Monday, August 31, 2009

kilim me softly

i am so enjoying the cooler weather in new york today. this morning was a dream - cool, a little misty and totally autumnal. i am so thrilled. drinking my coffee and getting ready to start the week, the chill made me think of this bench and stool i have admired for a while from pottery barn.

there is something so cozy and familiar about them, maybe because the pattern on the handwoven kilims are sort of reminiscent of a blanket made by my great-grandmother many years ago that has been in my family ever since (though not in its original form since time has worn it so heavily). and the colors are pretty and subdued enough that they would look good almost anywhere. i could see the bench at the foot of my bed, or the stool as an ottoman that accompanies a couch or chair.

what i also love about these pieces is that they don't look cookie-cutterish...they look like elements of a home and style that was honed and curated over time, which reminds me of jamie meares' edict that a room and a home should always be evolving. because these pieces could work in so many different kinds of spaces, i think they fit that ideal perfectly. as an example, below is one of the rooms featured in the post i did a couple months ago where the stool or bench would fit right in. in this case, the colors would act as a focal point in this space that's mostly neutral, but because of the earthy materials, it isn't too much.

on the other hand, they would also work in one of the below rooms i featured in a post about the resort where mitchell and i were married, which was full of vibrant and rich jewel tones and finishes. in this space, this bench or stool wouldn't be the only point of color, but would contribute to the feeling of mixing that the resort does so well.

what i love most about these pieces is that they are timeless looking and make me want to cozy up near the fire with a blanket and a book.

bench and stool photos from

hampton designer showhouse: a trip to the near east

last weekend, i took a trip to the hampton designer showhouse with my sister and mother to see what there was to see. we had a nice drive out - luckily, no epic traffic on the LIE - and found easy parking on the quiet water mill street outside the showhouse.

as we approached the house, we admired the size and expanse of the front yard, and i envisioned aloud the types of parties i could host on a lawn like that. i pictured a billowy white tent, live cole porter music and a discreet waitstaff with platters of champagne cocktails and killer hors d'oevres.

so involved was i in my little hamptons fantasy, that it was particularly abrupt when i was ripped out of my daydream by a mysterious dripping on my leg. apparently my water bottle didn't get the memo about classing it up for the day and decided to open in my bag, dripping shamelessly all over the showhouse walk and me. back to the car i went to remove everything from my soaked bag and leave it in the car. slick.

it was all uphill after that, and dry, which was nice. there were several beautiful spaces, and for some great overall coverage of the rooms, you should check out posts on the showhouse at habitually chic, one of my favorite blogs, where heather clawson heather discusses most of the spaces in detail.

so much has already been written about the house, and because i'm not an expert on interior design, and because somehow we missed the entire second floor of the showhouse (due to very poor signage on their part and apparently very little curiosity on ours), i've decided that rather than reviewing the rooms, i'm going to write about several aspects of the house that stood out to me as examples of concepts i'd like to emulate in my own spaces and events. i hope they're useful to you too. stay tuned for a post each day this week highlighting one of those such concepts.

and close your water bottles tightly.

first photo from

Friday, August 28, 2009

thursday night lights - cloud ribbons

it's been bugging me that i haven't posted our thursday night lights pictures from last week since they were pretty ones. so i'm sharing them now so that i'm caught up. okay, i feel much better now.

i love how on this night, the clouds looked like wrinkles and ribbons in the sky. it's amazing how it's all just light and moisture and air. i never get tired of looking at the sky on nights like this and with the added benefit of the water, it just never gets old.

i also love the reddish glow that seems to fill the space all around us right before dark.

just around the corner

i am quite happy to announce that the first of the fall flowers have arrived! mums at the supermarket and dahlias at the flower stand - a colorful sign that fall is on its way. SO ready for fall now after the humid blast of summer these past couple weeks. i know so many people lament the end of summer, but this has been a rough one. soooo rainy, and then soooo hot, and the general state of things around us all has been...challenging. that's why it's so important to me to make sure we enjoy the best of what each season has to offer, and fall, for me is at the top of the list.

loving loving loving the vibrant plum and wine and pumpkin colors - now, i'm an equal-opportunity flower lover (with a few exceptions) but i will say, nothing makes me feel like mums do. they immediately make me feel comfortable and cozy and give me a sense of hope and a much-loved feeling of expectancy. i think it's because the fall for me has always been full of good things - the jewish holidays and family togetherness, cool and beautiful weather, leaves on the ground, thanksgiving, pumpkin picking, apple picking, fires in the fireplace.

and the fall is when mitchell and i first got together, when we got engaged, when we got married (not all the same fall, of course). and i think mums feel like all that to me - love and family and a sense of feeling happy right where i am, but also looking forward to what's ahead.

mums photo from and

Thursday, August 27, 2009

can i have this haviland?

how pretty? it's a new pattern from haviland-limoges called ranson blanc. would look nice with my other white dishes. yet another reason white dishes are a great thing - so that when you come across a very costly potential addition, you don't have to buy every piece...for example, i could just get the coffeepot, sugar and creamer, and use my own cups and saucers. and it would only cost me about $2,000! i'll take two of each!

seriously though, this is truly why i love having white dishes. i see pieces everywhere that can blend right in.

photo from

got milk? or honey or avocado or yogurt?

so all the talk about honey's medicinal and health properties at my local farmers market had me thinking about honey. the last time i used honey it was for the amazing barbecue sauce i made on vacation. but that's not what i had in mind the other night. inspired by all the cosmetic products i saw on this website recommended by the beekeeper at the market, which capitalize on honey's anti-inflammatory and healing properties, i decided i wanted to try it on my skin. being the keeper of very sensitive skin (like diaper-rash-on-my-face from getting my eyebrows waxed kind of sensitive), i knew better than to just slop it on, so i did some research.

primarily, i learned that honey is good for hydration, which wasn't surprising, and that mixing it with yogurt works well. i ended up combining two recipes - a "cooling" yogurt and honey mask (good for my rosacea), and a yogurt and oatmeal mask, and making a yogurt, honey and oatmeal mask, which seemed ideal for extremely dry skin, which i also have. i paint a really attractive picture of my skin, huh?

if i had it to do over again, i think i'd skip the oatmeal - it was so chunky and weird...i sort of looked like a toddler learning to eat cereal with wet oats flung all over my face. although i guess it's comforting knowing that in a pinch, you could live on your face potion, or "breakfast" as it's known in some circles. i ended up picking off the oats and just enjoyed the smooth and cool yogurt and honey mix. and mitchell looked less frightened that way too.

my skin felt nice and soft afterwards, and was in prime receiving order to be moisturized with my regular moisturizer. the results weren't earth-shattering, but to me, it was one of those things where the process of it was the point and the results, an added benefit. to my mind, the most important part of the instructions for most of these masks is to rinse off the mask and then steam your face with a warm washcloth - it's this step that actually raises this experience to a spa-like level, and is really relaxing and restorative. i love things like this because it's a way to give yourself a really special and pampering experience at home, and in this case, totally for free since i had the ingredients already. i know for me, everytime i'm getting a manicure or a massage, i always think to myself "how can i make myself feel like i'm here even when i'm not?" and this is definitely one way of doing that. it kind of makes me want to buy this towel warmer.

and you can make it as spa-like an experience as you want - you can do it by candlelight, or with relaxing music, or on a quiet balcony, or all of the above. however it will feel most like the treat it is. this is great for the end of a long, tiring day or on a weekend afternoon right before a nap. btw, how awesome are weekend naps? they're sort of new to me, but kelly's been doing them for years and introduced me. love. but i digress...

this article has information on all different kinds of homemade masks for different skin types and links to several recipes and ideas. to almost all of them, you can add a couple drops of an essential oil of your choice, but i played it safe and stayed away from those. next i want to try the avocado honey mask since both avocadoes and honey are known moisturizing agents, and the milk mask, which apparently makes "enough for two." how cute. maybe mitchell and i will do them and then braid each others' hair and watch full house reruns.

hot towel warmer photo from; avocado photo from

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

a conversation with jamie meares

by far, one of the best things about starting my blog has been the people i have "met" through the blogosphere and the sheer volume of talent i have gotten to know through other blogs, websites and people who love many of the things i do - parties, decorating, design, cooking, shopping, and of course all the details in life that make it worthwhile and fulfilling. check out my newly added blogroll feature (scroll down on the right) and get to know some of the blogs i read on a daily basis - i bet you'll like them. i've decided to try posting interviews from time to time with some of the talents i've come across. the general criteria for who i'd like to interview is if i think that their general message is something we can all employ in our own lives...i hope you enjoy this new feature, and if you do, i'll continue it!

one of these such discoveries has been jamie meares of furbish design and author of the popular blog i suwannee. i knew from reading about jamie's mission on the furbish website that she was a funny and important voice to be heard by anyone who takes an interest in design, entertaining and the evolution and progress of our lives and homes. i know her words have already started playing in my mind when i've been changing and rearranging at home, and i think you'll find them useful too.

the major tenets of jamie's philosophy are that a room should always be evolving, and in her design work she tries to leave her clients with the understanding and confidence to be able to always facilitate that evolution long after her work is done. also, she aims to make good design accessible to everyone, often using elements that already exist in the home. i definitely recommend checking out what she has to say about the design element of her business here, and the event element here, because it gives you a good sense of who she is. and because it's funny and fresh.

jamie was wonderful about answering some questions i thought we'd all like to know. dispersed throughout the interview are some "after" shots to the "before" shots shown above. to note: this whole job was done for $500.

what i love about her work here is that it is in no way matchy-matchy, and does not scream "A DECORATOR WAS HERE." it looks neat and pleasing, but lived in and natural which is, i think, what everyone would want for their home.


HL: how did you come to start your own design and event business? do your clients in the two areas often cross over?

JM: i unexpectedly found myself without a job early in the spring of this year, and decided to take a chance on doing what i love full time. having already created a presence online with my blog, i was lucky to have a captive audience for my new endeavor. luckily, starting a design business doesn't require a lot of investment, or overhead, like many small businesses do. a lot of my design work has been online, via email, whereas my event service mostly caters to local clients.

HL: you say on your website that you knew planning events was for you when you put a lot of planning into a party and weren't as interested in attending the party as you were in planning it - that's a funny observation, and one that has clearly served you very well. anything to add to that thought?

JM: i've planned many a party, and honestly, for me personally, i've always had much more fun creating the event, than actually participating in it. i love seeing people's reactions to the environment you've created. i'm a hands on person, so it's difficult for me to let go and enjoy myself once the guests have arrived. i continue to arrange, and orchestrate after the party is well underway - and unless i have one too many cocktails, it's impossible for me to let even the smallest of details fall by the wayside. once i realized this, i learned to harness this compulsion for good - which is planning spectacular events for other people to enjoy.

HL: i love the way your process with your clients, with events and design jobs, is so collaborative - it's obvious that you really value getting to know your clients so you can do the best work you can with them. do you really eat guacamole and cheese with your clients? i gathered you like cheese - what's your favorite kind?

JM: i really do, if they offer it! and i've walked into more than one consultation to find homemade guacamole waiting! and i've never really met a cheese i didn't like!

i think it's really important to establish a relationship with a client, and i've found the best way to do this is to become as friendly as possible right off the bat. as a designer, you're selling yourself essentially. you're hoping the client trusts your opinion enough to 1) pay you for it! and 2) take your advice when making changes to their most personal of spaces: their home.

if you've built up a comfortable rapport with a client, the process is more fun, you can be more honest with each other, and the results turn out better as well.

HL: i really really really love the part of your design philosophy that a room is never really done - it is always evolving and changing as the room's owner evolves and changes. i think that can actually be a harder concept to implement than it seems. are there a few tips you can give readers to help them assess their spaces and make adjustments with evolution in mind?

JM: there's a buddhist saying, that "if you find your buddha in the road, you're to kill him". what i take this to mean is life is constantly a search, so if you've happened upon IT, then you've gone terribly wrong, because then the search would be over!

my decorating philosophy is much the same. creating the look of a home is a process - a search for the perfect piece, tinkering until you get an arrangement just right, trying to cultivate a look that reflects who you are, and makes you happy everytime you walk into a room. the definition of "cultivate" is to promote or improve growth by labor and attention. a cultivated look doesn't come from a quick fix. and it's never stagnant.

i'd recommend others to learn just the basics of a few things:

  • scale
  • mixing patterns

  • recognizing the difference between form and function

  • once you've got a grasp of these, you'll be more confident making changes, rearranging and switching pieces out. you'll be able to edit what you have, and judge if potential pieces will work in your home.

    HL: you also talk about the power of moving things around - i think this is something that can be hard for people to visualize because it's a bit like a rubik's cube, but it can totally re-energize a space or several spaces. how do you go about starting to conceptualize moving things around? do you start with one piece you'd like to move and then think about what will replace it and go from there?

    JM: foremost i think about function of a room. i think about a few basics, like 1 sofa, two armchairs, 1 coffee table...and work from there. in a living room - are there comfortable places to sit? does each spot have access to a table or place to rest a drink? if there's a TV in the room, can everyone see it? are they staring at the back's of heads? i look at where the focal point is, and i see if the furniture is positioned to take advantage of it.

    HL: on your website, you talk about having pieces available to lend for events (serving pieces, linens, etc). you must have some collection. what do you look for when picking up new things, and where do you shop for those things?

    JM: i've found lots of my treasures at yard sales and estate sales. my mother, grandmother and aunt all scour sales for beautiful pieces, and i end up the recipient of lots of these. my friends know i like to throw parties, so usually i'm gifted things like a beautiful platter, or an interesting set of cocktail napkins. my mother in law gives me a monogrammed antique napkin ring every christmas, so i have a gorgeous collection of those. my mom is the ultimate gift giver - she always find something unique and special for my birthday or christmas. lots of my collection has been gifted.

    HL: if you could give one line of advice for planning and throwing parties, what would it be?

    JM: wear a fabulous dress and always stay up until the last guest has left. you'll have more fun.

    HL: and if you could give one line of advice for design and decorating, what would it be?

    JM: think about scale! AND... if you're redecorating just for the sake of changing, admit that. that's fine - but changing because something isn't working, and changing because you just want change are too entirely different things, and i think it's important for your decorator to know what you're after!
    WELL, already jamie's wise words about scale swooped in and saved me from leaving the amazing, yet ginormous ikea chandelier below in my too-small-for-it dining room and finding a piece more respectful of scale (more on that later). and i'm so happy i did. no matter how crestfallen i was that it didn't work, it simply didn't work, and jamie's words "think about scale" guided me through. thanks jamie.

    all furbish photos from and; ikea photo from

    tiny treasures...drink up

    this week's tiny treasure (small indulgences for $5 or under) is a reusable water bottle. this is a good buy for so many reasons - they're good for the environment, they save you money, and if you put in a little effort, you can find one that's really pretty and fun. i found my hot pink stainless steel one at homegoods for $4.99, and they had lots of others in that price range. i love it because it keeps my water nice and cold, doesn't sweat too much and looks great with my stuff and my nail polish. okay, i know, it's enough already with the nail polish.

    i've also had good experiences with rubbermaid ones at supermarkets for around the same price. note: the new versions of these rubbermaid containers do not contain BPA, but the older versions did, so just make sure that the bottoms don't have the dreaded #7 imprint, and instead have the #5 symbol inside the triangle. full disclosure - not all plastic products imprinted with the #7 symbol contain BPA, but all products which contain BPA are imprinted with the #7 symbol. got that? let's just stay away from #7's.

    and on that note, we need not spend $20 or more on a sigg bottle, as nice looking as they are. especially since over the last couple days there have been some news stories about versions of the sigg bottles still shipping out as late as this week (but no longer) containing BPA in the lining. here is a letter from the sigg ceo explaining the situation which actually does not sound all that dangerous. more than anything, it's just the uncertainty surrounding really everything we buy that's kind of troubling. i guess that's a subject for another post.

    for today's tiny treasure, we just need something that holds water and stops the insanity of all the plastic bottles we buy and then throw out or recycle. and in the spirit of enjoying even small, once mundane details, find one that looks pretty and makes you smile each time you sip from it. the added bonus might just be drinking more water. and there are NO news reports or ceo letters that say that is a bad thing.

    to read about previous week's tiny treasures, click here

    send me your suggestions for tiny treasures for weeks to come at

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    gleeful about glee

    one of the reasons i'm looking forward to fall is the long-awaited (at least for me) arrival of the fox series glee, premiering on wednesday september 9th. it's about a high school in ohio where a teacher looking for meaning, who was once a sports star at that same high school, takes on the oversight of the high school's underachieving and socially-awkward glee club.

    i think this show will particularly resonate for anyone with experience with really any type of theatrical group, whether you were a part of one, watched from the sidelines, or mercilessly made fun of one. either way, it's just so charming and feelgood. at the risk of sounding like a newspaper review, i have to say this is a show full of heart. and while it manages to be sweet and nostaligic, it avoids entering into cloying territory, and has a modern and sharp edge. it maintains a sense of humor about itself, but doesn't lose the earnestness that makes it so watchable.

    when i watched the pilot which aired in may, i was smiling the whole time, happily amazed that the full series would be on in only a few months. and now it's almost here!

    watch the trailer here (after the commercial)

    now, i highly recommend you watch the whole pilot here, but if you don't have the time, you HAVE to see the showstopping number at the end. to do that, click here and fast forward until it's at 39:52 using the sliding timeline at the bottom of the screen.
    if you aren't smiling through the whole thing, then i don't think this show is for you. but i KNOW it's for me.

    photos from

    Monday, August 24, 2009

    takeaway bouquet

    i always come across this placecard/favor idea on the martha stewart website, and i am charmed by it every time. how nice would it be to attend a party and have a little posie to bring home with you? perfect for a brunch, a shower, even a dinner party.

    of course, this seems like a natural concept for the spring and summer when flowers are abundant and adorn anything and everything, but i actually think it's nicest in the cold of winter when homes need a nice brightening. definitely going in my file of party tips to use.

    photo from

    white wash

    so remember the other day i said that i'm really into white right now? and that bright colors were actually making me appreciate white more, as paradoxical as it sounds? well, today, i'm happy to share with you the design work of anna spiro, of black & spiro, an interior design firm and shop in brisbane, australia. anna's work has been featured in many design publications, including most recently, this month's australian vogue living. she's also the author of the popular blog absolutely beautiful things, where she catalogs and shares all manner of images that inspire her work.

    i find anna's style very appealing in the ways that it blends new and old, modern and traditional, and makes use of interesting and sometimes unexpected fabrics and patterns. and i love how every space is unapologetically pretty and gentle, while not being too girly to exist in a family home.

    what i really love about the work shown on her newly launched website (and sampled for you here) is that she uses white as a tool - it's not just an unfinished or unconsidered backdrop, but instead an equal part of the color dialogue, and bright and milky white is often found on walls, floors and even furniture in her rooms. it's an answer to the colors she uses, and in her work, both white and all the colors look their best -- they work together and bounce off each other in such a way that all of a sudden, white looks like a new concept. somehow the white is the star of the show, even though there are so many bright colors surrounding it.

    the look is intentional and punchy, and i credit anna with single-handedly making me leave my walls white, rather than painting, which had been my plan all summer. so i thank you anna, and so does mitchell. i'm realizing that when your walls are a color and your furniture is a color and your room's accessories are colors, it can start to look a little muddy and undefined. but with more white in the mix, it sharpens the edges on other things and makes them pop. in a way, it's similar to my love for my white dishes. i'm loving that the same concept can be employed on a larger design scale.

    one of the best things about looking at the work of talented designers like anna is observing their choices and translating them into strategies you can employ in your own home. of course, this "translation" can be costly if you get carried away. because we're not spending tons of money on redesigning our home right now (who is, really?), i'm so happy to have discovered anna's work because her sensibility has helped me think about ways i can reconfigure things i already have.
    (check back for pictures next week showing some of the work we've done). in the meantime, enjoy anna's work and check out her website and blog - i think you'll love her perspective and her taste.

    all photos from
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