Archive | September 2012

How to Treat a Fireplace

September 17, 2012

Fireplaces warm your home in more ways than one. Over the years, one of the challenges homeowners have mentioned to me is how to accessorize a fireplace. A fireplace is often a focal point in any given room. Personally, I am not fond of placing plasma televisions over them. However, it certainly is an option. I think how to approach it depends on the style of the fireplace, the function of the room in which it is located, and — most importantly — if it has a mantel or not.

The surround of the fireplace can be made out of wood, natural stone, cast stone or simply tiled and trimmed. As for hearths, they can be raised or at floor level depending on the firebox, and they can incorporate contrasting materials or match. It is about the overall look. More often than not, clients will select gas fireplaces over wood-burning. In addition, you may want to consider one of the newer fireplaces, which have become quite popular, such as “Heat & Glo” fireplaces.

Remember: If you are renovating or doing new construction, consider the option to place at least one outlet discreetly over the mantle for Christmas lights or even lamps. When you have completed art and accessories, you then have the challenge of looking for a screen. Sometimes the screen itself can be a work of art or very understated.

Regardless of your final selections, the ambience and warmth that a fireplace brings a space is well worth the challenge.

Rather than one large painting, we stacked four botanicals and added charm and warmth to the room with books and pottery. The fireplace surround is cast stone.

By placing two electrical outlets directly above the mantle, we were able to add lamps. The chocolate brown faux suede luster and stone finish set off the oil painting.

We found this huge original painting that fit into the recessed area with only one inch to spare. This created tremendous drama in the room and balanced the equally dramatic drapery.

We did an insert for art with the drywall and kept a simple contemporary look.

Here we have simple glass tile for the surround, great art and perfect lighting.


Ciao Chow — Winsome Western Magnetism Meets Iconic Italian Tradition

September 4, 2012

Food Memories Then and Now: Part II

It’s always exciting when the first of your friends gets married. I was 20 years old when I had dinner at one of my first-to-be-married friends’ homes. Kathy was three years my senior and it was fun to see a girlfriend play a real-life “homemaker.” Because I grew up with my grandmother, mother and aunties always entertaining, I had high expectations. Hosting a dinner – however large or small — can be a daunting task for a young woman. Kathy prepared a dinner for four at her new home, and I can still remember the menu and the table setting to this very day. Everything looked perfect to me: cutwork table linens, including cloth napkins that were handed down in her family, with blue-and-white dishes that sat under a blue-and-white chandelier — and of course there was candlelight.

I was amazed that this friend who was now oh-so-grown-up; after all, this was the same friend with whom I had shared dating tales, shopping excursions and deep- as well as light-hearted discussions on the meaning of life. This was the first time I tasted chicken cordon bleu served with twice-baked potatoes and green beans with a touch of bacon fat and onions. The dessert was an unforgettable family-recipe cheese cake. I loved it, and I have to chalk this up as a wonderful food memory. It also confirms in my mind that how you serve food is as important as the food itself.

Fast forward a generation. One of Kathy’s four terrific sons was about to get married. In her home in Colorado, Kathy was making preparations for the rehearsal dinner. I would like to share this with you because it stuck with me as yet another lovely memorable night of food and entertainment. The challenge was met of intertwining the western location of Colorado for the rehearsal dinner, and the location of the marriage, which was to take place in Italy.

In the photos below, you will see cowboy boots filled with sunflowers and earthy Italian Chianti bottles dripping with candle wax. The table settings included rooster-stenciled tablecloths in the colors of sunny Italy, as well as the mason jars for drinks with burlap and raffia to finish the look. Throughout the evening, the background music reflected some Italian songs mixed with spaghetti-western style instrumentals. This fabulous event is engrained in my memory as a Western welcome with an Italian twist.

We grazed on such hors d’oeuvres as Colorado buffalo satay, petite Navajo elk tacos and Italian sausage pinwheels. The entrée included herb-rubbed choice beef tenderloin with huckleberry sauce, farfalle pasta with cream sauce made of applewood-smoked bacon, sweet peas, tomatoes and parmesan cheese, and of course abundant fresh salads and delicious vegetable side dishes.

I challenge each of you to shake it up in your home and try something you have not done. Stretch. Heck, I once collected 20 tin cans, took off the labels and served homemade chili in them and used pie tins for trays where guests could place cornbread and crudités. It was unexpected. I would like to thank all my friends and family who open their homes to share a bite to eat and good conversation. I have learned not only from my wonderful mother, sister, sister-in-laws and aunties, but also from so many dear friends.   Thank you, Nancy and Pam, for first introducing me to buttery chardonnay. Thank you, Joyce, for your wonderful focaccia sausage bread. And, Laurie, where is that crab quiche recipe? Terry, remember your carrot cake? Debi, your Asian dinner party will never be forgotten. And thank you to so many other friends who have both surprised and taught me the art of entertaining. We can always go to a restaurant, of course, but opening your home is far more intimate and rewarding. Let us share with our daughters and sons so that they, too, can feel the reward. Oh yeah, the only bad thing: washing the dishes! : )

Your table settings and themed party décor can be something original you create from inspiration. At a spectacular wedding rehearsal dinner in Colorado I attended, this cowboy boot at the front stoop immediately conjures up a Western welcome with a Tuscan twist.

Check out the sunflowers set in straw hats, as well as the mason jars for drinks.

Here’s an overall shot of the Western-meets-Tuscan themed wedding rehearsal dinner at my friend’s home in Colorado. You can see how the Western-inspired rooster-stenciled cut tablecloths work great with the red and yellow hues of Tuscany.