Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Holiday gifts for cooks (and Francophiles...)

Is Amazon clairvoyant??  It certainly seems that way because I opened an email from them this morning and it was all about French cookbooks!  Quelle Surprise - how did they know?  (Hmmm....how did they know?)  Anyway, it got me thinking about the holidays and gifts and..... I think you can guess where I'm going with this. For any devoted Francophile or cook or cookbook collector, these new offerings are awfully tempting:

Having eaten more than a few meals at Bouchon in Yountville, CA this past summer, this award-winning cookbook, Bouchon Bakery, really is appealing on so many levels.  The photography is lush and the whole French-inspired theme speaks to me.  I hope it's is under the tree on Christmas!   

 My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz, former Chez Panisse pastry chef is a collection of stories and recipes with photographs taken in Paris.  A substitute for being there, it will have to do until September....

Who doesn't love Jacques Pepin??  Chef extraordinaire and author of over 20 cookbooks on his own and one with Julia Child - and who doesn't love her?  I remember watching Jacques and Julia cooking together on their PBS program, arguing ever so politely about seasonings.  Essential Pepin looks like a good addition to any Francophile cook's kitchen library.

Mastering the Art of French Eating looks intriguing to me, as it promises to be filled with insights about Parisian neighborhoods and non-touristy restaurants and shops.  Written by a young woman whose diplomat husband leaves her alone in Paris for a year when he's sent on a mission to Iraq, it brings to mind a young Julia Child and the movie Julie and Julia - and it's added to my list!

Speaking of Julia Child, My Life in France, which formed part of the back story for the "Julia" portion of "Julie and Julia", is one of the most charming autobiographies I've ever read.  A must!

I read the novel "The Paris Wife" first and was so thrilled to be immersed in 1920's Paris and Hem & Hadley's life there, I just had to follow it up with "A Moveable Feast".  Wonderful writing, both - one stitched together with beautifully embroidered facts and the other from memories.  Essential.

Finally, "Suite Francaise" by Irene Nemirovsky, has nothing to do with cooking but tells the amazing story of the German occupation of France during WW2, from the perspective of those occupied.  The writing is engrossing, reminiscent of Tolstoy, and particularly poignant when one discovers that Ms Nemirovsky never was able to finish her "suite" of stories, as she was imprisoned in Auschwitz......

You can purchase any of these wonderful books through the Design Beat: Seattle store on Amazon.com and it would be the best Christmas gift for us, ever, if you did!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Holidays: why not dress your abode up, too?

Halloween is over and it's almost time to decorate for the Holidays - hurray!  I don't know about you, but my Christmas decorations go up in earnest the day after Thanksgiving - boxes and boxes emerge from storage and it takes me days to complete.  I've always loved this time of year:  dressing up, wrapping gifts, sharing seasonal cocktails with friends and reveling in how "accessorized" my home feels!  

Always on the lookout for unusual and beautiful approaches to table settings and interior & exterior decor for this celebratory time of year, I've found some wonderful examples:

Charlotte Moss, an A-list designer who is also November's pop-up editor for House Beautiful magazine, designed this beautiful table scape, above.  It could work equally well for Thanksgiving as Christmas. 

 Carolyne Roehm, the uber-talented designer, writer, gardener and much more has this take on a Holiday centerpiece that looks so modern but almost colonial, somehow.

 You can almost smell the turkey in this traditional, antique-filled room.
Who says Holiday means red and green?  (I prefer copper, myself!)  Turquoise and shades of cream/gold looks so inviting!

 Charlotte Moss' take on overflowing mantel abundance....

Colin Cowie, party planner to the stars, uses one of my favorites:  a mountain of unique ornaments in a beautiful, simple bowl or piled in a large vase.  Determine a palette and shop for ornaments that complement at Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel or the wholesale florist (your designer can help you with that!). 

I love these 5 essential entertaining tips from Mr Cowie:
  • Serve a signature cocktail (I like it simple: Champagne with some frozen cranberries dropped in the flute)
  • Play great music; take your best cocktail playlist and add 20% Holiday tracks
  • Set up food stations:  charcuterie (there's that Francophile, again!), smoked salmon rye bread (with Vodka cocktails), etc.
  • Assemble a colorful guest list - mix it up
  • There's no such thing as too many candles!
  • And one from me:  be sure to have everything ready in plenty of time to sit down and have a glass of wine before the guests arrive.....

Designer Stephen Sills suggests metallic papers and Kraft paper-wrapped packages - with gorgeous ribbon, of course.

 An over-the-top mirror Christmas tree by David Stark - just, wow!

Copper antique glass, copper-painted feathers, glass cherry blossoms and twinkly lights. 
Luscious gold and kiwi green jazz op the table, again from Colin Cowie.

Beautiful pieces from Juliska, Calvin Klein Home, Barney's, etc.

Whatever your palette and however you decorate for the Holidays, have fun and hope that this doesn't happen! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Big ideas for small spaces

There are so many things to recommend smaller abodes: lower utility bills and potentially smaller carbon footprint, ease of cleaning, lower cost to furnish - but there's also that they just feel good to be in!  A stunning, huge house that's perfectly designed and decorated is impressive, sure, but not really attainable for most.  There have been many shelter magazines lately devoted to the subject of small spaces and I say, more, please!  

Here are some ideas to incorporate that make diminutive places really effective....
I love this elegant entryway carved out of a tiny vestibule - it appeals to me on so many levels.  The slipcovered console is an inexpensive, yet elegant, way to add some glamour.  The wood ceiling and Venetian plaster walls are energetically grounding.  And, of course, using a mirror is the best way to visually enlarge a space!

Furniture that does double-duty:
A console becomes a nightstand and increases the storage space....
.....a built-in daybed has storage underneath, can seat guests and even be a guest bed....
....more underneath storage, this time in a kitchen.

Furniture that saves space:
A secretary desk is always a wonderful option:  it can hold books, paperwork, keepsakes, become a bar - the only limit is imagination!

Well-designed space-saving furniture layouts:
.....a built-in banquette is cozy and enlarges the floor by shifting the arrangement toward the wall....
....a sectional is always a good option....
....and a wash stand with built in linen storage keeps things organized.

Rooms that do double duty:
A neo-classical work space that is also a dressing room .....
.....a library that is also a dining room.

Visually expanding:
.....glass cabinet doors open and enlarge the view and the mirrored backsplash really creates a feeling of abundant space, while brightening the room....
.....mirrored cabinet doors have a similar effect..... 
This kitchen has a mirrored backsplash AND amazingly precise organization.  So many good ideas here - and it looks fun to work in!

Ann Sacks makes a fabulous 4 x 8 mirrored field tile called Versailles......love it and can't wait to use it in my own kitchen!