Counting Stars in Your Own Backyard

 

Summertime is perfect for travel, to see new sights, taste new foods, and refresh our spirits. Sometimes we return from a vacation, though, only to sigh with relief at the sight of our own front door.  There’s something to be said for a chance to relax without packing a suitcase, airport delays, and crowds of tourists. With a little advance planning, we can turn a stay at home into a luxurious retreat.

 

 

Start by thinking about what you love when you travel. If the feeling of luxury and being pampered is part of what makes a hotel stay desirable, then recreate that escape at home. Toss out old bedding, and invest in good quality organic cotton sheets. They’ll feel wonderful against your skin, and will support your health by being toxin-free. Buy new pillows, and add a soft alpaca throw at the bottom of the bed.

 

 

Rejuvenating your body as well as your mind and spirit should be your priority for this vacation. Consider purchasing a room air purifier. A HEPA filter will remove allergens and particulates from the air you breathe, then recirculate purified air back into the room.

 

 

I have a whole house air purification system that keeps the air in my home pristine, and my guests tell me they’ve never felt better or more energized.

 

 

Bring the best summer has to offer inside! I love the look of nautical throw pillows. Add shells and beach-inspired decor to keep you feeling like your toes are in the sand.

 

 

I love my collection of vintage sand pails, reminding me that this is the season to remember the delights of childhood, or enjoy them again with little people you love.

 

 

Plan a day trip (or three!) to places in your area that you just don’t have time to get to on a regular basis. One of my favorite destinations on Nantucket is Pumpkin Pond Farm. My good friend Marty McGowan is an organic farmer who blesses the island with gorgeous flowers and delicious homegrown produce. The recent Tomato Tasting there was a delight for all the senses.

 

 

Indulge in all the bounty of fresh summer foods–tomatoes, corn, peaches, plums, and fragrant herbs. Try a new recipe every night!

 

 

When the afternoon sun starts to make you drowsy, there’s nothing like a window seat where you can curl up with a book to read or to nap.

 

 

Since you’re staying home, family and friends may be traveling to see you. Arrange guest rooms with the kind of touches that help people feel at home. A small table or chair where they can place their luggage is appreciated. Fill a basket with books you’ve enjoyed, soaps and lotions, and extra towels. The best way to decide if your guest room is ready is to sleep there for a night yourself.

 

 

There’s nothing more romantic than a summer evening, so don’t stay indoors and miss it. Be sure to make your patio or deck as comfortable as the interior of your home, with tables, umbrellas, and lots of wonderful places to sit, with cushions and throw pillows so you can relax.

 

 

String white lights with vintage lanterns..

 

 

Light lots of candles.

 

 

Then listen for the owls, and count the stars in your own backyard.

 

 

 

Spring Beauty

 

We celebrate our New Year on January 1st, but Spring has been a symbol of new beginnings, and for some cultures, the new year, since ancient times. Our ancestors believed that there was a connection between the seasons, the moon and stars, and the magic of new life.

 

 

It’s easy for us to miss the change of seasons when we are busy commuting, working, and living indoors, unless we stop and pay attention. As an interior designer, I’ve always been inspired by the change of seasons, with new colors, fragrances, and the way the sunlight changes. Lately I’ve been inspired by the beauty of spring as I experienced it as a child.

 

 

On their winter trips to visit my grandparents in South Carolina, my mom and dad used to bring me back boxes full of camellia blossoms packed in soft green foliage to keep them fresh on the drive back to Connecticut. My grandmother had two camellia shrubs on the corners of her front porch. I loved the fragrance. They overlooked the Koi pond where the fish were dormant for the winter. That was always magic to me as a child–such a mystery when they came “alive” again in the spring!

 

 

One of my favorite places to experience spring is Middleton Plantation just outside of Charleston. Henry Middleton began the garden design in 1741, wanting to recreate the grand classic style popular in Europe at the time. The camellias bloom early there–red, pink, variegated–large shrubs bloom in beautiful walled gardens that even in winter hold the promise of what’s to come.

 

 

Grazing Sheep at Middleton Place – SC

 

I loved walking those paths and imagining the history of the antique house there, and the grand esplanade down to the river where the boats came in with supplies. There’s a little chapel there, too, and it’s a repository of Civil War history.

 

 

If you feel like taking a short road trip from New England, I recommend the gardens at Winterthur in Wilmington, Delaware. Henry Francis du Pont’s museum there houses the finest American furniture and collections in the world–a lovely source of design inspiration!

 

 

Another beautiful spring trip to take is to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The legacy of Pierre du Pont, a relative of Henry Francis du Pont, the Gardens exist today to inspire people through garden design, horticulture, education, and the arts. They are a living expression of all that Mr. du Pont found inspiring, meaningful, and beautiful. If you’re interested in more botanical gardens to visit, a gardening site called sproutabl.com has a list of 50 gardens you shouldn’t miss!

 

The Pierce’s Woods Love Temple, a Pergola at Longwood Gardens

 

This is a wonderful time of year not only to enjoy the outdoors, but to use that inspiration to re-imagine your home! Think of using light, bright colors, bringing in fresh flowers from the garden, and refreshing the air in your house by opening the windows while spring cleaning.

 

 

No detail is too small to proclaim spring! The curtain tieback below is made from opalescent 1880s Sandwich milk glass in the shape of a flower.

 

 

Colorful artwork paired with bouquets of fresh flowers awaken all your senses.

 

 

Try changing your bed linens for a lighter weight and brighter look.

 

 

Floral prints remind us of the flowers outside our doors. This is a close up of a custom rug I designed for a Nantucket home.

 

 

A pattern doesn’t have to be floral to be engaging. Blue and white always sparkles, as in this beautiful Chinoiserie wallpaper.

 

 

Inspiration is everywhere! Take a walk outside and look around. Happy Spring!

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Spring

 

It’s important to have plans for special times in the future. We all need something to look forward to: a place we haven’t yet gone, new experiences to open our eyes and hearts, people we haven’t yet met. Some people keep a “bucket list.” One of the beautiful trips I have yet to make is fulfilling my dream of going to the Chelsea Flower Show, held each May since 1912 in London.

 

 

This year, the show will be May 23-27. Sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society to inspire the best in gardening, the show is held on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. If you can’t make it yet, you can do as I plan to do this year: watch the DVD of its first hundred years.

 

 

I know I’ll be there someday!

 

 

If you’re looking for a way to combine spending time outdoors in spring with enjoying the inspiration of stunning artwork, then you may want to head over to the New York Botanical Garden. From April 22nd through October 29th, the breathtaking work of Dale Chihuly will be on view. The photo above shows an installation of his work in the Atlanta Botanical Garden last year.

 

The Bridge of Glass in downtown Tacoma.

 

Chihuly is an American glass sculptor, considered unique in the field for moving glass into the realm of large scale sculpture. Three years in the planning stage, the Botanical Garden show features 20 installations as well as a display of his drawings at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s Art Gallery. 

 

The Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit at the world famous Space Needle.

 

He loves to go to the ocean and walk along the beach to find inspiration, something we have in common! “If you work with hot glass and its natural properties it begins to look like something that came from the sea,” he says. His work pairs beautifully with my beach house designs, as seen in the photo below. The magnificent blue glass pieces on the table are by Chihuly, intended to evoke the colors of the sea.

 

 

I collect Chihuly glass for myself, too. The beautiful Chihuly piece below is in a place of honor in my vestibule in my home in Connecticut.

 

 

Dale Chihuly has even had a rose named in his honor. As in his artwork, the colors of the rose are magnificent, with buds of pure yellow swirling open to a bright orange, with a finale of deep reds.

 

Rose named Chihuly, of the Floribunda class.

Don’t miss the Botanical Garden’s Chihuly Nights, when the installations are spectacularly illuminated. Maybe I’ll see you there!