Friday, July 24, 2015

Hermione in Castine, Maine

It was an overcast, cool morning in Castine; typical Maine weather. But this was no typical morning at all. There was a buzz brewing beneath the calm throughout our seaside town. Welcome banners and festive flags lined the streets, punctuating this gray morning with pops of color. And down at the dock - which had been strung with brilliant lights - tents of all sizes were popping up everywhere. Something big was coming!

Our historic town was preparing for the arrival of l'Hermione - a replica ship of General Lafayette's 18th-century frigate that aided the Americans against the British in the Revolutionary War. Like the first Hermione, this one had sailed from France to America, and she was coming to Castine just as the 18th-century ship had done. Actually, Castine would be her last port of call in the U.S. - a 'grand tour finale' after stops in Alexandria, Baltimore, New York, Boston, etc. 


Adding to the excitement, it was Bastille Day, France's national holiday celebrating independence. Castine was occupied by France more than once, and is named after French Baron Jean-Vincent de St. Castin. 

To welcome the Hermione, a parade of ships would escort her into the harbor. Tom and I, along with our friends, Bill and Rosie decided to partake in this meet-and-greet at sea. We ventured out with about 100 other boats. Here's our little adventure. Click on photos to enlarge. 
Leaving the dock, we noticed boats, ships and vessels of all kinds headed out to the rendezvous point. We also noticed the weather turning dramatically. Dense fog quickly engulfed everything in sight; one by one, vessels disappeared... We found ourselves alone and, quite honestly, a bit disoriented. Then signals from foghorns started flaring from every direction, creating more confusion. Occasionally something big would creep into and out of visibility, and we would wonder.....
 .....is that the Hermione? Nope.
Wait, something HUGE with a very loud foghorn was in the distance. Other vessels started approaching. Finally, there she was under sail: L'Hermione!!
The fog started lifting, but not knowing what would happen weather-wise, we headed home. I turned around to this sight (below) of the Hermione leading the fleet - pretty unforgettable!
We made it back just in time to catch the Hermine sailing into Castine Harbor. Thank you, Kevin and Roxanne - that was awesome watching the arriving flotilla from your place!
And look what we have: blue sky and sunshine. The harbor glistened with sailboats, powerboats, rowboats, kayaks, dinghies, etc. 
Castine had the distinguished honor of hosting l'Hermione on Bastille Day. Thousands came to join in the festivities. I chatted with a French Canadian from Quebec, and learned the following:

From the moment that I heard the name of America, I loved her. From the moment I learned of her struggles for liberty, I was inflamed with the desire to shed my blood for her!   
~ General Lafayette
I mistakenly called those ropes, and was swiftly corrected. Those are lines!
ABOVE: The hand carved lion figurehead at the beak of the bow. 
BELOW: The stern with a bay of cabin windows. Note the "Betsy Ross" flag featuring the thirteen colonies, which would have been flown during the American Revolution.
Tom and I had the opportunity to tour l'Hermione, which was an incredible experience. The sheer number of lines was dizzying. The masts towered over everything. And those cannons!
B O N J O U R !
Check out this papier-mache replica of the replica. With the guidance of artist and gallery owner, Goody-B Wiseman, children and adults created this impressive model that greeted the Hermione. 
A festive gathering of characters, personalities and pooches of all sizes :)

Many thanks to the organizers, supporters, volunteers, and all who made this historic event such a huge success. A very special thanks to the Castine Historical Society! Castine truly is a special place with an overwhelming sense of community.

Cheers,
Loi

Monday, July 13, 2015

French Style Family Kitchen

Can a kitchen be beautiful yet practical? Sophisticated yet approachable? Neutral yet warm? Read on!

Over the past few years, I've featured various house tours. One of my favorites and yours, according to the many pins from Pinterest, is Tracey's kitchen; you'll remember it shown here in 2012.

Tracey, my dear friend and client, gutted the dated 1980s kitchen in her historic Mediterranean-style home as part of a major house renovation. She and her husband worked with Muse Architects on the project. In designing the new kitchen, Tracey looked to France for inspiration, and sourced many reclaimed items for character and patina. Above all, she designed it to be functional and practical for her family of five plus two doggies.

Let's revisit this kitchen to find out how it's held up, and check out what's new amongst the old. Let's also peek into some of the adjoining rooms. 
Back in 2012, the space above the Lacanche range was plain drywall. Look at the charming tiles from Ken Mason Tiles now! They are handmade terra-cotta tiles with sought-after imperfections in the glaze pigments and profile. Tracey wanted something subtle to complement the warm limestone countertops as well as the soulful terra-cotta floor tiles reclaimed from France. 

The simple tiles also do not compete with the stunning steel hood accented with an usually small fireback from the 19th century. During the 18th - 19th centuries, iron firebacks were commonly placed in the backs of fireplaces to reflect and radiate heat into rooms - effective even after the fires have died down.
The pair of Ca. 1940s factory lights are from my shop; I brought those back from France. Together with the steel hood and French Tolix stools, these pieces give the kitchen a casual, industrial vibe that's unexpected with the luxurious Lacanche range.
The 2" thick Massangis Jaune Clair limestone countertops have held up very well; they've taken on a mellow patina. I asked about stains, watermarks and scratches, and Tracey told me none of those have been issues. Her family does not use coasters, by the way. The countertops are sealed when needed. Plus, any mark would only enhance the character of the limestone with its natural veining and specks of fossils.

This kitchen is not just for show, it serves an active household that really cooks. There is anywhere from five - fourteen for dinner every Sunday night. With open shelving, two sinks and nothing precious, this is a family-friendly kitchen. 
 
Here are two of the youngest members of the household: Peter and puppy Oscar!     
BELOW: Tracey sitting in the adjoining breakfast room with a wall of pantry cupboards made of the same cypress wood as the kitchen cabinets. Notice the stepback sides, which is a clever way to break up the horizontal expanse. Check out the 11' ceiling.

Speaking of ceiling, old pine beams reclaimed from Vermont were installed. In addition to being beautiful, they bring texture and coziness to the soaring ceilings; also a feeling of old to the renovated spaces.
Light fixtures from Aldo Bernardi were imported from Italy. Aren't these sculptural?
Behind the kitchen is the renovated mudroom with the same antique terra-cotta flooring. It's ochre-beige tone warms up the crisp cabinetry, as well as being very forgiving - it shows very little dirt. This is a small room that feels more spacious thanks to the light palette. For storage, there are airy, open niches and cubbies on two sides of a built-in; the third side features closets for seasonal coats. Notice the glass door which maximizes natural light.
The final space off the kitchen is a long hall leading to the stately foyer with a floating staircase. There are French doors painted in the same (custom) blue color as the mudroom door.
 
Tracey made this grand space less formal by furnishing it casually. Flanking the front doors is a pair of 19th-century Swedish painted chests from Tone on Tone. Also from my shop is this 18th-century Swedish daybed from the Gustavian Period. The staircase runner is wool, and the area rug is sisal with a diamond pattern.
And above are peeks of the new potager garden with raised beds for herbs and veggies.

Many, many thanks to Tracey and her family for allowing me to share their special home once again!

Until next time -
Cheers,
Loi 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bring the Garden Inside

HAPPY SUMMER!

It's hot, hot, hot in DC, and I'm staying in, in, in. Now is the time to enjoy the gardens from inside. And, now is the time to catch up on my myrtle topiary plants: trimming, repotting, and fertilizing.

There's a reason why I am so devoted to the topes. Actually, there are many but, for this post, I'll narrow it down to just this one: they are mini evergreen gardens for inside the home. This is especially welcomed when it is too hot or cold to work outside. With careful shaping and nurturing, topiaries become more than houseplants, they are elevated to civilized yet humble living sculptures.

Along with myrtles, I try to infuse our home with pots, statues and other ornaments that have gathered a layer of moss and lichen from sitting outdoors. Introducing this earthy patina into our Swedish palette adds organic charm and warmth to the cool tones. It also creates harmonious flow between house and garden.

Let's dig around the shop for a bit of garden inspiration!
ABOVE: Cute meets industrial in this potting shed-inspired vignette. A grouping of 19th-century botanicals hangs over a tablescape of myrtle topiary, vintage concrete squirrel and child's watering can on an 18th-century Swedish Gustavian table. The sweetness is tempered by the galvanized stool and basket along with the utilitarian tools made for the English lady gardener. While I wouldn't have the vintage tools lining the walls of a drawing room, they would surely add charm to a mudroom or back hall - so handy, too, on the way out for a little gardening.

BELOW: What better way to bring in the garden than botanicals with pretty blooms the entire year! The frames on these classic English prints have a gray finish highlighted with a tinge of silver for an updated look that's fresh. And this early painted duck, in an animated grazing position, adds whimsy to the perennial border or inside on a table, chest, bookshelf, etc.
Speaking of whimsy, this pair of painted concrete faux-bois planters would make any room feel less formal. They would be fun with vibrant blooms or more naturalistic with verdant ferns. The pots sit on a Belgian console table with a stone-like painted top and sculptural lyre ends.
More myrtle topes, more faux bois! While most faux-bois (false wood) pieces were made in France during the early 1900s, this charming birdbath is from England. It pays tribute to poet Dorothy Frances Gurney (1858 -1932) with this verse from her poem God's Garden:

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer to God's heart in the garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
I know, I know - my topiary addiction is out of control!! 

Moving on....let's check out this Ca. 1920s cast composition statue of Venus at the bath. Venus is in terrific condition with an authentic patina. Do you have a corner in your home for her?
More ducks :) Here is an embracing pair sure to make you smile.
What's the easiest way to bring the garden in? Freshly picked flowers, especially this time of year, are a must! I adore the fluffy white blooms on these Annabelle Hydrangeas from our garden.
I've cut generous bunches of Annabelles for our shop, as well. Here is an arrangement on a pale-blue Swedish chest. The antique egg prints are English, and so is the marble urn that I converted into a lamp.
Notice the acanthus carving on the marble urn.
BELOW: A cast composition footed pinecone finial ready to add a bit of patina to your vignette - use it where visual weight is needed or where a masculine accent is desired.
Those of you following along on Instagram will recognize this arrangement of Halcyon Hostas and Minnie Pearl Phlox in a Chinese blue-and-white pot - I shared it in early June. BTW, the arrangement lasted almost a week.

The Midcentury Modern pedestal table has a glass top over a lucite base. It looks especially chic juxtaposed next to an English Chinoiserie armchair with ornate fretwork backrest. The armchair is part of a dining set of eight. 
For more inspiration, please come visit the shop!
Cheers,
Loi