Sunday, May 15, 2016

Nemours

If I were to admit there is a benefit to having the chicks at school in Virginia it would be that the travel between here and there has opened a whole new region of the country for me to explore. And when traveling there is nothing I enjoy more than touring historic houses so while Mother's Day weekend had me delivering a car to Williamsburg, I took advantage of an early start to seek one out in my usual half-way point near Wilmington, Delaware. On what was a stunning Spring afternoon I visited Nemours, the Beaux-Arts style estate designed by legendary New York architectural firm Carrère and Hastings for Alfred duPont in 1909.


The house remains furnished as it was when Mr. duPont's wife died and the property was transferred to a foundation and later opened to the public. The interiors showcase an eclectic collection of furniture and art, including some rare French 18th-century furniture, but the duPont's decorated with what appealed to them personally and not necessarily what was considered fashionable at the time. This is particularly evident in the bedrooms which feel very intimate for a house on this scale. Unfortunately, the light upstairs made it difficult to get good photos so I am only sharing the first floor rooms.



 


While the majority of the rooms on the first floor are grandly furnished, in the conservatory one can sense the personal touch of the occupants. It gives the impression of being the most enjoyed room in the house.


In a corner was this fascinating 'birdbath' which I wish I had asked about. The tour of the house is self-guided, which is my favorite way to view an historic house, but there are 'interpretive' staff members circulating. Next time I will seek one out.



Detail of the treillage in the conservatory:


The conservatory, to the right off the back of the house, faces a boxwood parterre.


From the front of the house begin the extraordinary gardens.


The gardens comprise the largest formal French garden in North America, including a vast reflecting pool and monumental fountains, and are surrounded by nearly 200 acres of woodlands, meadows, lawns, and ponds.




Built to memorialize Mr. duPont's great-grandfather and great-great grandfather, the Colonnade faces a maze garden in front and from the back is a view across one of the ponds to the 'Temple of Love' sheltering a stature of Diana.




I have really only touched on what there is to see both inside and outside the house in this post. For information on visiting Nemours see the estate website. The duPont family established a significant architectural and horticultural legacy in the region. Also worth the a visit if you are in the area are Winterthur and Longwood Gardens.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Whither Spring?

Arriving home to freezing rain in Boston that turned to snow as we crossed into New Hampshire (where there were actually plows deployed on the highway,) I'm feeling betrayed by Mother Nature and clinging to the memory of a week spent in Virginia's warm and verdant spring. Temperatures, and my spirits, continue to fall as I sort through my photos of enchanting Williamsburg. Here area few favorites, more can be found on Instagram.








Sunday, April 17, 2016

Decorating With Antiques

The start of this year has been the busiest in recent memory. In late winter, as I was finishing up two projects, I began two more and one of those lovely new clients, Alice, has paid me the highest compliment I can imagine. Regarding a piece of furniture she needs, she asked, "Can you just pick it out for me?" I've been waiting my whole career for someone to say that to me.

Alice has recently acquired a pretty house in a quiet, leafy neighborhood where she is starting over, so to speak, in the first house she is doing entirely on her own. She envisions a mostly neutral palette, along the lines of my former house which she saw in New England Home magazine, and hopes to achieve the feeling of a retreat with comfortable upholstery but one that inspires the imagination. How better to create that atmosphere than mixing in some well-chosen antiques?


Living where I do, with few decorating and design resources, I rely on the internet to keep me informed between trips to the Boston Design Center and I do much of my research and purchasing online. And while antique shops can be found throughout much of New England, the college town I call home does not host a single one so over the last year and a half the online marketplace The HighBoy has become my go-to source for interesting and affordable antiques and accessories.

A few of the items on my personal wish list: A pair of  Louis XVI Style Painted Armchairs, a set of  Pressed French Botanicals, and a Swedish Gustavian Sideboard
An internet search for antiques can yield a dizzying number of sites with varying degrees of functionality and ease of use. What I love about The HighBoy is how straightforward the website is; it is simple to search and makes it easy to find what you're looking for. They offer extensive options in a myriad of styles of furniture, art and decorative accessories. The founders of the site, who have a background selling in antiques, collaborate with select antique and fine art dealers across the country. They have established a selection of curated collections and made the experience of discovering and sourcing beautiful antiques available to everyone, regardless of one's location and budget.

So for Alice's new place we are beginning with a living room/study where she can work, have a glass of wine with a friend or stretch out and watch a movie. The three distinct areas in the long room will be defined by sisal rugs from Pottery Barn.


The pieces we are sourcing from The HighBoy will be the desk and side chairs and the pair of end tables next to the loveseats flanking the fireplace. Upholstered furniture will come from my long-time source, The Charles Stewart Company. Alice's taste leans toward the romantic; she likes a mix of French and English styles and has decided on pieces similar to the following:

In the living room/study: a French Carved Fruitwood Open Arm Fauteuil, a French Provincial Bureau Plat Writing Table, and a pair of Georgian Style Mahogany Pembroke Tables.
Next we will be looking for dining room chairs to complement a pretty table Alice already has, some pieces to complete a comfortable guest room and a few decorative accessories; Alice has begun her own wish list:

Additionally, The HighBoy publishes an excellent online magazine, The Weekly, which features articles on the history of different periods and styles in design combined with beautiful imagery. It is an excellent source of information and inspiration.

Spring, as it does in northern New England, has arrived all at once and we have had a stretch of beautiful days, warm enough to leave the windows open. It is the kind of weather that gives one a sense of well being. I hope you have same wherever you are and wish you a wonderful week ahead.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A More Than Happy New Year

While I'm glad 2015 is behind me, it certainly ended on a high note. In the Home & Garden section of Thursday's Washington Post, I was included in a list of six Instagram accounts to follow for 'home and design inspiration.' It was definitely a thrill to be recognized, but mostly satisfying as it was for doing something I enjoy. What could be better? With two new projects and some travel on the horizon, I am looking forward to the start of a another year of creative work, finding the inspiration that fuels it as I go, and sharing that with you. Thanks for following along and I hope that 2016 brings you fulfillment, serenity and happiness.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Still Giving Thanks

Just because I love this place, having the chicks at home, the light at this time of year and an open window on a nearly 60-degree day in November.




Friday, November 20, 2015

Henhurst in New England Home Magazine

A little excitement in what has otherwise been a quiet fall...the publication of a beautiful feature on Henhurst in the current issue of New England Home magazine. The photos, taken shortly before we sold the house, were shot by John Gruen (who was kind enough to autograph a design book in my library for which he'd done the photography) and produced by the multi-talented Stacy Kunstel, also known as one half of Dunes and Duchess. I'll share just a few of the photos here; if you would like to see more and read the accompanying story by Vermont-based writer Robert Kiener you can see the digital edition of the article on New England Home's website by clicking here.





Monday, October 19, 2015

Andrew Pearce Bowls

This fall in northern New England has been nothing less than idyllic – the foliage has been uncommonly rich and the hillsides are bathed in color. We’ve had a long stretch of warm, sunny afternoons and cool nights, and the foretelling scent in the air conjures the pleasures of the season to come. These are the days I love to explore the region I am so fortunate to call home and a recent foray took me to the beautiful new showroom of woodturner and bowl maker Andrew Pearce who was kind enough to talk with me about his craft.


Now in his third year of business, Andrew combines the soul of an artist with manufacturing savvy. Discussing his beginnings, he describes an early fascination with bowl cutting machinery that could produce multiple sizes from a single section of wood. "I was really inspired by the efficiency of that...and the technical side." His creative side envisioned the process of hand-turning those rough cuts to add stylistic details and, seeing how he could economically produce a desirable, hand-crafted product, Andrew Pearce Bowls was launched.


What becomes very clear when talking with Andrew is that he is truly passionate about the medium in which he works. The qualities of wood are not uniform; you don't know what you will find when you begin to work with a piece - irregular sap line patterns, color variations, growth anomalies - wood offers up a lot of surprises and Andrew's enthusiasm when pointing these out is evident.



While working primarily with walnut and cherry sourced in Vermont, New York and Pennsylvania, the workshop occasionally produces bowls in other wood species. From time to time local resources bring in butternut or maple. This pair of one-of-a-kind bowls are 'curly' maple - so called because of it's unique growth pattern.


A particularly interesting delivery might be a burl, essentially a deformed tree growth, that can offer extraordinary possibilities. As Andrew described it, however, you don't know what the burl will yield until you begin to work with it. This enormous specimen, found in Pittsfield, Vermont, was transformed into a work of art.



The company's new showroom is located in Hartland, Vermont along the scenic byway between Quechee and Woodstock. Inside the bright and airy retail shop, whitewashed shiplap walls are the perfect backdrop to the luminous wood bowls, boards and accessories. On the day of my visit, they positively glowed as the season’s low-hanging sun filled the space.


Andrew's original product line included these traditional bowls and boards,

A walnut Willoughby bowl 

 A cherry Hartland board

And has grown to include live edge pieces which have had a very positive reception.

 A walnut live edge bowl

A cherry live edge cutting board

A walnut live edge presentation board

Displayed in the showroom, large cutting boards are layered as chargers on a table setting.


The product line is growing to include housewares such as this live edge mirror made from the 'core shell' that remains when bowls have been cut from a section of wood - just one example of Andrew's ingenuity in using as much of the material as possible. Other designs are in the works that will incorporate additional remnants. The shop's offerings also include a complementary selection of table linens, Turkish cotton towels and mohair and lambswool throws.


Among the many one-of-a-kind pieces displayed in the shop during my visit was this monumental, handcarved black walnut bowl with live edges on the long sides.


The short sides show the growth rings of the tree it came from.


Over the summer the company began moving the manufacturing operation to the new location as well and you can now view the bowl turners at work on site and learn about the method of producing these beautiful pieces, from start to finish, first hand.


Steps one and two are the cutting and drying of the bowls. Andrew designed the drying units himself, re-purposing old shipping containers.

Rough bowls awaiting turning.

Following the turning, the bowls are oiled - this is the only treatment the wood receives and it is what brings out the natural color.

On the left, an oiled walnut bowl compared to pre-oiled walnut (top two,) and cherry (bottom two.)

The oil used to seal the bowls is a specially formulated walnut oil that is non-toxic, food safe and allergen-free. The company sells this same oil by the bottle so owners of their products can preserve the natural beauty of wood bowls, boards and utensils which will require periodic reconditioning depending on the frequency of their use.

 Oiled bowls (above) and boards (below) awaiting shipment.


It is always a pleasure to talk with a genuinely talented maker who is not only passionate about his craft but a sincere individual who is committed to support of his local community and sustainable practices. (In the interest of further reducing waste, Andrew is having a wood chip boiler installed that will use any remaining wood scraps to heat the workshop.) I have no doubt those qualities have contributed to Andrew's success. After only three years in business, Andrew Pearce Bowls can be found in 170 retail outlets throughout the 50 states.

Andrew in the workshop.

Andrew Pearce Bowls is located at 59 Woodstock Road in Hartland. If you can't make the trip to Vermont to visit the showroom in person, though I highly recommend it, have a look at their website for a visual treat.