Thursday, April 28, 2011

What Would Debbie Do? My kitchen with handpainted tiles

The other day I was checking out some Italian villas based on Willow Decor's recommendation and I was completely struck with the colorful tiles, especially those on the floor.  Maybe it's the wallpapered ceiling in my powder room, but lately I'm drawn to patterns on places other than walls.  And these tiles got me thinking about my kitchen.  If I put down some fabulously colored tiles on the floor, what sort of cabinets would I then need?  And so on. 

So here's What Would Debbie Do with hand painted floor tiles in my current kitchen!

The tile I picked out is pretty dramatic and I'd want it in a big size, like 1' squares, to be even more dramatic.  I looked at ones with more white, but I just kept coming back to this pattern with the different shades of blue and touches of black.  It just seemed more versatile.  Thinkn about it - yellow gingham would sweeten things up, black would add glamor, white would brighten, a random color like coral would make it even more eclectic, etc.  Anyway, back to my design.

I HAD to go with a copper hood.  I've been a little bit obsessed with them since finding this picture and put them in every dream kitchen.  I like this one because it's a little darker so mixing it up with fixtures and hardware in other finishes will be contrasting, not clashing.

The combination of the copper hood and dramatic tile just seemed to call out for stained cabinets instead of the white ones I usually pick out for my dream kitchen.  I like these because they're a little more rustic looking.  I would do the top cabinets all with glass fronts to lighten things up a bit (and paint the backs creamy white or mustard-y yellow - not sure) and they would go alllllllll they way to the ceiling with a very, very simple moulding at the top.  Very simple hardware as well, probably oiled bronze or black to blend in with the wood. 

Below would be solid fronts and I would spend gobs of time designing these so there are pull-out shelves for all my various cook and bakeware.  The back wall of my kitchen would also get some custom cabinets on the bottom and then coordinating open shelves up top, possibly with a copper pot rack.  Or maybe the shelves would have adjustable pegs to hold up my oversized platters.

With so much going on with the floor, the backsplash needs to be simple, but I didn't want to do just paint and thought white subway tile would be too stark.  And then I found this blue-gray glass subway tile from  So pretty!  And at least on my computer monitor, it looks to be the same shade as one of the blues in the floor tiles.  Of course, if this were real life, I'd order samples of both to be sure, but we're dreaming here so I can make all sorts of assumptions.

And I like the color coordination, but with the dark cabinets and the dark floor and the dark backsplash (and I'm thinking a similar blue-gray on the ceiling), something's gotta be light so I made it my counters.  My sister has quartz counters and loves them so I went with the same.  The color of these is called champagne, which is my favorite type of wine.  They're made to resemble marble and actually have bits of marble in them.  They also have bits of gold, which pulls in the copper hood.  And then the sandy color is enough of a contrast to chrome and white.

Another mandatory part of all of my dream kitchens is the Lombard light from Rejuvenation.  I would get two of them so there would be plenty of light and put them both on dimmers.  I like laboratory lighting when I'm cooking, but would love to be able to have mood lighting during a party when folks are in and out of the kitchen.  Because no matter how much you put things out in the living room or how teeny tiny your kithen is, people always gather there.  And with tile like this?  The party will ALWAYS be on in the kitchen.  And I like it.

I didn't pick out the other parts of the kitchen, but picture a mammoth stainless undermount sink with a curved chrome faucet.  I'll keep my black stove because it was a gift and thus is very special to me.  Plus I think the black would fade into the background instead of competing for spotlight with the floor the way stainless would.  I would replace my fridge and dishwasher with updated versions, also in black.  A bamboo Roman shade on the window that's a lighter and more golden than the cabinets.  And a few more pieces of Le Crueset in flame to add to what I have to jazz things up even more. Because, you know, I'm all about a jazzy kitchen.

What do you think?

side note: the only downside to this kitchen is that I would have to change the living room color. Even a dustier shade of turquoise, like I want anyway, would still be too much blue for me. And while something neutral like a paperbag khaki would be pretty, I can't imagine me living in that much neutral. So that's something else to think about.  Later.

Friday, April 22, 2011

14 people for dinner!

Monday night I hosted a Passover seder at my house.  My dad's side of the family is Jewish, but I was raised Unitarian Universalist so we never had a seder at our house.  I have, however, been to plenty and it's always been one of my favorite holidays.  So when a friend mentioned that she had never been to one, I decided it was time for me to hold my own.  I invited friends and family and ended up with 14 people saying yes.  Fourteen!  In my teeny tiny house.  But I made it work.

First up was clearing out my living room by moving the brown chest and the coffee table upstairs.  I also took my TV upstairs so I could use the bookcase as a sideboard.

Then I moved in a folding table borrowed from my mom and 5 of her folding chairs to add to my 2 folding chairs, my 4 Ikea chairs, 1 random straight chair and the wicker and orange chairs.  I considered just using my couch as seating, but it's too low.  The two tables were perpendicular to each other, which was mandated by the space but also added a fun dynamic.  At least I like to think so :)

Sorry for the blurry pictures - they were the best I had. 

As people arrived with bottles of wine, I told them to just plop them on the table and head outside for cocktails.  As I continued to prep, I rearranged the stuff on the tables and the wine ended up on the bookcase-turned-sideboard.

Next was gathering dishes.  I have 5 Apilco Tradition dinner plates from Williams Sonoma that I adore.  Adore!  But they're kinda pricey.  And I really don't need a dozen of them.  So I started researching and turns out that Pottery Barn's Caterer set is the best value.  A dozen white plates for $49 + a 10% off coupon.  Can't beat that with a bat (believe me, I tried), so I bought them. 

Harder to find were decent soup bowls.  Matzoh ball soup is pretty much a requirement at Passover, but then I've often thought about serving soups or pasta for a dinner party, but don't have enough bowls.  Again, I have 2 from Apilco (the Tres Grande style this time), but again, they're too pricey to buy by the dozen.  At least for my lifestyle.  So I supplemented with 6 from Target.  They're an inch narrower and kinda shallow, but they were cheap and they were just fine.  The others were some that I've had forever - also from Williams Sonoma, but they have this raised pattern that I kinda hate because food gets trapped in the crevices.  Replacing those with Apilco is pretty high on my wishlist, but I had lots more to buy so not happening right now.

Target really did make up most of my purchases.  Oneida flatware, sold in sets of 6.  Champagne and water glasses bought online where they were having a sale.  Seder and matzoh plates.  Tablecloths.  Napkins.  Napkin rings.  A runner to go on top of the bookcase.  A new platter and serving bowl.  All are items that were perfect for this dinner, will be perfect for future dinner parties and that are useful to just have in general. 

I also hit up Salvation Army.  I went there looking for brass candlesticks and came home with 5 - plus a really pretty porcelain bowl decorated with blue, green and yellow flowers.  I adore this bowl and can't believe someone gave it away.  I also borrowed two candlesticks from my sister and brought two down from the bookcase in the spare bedroom.

Everything else I already had and I'm pretty excited that the next time I have a big dinner party, I shouldn't have to buy anything at all!



Thursday, April 14, 2011

well done, Macy's!

I've been frantically searching for good, large soup bowls for Passover Seder, ones that are large enough for matzoh balls, but cheaper than the Apilco Tres Grande ones.  I do completely adore those, but I don't really need a dozen, you know? 

Anyway, so I just popped by Macy's website and when I clicked on "for the home," I was greeted with this:

How completely pretty is that?  The turquoise, the lime green accents.  Everything is coordinated and overall it's just so darn pleasing.  That's the Chloe chair up in the first row and it makes me want to check out the sofa again, even though I know it's too low for me. 

I love when companies spend the time to do things like color coordinate images on their website.  When they put that extra effort in, it makes me want to give them their money.  Unfortunately they didn't have the right bowl, either.  Maybe I'll get a new dress instead. 

As for my bowls, I'm going to do a round of Marshall's and Ross before I give up and either borrow unmatched bowls or sell my firstborn for Apilco.  It's not like I don't use their bowls almost every day, it's just that I'm only one person so two bowls have been plenty. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

muddy and clear colors

I just finished reading The Washington Post's article on this year's DC Design House and it made me think, as most things do, of Dorothy Draper.

In "Decorating is Fun!" she advises you to stay away from muddy colors.  I'm sure a big part of this is a reaction to the Arts & Crafts movement, but I also think it's because clear colors are just happier.  Brighter.  They bring a joy to a room that a muddy color just doesn't.

Clear doesn't have to mean bright.  Olive, brown, gray, terracotta - these can all be clear colors.  Neutrals can be clear as well.  If you can say for sure that it's white or cream or tan, it's probably clear.  If you only use two shades to describe a color, it might be as well.  Creamy white.  Soft yellow.  Blueish green.  Once you get into three or more?  Well, you'd have a hard time making a case for it being clear.  I'd definitely listen to the argument, but a purpley-beige gray sounds pretty muddy to me.

Now, I'm not anti-muddy.  I don't have any muddy colors in my house (that I know of), but I wouldn't put it past myself.  I just know that when I put on a yellowish with gray undertones beige-y cream sweater, I don't look as good as one that I would call just cream.  You know?  And I agree with Dorothy that a house is the same way.

But if you're going to go muddy, go all the way.  I know it's popular right now, but I really don't like mixing muddy and clear.  It makes the muddy look dirty and the clear look out of place.

Take this dining room. 

The yellow is FABULOUS.  Can I please have patent leather on my dining room chairs?  Pretty please?  It's practical and ridiculous at the same time.  But paired with the muddy beige walls?  It just brings down the excitement of the yellow.  Reminds me of the worst type of accent walls - where the homeowner is scared to paint all four walls in actual color so they cop out and only do one.  Did the designer cop out here?  I don't think so - she doesn't look like someon who would cop out on anything

But the room just feels a bit blah even with all that yellow.  Maybe if the yellow had been peacock blue or purple instead I wouldn't even have thought about it.  But as it is right now, it's the first thing I thought of (and the inspiration for this post).

And I get that white walls would have made the whole room overly bright and rather stark.  I honestly don't know what I would have put on the walls to go wth the yellow, but it wouldn't have been this color.  Probably one of the reasons I'm reluctant to decorate with yellow though I love it so much.

In the master bedroom, the actual bedroom is all clear colors.  A crisp green on the bed, clear yet dark gray on the walls, lots of white accents to give everything sharp corners.  But moving into the dressing room, you have clear pink and turquoise and then that muddy paint on the trim, door and curtains.  Is it gray?  Is it beige?  Can't tell.  Totally distracted by it.

Just like clear colors like other clear colors, muddy likes muddy.  In the family room, the designer paired muddy walls with a muddy bench and muddy-colored art and yup, I like it.  It works.  I'm not distracted by anything in this room and my eye moves peacefully from one side to the other.

This bathroom - and most blue and white combos - is a great example of clear and clear.  The white is a definite white.  The navy offers a nice contrast.  How could you not feel clean after spending some time in a room like this?  I don't even mind (that much) that the shower tile is basically an accent wall.  Though I think I would have liked navy on top of the beadboard.  I think.

Finally, this designer used a lot of clear neutrals in her rooms.  I am a bit biased - she's one of my favorite design bloggers and is totally the reason I'm attracted to browns and greens lately.  But her neutrals are all definitely tan or beige.  Her greens are definitely Kelly or grass.  It's not an overly bright room, but it's still very cheerful and happy.

And then my favorite room?  The green garden room.  I mean, come on.  Can I move in tomorrow?  I'm sure no one would notice when I replace the dining table chairs with some of the yellow patent leather ones from the dining room, either.  Or tuck one of Lauren's Mad Hatter chairs in the corner.  And I'd just be in heaven.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I heart New York

A couple of weekends ago, I went up to New York for a quick little overnight trip with my friend, Karin.  Karin and I have known each other since we were 4 year olds in tap class and have been close friends since middle school.  Her house was an extension of my house in high school, I was a bridesmaid in her wedding and even though she now lives in Chicago, we're still as close as ever and try to get away for little trips every so often.  She was already going to be back in DC for a conference so we just popped up the coast for a little vacay in the Big Apple!

Karin snagged us a FANTASTIC deal on Le Parker Meridian from Priceline and her Starwood card got us upgraded to a super high floor with a view of Central Park.  Sure, it's all brown this time of the year, but still pretty darn cool.

After checking in and changing out of our travel clothes, we hit the streets.  It was a beautiful sunny day, chilly but not ridiculously so.  We headed all the way downtown to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  I love suspension bridges - always have.  Just glimpsing one gives me this tingly feeling inside. 

But first, a stop for a hot dog.  Why do NYC vendor hot dogs taste so freaking fantastic?  And as a Chicagoan, Karin got a kick out of being able to get one with just ketchup.

We walked from Manhattan to Brooklyn so our skyline shots are of Brooklyn.  But that's just fine by me.  Plus it's a lot easier to find the bridge entrance from the Manhattan side.

All of my pictures are skewed a bit right because I was being a good pedestrian and staying out of the bike lane. 

The Verrazano Bridge in the distance.  My dad's from Brooklyn and we would cross over this bridge when visiting his side of the family.  Betcha this is where I got my early bridge-love.

I was enthralled with all the cables.  It made me feel like I was on a sailboat.

On the other side of the bridge, we got completely lost trying to find Brooklyn Bridge Tourist Attraction, Grimaldi's pizza.  But it was so sunny and we were wearing comfortable shoes so it didn't matter.  Finally we found the right block.

But the line was 90 minutes long.  Ridic, especially as we heard it wasn't really the best pizza ever, just the oldest.  And around the block was another pizza place with only a 5 minute wait and we thought it was pretty darn tasty.  Especially when paired with a Brooklyn Brown Ale.

And I was able to get some more shots of the bridge from a different angle, which made me very happy.

We wandered around Brooklyn Heights for at least an hour, working off that pizza and dreaming about living in the neighborhood.  Both of us would have a hard time turning down one of those brownstones!

We headed back into Manhattan to change for dinner.  We went to The Spotted Pig and managed to get a spot at the bar after only 30 minutes.  A heck of a lot better than the estimated 90 minutes for a table.  And I often prefer sitting at the bar - it's more lively.  We shared orders of deviled eggs, devils on horseback, gnudi and the most meltingly rich burger ever.  Washed it all down with a couple glasses of really yummy Zinfandel - yeah, we were happy girls.

Popped into the ladies' room where I was greeted with the most ridiculous wallpaper ever.  It went from the walls to the ceiling with no break for molding.  I had to take a picture, though it's hard to get the impact.  About 3/4 the way up the picture is where the ceiling starts.  But lovelovelove their ridiculously huge scale.  It was a little overwhelming, but in a totally energizing way.  THIS is how a tiny bathroom should be decorated.  Over-the-top ridiculousness.  My favorite.

The next morning was still bright and sunny and while a bit colder, still not too bad.  We walked down to Times Square and snagged 1/2 price tickets for La Cage Aux Folles - orchestra row M.  Love it!

We headed back north and stopped at the Carnegie Deli for lunch.

Where we proceeded to totally crush the Woody Allen sandwich - pastrami AND corned beef.

We asked for extra bread so we could make two normal sized sandwich halves out of each half of that monstrosity, but I didn't even touch my extra bread.  Just divine - everything a good deli sandwhich should be.  And the mustard?  Heaven.

More walking, this time through Central Park where we happened upon a statue of one of my ancestors - Robert Burns.  Pretty sure it's a winding path to get to me from him, but he's a relation nonetheless so I was pretty excited.

We spent so long walking through the park that we had to hop in a taxi to make it back down to Broadway.  The play was delightful and the drive home was completely uneventful.

All in all, it was a perfectly perfect weekend.  Can't wait to do it again!