Mouse Au Chocolat

mouse2Whenever my old friends Jacques and Michelle come to dinner there can be only one dessert—Mouse Au Chocolat. This classic French dish is one of my favorites, and it is very easy to make. You must use excellent dark chocolate; my favorites are Swiss or Belgian, 65% cocoa. Melt 120 grams in a bowl over a pot of boiling water, stir constantly until melted, remove from the flame, then add one stick of butter and let it melt in the hot chocolate. When the mix is lukewarm add 3 egg yokes, stir energetically and then let it sit.

You can add a few teaspoons of cognac at this point, if you like your desserts to do more than warm the palette. In a separate bowl mix 3 egg whites to a firm consistency, add 20 grams of powdered sugar, then combine the two bowls carefully. Do not mix forcefully or you will lose the granular consistency that makes the mouse special. Make the day before use for best results. It will keep; actually it will improve, for days.

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Wallpapered Ceilings

 

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Spring is the time to freshen up the interior design of your home. Remember that painting can yield the most dramatic change. And don’t forget that ceilings do not have to be white. The use of color on a ceiling sets the tone and gives a glow to a room. Wallpaper ceilings, while tricky to install, often provide elegant results.

 

 

 

 

 

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Urn Lamps

urnlampLamps are always hard to find, whether it’s an antique base that I can mount into a lamp or an attractive lamp with style. I’ve found an oversized classical urn is always an eye catcher in the interior design of a great room or office. This one works especially well.

 

 

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Berc Ketchian

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Berc Ketchian is a Turkish born artist who’s spent time in France and the US. He took over our old studio in Maplewood and I quickly fell in love with his work. His influences include French Impressionism, but his work is unique, featuring atmospheric portraits and landscapes, vibrant colors and above all a warm and embracing humanism.

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A House in Good Taste by Elsie De Wolf

ahouseingoodtasteA House in Good Taste by Elsie De Wolf is a charming, witty book by the woman credited with inventing interior design in America. Ninety years ago she was helping her wealthy New York neighbors design their town houses and country estates, and it makes fascinating reading today, both as a window on a vanished world, and a look at a pioneer in her field.

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Decadent Desserts by Christina Countess De Vogue

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Decadent Desserts by Christina Countess De Vogue combines my love of food and design. The author’s family purchased the Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte south of Paris over a hundred years ago. It was built by Fouquet, Finance Minister to Louis XIV. When Louis saw how magnificent it was he confiscated the chateau, put Fouquet in jail, and built Versailes. Cristina focuses mostly on mouth-watering desserts and the photos of the food with the chateau as backdrop are ravishing.

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Modern Design

“In the early Twenty-First Century a Modern style has emerged that blends the multiple design philosophies of the past 100 years into a set of principals that define contemporary interior design. At its core is the Bauhaus “form follows function” ethos that revolutionized design in the 1920s. The emphasis is on open space, clean, uncluttered lines, and the unadorned use of glass, steel and concrete. Progressing from this rather ascetic ideal, Modern style also incorporates movements like Art Deco, as well as the bold expression of abstract art. Flexibility is key. For me the spare, cool look is heightened through the use of antique accents, a classic armoire say, or a Deco end table with rich, wood tones. Against a stark backdrop, furnishings jump out and make vivid statements through the use of color and shape.

“To create the basic setting for Modern interior design, you start with a light, neutral palette, simple molding and baseboard, and an open plan with few obstructions. Areas in the open space are delineated by furnishings, light and floor coverings. Large windows are covered by nothing more than plain white sheers or blinds. Overall the plan should focus on angular, geometric shapes, with the copious light from large windows creating a sense of drama. Floors add warmth to the plentiful glass, steel and concrete through the use of natural materials like stone and wood. Shag area rugs also add warmth, and softly patterned rugs or sisal add contrast. Contrast is also important in the choice of furnishings. Stark, monochromatic pieces in chrome or stainless steel with leather upholstery can be juxtaposed with softer, more accessible transitional pieces, antique accents or classics like the Eames chair.

“Electronics are everywhere today, including the home, and rather than being hidden, they should be treated as essential elements of the design. The sleek look of the latest TV/Computer equipment fit naturally into modern interior design motifs. New smart home technologies control entertainment, ventilation, lighting, and security, and their controls are seamlessly integrated into the plan. Recessed, track lighting, or standing spotlights are used to focus light on artwork. The artwork mirrors the design, with bright colors and large canvasses. Stylistically the artwork of the abstract revolution of the early Twentieth Century, continuing through post war abstract expressionism to Pop Art and beyond anchor Modern interior design.

“Balancing the clean, stark and open ideals of Modern style with comfort, warmth and accessibility is the interior design challenge. Ultimately it is my clients who determine where on the spectrum of modernity they wish to reside.”

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South Orange, NJ

Some of my best friends live in South Orange, NJ, as do clients I’ve worked with for over 20 years.

The history of South Orange begins in 1666, when a group of Connecticut settlers landed on the banks of the Passaic River and purchased land from the Lenape Indians. This settlement became Newark. Some of the families in the party headed towards more open spaces to farm and are credited with being the first to settle in what is now South Orange.

For over 150 years the area was a Jeffersonian vision of Americana: bucolic farms, churches, general stores, a paper mill and, of course, churches. A resort opened in 1847, with “water cures” from local spring water, but it wasn’t until after the Civil War that significant change came in the form of the Montrose development. These were large houses on big lots attracting wealthy families from Newark and New York City during the decades from 1870-1900. South Orange began its ascent as a bedroom community, served by the Morris and Essex railroad, which eventually became New Jersey Transit. Electric trolley cars plied local routes and an infrastructure of parks, a library and village center all contributed to the growth of suburban South Orange. The Orange Lawn Tennis club was founded in Montrose and in 1886 it was the location for the first US national tennis championships. In the 1920s Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig crossed the Hudson for several exhibition games at Cameron Field. Attended by over 12,000, at least one game featured a home run by Gehrig that reportedly traveled 600 feet.  In the 1920s South Orange’s growth as a suburban community increased, with the available land being developed for both large and more modest homes for the wealthy and middle class. The only significant area not developed by 1930 was the high ground west of Wyoming Ave. The rock quarry that makes up much of this district was finally turned into a condominium community within the last decade.

Culturally, South Orange is home to Seton Hall University, the oldest and largest Catholic university in New Jersey, and to The South Orange Performing Arts Center. Seton Hall University contributed significantly to the project, and in 2006 SOPAC opened to the public. Since then the 415 seat theater has hosted live performances from artists as diverse as Yo-Yo Ma, Dionne Warwick and Paquito Rivera. Carrie Fisher’s HBO special “Wishful Drinking” was filmed at SOPAC.

Socially progressive South Orange was the first municipality in New Jersey to recognize civil unions for homosexual couples.

For me South Orange is the home of good friends, exceptional park facilities, an eclectic mix of great homes, and, with SOPAC, first class cultural attractions.

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Maplewood, NJ

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I moved to Maplewood in 1980, to a house on Durand Road. I still feel the pull of nostalgia every time I drive by. Considering that I had my interior design studio and shop on Maplewood Avenue in the village for 15 years, I guess you could say that it’s my hometown, at least since I came to America 30 years ago from Paris. Everything about Maplewood is just as appealing as it was then—the mix of the population, the schools, the parks, the charming character of the downtown village. My kids grew up in Maplewood and would walk to the shop every day after school, so this is one working mother who has very positive memories of handling the work/family-juggling act in this supportive setting. There’s a photo that was in the window of one of the stores in town for a while that showed the downtown in the 1950s, and other than the cars, the basic look and feel is the same. It’s no surprise that film companies have frequently chosen Maplewood a perfect casting for a likeable suburban town. It was exciting to see Meryl Streep and William Hurt and a few thousand technicians invade the town back in the early 90s for the filming of One True Thing, though the dislocation they caused was definitely a headache. After moving our business to Short Hills I still enter many Maplewood shops and find my old comrades at the counter, asking me how I’ve been.

I also learned that Durand Road, as well as being full of character, has historical significance as well, being named after the Hudson River School painter Asher Brown Durand, whose son John lived on the street. And Memorial Park was designed by the preeminent landscapers of the time, the Olmstead Brothers, responsible for that minor project called Central Park in Manhattan.

One of my favorite weekend activities is to drive through Maplewood, pointing out to my passengers the many homes I’ve had the pleasure of working on, the homeowners I’ve worked with, and the many friends I’ve made. I think it says something about Maplewood that this seems a perfectly logical way to spend an afternoon.

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Summit, NJ

 

Southwest of Millburn/Short Hills, the municipality of Summit, NJ is another town I’ve come to know well as proprietress of Belle Maison Interior Design. The first settlers arrived in the early 18th century.

By the time of the Revolutionary War the area was known as Beacon Hill, due to the bonfires that were lit to warn militiamen of invading British troops. The first known use of the name Summit was connected to a leading New York judge, James Kent, who retired to the area in 1837 to a house he called Summit Lodge. His home is now part of a larger mansion on Kent Place Boulevard, opposite what is now the well-respected private Kent Place School.

The arrival of the railroad began development of the area in earnest soon afterwards.  Wealthy New Yorkers looking to escape the city in summer would take the railroad to the rustic charms of what was then called The Summit. They stayed in grand Victorian style hotels and guesthouses and mingled with their fellow Gilded Age tycoons. These summer migrations mirrored similar trips to Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, except that The Summit was much closer.

The City of Summit was incorporated in 1899 and then began the final evolution from summer destination to metro New York suburb, a transformation that was accelerated dramatically after WWII due to a major building boom. In a parallel development, Summit is also well known as the headquarters for several leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies. And Overlook Hospital, a major regional care facility, also fits unobtrusively into the picturesque hilltop terrain.The downtown features quality shops and restaurants near the Summit Rail Station, now a major hub for New Jersey Transit’s Midtown Direct service.

Still serving Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese  sandwiches is the Summit Diner, built in 1938 by Jerry O’Mahoney. He went on to build over 2000. This is the Summit I know: a beautiful, leafy and well-tended suburban town with many impressively sized homes, often with dramatic views from the top of the mountain; a downtown at once charming and useful; a sprinkling of imposing 19th century structures, now owned mostly by municipal and institutional organizations, which add a historic feel to the prosperous and diverse community.

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