Saturday, May 14, 2011

A salute to Stephanie ...

In my youth, my beloved cousin Stephanie was an influential stylemaker. I remember some of the best shopping expeditions were during visits with our aunts. Since the aunts had no children, Stef and I got to be their dress-up dolls, and Stef had primo taste for designer apparel and accessories even before hitting her teen years.  Being a little sponge, at four years younger than my beautiful cousin, anything Stef thought was cool ... WAS.

She introduced me to the everlasting beauty of Etienne Aigner with my first pair of loafers ... just like hers! I must have been all of ten years old at the time.

Today, she is in critical condition following an automobile accident this week ... an event that is life altering, if not life ending.  At this point, we don't know.

And, so memories of our youth come flooding back. She is so far away, and I can't be with her to hold her hand.

Seeing these shoes somehow brings me closer.

Bigger is better ...

There is no way to discount the impact of large format art. By its sheer size, it takes center stage, and I love what it can do for a room.

Large format art on canvas takes on enormous proportions when mounted from floor to ceiling.

The giant scale of the portrait above (via The Paris Apartment) makes me weak in the knees just looking at the image. If your ceiling height can't handle a 20' canvas, yet you are overcome with desire for unique artwork, check out the 6' - 7' tall originals from Bobo Intriguing Objects, like those below.  


So, how do you recreate the look at home if you can't commission a master artist? Well, when the divide between nobility and serf is too wide, you can purchase a giclee print of an original.


Both of the rooms above benefit from giclee prints on canvas. Images via Elle Decor (left) and Cote Maison (right).

The age of large format digital printing has ushered in new and innovative ways for anyone to create personalized spaces with art. My favorite company, American Color Labs, can take any photo or graphic file and print it on just about any media (including canvas, vinyl and wood) at almost any size.

Have a favorite photo that can enhance the mood in a room? The image above via Brabourne Farm perfectly sets the tone for a romantic bedroom. Let your imagination take your art to a grand scale.

A chorus of coral ...

After seeing every shade of coral over the last several years, you'd think the color would have worn out its welcome. Not a chance. Designers are still bringing this vibrant hue into trendy decor schemes.

Leather chairs in vivid coral keep this dining room fresh.  Photo via Commune Design.

While coral is often used as a accent, it can certainly hold its own in any room.

Photo above via Odi et Amo brings in complementary shades of coral, spa blue and taupe, three colors that speak of sand and sea.

The photo from Apartment Therapy (right) shows the use of coral in a fresh, bold palette.

Okay, just a hint of this favorite seaside shade can brighten a room. In the photo above (via Gold Cage) a bright, sunlit space earns high marks with the addition of coral pillows and throws.

It's not all about walls and soft goods. Create great tabletop chemistry with accents, like the coral plates shown above (via Design Milk). Then, start singing "by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea ... you and I, you and I, oh how happy we'll be."

Friday, May 13, 2011

You little tart ...

I have waited all spring for the day we could harvest fresh tomatoes and basil from our garden.  Now it's time, and I have the perfect warm weather recipe to share: Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts.



· 1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
· Virgin olive oil
· 4 cups thinly sliced sweet yellow onions (2 large onions)
· 3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
· Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 3 tablespoons dry white wine
· 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
· 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
· 4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet)
· 1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
· 3 tablespoons of fresh, julienned basil leaves


Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.

Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.

Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.

Let's table that idea ...

As a self-admitted foodie, I particularly enjoy dining (and sitting, reading, working, etc.) at a great table. If you are like me and everyone else I know, you probably find yourself gravitating to the family table when visiting friends homes, too.

So, what makes a table fabulous to me? It must be made of natural materials ... wood is my number one element, although natural stone (limestone, marble, etc.) comes in a very close second place. I like the bleached wood planks that top the wrought iron base in the photo above from Desde My Ventana.

I must admit I am drawn to a table that has oodles of character. In the photos above, there is no doubt that these tables combine both beauty and brawn with years of tales to tell.  The butcher block at left (via Oregon Live) is as handsome and appealing as any Saturday night date, and the rustic charmer at right (via Habitually Chic) seems totally at home in its modern setting.

The juxtaposition of rustic and refined is a perfect interplay in this dramatic setting (via Hub). Slipcovered chairs accompany the table beautifully and dress up the space for guests! I can just envision lingering conversations following an intimate dinner party.

I just want to sit at this table and snap beans! I can see generations of a family appreciating the beauty of this table and its benches while preparing heirloom recipes. This photo from Old Sweetwater Cottage places the table in the heart of the kitchen.

Have a seat, and I'll pour us some tea!