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Gently green conversations with Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP

My Ode to New England

After touring Florida and the Carolinas a lot in the last few years, and trying to decide where to live ~ and our tax advisor letting the tax tail wag the dog, so to speak (as many of you know I was born in South Carolina and have family there) ~ we finally realized how much we love New England! It’s home.

Snow and ice welcome us home!

We love the change of seasons, and snow is a celebration of nature for us. So no one is complaining here! We’ve made our choice. We love all the changes and the beauty. One day when it was sunny with brilliantly clear, blue skies, and 63 degrees, I picked a snowdrop flower and brought it inside for my 93 year old dad. What a smile!

First snowdrops of the season!

For us, there is nothing like curling up next to the fireplace with a great book and watching the snow outside with our three little pooches. All cozy and protected.

Here I am with Frank, G.G., Tuffy, and Ellie

Our “green” home in East Norwalk was renovated by us with all non-toxic building materials and finishes ~ it took two years. The property hasn’t had a chemical or pesticide on it for over 22 years. That’s hard to replicate.

My Connecticut Home in Winter

Talk about stimulation! We’re only a one hour drive to Manhattan with all the culture, plays, some of the finest medical care in the country (we also like Cleveland Clinic), and incredible museums, not to mention the cuisine. Frank loves Arthur Avenue!

A New York City bakery!

This all feeds my soul, but we can retreat to Connecticut for peace and quiet and cleaner air.

My Connecticut Home in Summer

A winter vacation to a warm climate is always a treat, but we usually end up staying close to home with so much design work to do before getting our clients ready for their summer homes on Nantucket.

A window seat I created for a client to frame her view

Spring will be our next magical treat. The daffodils and croci are already pushing their way through the earth. God’s work. Renewal. I know it’s not for everyone, but New England is home for us. We’re grateful for all the beauty and excitement of nature–all 12 months of it.

A single crocus

Soon we’ll be back on Nantucket for the summer. Cooler temperatures and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We are only a block away from Madaket Harbor where Frank keeps his boat for fishing, clamming, and just plain being lazy.

Island evening

Plus, we have the Nantucket Whaling Museum (rated one of the top ten museums in the country), and all of the history of the island. I work on a committee for the Nantucket Historical Association and help with their fundraisers and often do design displays for them.

 

It’s a full life for a transplant from South Carolina. Did I ever tell you how one Fourth of July, I had to be medi-vacced off the island in a helicopter to Mass General for a gastric hemorrhage? Now that was a trip! All was fine in the end but I was there for two weeks. That’s part of the reason I don’t want to live on Nantucket full time, although we have so many wonderful friends there. Plus, I would miss Connecticut and New York City. Right now it seems as though we have the best of both worlds ~ for us, anyway.

Nantucket Harbor

Stay cool or warm, whichever you need right now. God bless you all!

My porch in Madaket on Nantucket

Every Room Has a Beginning

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Have you ever walked into a room and wondered where to begin? Interior designers face this question all the time. There’s always a starting point, a moment of inspiration. It may be the window with the stunning view and the way the sunlight slants into the room, or a family heirloom or painting that helps define colors and style.

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In this case, the entire house we’d first designed and completed in 1995 was picked up and moved across Nantucket Island. Erosion on Sconset Bluff had caused the home to be moved from its precarious position first in 2008, and again only a few years later.

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When the house was carefully set down again in its new location facing Nantucket Harbor, it was time to take a new look at the Edwardian-era home. The owners still loved what we created almost 20 years earlier, but wanted an updated version, while still retaining their favorite pieces from the original design. As part of the design process, my team and I began with detailed scaled drawings that showed our concept of the space.

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In the living room, the owners loved the custom rug in their favorite colors, with a floral pattern reminiscent of their beloved gardens. The decision to keep the rug I designed in 1994 set the stage for everything that followed. Besides the “green” ideal of re-using existing pieces, it is so rewarding when a client loves what you created so much that they want to keep the feel of the original design from years ago.

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Renderings are particularly helpful with long-distance clients. A board was sent to the owners detailing the fabrics, the carpet runners and the faux paint wall treatments. The colors were updated. Celestial blue and white blended with soft touches of buttery yellow would make the home as inviting as a summer sky. The designs, though traditional, were clean lined and reflected the simpler tastes of the 21st century.

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Fabrics for the living room were sent for approval, along with the design for window treatment. An up-to-date tailored valance with panels replaced the floral English country house look. Both panels and valance were accented with a custom trim we created from a striped fabric.

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We also retained most of the original furnishings, which were reupholstered with new fabrics. The chairs were redone in indoor/outdoor fabric, with cording and tape trim for a touch of detail.

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Options for additional pieces of furniture were proposed for the living room. From the pieces submitted, the clients chose two conversation groups and a game table area to be placed by the windows.

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An artist created the unique wall treatment, with stenciled shells accenting important architectural features. The shell pattern related the home to the harbor and the sea beyond. The Blue Willow patterned fabric on the sofa pillows recalled Nantucket history and the days when sea captains brought back gifts of Chinese Export porcelain.

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In just ten months, we managed a comprehensive house redesign, incorporating favorite pieces from the original home and seamlessly blending them into a sophisticated, 21st century style for an expanding family of parents, grown children, new in-laws, and grandchildren. From a two- to three-month planning and selection phase to a six- to seven-month ordering and implementation phase, we completely redesigned a house with four floors and seven bedrooms.

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It was an amazing amount of work in a short time frame, but the clients were happy with every single detail of their new home, and so were we.

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A Bookstore on an Island

mitchells books In the fictional bookstore in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, the author offers readers a glimpse into what it must be like to operate that endangered species, an independent, neighborhood bookstore. If you ever watched the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy, You’ve Got Mail, then you’re familiar with the feeling of rooting for the small business owner, the bookstore owner whose heart and soul is tied to the community and the authors she serves.

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Bookselling, like most industries, is a complicated business, and I’m grateful for the many booksellers, large and small, that operate across the country. I’ve always been a supporter of my neighborhood bookstores, though, and as a constant reader who buys more books than I can read in a lifetime, I encourage everyone to support them. There’s something charming about the way each small bookseller arranges the world inside his door. Instead of working from a corporate merchandising plan, the lighting, shelves, books and comfortable chairs are one of a kind.

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Nantucket Book Partners, which operates both Mitchell’s Book Corner and Nantucket Bookworks, provides islanders and visitors with just that kind of experience . Both locations offer an enticing view into a wide-ranging inventory of books and boundless ideas for what to read next. As is fitting for an island bookstore, they have a wonderful selection of books about Nantucket, whaling and the island’s genealogy. And best of all, they are a true community resource, with book signings for local authors, advertised on their blog through “What’s on the BOOKS?,” a dedication to providing the best in customer service, a blog feature called “Meet a Nantucket Book Worm,” to let us look over our neighbor’s shoulder to see what she’s reading, and even offer space for a weekly Memoir Writing Group in the store.

As the faded sign on the porch of the Victorian cottage that is home to the fictional Island books says, “No man is an island; every book is a world.” A bookstore is a world, too, and we’re lucky to have two to call our own.

 

 

Life on Nantucket with Author Nancy Thayer: Second in a Series

  A Guest Post by Bestselling Author and Nantucket Resident Nancy Thayer

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 On Island Girls and Houses

In my novel Island Girls,  a young woman named Meg returns to her father’s Nantucket house for the first time in years.  When she arrives, she sees:

“White clapboard, three stories high, with a blue front door sporting a mermaid door knocker…On either side of the front door, blue hydrangeas blossomed, and pink impatiens spilled from the white window boxes.  It was a storybook house.  A house with many stories.”

hydrangeas

 Houses hold the stories of our most private lives, and the hues, textures, and furniture reflect our dreams, hopes and memories.  As a writer who has lived year-round for almost thirty years on Nantucket, I find that many of my novels begin with a house.

Street Side Garden

Meg, now a college professor, is eager to return to her bedroom in the historic old house.

“Like all old Nantucket houses, this one rambled oddly around, with rooms that had fireplaces or closets built in at odd angles.  But the path to the bedroom, her bedroom, was embroidered into her memory like silk thread on muslin.”

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We are all shaped by our past, and so are older houses, which we shape, and which, if we allow them, shape us.  One thing I admire so very much about Trudy Dujardin’s interior design is her sensitivity to the past, to the life of each particular house, and her ability to match that to the desires of each particular owner.  It seems to me that something spiritual seeps into the wood and walls of a house, enriching it, just as scotch aged in oak barrels is enriched.

The house my husband and I live in was built in 1840.  It’s a tall, narrow house, with beautiful wide-board floors and peculiar additions, often called “warts” on Nantucket.  When we first lived here, our children were nine and eleven, and we used the attic for a playroom and for my son’s private lair as he grew older.  But I always coveted the attic because of its view of the harbor and two lighthouses, and when our children were in their twenties, we had a half moon window put in, refinished the walls and floor, and now I have a true room of my own to write in.

Nancy thayer workspace

I write on a computer set on a practical new desk from Staples, but I also have an antique walnut desk with brass pulls in my study, and a wicker bookshelf that holds correspondence, calendars, notebooks, etc.  I love having old furniture around me.  So much that I see, hear, and touch inspires me with material for my books.

Nancy Thayer workspace 2

In Island Girls, “Meg cherished the room because of the slightly warped, ink-stained wooden desk and creaking cane-bottom chair placed against the back window, where she could sit and write or contemplate the starry sky and dream.”

Of course, houses must change, just as people do.  The driving plot of Island Girls is the father, who has left the Nantucket house to all three daughters–who have different mothers.  (Their father was a charmer, to say the least.)  The three girls have become estranged, but their father’s will requires them to live together for the summer in the Nantucket house.

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Their first argument begins with two of the sisters both wanted the same back bedroom, “with morning glory wallpaper and…a spool bed, covered with soft old cotton sheets and a patchwork quilt in shades of rose, lemon and azure, echoing the colors in the hand-hooked rug covering most of the satiny old pine floor.”

quilts

Some extremely modern events take place in this old house.  Houses are for the living, after all, and just as we respond to them, they settle around us however we are, so a room once full of settees and music boxes becomes a media room with comfy sofas and a flat screen TV.  Houses shelter us against the literal and figurative storms of life, they keep us safe, and they wait for us to come home.

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I didn’t know until I was writing the last chapter of this novel exactly how it would end, which sister would get the house, if the ending would be happy or sad…and as in all my novel,s my characters surprised me.  I think it will surprise the readers, too, and I hope it makes them smile.

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Behind the Scenes at the Union Street Inn

The Union Street Inn, Nantucket

The Union Street Inn, Nantucket

A short walk down the cobblestone streets of “faraway island,” as the Native Americans called it, is an intimate boutique hotel called the Union Street Inn.  Owned and operated by Ken and Deborah Withrow,  experienced hoteliers who make the inn the luxurious and welcoming place that it is, this circa 1770’s hotel is a classic example of Nantucket architecture in the heart of the island village. I first designed the inn’s gracious circa 1700’s rooms thirteen years ago, and I have just had the pleasure of redesigning the inn from top to bottom for another generation of guests.  (Go here to see photos of the inn as it looked before the redesign!)

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Next month, I’ll share some wonderful photos of the new inn, but first, here’s a peek at what goes on behind the scenes at a design installation!

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How many lamps does it take to fill an inn with light?  Handmade by a potter in Vermont, these lamps are arrayed in careful order before placement in the rooms.

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We found this wonderful antique milk glass doorknob with a Victorian backplate for the door.

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We took fabric and backed it with paper to create the wallpaper shown by this staircase.  It’s a contemporary adaptation of an 18th Century Chinoiserie pattern. (“Chinoiserie” is a french term, meaning ‘Chinese-esque.’)  This is typical of a wallpaper that would have been brought back by a ship’s captain from his ocean travels.

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This is original bullseye glass with the typical 18th Century pontil mark.  To create it, the glass blower would gather about 30 pounds of molten glass at the end of his blow tube and blow the lump out to a small, hollow pear shape. This would then be transferred to a pontil  (a solid rod), and flattened and spun until centrifugal forces flattened the glass out into a smooth disk. When cooled, the pontil would be broken off.  The center piece, called a “bullseye,” would be cut out.  It was considered waste, and was either recycled into the glass furnace, or became an inexpensive pane for windows such as these.

This kind of interior door was common in 18th Century Nantucket.  The glass at the top was necessary in order to detect fires in the room without opening the door.

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Here is Price Connors helping to unload a truck full of treasures for the inn!

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Here I am, taking my turn with the unloading!  Everyone pitched in.

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Once the tables were safely inside, the real fun began.  Where, oh where, do all these tables go?

I’ll show you just where everything ended up in my June Holistic House post.  Ken and Deborah are so pleased with our design work, which makes us very happy!  I think you’ll love it, too.  You can book a visit to the Union Street Inn here.

My Blue Heaven

 

There’s no color scheme more heavenly than blue and white. Blue and white reminds me of sea and sky: from the open ocean accented with crisp white sails to the summer sky dotted with white clouds.  As many as half the people surveyed around the world said blue was their favorite color, and it’s been documented as being the most soothing, restful color, making it perfect for bedrooms.

 

 

Blue pigment from the earliest days of human civilization was prized, almost as highly as gold. A bride must have something blue.  Blue flowers are coveted by gardeners, almost above all others.

 

Objets d’art and treasured collections can be used to add blue and white accents to almost any style room.  One of my favorites is Chinese export porcelain.  These classic pieces are the quintessential blue and white collectible, and have been for hundreds of years.

 

The technique for using blue decoration on white porcelain actually began in the Middle East in the 9th Century, but cobalt blue pigment was excavated from Iran and exported to China in the 9th Century as well. Our love for blue and white porcelain today is a testament to the timelessness of style eight or more centuries in the making.

 

 

The striking blue and white porcelain quickly became popular, and through the centuries, trading routes expanded to Europe, Asia, Northern Africa, the Middle East and the Americas.  Blue and white porcelain found its way to Nantucket Island, once the center of the whaling industry, as ballast on ships or in the trunks of sea captains and sailors.

 

 

Blue and white dinner services and teaware were popular imports in the 18th Century, often shipped by private traders who rented space on Dutch East India ships. The Dutch began producing blue and white porcelain themselves, called Delftware, made in Delft in the Netherlands.   Serving pieces such as dinnerware, soup tureens, bowls, platters and tea caddies could increasingly be found on the tables of well-to-do families in Europe and America. Intricately painted landscapes were popular decorations, as shown on the bowl, below.

 

 

Traditional motifs also included botanical themes with flowers, lotus ponds and ferns, or animal themes with birds, dragons and elephants.

 

 

Blue and white china comes in many varieties. Another kind of blue and white collectible is known as Flow Blue.  Chinese porcelain was a very expensive, luxury item in the 18th and 19th Centuries, so the English developed a type of salt-glaze earthenware that looked close to porcelain, but could be sold at a lower cost. Cobalt oxide, the pigment they used, would sink into the porous earthenware and blur during glazing.  While some experts believe the blurring was accidental, others believe it was intentional.

 

 

Blue and white porcelain is particularly striking when used as a container for flowers.  Any shape that holds water can become a beautiful vase.

 

 

Bowls can also be filled to stunning effect with blue hydrangeas, or with shells collected from the beach.

 

 

Pairing blue and white porcelain with sterling silver adds a sophisticated touch.

 

 

Blue and white porcelain is often used in pairs, adding the grace of symmetry to a room.

 

 

I’ve repurposed blue and white ginger jars into lamps, giving antique pieces new life, and adding historic interest to a room.

 

 

A display of Chinese export porcelain adds both beauty and authenticity to homes on Nantucket, making the porcelain more popular than ever on the island.

 

 

Blue and white together lightens the somber tone blue can take on by itself; a little blue can go a long way.  Even in nature, blue is often paired with other colors: blue jays are splashed with white, the peacock is mixed with green, and for the blue footed booby, Mother Nature decided blue feet were enough!

 

 

Whether the blue is sapphire or navy, the white ivory or alabaster, the beauty of blue and white transcends seasons and years.  Heaven to me will always be the peaceful charm I find in my seaside homes.  There I turn to face the azure sea, watching white-capped waves roll to shore, and I am inspired by blue and white, once again.

 

 

 “If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if the simplest things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.” –Eleanora Duse