavender.
My mother and I succumbing to entreaties of bistro owner in San Rafael.
Long, long lunch (the best kind in France) in the old city in Nice.
Food must be good in restaurant this authentic.
Precarious petit restaurant in medieval city of Gordes.
Another, more spacious Gordes eatery.
Fish and chips to die for at Thames-side pub. My daughter-in-law is reading about food.
Italian place in London with brilliant antipasti and, uh, complex decor.
Three future World Cup stars in London pub.
We’re not focused on food when we travel to Europe. Well, not exclusively. But as these pictures show, we did manage to spend quite a bit of time sampling the cuisine during our trip to Paris, Nice, Aix-en-Provence and London. There were plenty of long walks as well, and I’m pleased to report no significant weight gain. Must be the small portions.
Passed by a shop in London with conflicting signals: women’s shoes in the window and tempting chocolate confections on the shelves inside. Turns out the very real looking shoes in the window are entirely made of chocolate. Not sure why they decided to create chocolate shoes, but it does give you a great excuse to put your foot in your mouth.
Chiswick is at the western edge of London, where the Thames is narrower and the ambience less stressed. We stayed there during our recent trip. Chiswick High Street is one of the great London thoroughfares, a joy to walk, with endlessly amusing shops and restaurants. Strolling by the river we found a townhouse that fits the bill; that is, if we could afford the bill. There’s a narrow road that runs in front of the house with a garden opposite facing the Thames. The road along the river is dotted with pubs, and there’s a country feel to it all, even though you’re still in London. We picture ourselves sitting by the river at teatime, with our son and his lovely wife, who are Chiswick residents, munching cucumber and watercress sandwiches, without the crust, of course.
Visited NY NOW, a home furnishings trade show at the Javits Center. As usual there was a trove of beautiful furnishings. This handmade forged iron bench is a work of metal art, the two hand cast doves complementing the graceful, balanced curves of the metalwork. I see this piece fitting both inside and outside the home, in hallways, sunrooms, even kitchens.
Don’t know why everyone complains about English weather. We spent a week in London and the temperature ranged from a comfortable 58-63 at night to a comfortable 70-78 during the day. Not a drop of rain. No screens needed on windows because there are no mosquitoes. No humidity. Rich green billiard table smooth grass everywhere. The sun is up at 4am and sets at 10pm. We’ve been to England frequently to visit my son and daughter in law, mostly in the winter, which truly is dark and wet, but when the summer is in bloom and the weather cooperates, England is, as the poem says, a green and pleasant land.