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DEMYSTIFYING DESIGN

Your home is a TEMPLE, and we want to be the high priests.

Archive for the ‘Gardens’ Category

Please Hold, Exciting Changes Afoot…

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Gang:

Demystifying Design is evolving, we are taking the blog to the next level… It’s going to be bigger, bolder, and brighter. So stay tuned! We will be back this spring with a fabulous and frisky new look.

In the meantime, take a look at our website, www.madcapcottage.com, or join the conversation with us on social media.

Tra-la-la!

 

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High Point Highlights!

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Bookish Charms!

Here's John outside of the wonderful and inspiring Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library just down the street from the Krispy Kreme in High Point, North Carolina.

Gang:

As you know from reading this blog religiously, John and I are simply smitten with High Point, North Carolina. High Point is an amazing small town perfectly situated between two larger cities, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. It’s actually a wonderful walking burg, especially if you live in the charming Emerywood neighborhood. And now that the city is starting its Ignite! program to revitalize its downtown, things are going to heat up even more.

Granted, High Point is a town where you have to dig a bit for the hidden gems. On the restaurant front, I love Blue Zucchini, Kepley’s BBQ, Tipsy’z Tavern, the Penny Path Cafe, and Mayberry. There are some terrific antiques shops, and the homes in Emerywood are gorgeous.

On our last visit to HP, John and I stopped into the Bienenstock Furniture Library on Main Street, and we were frankly blown away.

From the Bienenstock Furniture Library website:

“With more than 5,000 furniture and design specific volumes, The Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library is the largest furniture specialty library in the world. The rare book collection contains volumes published since 1640 and includes a collection of the original works of 18th century furniture masters Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite, as well as a complete 26 volume set of Diderot’s Encyclopedia published in 1776.

This is one of the few, if not the only place in the world where design professionals, scholars, students, and the public can don a pair of white gloves and examine the original works of the pioneer designers in our industry.”

John and I were in heaven as we browsed the amazing books that fill this charming former private home. We cannot wait to hunker down for a few days amongst the collection and cull inspiration.

Next time you are in High Point–perhaps in the days leading up to fall market–stop in at the Bienenstock. It’s true treasure!

Shelf Life!

Design enthusiasts will go nuts for the bookshelves that are filled with every design book imaginable.

Be Seated!

The Bienenstock interior is chic and contemporary, and there are plenty of comfortable seats for settling in to peruse the amazing design books.

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Lessons Learned at Burghley House!

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Burghley Brilliance!

Here I am outside of Burghley House, the Cecil family's 16th-century pile in Stamford, north of London. Note the "ha-ha" behind me, the cut in the lawn that separates the manicured portion from the section where the livestock roams. From the house the ha-ha is not visible and the lawn looks seamless.

Gang:

As you know if you follow us on Instagram or Facebook, John and I are just back from three weeks in England. We are lucky enough to visit the UK several times a year, and it is truly our second home. In fact, I think we know London better than we do New York City. Which, by the by, is A-OK with us.

Each August, we travel to the United Kingdom for an extended visit, and we tick off a slew of great country homes… We rent a car and head off from London. There’s nothing better than seeing an amazing home to offer design inspiration. John and I always return from England with gobs of ideas floating about in our heads.

This past trip, we visited several amazing homes and palaces, including Kelmarsh Hall, Waddesdon Manor, Hatfield House, and more. First up was Burghley House, the amazing 16th-century home crafted near the market town of Stamford by Sir William Cecil. The house is a stunner and well worth a good long morning’s visit. There’s so much history there…

Go pay a visit to Burghley for yourselves…

Here are some ideas that I lifted from Burghley House that you can bring to your own home…

Kitchen Confidential!

Why not display your pots and pans on your walls... If they are good-looking pots and pans, that is. And granted, you might not have a 40-foot-plus ceiling like the Cecils, but you can still make an impact whether your kitchen is postage stamp-sized or sprawling.

Thoroughly Modern, Silly!

Why not mix a modern sofa with ancestral portraits and paneling? The Cecils did, and it works swimmingly!

Fringe with Benefits!

Embellish a chair. Add some embroidery, add some brush fringe... Have fun with seating. Why not take a humble chair, and use a glue gun to take it from so-so to sublime.

Mix, Match, Marvelous!

As the Madcap Cottage gents always say, mix and match patterns. Here's a sitting room in Burghley House with gobs of patterns in it. Do try this at home, even if it's simply having some fun with your throw pillows.

Bucket List!

Here's a fabulous barrel that I spotted in Burghley House's gardens. Take a garden barrel from the like of Lowe's or Home Depot, and give it a eau de Nil paint treatment... Voila, perfection!

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A Pilgrimage to Old Westbury Gardens!

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Wonderful Old Westbury!

The exterior of the Old Westbury estate, a home that you have seen featured in numerous films such as "North by Northwest." Do pay a visit!

Gang:

Morning! How’s your week going?

On this hot summer day, John and I are taking his mom and dad out to Long Island and one of our most favorite estates, Old Westbury Gardens. If you have never paid a visit to this Gilded Age palace, hop in the car and hit it pronto. It’s only about an hour from Manhattan via the Northern State Parkway…

The home!

The gardens!

The nursery!

Oo, la, la, perfection.

Won’t you join us?

Garden Glory!

The gardens at Old Westbury are breathtaking and always inspire us. I wish we could recreate this fabulous Fortnum & Mason-hued folly at Madcap Cottage upstate. Stay tuned!

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A Visit to the Taj Mahal!

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Truly Monumental!

Here are the Madcap Cottage gents at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India a few years back on our weeks-long trip to this amazing country. John and I awoke at sunrise to visit this fabled mausoleum and were lucky enough to miss the gobs and gobs of visitors who pay homage to the amazing site each day.

Gang:

I hope your week is going along swimmingly…

It’s a rainy afternoon in Brooklyn, so I decided to do a little armchair travel and pay a visit to the fabled Taj Mahal monument in Agra, India. What could be better than a revisit to this monument to love eternal…

Sometimes you see a famous monument, and it’s really not all that. The Eiffel Tower is amazing, but Graceland was sort of small and suburban and the Statue of Liberty is sort-of short and squatty. But the Taj Mahal lives up to its hype and how. It’s truly awe-inspiring.

Commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the remains of his cherished wife, the Taj Mahal stands on the southern bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, India. The famed mausoleum complex, built over more than 20 years, is one of the most outstanding examples of Mughal architecture, which combined Indian, Persian, and Islamic influences. At its center is the Taj Mahal itself, built of shimmering white marble that seems to change color depending on the sunlight or moonlight hitting its surface. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, it remains one of the world’s most celebrated structures and a stunning symbol of India’s rich history.

To tour the Taj, visitors can arrive at sunrise and view the complex before the hordes (and we mean, hordes!) descend upon the monument by mid-morning. We were at the Taj by 5am–even after a swinging night of cocktails the evening before–and lapped it all up like gin in a bathtub…

Add a visit to the Taj Mahal to your bucket list… You won’t be disappointed.

Glory Days!

The marble-clad Taj Mahal is just as inspiring and dramatic as you might expect. John and I have truly never experienced anything quite like it. We wanted to move in.

Patio, Daddy-o!

John takes in the vista of the Yamuna River from the vast terrace behind the Taj Mahal. The river was wrapped in mist and was truly dramatic and otherworldly.

Sitting Pretty!

John takes a seat on the so-called "Princess Diana" bench where Diana was once snapped solo in a now-iconic photo.

Green Goddess!

The Taj Mahal has deliciously green gardens that contrast with the not-so-picturesque city of Agra that sits just outside the complex's gates. Agra was the one Indian city that didn't speak to me...

Heart of Stone!

Here I am am posting Facebook updates in one of the Taj Mahal's stunning red-stone pavilions. The stonework in the complex is staggering. Note the orange booties that you have to wear when touring the complex.

Room with a View!

Later on the day of our visit, John and I traveled across the Yamuna River to some verdant riparian gardens just across from the Taj Mahal. This was by far the best vantage point to take in the monument in all its glory as the gardens were absolutely empty.

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Tole is Terrific!

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Mellow Yellow!

Here's a tole lemon tree sconce at Madcap Cottage... Watch the video, below, to learn more about the temptation of tole.

Gang:

Here’s our first video lesson, “Tole is Terrific!,” a quick peek at why we love toleware, the vintage flowers and other objects crafted of metal. OK, so I am a bit shiny, but it’s Sunday night so cut me some slack.

Enjoy! Please click on the link, below.

Tole is Terrific!

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Chester Court: A Work in Progress!

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Welcome to Chester Court!

Welcome to Chester Court, our historic dead-end street next to Prospect Park in Brooklyn!

Gang:

As you may know, John and I live on a historic cul-de-sac in Brooklyn in an up-and-coming neighborhood called Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. It’s a neighborhood that’s on the move, but it still has some “rough and tumble” moments. Not that it’s violent, but we need some street calming on our major artery of Flatbush Avenue (the Broadway of Brooklyn) and there’s a real problem with littering. But it’s definitely getting better… And John and I are helping…

As one of the folks spearheading the Chester Court Block Association, I am always thinking global and acting local. Little by little we are taking Chester Court from nice to knockout, and lots more on all of this later, including some history on this wonderful oasis. Last summer, for instance, I helped get street trees planted, and the city put in a new sidewalk and repaved the streets.

This morning, I tackled the two tree beds on my side of the street that really need some TLC. Last summer, these just-installed beds were covered in mulch but over the winter they got rather nappy and have been “used” both by dogs and careless cigarette smokers to throw their butts. So I brought home some 90 iris and day lily plants that I dug up at Madcap Cottage upstate, and I planted the stash bright and early before it got too hot. P.S. By using plants already in my arsenal, I was able to transform a space dramatically without spending any money… Do try this at home!

Check out my handiwork.

Bed Head!

Here are the two tree beds on Chester Court that really needed some TLC. Scroll down to see what two hours and about 100 irises and lilies can do to a once-forlorn space.

Green with Envy!

Here's the tree bed on the other side of Chester Court that I planted with irises last summer. The irises have held up swimmingly and inspired me to use them on the two tree beds across the street. I gave this tree bed some weeding today, and it looks great.

In the Bag!

Here are garbage full of iris and lily plants that I dug up last weekend at Madcap Cottage in upstate New York. Irises don't need much water and require an annual thinning out.

Pick Up, Please!

I crafted signs that I laminated at my local FedEx Office outpost to remind folks to clean up after their dogs. Plastic ties keep the signs in place.

Lots of Turnover!

I turned all of the dirt over in the tree beds to aerate the soil and make planting easier. The soil is surprisingly rich...

Dirty Deeds!

And here's the finished results with the lilies and irises in place. A few neighbors will help water the tree beds, and the hearty perennials should take off quickly. I petitioned the city for metal tree guards, and those should be installed by October... I will report back on how the plants are doing.

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Tip, Top Trellis!

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Height of Style!

Here's a trellis confection concocted by the legendary Elsie de Wolfe. Stunning, n'est-ce pas?

Gang:

Welcome to summer! Let’s really make this a truly amazing season and celebrate delicious design.

John and I have been spending a lot of time in the garden with the dogs, so I am channeling a little al fresco fabulousness. My current obsession is trellis. I love it outdoors, but I especially love it indoors and am thinking to redo our foyer up at Madcap Cottage with a wonderful peony-wrapped Chinese wallpaper topped with a trellis from the folks at Accents of France.

Isn’t trellis just delicious?

Capital Style!

I spotted this trellis-wrapped ballroom at The Capital hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas on our recent trip to speak at Tobi Fairley's design camp. Look beyond the banal banquet tables and chairs, and soak up the perfection upon the walls!

Gorgeous at The Greenbrier!

John and I love nothing more than a visit to The Greenbrier, the fabled resort designed by Dorothy Draper in West Virginia. The Greenbrier is sort of design nirvana for us. Here's a clever use of trellis in a sitting room off of The Greenbrier lobby.

Potsdam Perfection!

A metal trellis-wrapped folly that John and I went ga-ga for at the Potsdam palace outside of Berlin. I want one of these. Pronto.

Westbury Wonderland!

If you haven't visited the home and gardens at the Old Westbury estate on Long Island, make a pilgrimage this summer. The estate is a stunner. Check out these gorgeous trellises that surround a lily pond at Old Westbury. Divine!

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We Must Cultivate Our Garden!

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

A Tree Doesn't Go in Brooklyn!

Here's what our Brooklyn backyard looked like when John and I moved to Chester Court from Manhattan in 2006. Bleak, n'est-ce pas? But we had a vision...

Gang:

I hope you are having a very spiffy Memorial Day weekend… John and I have just arrived at Madcap Cottage in New York’s Catskill Mountains, and it is cold and wet, wet, wet! This is Amy Petunia’s fist visit to Madcap Cottage, and she is in love. She has run about the yard with Jasper and Weenie (rain be damned!) and is now curled up on a Madcap Cottage bespoke dog pillow.

As I think about the garden planting that I was hoping to accomplish today (and hope to do tomorrow), I wanted to show some “before” and “after” shots of our backyard in Brooklyn. In case you didn’t know, John and I love nothing more than having some dirt under our fingernails. I ran a landscape installation company in Florida back in my salad days, and I even considered getting my Masters in landscape design once upon a time. I can install a sprinkler system like nobody’s business…

Our Brooklyn garden is functional and soothing and doesn’t require a lot of water. The goal was to create a lush sanctuary with lots of green and “moments” of color, and I think we accomplished our mission. John and I planted every item in this garden, so we feel very proud when we settle in al fresco and take in our handiwork. Cocktails in hand, natch!

Take a peek at the adventures of a pair of mad gardeners…

Garden a Go-Go!

John and I installed the garden three years ago. The fencing is from Trex, and the trees--including the birches on the left-hand side--are from FastGrowingTrees.com. The antique urns hail from a bric-a-brac shop in East Hampton, NY, and the faux bamboo green garden chairs are currently up for sale on One Kings Lane! In case you are wondering, a new building went up behind our garden just before we were about to start planting. Hence, the wall behind the Trex fencing that doesn't appear in the "before" image.

Garden of Earthy Delights!

And here's what our Brooklyn backyard looks like today... It's actually a tad too leafy, so we will be doing some re-landscaping this summer. Our birch trees are now almost 60 feet high!

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Tip, Top Terrain!

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

It's Just Lunch!

John enjoys a late lunch at Terrain's amazingly chic Garden Cafe, housed within a vintage greenhouse that spills over with flowers and candles. Terrain really "gets" the details. The bread, for instance, arrives in a terracotta pot. Divine.

Gang:

If you follow this blog regularly (and God help you if you don’t!), you know that I am obsessed with the nursery-cum-lifestyle store Terrain located outside of Philadelphia. Last February I did two blog posts on this amazing spot, and I am here today to write yet another installment.

John and I were in Philadelphia last week to do some antiquing, and we made a pilgrimage to the Urban Outfitters-owned Terrain outpost in nearby Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. The first of the two Terrain outposts–the other opened last year in Westport, Connecticut–sits on the busy Baltimore Pike and occupies what was once the Styer family farm. Surrounded by urban sprawl–including several big-box stores–Terrain is a gem-like sanctuary that will wow you and definitely provide heaps of inspiration.

Here are some images from our visit.

Wintry Wonderland!

It was a cold and damp afternoon when John and I arrived at Terrain, but the whimsical decor quickly transported us to far warmer and more inviting climes. Look what some outdoor curtains and a Moroccan-styled lantern can do to take a space from nice to knockout.

Wood is Good!

While Terrain boasts incredible plants, it also stocks gorgeous furnishings and lighting. Soak up the wonderful displays, too, such as this wonderful shelving unit that houses firewood. Why not bring this idea home?

Have a Heart!

Check out this genius espaliered tree that has been trained to grow in the shape of a heart. What a fabulous Valentine's Day gift for the plantsman/woman! And FYI: Espaliering is the horticultural practice of controlling woody plant growth originally for the production of fruit, by pruning and tying branches to a frame so that they grow into a flat plane, frequently in formal patterns, against a structure such as a wall, fence, or trellis.

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