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

Spend a Long Weekend with the Madcaps!

June 28th, 2013 by Demystifying Design

Meet Us in Manhattan!

Enjoy a long weekend of fabulous lifestyle-themed events, tours, lectures, and insider "hotspots" in New York City with the Madcap Cottage gents this September 19-22!


John and I have lived in New York City for more than twenty years, and, truly, no one knows NYC better than the two of us. Don’t forget that I was the Editor in Chief of Gotham magazine, the city’s Bible for glamorous living, for almost ten years… We are constantly sniffing out the latest and the greatest.

Hence, it was only natural that John and I decided to celebrate the city in which we live by offering a lifestyle-themed long weekend during which we open up our little black book.

Think design.




Insider tours.


Meet and greets.

A glittering dinner at Madcap Cottage in Brooklyn.

A fabulous hotel…

And lots of surprises!

Is this a so-called “design camp?” Hello, no! It’s a long weekend for folks who want to enjoy the best that NYC has to offer. This is open to anyone, from designers to NYC aficionados to style mavens and foodies.

Thursday-Sunday. September 19-22.

Contact us at for more information and pricing.

It’s going to be one Madcap and Marvelous Weekend! Join us!

Let's Be Madcap!

See you in NYC come September!



A Visit to the Taj Mahal!

June 18th, 2013 by Demystifying Design

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.


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.


Beachy Keen!

June 12th, 2013 by Demystifying Design

Deep Blue Sea!

Here's the living room of a beach cottage in East Hampton, New York that John and I designed several years back. Note the soothing tones of blue and white paired with a mix of patterns. We also added some whimsical elements such as the wicker table to make sure that the space looked "layered" and never too retail. John and I used indoor/outdoor fabrics throughout this space to keep the feeling "easy-breezy." We don't ever want to create interiors that are too precious where you can't spill the odd glass of wine. Poo-poo the precious, we say!


Morning! John and I are off to meet with a fabric company that might want to do a partnership with us… Stay tuned, we are super excited! And tomorrow we are driving down to High Point, North Carolina to take some meetings and meet a real estate agent, dogs in tow. We are on a multi-year plan to get out of New York City, and we are thinking that the Emorywood neighborhood in High Point might be the perfect next step. Stay tuned on that, too!

Turn to the image of the cozy East Hampton, New York cottage, above, that John and I designed a few years back. Why not bring some beachy-chic style into your home this summer. Think blue-and-white hues with lots of throw pillows and eclectic objects. And don’t think that a “refresh” need be expensive. Why not turn to spot-on retailers such as Restoration Hardware, World Market, and others to tweak your space. And, of course, don’t overlook flea markets and yard sales… As John always says, “Good taste need not be expensive, but it should always be expressive.”

See you in North Carolina!


See You at Sunnylands!

June 10th, 2013 by Demystifying Design

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.


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.


A Tour of the Traditional Home Showhouse!

June 5th, 2013 by Demystifying Design


Come along for a tour of the fabulous Traditional Home/Junior League of Greensboro showhouse and the breakfast room that John and I designed with loads of Thibaut fabrics, wallpapers, and furnishings…

Breakfast at Adamsleighs!

Traditional Home magazine's stunning Tori Mellott interviews me and John for Editor at Large TV. Click on the link, above, for a video tour of the showhouse...


Tole is Terrific!

June 2nd, 2013 by Demystifying Design

Mellow Yellow!

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


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!


Chester Court: A Work in Progress!

June 2nd, 2013 by Demystifying Design

Welcome to Chester Court!

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


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.


Tip, Top Trellis!

May 30th, 2013 by Demystifying Design

Height of Style!

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


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!


We Must Cultivate Our Garden!

May 25th, 2013 by Demystifying Design

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...


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 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!


Transforming Your Dining Room Table!

May 21st, 2013 by Demystifying Design

Dining by Design!

Why not transform your dining room table when it's not in use by loading it up with lots of delicious objects. Here, a stunning table that I spotted at The Rug Company showroom in NYC's SoHo neighborhood.


Are you ready for Memorial Day? I sure as heck am. Give me a bottle of rose wine and a daybed, and I will be conked out in the shade with Jasper, Weenie, and Amy Petunia. I need some serious sleep catch-up time.

If you are a Facebook follower, you know that last Sunday I guided a terrific group from WithIt, Professional Women in the Home Furnishings Industries, on an afternoon-long tour of NYC’s bustling SoHo neighborhood. We started our tour on a drizzly and dark day at one of my most favorite outposts, The Rug Company, on Wooster Street. The Rug Company is the genius British company that crafts the most delicious rugs in all sorts of amazing colors and sizes. Plus, the Rug Company folks have developed relationships with the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith for fashion luminaries to bring their vision to the floor, literally.

As I was looking about the stunning Rug Company showroom, I noticed their wonderful displays upon a dining table and a library table, and that got me thinking. Why not “prop” your dining room table when it’s not in use… Add gorgeous coffee table books, a few glass garden cloches, some objects, and maybe a gorgeous orchid… Transform that barren landscape into a whimsical wonderland.

Here are a few ideas.

Wonder Full!

I am obsessed with the cheap-and-chic items to be had at C Wonder. Here, the Monogram Geo Plate emblazoned with an "N." Yummy! They have all sorts of colorful finds for the home.

Table Talk!

If you are starting your dining room from the ground up, Arhaus is a wonderful source for inexpensive dining tables. Here's the Kensington Small Dining Table, on sale for $1,999.


Turn to the folks at Terrain for glorious accessories, such as this bell jar cloche, a steal at $32.

Natural Selection!

Taschen is a great source for wonderful coffee table books, such as the color-packed and very graphic Cabinet of Natural Curiosities.


Round We Go!

Use this library table that I spotted at The Rug Company as your style inspiration, and have fun (and confidence!) with your selects. This is the perfect project for the Memorial Day weekend...