Friday, April 30, 2010

Lovelies from Bella Notte


One of the best things about living in California, aside from the weather, is having access to so many wonderful resources.  One of which is the Bella Notte Outlet in Novato.  Like most warehouse sales, you have to go in with an open mind and a lot of creative energy, because items are not in complete “sets” or even pairs sometimes. 




But the offerings are gorgeous.  Textile heaven.  While the prices are good by retail standards, they still reflect the quality of the items.  



Seriously, I could just crawl up on the shelves and get cozy.



Some photos of their products from the website….


neck roll 










The quality of the textiles is impeccable and the designs are charming.  It was very difficult to resist going overboard, but I did pretty well at controlling myself and still managed to bring home a few goodies.

The warehouse is open regularly on Fridays and Saturdays from 10-2 and has deeper discount sales from time to time.

They are located at :  61  Galli Drive ste. E   Novato, Ca 94949

For more info, be sure to check out their beautiful website at:

Monday, April 26, 2010

I have the sweetest friends….

  Me and Christina 

This weekend, my boys’ school was hosting a benefit garage sale.  As I am a self-professed magpie who can’t seem to leave anything behind, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some of the goodies out of the garage and help the school out a little bit.   So, I recruited my very dear friend and partner in crime err…design, Christina, who brought some of her treasures as well. 


We brought only decorative items (trust me, I have plenty of straight-up junk that I need to get rid of too).  And, to try to drum up a little design biz, we put up easels with portfolio photos and had business cards handy for anybody that asked.  The sale went great and we had a blast talking to people.




As we were getting ready to pack up, a friend who had been by earlier in the day came walking up with this ADORABLE little footstool in her hand.  She started to ask me a question about if I’d seen someone and I was so distracted by what she was carrying, I could barely focus on what she was saying (this is a bad habit I have—I get totally visually distracted).  I told her that “no, I hadn’t seen her, but that footstool is darling.”  She replied that  “…(she) had had it for a long time and she thought it was right up my alley and that she wanted me to have it.”

Do I have the sweetest friends or what?!  Thanks a bunch Gale, I love it!


And thank you to Christina for all your help—it is so much fun to do things together!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Adopt and Adapt



More sage advise from Dorothy Draper….

Shortcut #12:

There are two words in the English language that you should try to remember when you are looking for new ideas.  Strangely enough they both begin with the very first letter of the alphabet.  The words are “adopt” and “adapt”.

So many people get discouraged when they look through the pages of the opulent so-called service magazines or try to glean some ideas from the room set-ups in the stores.  “The rooms were all much larger than mine,” or “I could never afford such big pieces of furniture,” are the laments of the majority.

The idea is to “adopt” the concept and “adapt” it to your own room and your own way of living.  You may not be able to afford or have room for such a large breakfront, but how about a small secretary or hutch? 

You like that swag idea for the window in your living room, but the heavy damask and tassels is much too heavy a treatment for the size of your room.  Adopt the idea, but modify it to suit your space, taste and pocketbook. 

You admire the bamboo fretwork on the wall behind that bed, but it looks expensive, so why not use a regular wooden garden trellis for practically the same effect?

Did you see that picture of the patio with a riot of petunias in planters?  Take that idea and plant some inexpensive petunia seeds or small petunia plants in wooden salad bowls and have three bowls brimming with color on your kitchen ledge.  Learn to adopt an idea and adapt it to your own special needs!”

Inspiration is everywhere when you are open to seeing it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tureens, they’re not just for dinner anymore.



michael smith pc grey crawford

photo credit:  Grey Crawford


kitchen-cabinet-0406_xlg mallory marshal pc laura moss

photo credit:  laura moss




I don’t think anyone would disagree that soup tureens (or if you prefer, soupières) can be equally attractive serving a delicate soup or as part of a collection in an open display (Thankfully!  As they can be difficult to store in your run of the mill kitchen cabinet).  But, as I am especially fond of finding ways to make use of those typically less-often-used  items, here are a few ideas for making a lovely tureen do double duty….



A floral arrangement is always a perfect fit for an old tureen.




At it’s best when the arrangement and selection of the flowers reflect the style of the tureen.  A frog or floral tape will help make the job of arranging easier in wide mouth vessels such as these.



pomegranites, quince and apples in a pewter tureen Pedro de Camprobín

Why not create your own still life with some fruit from the market and a few leafy stems off of a tree or shrub in your yard?




My pewter tureen with flowers from my garden.




A  longer-lived alternative to a floral centerpiece, coordinate the fruits you use to the scheme of your table setting—imagine an old pewter tureen heaped with figs or plums and grapes and maybe some baby purple artichokes for an autumn table.  Or place orange, green and yellow citrus dotted with tiny white flowers in white ironstone in the summer.



SCA160389034  01

Try piling your tureen high with fresh berries in season.  Strawberries are just coming into season here and we have many local farm stands where you can buy the tastiest fruits in large quantities—I predict that I’ll be tasting testing this idea out soon.  I recently read that someone used her tureen in the summer to serve watermelon balls marinated in port wine-yum!




I often come across bowls that have lost their lids.  If they are a nice shape, I bring them home in spite of their missing parts.  I very frequently put live plants in old tureens such as this-usually indoors, but this old pot looks great outside.  A small round tureen makes a pretty container for potted herbs in a sunny kitchen window.



During the winter holidays, fill a tureen with poinsettia or amaryllis.  Fresh cedar and pine branches with white candles and mercury glass bulbs would be a festive alternative.




Last winter, I attempted to force some paperwhites in an old tureen, but I must have gotten a bad batch of bulbs because they just rotted.  This was the look I was going for.  (I won’t show you what I got.)  




A profusion of hyacinths on an antique console are doubled in abundance by the placement of a mirror behind.  A tureen is a perfect container for forcing bulbs. 




Why not place one on your kitchen table to hold cloth napkins?




A tureen would make a great ice bucket, wine cooler or cookie jar.  You might even use one to store all of those attachments for the mixer & food processor.



bread proofing

Or, for the bakers among us (not me, by the way), try using one as the “covered bowl” recommended for proofing dough.




Easter basket, mom-style.




Instead of flowers, this tureen could be holding wooden spoons and other cooking utensils next to the cooktop.



 dog biscuits

Use one for storing dog biscuits.


Puppies in a Soup Tureen

Or puppies!  (too cute)

Actually, one of my favorite uses for a lidless tureen is as a dog water bowl for Bennett—so much more attractive than a stainless bowl. 


Here are a few more ideas off of the top of my head….


  • Use a big ironstone tureen for serving salad (green or pasta).
  • Offer popcorn or chips from a shallow-bowled tureen at your next game-day party.
  • Or, for 4th of July, make homemade ice cream and serve it from a blue and white transferware tureen.
  • Keep your tea stash in it.
  • Use one on the counter for storing potatoes or onions or garlic.
  • Fill one full of rolled washcloths or soaps and sea sponges to leave on the bathroom vanity.
  • Nothing beats natural accessories; white ironstone looks great filled with seashells or pinecones.
  • Fill with water and float candles and flowers in one for a romantic centerpiece.
  • For holiday parties, instead of a punch bowl, use a tureen for egg nog, punch, spiced cider, mulled wine or whatever your poison.


At last count, I think I have about ten large-ish white ironstone tureens—of those, only a few are pretty good old pieces complete with underplates and ladles that I reserve for display only.  I just recently found that old pewter tureen who’s squatty shape reminds me of a Cinderella pumpkin.  The remainder are just pieces that I’ve picked up here and there that I love to use and abuse for different purposes such as those I’ve listed above.  Hmmm, now I’m thinking that I might need to add some Staffordshire pieces to the collection as well….

Do you have any interesting ways you like to use a tureen?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You Must visit here (part one)….

front in spring
If you are ever in Northern California, you must include an afternoon at Filoli in your itinerary.  Located in Woodside, just 20 miles south of San Francisco, it was a mere ten minutes from my childhood home, but sadly, is now 180 miles from home.  Even still, I try to visit at least once a year.   

Open February through October, with special events during the holidays, the house and gardens are equally spectacular.

Upon entering through that amazing portico, you find yourself in the Transverse Hall, bisecting the length of the 36,00o square foot Georgian country house.

Detail of the door moulding and pediment in Transverse Hall.  The quality of workmanship in the details of this home are truly awe-inspiring.

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The interior knobs and keyhole covers

The stairway with it’s magnificent iron railing is just off the hallway.   The second story now houses the offices of the foundation, and is off limits to visitors.  (I sure would like to sneak a peek someday.)

ballroom 2
Perhaps the most stunning room in the home is the Ballroom.  It’s delicate dove’s-egg-blue walls are accent with gilded column capitals and moulding details. 

ballroom chandelier
The magnificent crystal chandeliers are copies of those that hung in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles during the signing of the Peace Treaty in 1920.

ballroom mural2
Six elaborate crystal wall sconces with amethyst colored crystal drops complete the illumination of the ballroom.
The scenes of Muckross, Ireland were chosen because, after a series of strokes, the master of the house, Mr. Bourn was not well enough to travel to this special place.  The five murals that encircle the room were painted by Ernest Peixotto in his New York City studio on canvas from sketches made in a visit to Muckross. The completed murals were then rolled up and shipped by train to Filoli in 1925.

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The large French Baroque-style fireplace surround is carved brecciated Italian Machiavelli or Sarrancolin marble decorated with ormulu decorations of the head of Hercules and Nemean lions' heads molded to fit the marble.

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It is truly breathtaking.

Across the hall from the Ballroom is the library, a copy of the library at Denham Place, England. The plan and arrangement of wall panels, bookcases, and borders carved in a floral pattern were copied from the English house built in 1690.

Though it’s difficult to see in the photo, the floor is laid in an alternating herringbone pattern to create a changing effect of light and dark stripes depending on the position of the viewer.

   Last time I visited, I had to ask a docent “what this room was?”  She very politely told me that it was the Reception Room.  Well, duh, don’t we all have rooms in which to receive our guests!?!  What a different world this must have been.
Notice the doorway mouldings.  The rooms along this axis are set enfilade style, so that you can see straight through the open doorways from one end of the house to the other.

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At the south end of the house is one of my favorite rooms, the Dining Room, here, set for Christmas dinner.

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The blue linen damask on the chairs is gorgeous.

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The floral displays are an important part of the decor and are changed frequently.

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The last stop on this very abbreviated tour of Filoli is the Butler’s Panty.  This room made such an impression on me as a young girl—the concept of having an entire room devoted to storing all that beautiful crystal and china, I was hooked.  You can read more about that obsession here.

Inside the safe in the Butler’s Pantry. 
To quote Rachel Zoe:  “I die!”

floor planThe floor plan of this spectacular estate. 
Clearly, there is much, much more to be seen.  If you’re interested in learning more about or visiting the house and gardens, you can access the Filoli website here.  Trust me, it is not a place you want to miss.
Next time, part deux, the gardens….
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