A Window on Your World



Many of us live in the homes we do because of our first glimpse of the house as we came up the drive. Perhaps it was the sound of the sea and the smell of salt water that led us there, and the drive through the dunes romanced us all the way. The creamy yellow daffodils bobbing along the borders, or the dignified old Sugar Maple spreading its arms across the lawn were like love letters from the property, delivered straight to our hearts.




When the front door opens, if the house isn’t just right, well, that can all be fixed. Take down a wall here, widen a doorway there, refinish wood floors, replace sagging windows, and you’ve made it your own, which is one of the goals of interior design, and a very important one. As Billy Baldwin said, “Nothing is interesting unless it is personal.”




No matter how beautiful the interiors are, however, I always feel that the room is blessed when there is a glorious view in sight. Particularly for a home on the water, whether its on the ocean, a river, or a lake, you’re aware of the view. My intent in a home on the waterfront is never to obscure the home’s setting.




In this house, the center hall leads you right to the ocean. If you keep going, as the crow flies, the next stop is Portugal.




Another signature of my design work is my love of window seats. They’re perfect for sitting in the sunlight with a cup of tea on a winter morning to watch the snow fall, or to catch the sea breezes as the day falls to dusk.




They also are functional, as they provide extra seating for guests..




…and in a bedroom, can be designed with drawers for storage underneath.




Whether your view is a sandy beach, an English garden, or your children splashing in the pool, a seat by the window is the perfect spot to take a closer look at your world.





Home ~ Health ~ Humanity



A recent column by Nicholas Kristof entitled Are You a Toxic Waste Disposal Site? raised some disturbing issues. None of it, sadly, was news to me. The United States has delayed appropriate testing of industrial chemicals over and over again, largely due to the influence of lobbying groups. Mr. Kristof’s column said that “Scientists have identified more than 200 industrial chemicals–from pesticides, flame retardants, jet fuel–as well as neurotoxins like lead in the blood or breast milk of Americans, indeed, in people all over our planet.”



As the pioneer of the sustainable design movement, I have spoken out for years in favor of non-toxic, chemical-free built environments to support our health, and the well-being of our families. I believe that your home, your health, and the future of humanity depends upon it. My clients know that whenever I can use a “green” alternative in fabric, upholstery, paints and floor finishes, wood furniture and cabinetry, that’s what I choose. I created the phrase “eco-elegant (TM)” to demonstrate to people that homes can be beautiful, sophisticated, and serene, and still maintain their health through clean air and furnishings that do not off-gas potentially dangerous fumes.




My philosophy is simple: to live in a way that shows respect for all life on earth, we must be open to questioning the impact of our choices. One of my environmental heroes, Chief Oren Lyons of the Iroquois Confederacy, described to me the tradition of tribal leaders in making decisions: Not only do they consider the impact on the next generation, they also examine the consequences all the way to the seventh generation.



photo from istock

I wrote my book, Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior, to show a healthier way of living. I urge anyone who cares about their health and a holistic approach to lifestyle and the earth to read it. On pages 232-233, you’ll find an easy-to-reference listing of green products that is the culmination of my lifetime of work selecting the most eco-friendly products. It includes everything from bedding and carpeting, to duct work and adhesives, to vacuum cleaners and products for your pets.


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I promise you, there’s a healthier way to live, and the changes are not difficult to make. Ready to protect yourself and your family, friends, and companion animals from a poorly regulated industry? I want to help. Click here to take the first step toward the Eco-Elegant Life.


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Remembering David Hostetler

David carving Lacewood copy

David Hostetler 1926-2015

Part of a Continuing Series on Nantucket Artists

Art touches us in so many ways: it adds beauty, opens our eyes and hearts, helps us see our world in a new way, and not least, is a legacy to the artist whose work is left behind on earth for new generations. David Hostetler, who passed away in November, was a wood carver and bronze sculptor of works capturing the female form, whose career spanned 69 years. He and his wife, Susan Crehan Hostetler, spent the winter months on a 40 acre farm in Ohio, and summers on Nantucket. Nantucket is home to the Hostetler Gallery, which will remain open, where Susan will continue to sell Hostetler art..

hostetler gallery

David played drums in his own jazz band on the island, too. That’s the wonderful thing about artists. It’s hard to pin them down. So often, they turn their hands and their talent to more than one discipline, as if the ideas that filled them had to spill over into other art forms or else overflow. Here’s how David explained it:

Summertime Lady

Summertime Lady

“My life centers around artful choices, the life rhythms, shapes and spaces, and their infinite combinations. My lover, my nest, carving on a log, drumming, woodland meditation and archery are involved. The coming together of art, rhythm, forms and space can be magic. The quest for this magic gives my life purpose and provides my joy of being.”

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The IKON at The Sheffield on West 57th Street in New York City

David was the creator of a series of original works that were inspired by goddesses and celebrated women of historical significance, according to the artist.

Hostetler The Duo

The Duo can be seen at Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City. Although the heads are looking in different directions, the fused bodies speak of total commitment.

David said he based his entire life’s work on capturing the spirit, romance, and earthiness of the feminine.

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“My 69 year art career has been a continuous quest of the nature of woman. It has led me from the contemporary woman as mother, wife, nurturer, to vamp, seductress, and queen. Now the journey harkens to the pre-biblical period, to ancient civilizations of women-centered societies. My focus is the Near East with Minoan, Cretin, and Cycladic imagery. Their ascendancy was from 12,000 to 500 BCE.”


Guardian, in Zebrawood

In a world where women’s bodies, rights, and intelligence are not universally honored, its is wonderful to see ourselves through David’s eyes. “The goddess represents the all-encompassing power of woman, the manifestation of humanity as a part of a whole, part of the cosmos and part of nature: an image that men and women can embrace equally.”

david carving

His ideals found beautiful fruition in his works, which appear in more than 25 museums and galleries, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. His pieces are found in public collections from Nantucket to New Mexico to the Netherlands.

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David’s Studio in Athens, Ohio

Born in Ohio, David had a close relationship with his Amish grandfather, an influence that remained with him throughout his life. After graduating with a BA in Education from Indiana University, he obtained a Masters of Fine Arts from Ohio University, then taught for 38 years. In addition to his artwork and teaching, he trained as an engineer, worked as a farmer and a salesman, owned a commercial pottery factory, and created an art commune.

david and susan hostetler

David and Susan Hostetler

His contributions to the world of art are many and diverse. David was an integral member of the Nantucket community. He will be missed. A memorial will be held to celebrate his life on July 17th at the Hostetler home on Nantucket.

david hostetler

Downton Design


One of the real pleasures of watching movies and television, especially for an interior designer, is the careful attention that is paid to the sets, allowing us to be transported to another world. As Masterpiece Theatre’s Downton Abbey series draws to a close this month, we’ll say goodbye not only to the characters and their fictional lives in Edwardian England, but also to Highclere Castle, the real life Georgian Mansion that dates back, in its current form, to a renovation in 1838.




Part of my fascination with the series and its setting is based on my respect for historical properties. I’ve restored antique homes and designed interiors for historic houses on Nantucket, and have taken meticulous care to be sure that irreplaceable historic treasures have been preserved. The first renovation I undertook was the Captain Parker House on Nantucket. It’s not Highclere Castle, but its original owner held a place among ship captain “royalty” in his own time.


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I’ve designed interiors for another renovated home on Nantucket, this one from the Edwardian era. One of my favorite things in this house is the servants’ call box on the wall in the kitchen, allowing the mysterious Mr. and Mrs. Dustin, long lost to time, to summon their servants when they wanted them.


call box


Not quite as large as Downton Abbey’s, but still a vestige of another era.



A new book, Downton Abbey: A Celebration, The Official Companion to All Six Seasons, has just been published by St. Martin’s Press, and takes us on a journey through the house and estate. We have the pleasure of traveling from the Great Hall to the servant’s hall, bedrooms to boot room, getting a glimpse of some of the gorgeous architectural details and lovely furnishings that were used for the show–and are still in use by the current (8th) Earl and Countess of Carnavon, the castle’s owners, seen below.




Come take a walk with me through some of my favorite rooms. The photographs were provided courtesy of St. Martin’s Press, and the fascinating details are from the book by Jessica Fellowes, the niece of show creator Julian Fellowes.

As a Downton Abbey set, the Library functions as Robert’s study during the day. As Country Life Magazine described it in 1959, “it is full of rich plumpness and masculine opulence.” This room was decorated by Thomas Allom, an English architect and illustrator, who created a perfect setting for the master of the house. The shelves are home to more than 5,600 books, some dating back to the 1500s. Robert has a ledger in which everyone must write down the book they are borrowing–this way, he makes sure they are returned. Servants in the house were invited to borrow books, too.


This is also the room where the family gathers for tea, in the late afternoon. A footman is on hand to pour the tea and pass out slices of cake, especially to the children, who are brought by the nanny to see their parents here once a day.


Typical English Afternoon Tea.

photo from istock

The dining room is the heart of the formal lifestyle for both the Downton Abbey cast, and the residents of Highclere Castle over the generations. The room is dominated by an equestrian portrait of Charles I, by Sir Anthony van Dyck, a Flemish Baroque painter who was the leading artist of court portraits in the 17th century. According the book, Downton Abbey’s food stylist prepares at least seventy servings of the family dinner while the cast is filming over ten to twelve hours, to keep the food fresh. After each take, levels of wine in each glass, amount of food on the plates and the heights of the burning candles are checked for continuity. The table belongs to Highclere Castle, and can seat 18.


Of course, before the Crawleys can appear in the dining room, everyone must dress for dinner. Cora’s bedroom is a copy of the blue Mercia bedroom at Highclere, with eighteenth century four poster bed and silk hangings. The colors in this room are light and on the pale side, reflecting Cora’s sweetly feminine nature. Her dressing table is set between two large windows, with an oval mirror and two small lamps, her ladies’ maid, Baxter attends to her needs every morning and evening. Ladies’ maids were expected to plan their mistress’s wardrobe, remove jewelry from the safe when it was to be worn, and in many cases, have complete control over the bedroom: their special domain.


Mary’s bedroom is an exact reproduction of another room in Highclere, with a four-poster bed and dramatic red print wallpaper. The paint is Green Smoke, by Farrow & Ball, and is more austere than her mother’s. That’s not to say that it skimps on luxury, though. The bed is made up with ivory linen sheets, commissioned by the Downton Abbey art department to have the monograms of the Crawley family crest on them. The set directors are strict about how the beds are made: bottom sheet, top sheet, ribbon-edged blanket of cashmere wool, and then an eiderdown. During the day, there’s also a bedspread. In the evening, there’s a special way of turning the sheets back.




Mary’s dressing table sits between windows, too, and has a three-leafed mirror, flowers, and a photograph of Matthew and Mary on their wedding day, along with a handheld mirror, porcelain boxes and trays for trinkets. In keeping with the tradition of the age, however, the room is decorated for the house, not for Mary. She has few personal items there. Women today may be surprised to find out how small a typical wardrobe was in the 1920s: the costume department keeps Mary’s wardrobe as it would have been historically–ten shirts, five suits, some evening dresses, and pointy shoes with chunky heels.


The Earl and Countess of Carnavon have a wonderful website created especially for Highclere Castle, with an entire segment devoted to Downton Abbey, including a video about what it’s like to film there. The six seasons of Downton Abbey will remain a classic for those of us who have loved being invited in, but as Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess says: “No guest should be admitted without the date of their departure being known.”




So let’s just say our goodbyes here, shall we