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DEMYSTIFYING DESIGN

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

Archive for the ‘Landscaping’ 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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See You at Sunnylands!

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Sunnylands Sublime!

Here we are outside the Sunnylands estate, the incredible former home of Walter and Lee Annenberg near Palm Springs, California. The estate is a must visit for fans of architecture and interior design.

Gang:

Last year John and I were invited to tour Sunnylands, the fabled and sprawling estate outside of Palm Springs, California that was the winter escape of media tycoon Walter Annenberg and his wife, Lee. The estate and its gardens had recently been refurbished to much acclaim (did you see the multi-page feature in Vanity Fair magazine?), so John and I were thrilled to pay a visit. And, wow!, the Billy Haines-designed estate is amazing… Beyond. Sensational. The home welcomed every dignitary under the sun back in its day, and it’s now open to regular folks like you and me but book well in advance as the home hosts very small tours and is a huge draw.

Read more about the estate on the Sunnylands website. Here are a few images from our mind-altering tour.

Think Pink!

Voila!, the pink roof the main house at Sunnylands... Think pink, n'est-ce pas?

Ivory Tower!

The unassuming, but very chic front door at Sunnylands... Oh, the divinity that resides behind these white doors. Heaven!

Heart of Stone!

Here's the living room at Sunnylands with its modernist good looks. The art on the walls is all reproductions as the Annenbergs left their vast collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I love the bromeliads encircling the fountain.

Desk Set!

Walter Annenberg's divine office with its photos of luminaries who visited the estate. John and I wanted to steal the Chinoiserie coffee table and the embroidered pillows.

Mellow Yellow!

Walter and Lee's bedroom is a study in pale yellow hues overlooking a desert-style garden.

Chinoiserie Chic!

Check out the gorgeous quilting on this sofa at Sunnylands. Bananas!

Quilting Be!

Sunnylands has so many fabulously quilted chairs and sofas. Here's another Billy Haines creation.

True Blue!

John and I were simply mad for the lines of this chic wood chair with its aqua-hued leather seat.

Lucite luxe!

Lucite shelves? Um, yes.

Scarlet Fever!

Here's a Billy Haines-crafted red game table and yellow chairs. Um, sex on a stick. Sublime.

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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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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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Filming with HGTV!

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Sofa.com Sublime!

One of the stars of our HGTV television shoot for the program "You Live in What?" was our brand-new Sofa.com Descartes two seat sofa in Cookie House linen-cotton. If you don't know British import Sofa.com, you should! Newly arrived in NYC, Sofa.com crafts the most gorgeous and bespoke sofas, chairs, and footstools in wonderful fabrics--and at a delicious price point.

Gang:

Happy weekend!

John and I were lucky enough to have HGTV film our home upstate last weekend for their fabulous show “You Live in What?.”

Madcap Cottage was once an 1840s-era schoolhouse, so the home perfectly fit the show’s concept. The day went swimmingly… Thanks to producer Toni Donaldson and her terrific team for making the shoot a lot of fun.

Apparently, Madcap Cottage will appear on HGTV in early 2013, so stay tuned!

Weenie Beanie!

Weenie snoozed during the entire HGTV shoot upon her custom Madcap Cottage dog bed while Jasper ran about and caused a bit of a ruckus. Did you know that John and I craft custom dog beds? Well, now you do!

Descartes Delicious!

Here's another view of our Sofa.com two-seat sofa that John and I adorned with custom Madcap Cottage pillows.

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A Bit of Color on this Drab Day!

Monday, October 29th, 2012

The Unloved Little House!

Here's the former garage at Madcap Cottage in upstate New York when John and I purchased the property. The garage was a mess and was totally shrouded with out-of-control greenery. Our goal was to take this forlorn folly and make it fabulous. Hopefully, you can pluck ideas from our plan of attack to employ in your own home.

Gang:

John and I are hunkered down in Brooklyn as Sandy terrorizes the East Coast… We have wine and I made tacos, and I am cleaning out my closet and am still wearing my pajamas at 1:30pm so it’s not all bad… John is listening to Christmas carols on Pandora for some reason. Curious, n’est-ce pas? Weenie and Jasper are snoozing.

As the day is totally drab and dull, I thought I would offer some color, a Technicolor-hued punch…

Here’s a photo tour of our former garage at Madcap Cottage in upstate New York that John and I transformed from a tumbledown structure into a rainbow-hued screened-in porch.

I hope you enjoy the journey…

Stay dry, and stay safe!

Al Fresco Elegance!

New roofing, screened doors, and a cupola that John and I purchased online take the exterior of the garage and make it gorgeous. The cupola is vinyl-clad, so it will never need painting. I am not a fan of vinyl siding, but here it makes total sense.

Interior Motives!

John and I had the interior patched and a new cement floor poured. And we carved-out screened windows that look onto our backyard. A pale blue ceiling helps open up the space.

Patio, Daddy-o!

John and I found some beat-up old garden furniture and had it powder coated a bright lemon yellow. The results are perfectly sunny and delicious! Find garden furniture at a yard sale, and have it powder coated to give it new life.

Fabric of Life!

John and I came up with a fun fabric scheme that mixes lots of easy-to-care-for indoor/outdoor fabrics in big, bold hues.

Dog Days of Summer!

Jasper eyes the work in progress. Almost complete!

Hello, Jasper!

And here's the finished product... John and I were lucky enough to have the screened-in porch appear in the magazine DIY. Jasper makes himself right at home in the finished screened-in porch, now renamed The Little House. Floor paint transformed a cement floor into something fabulous. John crafted the window treatments from Ikea using a stamp that he picked up at a flea market with fabric paint.

Et Voila!

Note the inexpensive Chinese lanterns that dangle overhead, an inexpensive way to add "punch" and "pizzazz" to any space. The cupola adds further "architecture" to a roofline that was sorely lacking interest.

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