Classic Garden Style

I think it's official
Spring is here 
 Time to dream about our garden plans 
 Lovely antique urns and bright summer lawns
 Beautiful gravel pathways 
 A spot for birds and frogs
 A place to nurture the small seedlings 
 To take us on a walk under shady vines
 A spot to sit and think
 To gather and grow
 To make friends and share a laugh or two
 A spot to relax 
 To smell the scent of roses
To gather beautiful cuttings for a vase
 Old things are at home in a garden
 Our garden tools are cleaned and stored 
in a rustic shed
 And the colors and textures of the garden 
are there for us to enjoy
 A garden is a simple thing really and can be as wonderful 
as anything you can dream about
Enjoy your weekend and welcome Spring into your garden

All photography by Christian Sarramon
from the book
written by
Ines Heugel

A Chefs Modern Farmhouse

 Many of you know that I am a huge fan of the Modern Farmhouse esthetic.
I wrote a post a while ago about the subject here and it has been viewed over 20,000 times.

 Clearly it is a style or perhaps a lifestyle that resonates with so many.
 It's a dream for some and a reality for others but the Modern Farmhouse look
has become the darling of Pinterest, with bloggers and decorators
and of course retailers are on the bandwagon

  I thought I would share another version of the Modern Farmhouse,
a conundrum of styles and ideas
created and lived in by a chef
in rural North Carolina

 I must confess that I am not a big television watcher but I happen to love PBS and many of the other interesting cable stations that have incredibly well written 
and creative passionate stories.

A Chefs Life is just that.

The series takes us along on the rather private and very interesting journey of Chef Vivian Howard, her husband Ben and their family.....once New Yorkers, 
they now reside in a very rural, middle of nowhere place:
Deep Run, North Carolina
Vivian and her husband were persuaded by her parents to move back to North Carolina 
by dangling an organic carrot of  sorts...
financial support 
to assist them in opening their own restaurant 
and a plot of land to build a home
Their restaurant is called aptly called The Chef & The Farmer 
and that is essentially at the core of her cooking 

Her relationship with local Famers 
and her ability to utilize the most basic of ingredients 
to create dishes fit for the cover of any 
top notch Food magazine is the story line here
She readily embraces the ingredients of her childhood 
and the regional specialities with such glee and focus 
that she makes the lowly sweet potato 
seem like a gift from the gods....
and perhaps if we were to try her recipe for Candied sweet potatoes with pecan bacon syrup .....
we would all agree 

Corn is just one of the more important vegetables grown in this region.
 as is wheat and rice
 oysters and of course shrimp
and all things pork 
including the rather odd and mouth watering (at least when it's done)
pork cracklin'
No regional item is off limits and in a couple of episodes we learn about Tom Thumb.
Yes my friends.... Vivian creates a sausage encased in the appendix of a pig 
and serves it at a James Beard dinner in NYC....
courage, confidence and the heart of a chef 
are at work here
Most of her cooking is much prettier that the Tom Thumb
 but she feels the need to share all of North Carolina's specialties
with her diners as well as others who love southern cooking.

She creates dishes that could be described as
"the new normal" such as her pimped up grits!

As basic as many of her dishes sound they are in fact quite complex, 
 layered with flavor elements and require hours of preparation to get the desired end result. 

You will see when you watch the series how much time she spends just creating a new dish 
and working with her young staff

At some point after the opening or the restaurant 
she and Ben started a family and have twins...
so I'm assuming that's why the Farmhouse was necessary

 They had lived in her childhood home for many years before building the house
 and the need for her own kitchen, 
bedrooms for her children and privacy for her and Ben
jump started the process

The house sits on a parcel of her parents vast acreage and was the topic of much discussion by the locals while it was being built

Some thought it looked like a spaceship 
and others a Doctors office

It actually looks like neither, but embraces midcentury modern vernacular 
that is probably rather foreign to most 
in eastern North Carolina
The back of the house with the massive fireplace is just beautiful 

The kitchen is open, quite simple and streamlined and the floors are all concrete....perfect for kids, family dogs and lots of cooking

At first I wasn't a fan of the blue tile but after looking at the entire house
I think it's a fabulous choice

The floating open shelves are just the norm for a chef
so they are probably more functional for Vivian as opposed to trendy
A collection of butter bean shucking pans lines the stairwell

I love it...minimal, modern and full of memories all at the same time

The collections are so cute and personal here.... you can't help wondering if these owls have a special meaning to Vivian
In one episode she visits a neighbor to cook little apple tarts
and admires her vast....(vast is an understatement)
collection of salt and pepper shakers

So as I have always suspected
collections are important and have special meaning to just about everyone...including your's truly!
beautiful bathtub!

Ben is also an avid painter and his work hangs 
throughout the house and at the restaurant

The relationship between Vivian and Ben is interesting.  He is clearly a creative, just as she is.
What is equally interesting is how he seems to have embraced the rural life so easily, almost more that she has at times.
He's from Chicago so he's not going home, he's finding home.

She on the other had is returning home,
to a place she vowed never to return.

The house is a lovely mix of colors and casual furnishings 
and the architecture is really striking

Vivian is now a co-producer and writer of the series which is wonderful for her, however she often complains about being seriously stressed out
so all of the added duties she has taken on is interesting to me.

I think her worries are the usual for all working moms and she feels truly exhausted and torn
(aren't we all) by the constant tug-of-war between family, work, success and marriage

It is hard to say no to any of it
and we all struggle with that.

Vivian also seems at times to be rather shy, which is interesting for someone being filmed for a television series
but her personality encompasses that strength of character 
that we read about in so many Southern women:
vulnerable, feisty, beautiful and hard working

And this is a story worth telling and worth watching to say the least... 
especially if you love to cook 
and enjoy the beauty of the local harvest 
as I have for the last few years

 Often I have written about my love of food and how anyone can learn to create a great meal 

Vivian is the master of that concept

find it here on PBS
  read more of her story 
 in a wonderful article written by Daniel Wallace 
for Garden and Gun

It's A Chef's Life Y'all

Downtown Loft Living

Many of you may remember that when we sold our little ranch house in Ojai 
we left the country life behind, at least for now 
and chose to live in the city 
while we begin a search for our next house project
(a little Spanish cottage in Santa Barbara)
For a variety of reasons, we chose Pasadena California 
and set our sights on finding a big open space (to rent)
right in the heart of Old Town 

 yes that is a big truck whirring by... and yes I cross a bridge over the freeway 
to get downtown, 
by foot 
and usually in my running shoes
because I rarely use my car 
if I can help it

and that my friends 
is one of the many perks of living right down town in a big city

another perk is fabulous food
....more on that later
 our city apartment is large and white with very tall ceilings and big windows
 and it was very fun to design the main living room

I started with inspiration colors from a small Plein Air Painting
 and a few pieces of Roseville pottery

 these are some of the original fabric ideas

For those of you that hate orange 
and I'm sure there are many, 
you won't believe how pretty these bright velvet pillows are!
the color is even more wonderful in person
mixed with the vintage faded blue batik 
the orange pillows are a color called Melon
it's yummy 
The sofa and chairs I designed to fit specifically in this space 
but they will be useable in any large living room or family area

They are slipcovered in a bright white twill 
and can be tossed in the washer 

There are a few more interesting textiles in the works for this space 
so I will share those when they are all finished

 I chose to purchase a few key pieces including a small 
Saarinen table 
for the dining area 

iconic modern pieces fit beautifully in this apartment 
and I took my Husband on a shopping trip to Design Within Reach
so he could sit in the iconic Herman Miller Eames chair

how do you say "chair love" in guy talk?

He owns this chair...I mean really owns in "I will never give up this chair" kind of own
as one else gets to sit in it...
we can look at it 

but it's his chair
what's not to like?
 beautiful white pebbled leather and rosewood 
 It is so comfortable too...I know, I got to sit in it once for about 2 minutes 
while no one was looking
I paired this with a small rustic side table

 some vintage items for color and texture
 the clear glass table lamps are from Arteriors
and the victorian bamboo tables came from an estate in Ojai's a long story how I ended up with them but they are wonderful

 I still have my old sculptors stool and found a pretty antique 
guilded Trumeau mirror and huge French Tian pot to pair with it

 Millie finds all of this coming and going and moving around  really quite annoying so we won't bother her for the next few months

She of course prefers the new rug 
as opposed to her dog bed 
but who can blame her?
hope you 
have a great week !