Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Home & Garden Renovation Sees the Light

I saw my first robin of the season a few weeks ago.  
I saw tulip and daffodil green shoots coming up in my design clients’ garden beds.

With spring peeking and winking from just around the corner in the Northeast, thoughts naturally turn to Nature and getting ready to wake up the garden beds and get planting,  too. 
While it’s been an eerily warm and snow-free winter, the calendar will soon confirm that most homeowners can now collectively exhale. 
“We made it all the way!” will echo triumphantly throughout the landscape by next month. 

A too-warm winter wreaks havoc on the ecosystem – and that is an important story for another post.  For now, be mindful that insects and pollinators will be abundant this summer as there was no hard cold to work its predatory and healing Health Maintenance.

Seeds for Spring

Now is the time to order seeds if you haven’t already.
I love, love, love Kitazawa www.kitazawseed.com
and their Asian vegetable seeds.  
The seeds possess outstanding integrity and provenance. We enjoyed great success with their shishito peppers, and luscious, lipstick-red watermelon radish and eggplants – that produced purple beauties right through fall -- along with bok choy (that we would’ve savored even more if that rotten groundhog/woodchuck hadn’t also enjoyed the bounty)

Renee’s Garden Seeds www.reneesgarden.com offer superlative variety – with heirloom edibles and ornamentals.  I love their lettuces and vines like the red scarlet runner beans (that I affectionately refer to as “Magic Beans!)

The Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog is another winner – with great stories too.  www.rareseeds.com  They offer non hybrid and non GMO seeds.  Wish we didn’t have to even make that distinction.  Sigh…
Who doesn't love Comstock Seeds and their catalogs?!  

Must do now?  Order those peas!  And hope for snow right after St. Patrick’s Day.

My garden friend, Irene Varig produces a top-notch “In the Garden” monthly calendar Irene@irenevarig.com and blog for Lowe’s: http://tinyurl/yeb8wt7
Check it out. 

Irene points out that now is the time for a few garden checks off the “To-Do” list including, checking your soil pH.  Most vegetables like slightly acidic soil in the 6.0 to 6.9 range.  Rejuvenate lilacs, removing one-third of the oldest branches. Finish pruning fruit trees and grapevines.

While I’m itching to get to our home garden makeover, there is still time, especially because we need to complete the first part of the house renovation for the kitchen and garden dining room. 
And I have a good plan in place J

Home Renovation Update: The Kitchen

The marble in the kitchen is just too dreamy.
Earlier I wrote how the Italian marble made me hug it the first time I laid eyes on it.  It looks like the Caribbean or Mediterranean Sea from above.
Or the sky if you were lying on the grass (or a water float) looking up. 
It’s blue and white and yellow and is positively transporting. 

I shared how we chose the areas to be cut for the kitchen island and the counter tops.  That was challenging episode to find the “best” area to feature -- It all looked so good.

We foraged for this marble over many months and in far-flung locales in places you don’t want to even know about…
So the memory of the hunt, the discovery, and seeing it all come together – was not unlike a Greek tragedy.  Or a lovely romance – in full blossom.

To watch the craftsmen bring in the newly beveled marble slabs, position on what will be its new home on the cooking island and the kitchen counter is astonishing. 


There is a lot of glass dust from the drilling to cut the marble for the cook top, sink, and cabinets. (Why don’t these guys wear face masks? I opened all the windows for them at the very least.)
It’s the precision and the confidence they display that is most impressive. 

The marble color gradations and the modest, seductive sparkle of the stone glamourize the kitchen area as it contrasts against the mahogany Thomasville brown cabinets and the almond color island. 

sparks & smoke were flying cutting the marble

Dining Garden Room

It’s no secret I always adored dining IN a garden.  So the plan always was to fashion a dining room accessorized and adorned with plants – dripping, climbing, and stalwart plants. All green, some fragrant, all happy in their ability to lend to a homegrown dining experience.

The porcelain tile in the floor was chosen for its mushroom grey and green coloring with a dash of brownish. The decorative copper tiles we selected were to be random – just a nice accent.

And the transition tiles – from the kitchen to the dining garden room are sexy glass—with alternating squares of tile, brown sparkly glass, and copper…
Porcelain tile delivery direct to door
This tile install took approximately a week.  

I needed to move at least some of the furniture in the room to get a better feel for the paint colors and the fabric for the reupholstering.

Completed glass tile transition & porcelain tile with copper inserts (randomly/purposefully placed) 


We changed our idea for the dining room table from a copper-topped 84” table, largely because it would be the two of us – or three of us, counting Mother – who’d be dining at it on a regular basis. And well, that felt a lot more like the Thurston Howell and Lovey looking waaayy down the table at each other on a regular basis just so we’d have a big table for holidays.
That led to the search for an antique table with good wood and bones and a provenance whose story would find resonance with our story.
Mother and I struck pay dirt and a few weeks later Bill and I closed the deal. 
The table is from the 1930’s, it is mahogany (sibling to the kitchen counter woodwork), has lovely marquetry around the edges. And has three leaves! We can go from an intimate dinner for four to eight to a biiigg family holiday meal.  

Moreover, the table can go from a geographic prime spot in the garden dining room in the front, southwest side to the waterside to the living room area off the kitchen in front of the fireplace with a quick move.
Like a ballerina doing a quick change, the table and chairs can move with the seasons and our dining mood.  
There are a few funny stories to go with the lore of the discovery and negotiations for the table and delivery.  Think Russian and let me know if you want to hear more about this J

We love our new – old table and I was thrilled when my design editor friend, Donna Dorian, pronounced the find a good one, after seeing digital images. 
I love the table and the host and hostess chairs, especially.
I love antiques. I don’t like “antiquing.”  My husband thinks all antiques are someone else’s cast offs …

The furniture in situ helped me with the paint colors. 
The sheet rocked walls had taken on so many stripes it coulda been a tiger – or seersucker or – you get the idea.

But ultimately, it came together. 

I think I may have noted that of things curious, I was being seduced by the color and hues of orange.  I do not consider myself an organgey kind of gal, and yet – all those sunrises and sunsets can’t be wrong.
And lo and behold, Pantone chose orange Tangerine as their color of the year. www.pantone.com

How au courant!
I had hoped to refer to it as spice or persimmon or cinnamon or..
But there, right out, there was our color, in all its glory and simplicity from none other than Farrow & Ball.
It is Orangery #70.
I used Farrow & Ball paint in my stopgap kitchen –meaning the kitchen until we did the remodel - -and the blue-black lacquer color was so glamorous that it made the silly little kitchen look great.  And the glass door knobs, er cabinet jewelry, from Restoration Hardware, migrated over to the new kitchen. So good investment. The glass captures the light and spreads rainbows and glamour throughout the room.  

If you haven’t experienced Farrow & Ball – get onto the design resource.
Farrow & Ball Paints produces environmentally friendly paints using “ natural ingredients such as Chalk, Lime Putty and China Clay and does not use harmful ingredients such as APE and Xylene. Farrow & Ball paints have a zero* VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) content” according to the company. 
Farrow & Ball Wallpapers
The Farrow & Ball range of painted wallpapers is quite unique. All wallpapers are made to order at the company’s factory in Dorset, England, the home of Farrow & Ball since its beginnings. They are crafted using traditional techniques to apply Farrow & Ball zero* VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) environmentally friendly water based paint to FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) approved paper.
*As tested to US Environmental Protection Agency standards
Another reason to love them.
The renowned British manufacturer of paint and wallpaper opened a showroom on the Upper West Side in November of last year. 
322 Columbus Avenue

Go to experience interior and exterior artisanal paint colors and wallpapers. I love the way they present their color combinations and suggested trends:
Farrow & Ball reveals the colours of 2012
Unexpected colour combinations and colour blocking are the key looks for 2012. Strong greys are accented with warm yellows and clean blues for a really modern, graphic look, while subdued blue-greys and delicate purples remain fresh when paired with brighter colours in dynamic combinations. Farrow & Ball’s PigeonTM, BrassicaTM, RailingsTM and Babouche®, are all rich, nostalgic shades with an underlying quiet intensity that makes them suited to decorating trends in 2012.

Finally, we also determined the Morgan Gold for the dining garden room because it matched the gold in the huge antique mirror I bought from the Genovese estate sale back in, what was that? November or December?  In any event, this mirror is, pardon the pun for the former owner: a Cosa Nostra kingpin, Drop-Dead gorgeous.  
I love the unique look. I love its history – don’t want to know its story… and its mere color informed the color of the walls and the base molding color: Benjamin Moore Silken Pine that embraces the green of the mirror piece and suggested the gold for the walls.   
I painted the walls and observed their resonance driven by the sun throughout a day or two to feel in simpatico with the paint color choices.
Farrow & Ball have a Pigeon color I am falling for..

In a related stroke of wall design brilliance, I was covering a story – and taking a class at the yoga studio, cum B&B, on the Lower East Side: Stanton Street Yoga urban retreat center, www.stantonstreetyoga.com 
and upon seeing their painted leaves in the wall, knew this was an idea worth stealing. Brilliant.
I will use it to suggest blown leaves coming in through the French doors up to the loft on both sides of the garden dining room.  I tried it with real leaves… 

The kitchen and living room will be a Benjamin Moore Cream Yellow – all the better to mix with that marble, the cabinets and the soon to be recovered furniture.

Up next: molding and railings and spiral staircase. 

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