Silpat Mat, Alameda Flea Market This Weekend and A Big Thank You

Today I made cookies with Duncan after school before Hart came home and while Becky was napping.  (Being the middle child, I feel like sometimes Duncan needs a little extra one on one time).  Anyway, while we were baking, I realized how much I use and like my Silpat mat:

If you bake a lot you may know about Silpat.  My MIL gave me this mat a few years ago for Christmas.  Silpat is a French company that makes non stick baking products out of silicone.  Not only are their products great, they are a very environmentally responsible company too.  This mat is wonderful and absolutely nothing sticks to it!  The cookies just fall off and you need no sprays or grease.


Both Amazon and Williams Sonoma carry them now.  (We ate a few of the cookies before I could take the pictures).


Also, I’m heading back to the Alameda Flea Market this weekend.  I’m really looking forward to going again since it’s been several months.  I also have a long list of things to get for clients and I always keep an eye out for myself. I hope the weather will finally be nice and I can take some good pictures.


And finally, I’ve been meaning to give a big thanks to Camille at The Vintique Object for her sweet and generous post about our home.  Camille has a fantastic blog that I have learned so much from over the past few weeks.  The best part of all is that we discovered we only live about a mile away from each other and next week we are getting together to meet and have coffee try to get a few words in edgewise while the kids play.  I am so looking forward to this visit!  Be sure to check out Camille’s blog if you haven’t already.


Hope you have  great weekend!


Antique Cranberry Picker

Last year when I was antiquing with my MIL, we found this antique cranberry picker at a local Berkeley shop.  I bought it not really knowing what I was going to do with it but thinking it would probably find a home in the new kitchen to hold napkins or towels or something like that.  When the kitchen was completed, I just couldn’t find the right place for it so instead of forcing it, I sent it to laundry room limbo until I could figure out where it would go.  We haven’t had a good place to hang towels and things in the downstairs bath so last week I hung it in there.



I think the coloring on it is actually old cranberry stains.





I took this shot to show the “teeth” that used to stick out like a picket fence.  I curled them under with some pliers because they were just too scary looking sticking out.  Plus they were kind of at eye-level for the kids.  Yikes…


I had never even heard of a cranberry picker before I saw this one–I love interesting and sort of odd utilitarian objects given a second purpose.  Do you have any finds like this that have found a new place in your home?

My Favorite Grays

Lately I have been decorating my own home as well as others in various shades of gray.  Gray is obviously the hot color  now and an easy way to update a space is to change a wall to a current color trend.  I usually like very light neutral wall colors when decorating because it allows so much freedom when decorating the rest of the space.  But I’m also drawn to the idea of making a bold statement with a really deep shade of a “neutral,” like gray.


A few years ago (or more, actually, now that I think about it) the brown trend was very hot.  Big chocolate brown leather or micro-suede sofas were everywhere with Tuscan colored walls and deep red accents.  Now we have shifted to blues and greens with gray (or white) as the big neutral.  I like incorporating trends in small ways into spaces I design because it makes a room feel youthful and current.  But as one of my favorite bloggers, Maria Killam of Color Me Happy wrote (I’m paraphrasing), “the only things in design that are timeless are the things you love.”  It’s so true!  No matter what you do today, expect to do a refresh in 5-10 years to keep your decor looking on trend.  This could be something as small as new pillows or curtains or painting a wall, or even as big as a complete redesign.  In any case, nothing is trend-proof unless you pick it simply because you absolutely love it.


Having said all of that, to stay on the current trend, I have found a few grays that keep a room feeling fresh without being cold.  That was always my fear when working with gray–was it going to read as too cold or industrial?  I love working with natural textures like linen and sea grass and warmer metals like brass and nickel.   The grays below are fantastic with this style:



Benjamin Moore Deep Creek 1477

This pewter-y gray has a lot of warmth and looks wonderful with off-white.  This is the color of the mullions on my new kitchen and I am probably using it for a dining area in a client’s apartment right now.  The warmth can be played up in it with creams and off-whites or greenish blues, or play up the sheer grayness of it with bright white or light steely grays.


Sherwin-Williams’s Magnetic Gray SW-7058

A cooler and lighter gray, this color is nice with white and lighter shades of mauve to play up the cool side.  Pair with off-white for a warmer combo.



Benjamin Moore’s November Rain 2142-60

My absolute favorite go-to neutral.  I haven’t found a color this paint doesn’t look good with.  In my kitchen the green table brings out the yellowish undertones but usually I see greenish and bluish undertones.  It’s really versatile.



Benjamin Moore’s Bear Creek 1470

Similar to Deep Creek but slightly warmer.  It also looks good with whites and off-whites and greenish-blues.


Benjamin Moore, Kingsport Gray, HC-86

A very brownish gray, this color can look almost like cocoa when paired with beige or nut-brown.  Cool linen white and blues will bring out the warmer gray tones though.


Benjamin Moore, Sandy Hook Gray, HC-108

This was a Pottery Barn color a few years ago and pairs well with creams, off-whites and browns.


Also, remember if you find a tone of gray you really like but don’t want to go dark on the walls, ask the paint store to reduce the color by 25, 50 or even 75%.   And if you are a bright neutral lover like me, consider painting your trim in one of these darker grays while keeping the walls white or a light neutral.  If you are thinking of introducing gray into your decor I hope this helps!


Do you have a gray you love, I’d love to hear about it and add it to my compilation.

Overgrown Camelias

When we bought our house 4 years ago, one of the first things I thought about doing was severely pruning or even completely cutting down these camelia bushes (or trees is a better word).  I actually really like camelias, I grew up with them all over my grandmother’s yard and loved to make arrangements with them, but these are so tremendous and block so much light.


Then we found out they were original to the house–over 100 years old.  I just couldn’t chop them down.  About 3 years ago I severely pruned them though and they grew back with a vengeance.  They do offer some much needed privacy for us but they are going crazy and I’m not sure how to get them under control…



I really have gotten attached to them and they are the closest things to mature trees we have in our yard.  The boys love climbing them and we really do need the privacy but I have got to figure out how to reign them in a little.  Does anyone have experience with out of control camelias?

Fabric Finds: Waverly, Santa Maria in Adobe


Whenever I do a fabric search, I usually find something wonderful from Waverly Fabric.  Check out this new collection:



















The first swatch of these coordinates is called Waverly Santa Maria in Adobe, the middle one is Waverly Panama Wave also in Adobe, and the last one is Mayan Medallion in Adobe.   So beautiful!  Even though they look really gorgeous together, they are far too matchy.  I would love to see a solid linen with the Mayan Medallion to let it stand out on its own or even pile them all together with some other bold patterns like this Covington Savannah Paisley Cream, and this other Waverly one called Wonderama Toucan, to distract from the fact that they are all coordinates.  Also throwing in some other stripes and solids would be fun!

What would you do with these gorgeous fabrics?

The Little Things…

I found this little vintage French soap dish at the flea market last year and had thought I would put it in our downstairs bath.  It just wasn’t working in there so I decided to hang it in the new kitchen:



Why do little things like this make me so happy?  I guess it’s better not to question it and just enjoy it…




In the above image you can see the little brass screws that I miraculously saved from another refurbishing project.


My mom used to always say things when I was growing up like “a place for everything and everything in its place!” to which I would roll my eyes mercilessly as an adolescent.  Well Mom, I finally get it.  Now that I have three kids (and a vintage soap dish can make me happy), I can honestly say I find beauty in order.


That’s it, right?


What are the little things that bring a smile to your face?


Fireplace Before and After

I recently went to my old post about our fireplace renovation in the dining room and realized that all our before pictures had been lost when I switched the blog over to WordPress.  I found a bunch of photos that actually detail the process pretty thoroughly so I thought I would just redo the entire post and show you step by step what happened.  So, here’s a familiar site from my blog, our fireplace the way it looks today:



But here’s how it looked less than a year ago:





To be fair we had already started preparing it for tile in this shot but still, you get the picture.  Also, we had a handyman help us with this project since the surround was extremely crooked from a lot of settling from when we redid the foundation.  I have tiled a fireplace before but not one that needed this much leveling.

I knew I wanted something brighter and more elegant than the brick but soft and textural.  I contemplated just painting the whole thing out white but really thought we could get something dramatically different and elegant for not too much investment.  I usually like to upgrade as much as possible but never have the budget for my tastes.  That’s why when it comes to a small area like a fireplace or a powder room I always recommend spending money on high quality materials.  You get a lot of bang for your buck since you don’t have to buy that much of the material.

I won’t go through all my reasons for the design choices I made–you can see that in my earlier post–but long story short, I felt like it was an update that went along with the architecture and era of the house.  I chose limestone in a herringbone pattern.  I also went with a yellow undertone to the limestone instead of the pink/beige.  I really did not want that pink undertone to stand out when I painted the mantel a warm gray!  As you can tell from our master bath, I love limestone and its chalky fossilized texture but the undertones to it can be very jarring when paired with white whites or cool grays.   It is also very porous and can be delicate.


In the above photo you can see how the surround was created.  After all the tile was put on, the surround (which is just pine since I knew I wanted to paint it) was attached.  There is a slight lip routed out of the edge of the surround to make it look as though it covers the tile but it is just enough to cover the edge.  This prevented us from having to waste a lot of tile by tiling the whole front and also allowed the rough edge where the tile was cut to be covered.  In this view you can also see the bullnose lip around the firebox that is probably my favorite part of the design.  Because you always want to tile slightly into the firebox, you have to account for the tile and how it is going to curve around the corner.  You can simply butt one end of the tile up to another, but this little bullnose detail gives it such a finished and higher end look.




Here you can see we replaced the ceramic 12x12s of the hearth with limestone 12x12s.  I was stumped for a while as to what to do to replace the cheap oak edging that covers the unfinished edge of the hearth tile.  Not only is the material totally wrong, but as you can see from these photos, the hearth is now out of scale with the larger surround.  And this is before the mantel was even added on.  I just couldn’t find a decorative tile piece that went with the limestone I was already using.



The solution which you can see in the after photo below, was to cut strips from the 12×12 limestone tiles and carefully round out a bullnose with a sander and then create a mitered border.  My handyman did this and he did a great job.  Any fairly soft porous tile/stone like limestone or marble can be sanded down as I witnessed when my marble counters had their bullnose removed.  Here is the finished hearth with added limestone edge:


So after the decorative dental and beaded molding piece was added to create a mantel support, another piece of pine was simply nailed to the top a few inches wider than the molding to create the right scale for the whole piece.  The wider mantel shelf also makes it look like an added layer of decorative molding, but really it’s just the pine board.  I wish I could say I went in with exact drawings and measurements but like I do everything, I eyeballed it.  I knew I would know when the scale was right so we kept taking away until the mantel stuck out just enough.  Just remember, it’s easier to take away than to add!


So now it’s finished and I have to admit I forget how much of a change it is until I pull out those before pictures.  I hope this helps some of you if you are thinking of tackling a fireplace redo.

The Problem Room

There are a few rooms in my house I haven’t posted photos of because they just aren’t right, or I have design plans that I haven’t had a chance to implement yet, or they need just a little tweaking that I haven’t had time for.  But there is one that I am so frustrated with that I have completely hit  a wall with it.  I don’t know where to begin to improve it.  It is used for so many things, has a terrible layout, houses ugly utilitarian machinery, and we all go in in many times every day.  It’s our laundry room–for lack of a better name:


This curtain I made hides this:

A few years ago we got solar hot water and the equipment fr it is pretty hideous–All these pipes and these 2 big ugly tanks.  Plus we had to stack our washer and dryer…


It’s also a work space for me so it has my sewing machine, all my paint, lacquers and brushes plus all of our tools.  The cat box is in here and their food bowls too.


Honestly, this is much better than it usually looks.  We cleaned it out a bit this weekend.  I added this thrift store lamp and put down this rug to hide the horrific floors.  We tried to paint them a few years ago and they immediately starting peeling and now look terrible.



The only plus side is that it has large windows but even they are laid out very awkwardly.  Also, the built in storage is awkward and not very accessible.  Behind the curtain under the window on the right is a really cheap plastic utilitarian sink too.  Useful but so ugly…


Someday I’ll tackle this room but just thinking about it now makes my head hurt.  Do you have a problem room in your home?  Do you have a plan for it or is it too much to even think about?

Vintage Enamelware

Last year I decided to try to reduce the use of nonstick cookware so much in my cooking.  It’s great fr convenience but I started worrying about all the harmful effects of teflon and other chemicals used in nonstick surfaces.  On one of my trips to the flea market last year, I purchased a large vintage cast iron pan which I use almost every night and this little vintage enamelware pan that I use for small dishes like making a single scrambled egg:



It’s a great little size to have but I also just loved the color…



One of these days I when I head back to the flea market I hope to add to my collection (of one)…



I realized recently that my new kitchen reminds me so much of my great grandmother’s kitchen when I was growing up.  She lived in an old neighborhood called Hyde Park in Tampa, FL in a 1920s 2-story bungalow and she had a bright open kitchen with white and green and a large table where she did much of her prep.  I didn’t do it consciously, but I know somehow I was remembering her and the warm feelings of being in that kitchen when I designed our new one.  Those memories are probably adding to the happiness I feel in our new space!


I think that’s another reason I am so drawn to vintage and and antique items–I get so much fulfillment creating a connection to the past. Memories of my grandparents and great-grandparents and their time feel more present when using something with history.  Is this true for any of you other vintage and antique lovers out there?  Do you feel a connection to older generations in your family when you go out antiquing?

Don’t get me wrong, I also just love thrifting and scoring a great find too!

Spring Rain

We were getting a good dose of spring last week but this week it has rained non-stop and I’m already pretty tired of it.  I know we really need it as it has been a dry winter but I’m so ready to get out into the garden and finish up the brick bath and plant vegetables, etc.  I did bring a little spring inside today to beat the rain with a couple of Heather plants on the dining room table:




I also dashed out to the garden and cut some Rosemary to dry out and add to my spices and the aroma of it is filling up the kitchen:



I think we are in for another week or so of rain.  Can’t wait for that first day of sun though because I know everything will really be blooming then.  We are really looking forward to spring!  How is the weather where you are?  Has spring sprung?