Mid-Summer at the Shore

montana purple sunset

Sometimes you just need a full on vacation. For the first time in four years I took one – from the blog, from social media (well, there was a bit of instagramming), from the kitchen renovation that’s just not quite getting off the ground, from everything. I took a physical one as well, traveling out to Flathead Lake in Montana with 27 other members of our family for a week of kicking back, riding horses and extraordinary sunsets. But the net result of the relaxing is that here we are at mid-summer and there is much to do and much to fill you in on.

An absolutely brutal winter here on the East Coast left gardens decimated. Mine fared better than most, but everything still suffered, most importantly the hydrangeas which bloom on the previous years’ wood. Unlike some neighbors, mine survived, but had very few flowers – no comparison with last year or even the year before!

beach house hydrangea summer 2014

The new Aleppo (Leila) inlaid tables from Serena & Lily (which arrived after we had left last summer) look amazing in the master bedroom.

beach house master bedroom inlaid night tables

A few local finds and a change of vintage duvet have been keeping things fresh.

beach master bedroom inlaid serena lily nightstands

I tried out a beautiful silk lampshade made from a vintage sari – Robert Kime style – from Xenomania in the East Village, but it was too big and matchy-matchy. By luck, I stopped into Just Shades on Spring Street on the day I was bringing it back and walked out with the perfect simple green shade instead, for about a tenth of the cost.

master bedroom lampshades

With my mind on the move to Doha, I never shared a few of the things that got accomplished right at summer’s end last year. The Bennison ticking trimmed valances in my elder daughter’s room, for example, which came out more beautifully than I could have imagined…

Bennison lilac ticking trimmed valence

…or the sweet art wall developing in the blue hall bathroom.

beach house blue bathroom art wall

It’s more than a year later and I am still kicking myself for passing up a $15 wicker headboard at a garage sale for my younger daughter’s bedroom. That’s all she needs, along with something like this Maine style pine painted cottage dresser. If you see either on Craig’s list or at your favorite shop, be sure to let me know!

wicker headboard Maine cottage pine painted dresser

Local antique stores here haven’t been as rich with goodies as normal and many have gone under, their land being redeveloped into condos or strip malls. I find it depressing but the truth is that the house needs very little outside of these few specific pieces so it hasn’t been a personal tragedy. I have stumbled into a new shop I quite liked, finding a great pair of 1855 Morris Gull prints (which will probably be added to the blue bathroom art wall)…

1855 Morris Ivory Ross Gull print engraving

…as well as an amazing antique lidded Seto porcelain dish (because of course, as one Instagram friend put it, I need MORE blue and white porcelain)…

antique Japanese Seto blue white porcelain dish lid

…and a salvaged mantel shelf that might be perfect for over the stove in the upcoming kitchen renovation (which hopefully will get started).

vintage antique mantle shelf

At the end of the day, the house here is so tiny that even an extra chair can’t fit. Found this diminutive charmer at my Brooklyn favorite Fork & Pencil, but it is going to have to make its way to a client’s house. There is simply nowhere to put it!

Fork & pencil brooklyn chair

And speaking of chairs, I’ve seen a pair of bergères her in New Jersey that look like they might be worth shipping back to Doha to replace the ones so unceremoniously taken from me.

vintage bergere NJ antiques

On a negative note, my vintage sink in the downstairs bath developed a rust bubble over the winter. I am in desperate need of advice on how I might repair/reglaze it. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

rust bubble vintage porcelain sink

I’ll be looking for more input on upcoming posts, including major decisions needed on new exterior paint colors. I’ll also be having a giveaway for a beautiful book on ukiyo-e by Fred Harris. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying your summer!

Friday Flowers

As simple as it sounds, the act of buying flowers for your apartment holds great significance and will heal your home on many levels.
-Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan

Friday Flowers Valentines Day

Apartment Therapy ran a January Cure this year to help readers get their home spaces under control, fresh, clean and organized. Since we had just recently moved in, I was in good shape (except for a few still lingering boxes) but I loved the idea. The biggest takeaway for me was the weekly purchase of flowers, ideally on Friday for full weekend enjoyment. I’ve always bought flowers intermittently, but I love my new weekly ritual and the simple pleasure they bring me.

A new friend gifted me with this small glass pitcher (and this first set of bright anemones) which has been living ever since on the dining room table. It’s the perfect size to put almost any kind of flower, being a bit tall and thin, and therefore budget friendly by not requiring too many stems. It also sits perfectly on my new Nada Debs tray, a Valentine gift from my sweet husband. I’ve been keeping something in rotation ever since.

Friday flowers anemone

Other times, all my blue and white porcelain cries out for a little company, so larger stems usually go there on the altar table in the entry. It’s lovely to open the front door and be greeted immediately.

Friday flowers hydrangea and ranunculus blue white porcelain

Jenny ran a great post on making the most from inexpensive grocery store flowers the other day, although in the desert there are no inexpensive flowers to be had. But I just adored the way she repurposed this sake set in her Instagram feed using them. Sake sets are something I see at shrine sales all the time but never really have a purpose for. Not so anymore!

Jenny Komenda instagram sake set flowers

Speaking of shrine sales, that small hibachi with the asa-no-ha pattern that I showed in my last post turns out to be the perfect size for an orchid. And to think I almost decided it was too heavy to bother carrying back! Whew!

blue and white hibachi orchid

Today’s hyacinths are blush pink and not yet fully opened, a sure sign of spring. Imported from somewhere of course – I think the temperature might have started to push 90 in the sun today so I am not sure it qualifies as spring here anymore.

Friday Flowers hyacinths

I wish there was a smell function on the blog so their heady fragrance could waft right out of your computer.

Do you buy flowers regularly? Are there other small home rituals you love? I’d love to hear about them. While I’m not really on the mindfulness bandwagon, I do find my life here smaller and more tied to home, so the little things matter. Follow my Friday flowers on Instagram #godisinthedetails.

Local Specialities…Qatari Wooden Benches

green bench at the souq

With Qatar National Day fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to write about one of my favorite home-grown crafts – the Qatari wooden bench. Found everywhere all over town, but particularly in Souq Waqif, the main shopping and eating artery where we recently devoured the cheapest most delicious meal with some of our very best friends visiting from Japan (all while sitting on some of these benches)…

Pippa and Ashley at the souq

…and Katara, the stunning cultural village out towards The Pearl. The benches are charming, surprisingly comfortable and visually arresting.

katara with benches

It was a wonderful surprise to discover that they are readily available, customizable and very inexpensive to have made by local carpenters tucked behind Al Rayyan Road along Al Shagab Street – I’ll call it the “bench souq”. This is definitely a spot you’ll be hearing about in my “Doha Design & Decor Directory” that will be added to the blog in the new year, but more about that another time. With an empty back patio to fill and gorgeous weather for sitting outside, I have been desperate to furnish my garden space but didn’t want to spend a lot of money (nothing lasts in the summer sun for long) nor choose something out of context. The space is square, with lots of fuchsia Bougainvillea hanging over it.

back patio

Looking back towards the house I have started to find plants for my blue and white hibachi and planters (post on those coming in the new year as well). As this brick patio lines up directly with the living room/dining room, the view of what is out here is quite important.

back garden towards house

On my first visit to the bench souq I saw numerous varieties of this traditional seating of varying style and quality. Most of the benches are designed to be painted and there is a large roster of bright colors. I am super tempted to go with a color, but worry that it will be too distracting from inside the house. Instagram friends have suggested going with blue or green for the benches, and even coral, all of which sound appealing, but I’m not sure I want to pull that much attention from the interior.

qatari benches

I left that first visit full of ideas while a friend here went ahead and ordered the simple benches above. They were finished within the week and when we went back today they were loaded up on a truck and delivered to her house.


Another carpenter had a few more unusual choices including this bench with finials similar to the green one I love in the top photo from Souq Waqif. This blue is also dreamy color!


But I fell in love with a more finished (and thus more expensive) bench featuring a traditional dowel musharrabieh (or moucharabieh or mashrabiya, the myriad of spellings is endless) the latticework so often used for window coverings in Arab architecture. It’s often said they are used to allow women to see out, but keep others from seeing in. I’m not sure that this is really true but I loved it as a decorative feature in these benches.

bench with screen back

The carpenters are looking into getting me a white stain, instead of paint, as I think it is the paint that has trouble holding up against the extremities of the elements here. I have been planning on a lush blue and white backyard oasis for a while now, which was utterly confirmed when Vogue published Rebecca de Ravenel’s gorgeous NYC terrace recently. Ticking, Indian block prints from Brigitte Singh and blue and white porcelain. Need I say more? I keep finding inspiring things in her apartment (as in this post) and I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of it.

apt-with-lsd-rebecca-de-ravenel-vogue backyard blue white

White with a bit of wood grain peeking through will be soft against the white garden walls and it gives me the perfect backdrop to mix blue and white with the bright pinks, greens and yellows found elsewhere in the garden flowers. It is pretty standard to get long cushions made to soften the hard seat of the benches, usually in a traditional red Arabic fabric. I decided to buck the trend and look for something a little more western for contrast. I think the cushions will only last a year or so, so budget was key. I could not have been happier to find this new IKEA fabric  called Angsrutta for about $5 a meter. It works on so many levels!

Angsruta Fabric Ikea blue white

Not to forget to mention that I am having a giant coffee table made to sit between them, much like this one, perfect for casual dining and hors d’oeuvres. This also gives you a peek at how bright the paint colors can be and the traditional red fabric used for the seat cushions.


So I bit the bullet and placed my order today. We will have to see what gets lost in translation – surely something will – but I can always have them repainted if necessary. Here’s to cocktails in the garden in the new year!

Ja Mata Japan…Hello New Beginnings

Instagram airplane leaving Japan

So it rained pretty much the entire time of our last week in Japan and the weather on the day we left was a good indicator of my feelings. Since we’ve been home I’ve had no time to post or even lie low and sulk in the whirl of doctor’s appointments and quick visits to long-missed friends. I’m definitely in a state of denial – it doesn’t feel like I have left Japan forever – as we always spend the summer back in the US. And I know I’ll be back as I already have work visits planned for next year, but that is somehow different. For now, a chapter in our life story has finished and we are on to the next adventure, but I am continuing to feel a bit ambivalent about it all. I’ve said ja mata (see you later) but not sayonara (goodbye)!

Here at the beach things are mostly looking good. The boardwalk has not yet been entirely rebuilt since super storm Sandy, but our town was hit much more gently than some other shore villages. Although I lost a few things in the garden which is expected, the hydrangea report is excellent – to compare with the last two years, click here. I’ve still got the crazy variegated thing going on which causes people to stop and ask me how I did it, but honestly, I’m not sure.

hydrangea 2013

I’ve got lots of projects up my sleeve, one including this amazing vintage sari trim. And get this, after all that crazy work on the bathroom last year, the shower has a leak. If we can’t just re-grout and re-seal, I may end up having to rip out the tile after all.

Instagram vintage sari trim

Managed to hit up a few of our antiquing spots and picked up a steal on a pair of chairs with fabulous lines for my Chicago friend and client. These are going in her living room

Kathleens chairs

…reupholstered in John Robshaw’s Lanka Oyster.

lanka oyster Robshaw

On the new horizons front, it looks like we have found a house in Doha. From my very first visit there I preferred one “compound” (think housing development) to all the others, both because I liked the architectural integrity and middle eastern lines of the houses and the very white (not beige) palette of the interior and exterior, but also because there seemed to be a sense of community centered around the pool and restaurant inside the gates. Of course everybody else likes this development too, so it was full, but my sweet husband went every week to see the managing agent to remind him of our existence on the waiting list. As luck would have it, one has become available and they are renovating as I type, which you can see by the load of construction materials out front. It’s as different from my Tokyo house as it could be.


I am an absolute sucker for all the lovely arches – door, openings and windows in the downstairs rooms. Ignore somebody’s old crib!


And the row of tiny ones in the master bedroom is divine too.  The interior shell is very pure, especially when compared to some of the other places we saw.


Less exciting are the protruding can lights (how to fix those is still unresolved in my mind) and tile floor, but tiled floors seem to be de rigueur there.  At least these are quite white and not brown/tan based.

I’ve had numerous inspiration photos filed away for a while, but none so apropos as Sarah Davison‘s lovely Tamarama apartment. The windows are incredibly similar, although obviously my floor can’t compete with her unglazed Moroccan terracotta tiles.

Sarah Davison

Her apartment in Sydney is in a 1920s Spanish Mission-style building, so in many ways, not that dissimilar. The living room boasts a few pieces quite like those I will be working with – Japanese screen, bamboo, and big glass bottles.

Sarah Davison screeen bamboo chair

Along with the green, some lavender will be sneaking its way in there, much like the pillows on her sofa.

Sarah Davison LR

I have plans for a long-stored amazing piece of Chinese embroidery, an antique bed valence…

instagram Chinese embroidered bed valence

…as well as a piece of vintage silk ikat gifted to me by friend and designer Maja Lithander Smith. For more on Sarah Davison and her beautiful home, take a look at her website or the Design Sponge Sneak Peak.

Bittersweet to move on, but I am trying to roll with the excitement change can bring. And if anyone has a solution idea for those can lights, please let me know!!!!!

Related Posts:
Major Life Changes Ahead…Shall We Let the Architecture Decide?
Living Lavender Dreams

An Unexpected Find…Japanese Herbiers

spare pale botanicals

Finding fabulous non-Japanese items, particularly French ones, seems to be a recent theme with me.  So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across these amazing herbiers (pressed and labeled botanicals) recently at a tiny Japanese antique store miles and miles away from Tokyo. Used as scientific tools in many countries for hundreds of years, they are quintessentially French to my mind, although I have also seen many Scandinavian examples. So my surprise continued when I looked closely and discovered that these are actually Japanese, from 1939!

herbiers group

I only bought 12 of them, thinking it a good number that works either 3×4 or 4×3…

herbiers 3x4

…or even 2 rows of 6, either horizontal or vertical.

herbiers 2x6

I picked out some of my favorites from the three binders, but I am thinking that perhaps I need to go back and buy them all. They can look amazing in a huge massed display.

huge displey of herbiers against dark paint

Note how different they look with dark frames against colored walls.

herbiers with black frames against blue

Some, like the oxalis, I can identify by sight, while others will need translation. The paper is lightly foxed, but I think the patina only adds to their charm. I can’t resist showing them each in close-up – how many can you identify?

IMG_0486 IMG_0487 IMG_0489 IMG_0490 IMG_0491 IMG_0492 IMG_0493 IMG_0494 IMG_0495 IMG_0496 IMG_0497 IMG_0498

Many views of pressed botanicals can be found in the homes of great bloggers, from Brooke

Brooke Gianetti master bath herbiers

…to Joan.

herbiers joan

Hugely trendy in decor right now, I already had a Pinterest page devoted to them with some of my favorite images and different ways to frame them.

MSL banquette Kime herbiers

botanicals over desk

herbiers plus creamware

Take a look here for more images and the photo credits. I’ll let you know if I go back and get them all!

Related Posts:
Tussle at the Antique Jamboree…or the Never Wait Rule

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