Thursday, December 27, 2012

Out of Control

Photo courtesy of

The other evening my husband stumbled onto a household dilemma. He aimed the remote to the television but there was no movement, just the same talking head on CNN complaining about this or that. What followed next amused me: lots of slapping the energy bar-sized remote against his palm, some fidgeting with the controls, and even a dissection of its back panel to test the batteries. Allan is not the type who can land on one station and be content for the evening, thus it was an early night for him.

The quandary did not end there. He contacted the company that makes our television, spoke to techie friends for advice and even budgeted time the following day to go to the hardware store to fetch new batteries. Nothing worked.

I could not help but recall the days of my youth, when there were only 13 channels that were changed by the interaction of human touch to the television dial. Yes, you had to get up out of your seat! In the later hours, programs would be replaced by a block of colored strips that aired to a sound that could deafen an animal. Ignorance is bliss, as this system worked.

We haven’t yet left the warmer months in which watching television while summer activities beckon should be an anathema. While the warm weather lasts, test it out—see what would happen if you went without a television and what would be missed.

By Jacqueline deMontravel

Top Ten: Tricks to Keeping Your Home Bright in Autumn

As the days get shorter, your home craves natural light. Here are some easy ways to trick Mother Nature.

1. Remove the clutter. Bundles of unnecessary odds and ends absorb light.

2. Select brighter linens for the bedroom and bath.

3. Replace worn rugs or give your hardwood floors a spiffy clean and show off their natural splendor.

4. Keep bushy green house plants to a minimum.

5. Employ candles and votives to cast soft, romantic rays.

6. Lighten up your window treatments and select ones    that can be easily drawn open.

7. Swap dark lampshades for warm, creamy varieties in soft tones.

8. Freshen walls with a new coat of paint or refresh trimmings with white paint.

9. Add lamps or candelabras to the corners of a room.

10. Bring in sun-catching accessories, such as mirrors and clear glass.

Photography by Jaimee Itagaki
Styled by Jacqueline deMontravel

Monday, December 24, 2012

Kitchen Decor Ideas – A Place to Nourish Body and Soul

It is where a dinner party eventually settles; guests slip into a relaxed ease and speak freely. This is the ideal place for the first, innocent kiss as the guise of dining chairs is less pressured than a sofa. Secrets are revealed here. There is something about a kitchen that breaks down formality and makes you feel comfortable.

kitchen decor

I’ve often thought about my kitchen design. There would be large windows, perhaps in the vintage casement style, with a row of cachepots blooming with herbs. A white tile backsplash punctuated with blue etchings of Dutch farmers carrying bales of wheat. Copper pots would dangle above the deep farmer’s sink. This vision was quite similar to the kitchen that belonged to my husband, Allan, when we first met. My family even remarked on how uncannily similar his style was to my own.

Though I did not marry him because he came with the right kitchen, I did envision all the events that were to take place in this magnificent space. The accent color is bottle green, featured in the cabinets and vintage accessories such as a tin breadbox and blender. Allan’s seltzer-bottle collection, the remaining survivors of a few earthquakes, hold guard above the cabinets. We’ve meddled with recipes. He’s watched me go through a container of my favorite ice cream. I’ve helped my stepdaughter with school reports at the tall vintage table. The classic setting fits the events that occur here.     

By Jacqueline deMontravel
Photograph by JaimeeItagaki

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top Ten Timeless Accessories

Want to buy some time and look great forever? While this is not an ad for the latest advancement in cosmetic surgery, these timeless accessories are perfect for every Well Styled Room.

  1. Personal memorabilia, such as photos and letters
  2. Vintage perfume bottles
  3. Silver pieces
  4. Anything with animal print
  5. Crystal bar accessories
  6. Coffee-table books
  7. Heavy-stock stationery
  8. Wool throws
  9. Leather trays
  10. A classic chair or chaise upholstered in high-quality fabric

Photography by Jaimee Itagaki

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Cookie Cardamom Ornaments

Deck the halls with beautiful edibles that double as party favors, too.

While you are baking up a batch of  holiday cookies, consider making a few extras to adorn the tree or use as personalized party favors.  Your home will be filled with wonderful scents, from cinnamon to vanilla.

Design an edible vignette to decorate a table; or gather items in a pretty box or basket. Find pieces you can dress up for the holidays. For example, a red ribbon can turn a stoneware tureen into a cookie holder. Or display cookie cutters in a vase or jar. Trays of candies, fruits and nuts make beautiful displays. Look no further than your kitchen to find easy ways to decorate and please the senses at the same time.
The Snowflake, the Ornament and the Bell cookie cutter make great shapes for the Cardamom Cookies. Visit

Cardamom Cookies
Makes approx. 18
Note: Cardamom is a pungent spice available as whole pods, seeds, or finely ground. It’s best to buy pre-ground, but make sure it’s fresh.

Beat with an electric mixer until blended:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened

Add and beat until fluffy:
½ cup light brown sugar, ¼ cup granulated sugar

Add and mix until completely incorporated:
1 large egg yolk, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together and add:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour,  1 teaspoon ground cardamom, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt

Mix just until all ingredients are well blended; do not overmix. Chill dough for 3-4 hours before rolling. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll dough out on a lightly floured counter to 1/4-inch thickness and cut, then transfer cookies onto cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment paper or silicone liners. Cut decorative patterns in the cookies if desired. Using a pastry brush, brush each cookie lightly with water, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly colored. Let cookies cool slightly on cookie sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost, if desired, with royal icing.

Royal Icing
In a mixing bowl, combine 1 lb. confectioners’ sugar, 3 Tablespoons meringue powder, and 6 Tablespoons warm water; mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. Icing will be the right consistency for piping.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How to Find the Perfect Faucet for You

Bathroom faucets aren’t’ just about functionality; they also show off your personal style and pull together all of the decorating elements that make up your bathroom.

Shopping for the perfect faucet is tough because there are myriad sizes, designs and finishes available to choose from.

3 Steps to Finding a Faucet You’ll Love

  1. Pink your sink. The type of sink you’ll choose absolutely determines what style of faucet application you need.
  2. Pick a style and finish that complements your décor. For example, if you’re going for a cottage look in your bathroom, you might choose an oil-rubbed finish with some curves. If your design is more contemporary, consider sleeker lines and a nickel finish.
  3. Do you want the extras? Some of the newer trends in faucets include a detachable sprayer, interchangeable handles, built-in programmable temperature controls and duo finish treatments.
Buyer Beware: Love the look of those shallow sinks that are mounted on the countertop? Then choose your faucet style and placement carefully. If the water doesn’t flow out fairly close to the vessel, you’ll have lots of splashes to clean up. A vessel sink with higher sides can help contain splashing.

By Kelly Lloyd
Photo courtesy of

Relaxed Refinement

Handmade cards will be saved over anything with a bar code on the back. The cupboard is filled with chipped café au lait bowls because I prefer my toddler eat from china over plastic. While I’ll always be in awe of a home that is styled opulently, it will remain far from my grasp, along with traveling by helicopter for weekend trips.

Rooms styled with chinoiserie-patterned wall art painted in gilded tones that connect to the pillows, valances and upholstery on little footstools are
certainly well-designed, though the thought of shoving that little footstool a bit to the right—an action that would set off a team of designers armed with tape measures—does not scheme into a life filled with sandy people and a 2-year-old boy who terrorizes the garden in search of bugs.

There are displaced shovels in the shower and wooden trucks in the birdbath, but refinement still remains in high regard. Original art hangs from the walls. Beautifully illustrated children’s books create a timeless mosaic within the shelves. Formal dinnerware is used regardless if the meal is halibut or fish sticks. Beautiful things are cherished without being victim to them.

By Jacqueline deMontravel
Photography courtesy of

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How Luc Came Into Our Lives

It started in the evening, a piercing contraction that started the momentous journey of your birth. Your father told me to relax, suggested I take a nap or watch a movie, as it would be a long night ahead. He even toyed with the idea of a bike ride. Nothing about your labor was like the six-hour “Super Sunday” class we took to prepare us for labor, where they showed a video of weary couples bouncing on exercise balls, engaging in crazy breathing exercises and husbands giving pain stricken wives massages. By the way, your father still owes me that massage.

Luc Came Into Our Lives
Luc Came Into Our Lives
Before this evening I wanted you to leave my womb so you could join us. I spoke to you, watched you move across my stomach. I wondered about you. What would you look like? Would you be funny or serious? And as quick as making a wish, your arrival was fast and exciting. No, I did not watch a movie and your father did not ride his bike. The contractions crept in and overtook the clock. We were on our way to the hospital. The nurses called the doctor on night duty. They told Daddy to attend to the car since I was 6 cm dilated. On his departure my water broke. I was pushing, and the delivery process had officially begun. In a blur I saw the doctor enter. I followed her instructions with one vision in mind: that I would finally be meeting you. And then I heard your glorious wail, announcing your arrival on Earth, and you were in my arms. I was overwhelmed that all my thoughts on who you were could now be seen, heard and felt. You are the miracle that marks my happiest moment.

Thank you, Luc, for introducing me to such euphoria. I am your protector and will do anything to ensure your happiness. You are loved unconditionally. Even when you urinate on The New York Times Book Review as I am about to turn the page, I can’t help but think that you came with a witty sense of humor on how to get Mom going.

Sunny Side Up - Kitchen Decor

It’s no revelation: The kitchen is the most important room in the house—the heart of the home.

More than merely where the meals are cooked, it’s where coveted family recipes are passed down from one generation to the next, and the command center where we leave notes on the fridge regarding where we’ll be and what we need. It’s often where the homework is done and friends and family gravitate when they should be in the dining room or relaxing on the couch.

The kitchen plays a big role in our lives but also for the planet. Here, we become more in tune with how we interact with nature by choosing which foods we eat and what trash we throw away or hopefully recycle or, better yet, compost. It’s where the appliances we choose either save or spend energy. And, speaking of spending, the kitchen is one of the biggest selling points for the home and where we are most concerned about using our budgets wisely.

On our website, we have addressed the many facets of a kitchen: the practical side, where form must follow function; the flamboyant side, where professional cook top could make us drool more than a Death by Chocolate cake; and there’s the Eco-conscious side, where we prefer the sustainable bamboo flooring; and—perhaps the most fun—the artistic side, where vintage linens and a bold stroke of paint will always keep the cheer going and the sunny side up. 

With that in mind, I hope you find in our posts a wealth of ideas, information, resources and products that your kitchen deserves. After all, with the meals, notes, lessons and indulgences the kitchen affords us every day, it should be the brightest spot in the home.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cottage Kitchens: A Great Starter

Cottages Kitchen
 In 1976, they were a young couple looking for a starter house. What Ginette and David Williams found was a 900-square-foot 1950s tract house. They figured it would be fine for a while. And 34 years later they’re still there.

“We have always loved it here. My husband and I grew up in this neighborhood, and my parents, who are now 88 and 90 years old, live four blocks away. I am so glad that we’re nearby,” Ginette says.
Located in a sun-drenched neighborhood, shaded by mature trees and just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, there’s a lot to love about the house. “Originally, the houses around here all looked the same,” Ginette says. “But over the years people have added on and altered them so much that you can’t tell.”
Kitchen table
When they bought it, the Williams home had two bedrooms, a bath, a small kitchen and a living room. In a twist on typical ‘50s ranch architecture, the kitchen area was recessed, and the resulting roof extension created a front porch. It provided an outdoor living space that the family enjoyed. As their two sons were growing up, the couple thought about moving, but they couldn’t give up the convenient location, their garden, neighborhood and the schools, so they opted to stay and add on to the house.

Designing in Stages
Their first addition was a master bedroom and another bathroom at the back of the house. Next, they added a deck and a bay window, which enlarged the dining area in the kitchen. Finally, years later, they decided to expand the kitchen further to create more work space. Of course there was a lot of planning that needed to occur before any building could be done, but Ginette experienced a moment of realization that gave her a clear vision.

Sun pours through the kitchen’s bay window. Ginette has commemorated her love of the light with a motto from Wall Words.

 “I was visiting a friend who lives in a great big house in Georgia,” Ginette says. “It is so beautiful, but I thought to myself, ‘My house is a little cottage. It’s never going to grow up to be a big house like this.’ I remember that moment because I realized that all the things I liked are cottage style: white, pastels and lots of sunshine with sheer curtains. I’d always wanted a beach cottage, and even though we are five miles from the ocean, that was how I decided to decorate.”

Beach motifs lend the feeling of the seaside to Ginette’s kitchen.

A Kitchen Come to Life
Ginette and David knew they would need help in turning her vision into a functioning kitchen, so they attended a free kitchen-planning seminar. “It was the most expensive free seminar I ever went to,” David says with a laugh. There were a number of designers speaking, but Ginette sought out an assistant and asked which designer would be the right fit. After some conversation, the assistant recommended Monica Ledesma from Friedman’s Appliance Center. “Monica just ‘got’ me right away,” Ginette says.
 “When I visited David and Ginette’s home, I immediately knew that the bay window had to be the focal point of the kitchen,” Ledesma says. “Apparently, Ginette had met with a few other designers who wanted to rip out the window. We knew right away that we understood each other.” The space that Ledesma designed pushed the front of the house out four feet where it had been recessed before. “We brought the walls out to be even with the roof-line,” Ledesma says. Although it wasn’t a huge addition, the difference it made in the kitchen layout was enormous.

The bay window not only floods the space with sunlight but also provides a cozy seat and handy storage. The floors were finished with an engineered hardwood for easy care.

 “It was a galley kitchen before,” she says. “Now there is room for a center island and terrific traffic flow.” Although she didn’t alter the bay window, Ledesma replaced its cubby-hole doors and hardware. She added new windows on the side and over the sink, and replaced the back door, spreading even more sunshine through the room.

Cottages Room
Before: The William’s kitchen was much darker and smaller.

The kitchen now has room for a center island.

Ledesma designed the layout of the custom cabinets with white-stained beadboard lower doors, a double-stacked crown molding and ogee feet to lend a furniture-like feeling to the pieces. Upper cabinets are fitted with crackled-glass doors that help to maintain the airy feel of the room. Most of the countertops are made of Santa Cecelia granite in a soft oatmeal shade, except for the work island, which was finished with a walnut top created by David. He built the dining table too. “In a small house, space is everything,” Ginette says. “I wanted a table long enough for six people, but not too wide. David worked it out to fit our space.” David also crafted the stained glass panels for the transoms in the bay window.

Before: The kitchen nook was weighed down by darker wood shelves and furniture. Fresh paint and new windows brightened it up.

To finish the room, Ginette and Ledesma included beachy touches such as starfish, shells and even a little mermaid sculpture, to add visual interest to the soft butter-yellow, cream and light-blue color scheme.

Never Done
Where many people recall their home-renovation stories like tales of Gothic horror, Ginette’s sunny disposition relates only the bright side. “The project was so enjoyable. My builders were wonderful! They came in whistling every day and were so nice. I look back and say ‘that was fun,’” she says. So much fun, that the couple is presently working with Ledesma to renovate the master bathroom, which is 25 years old. It may have been a starter home, but Ginette and David aren’t finished yet.

Top 10 Ways to Add Flourish with Fabric

Decorating with fabric need not be designated to your bed and window treatments. Add some color and texture to your home easily by using fabric in these unexpected ways:

1. Wrap a present and finish it with ribbon.
2. Line a basket for baked goods, teas or those odds and ends too pretty for the junk drawer.
3. As a stylish wine tote you can reuse.
4. Frame colorful fabrics and arrange in a grid.
5. Tie a strip of fabric around a throw pillow to add color.
6. Create sachets filled with lavender or rose potpourri.
7. Cover a corkboard with a vintage pattern for a personalized way to post notes.
8. Knot fabric scraps around drinking glasses for a vintage touch to a brunch or lunch party.
9. Decoupage a lampshade.
10. Create a swag over a standard wall mirror for instant drama.

Photography by Jaimee Itagaki