Renovation and Decoration Report

Updates on an Oldate…Beach House Bathroom

Some finishing touches happened this week on one of the earliest projects I took on here, the downstairs bathroom renovation. Long planned, Mally Skok‘s gorgeous and utterly perfect fabric Nichola in Aqua/Sand on Canvas went up as a Roman shade on the window. I have long adored this fabric and in this space it reads like bits of coral and sea life.

mally skok nichola roman shade

There’s not really anything left to do in this space – finishing touches aside. I still can’t quite figure out where to put or hang the toilet paper.

beach house bathroom mally skok nichola

The brass has all been patinating very well. I could not be more pleased with having chosen unlacquered brass and the exposed shower workings shine like jewelry through the glass doors.

beach house bathroom shower

The sink faucet is also looking great, although as I showed in my last post, the sink bowl not so much. I’ve been reading up on reglazing and porcelain home repair kits but I am still really unsure of what to do about this.

rust bubble vintage porcelain sink

There is still a bit of room for finds – and certainly more sand dollars and shells – on the display shelves. With my iphone there was no way to get the upper ledge of kashigata in the photo, but the patterns in them look wonderful with Mally’s fabric.

beach house bathroom shelves

I do have one little marriage to make, between this Japanese print and vintage frame, and then its simply a matter of placement.

japanese print and frame

I think we can call this one finished, don’t you?

Related Posts:
Renovation Report…”Oldating” the Beach House Bathroom
Renovation Report…Do You Throw Good Money After Bad? Thoughts on Fixing My Master Bathroom
Freshening Formal Furniture With Mally Skok Fabric

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!

Is It Copy Cat Chic? Or Is It Just Copying?

Lately the design press has been full of incredibly liveable eclectic spaces, none more so than this NYC apartment designed by formerly rising star – now arrived – Nick Olsen that was just featured in the August World Of Interiors. What caught my eye were the mass market bookshelves, the very same Ballard Designs Sonoma Bookcases I have in the TV room here at the shore.

WOI Nick Olsen bookcase 1

Positioned on either side of the fireplace, they are beautifully arranged by color, but have a natural well-used character to them and not that overly styled look I am not a fan of.

WOI Nick Olsen Bookcase 2

I looked pretty closely at them because back when I got my Sonoma bookcase (on the left), I hadn’t realized that Mecox had their own version, the Provence Open Shelf Baker’s Rack (on the right) priced about 4 times higher – $499 versus $1995. Now ironically, the real Copy Cat Chic blog holds up the Ballard Designs Sonoma Bookcase as the expensive option, comparing it to lower priced similar versions from Overstock and the like. So it becomes a copy cat spiral from high to medium to low to lower.

Ballard Designs Sonoma BookcaseMecox Gardens Provence Open Shelf Bookcase

I look back at this NY brownstone that Nate Berkus designed for Katie Lee, Billy Joel’s ex-wife, having assumed he used the Ballard Designs version, only to come to the conclusion that these look more like the Mecox Garden variety. So my question for you is whether this is such a classic vintage inspired shape, produced by many, or is it a copy of something original?

Katie Lee Joel Nate Bekus Brownstone dining room bookcases

The bookcase has been on my mind because yesterday saw the installation of my long-awaited curtains in the TV room and I’ve been wondering if I should shift my bookcase over a bit.

TV room sonoma bookcase curtains

As my long-term readers will know, I had been hemming and hawing over pulling the trigger and purchasing this Brigitte Singh Cream Hibiscus Branch fabric – choosing between it and its companion Hibiscus Flower Buta – until I almost missed out and was only able to get the final few meters available from Aleta Online last year. Luckily, my ingenious seamstress and I were able to come up with a plan to “stretch” the fabric, using a matching linen and framing the panels in such a way that I actually prefer it to just having used the one fabric.

Brigitte Singh Hibiscus Branch TV room curtains

Since buying my fabric over a year ago, I have become addicted to a fairly new online site called Jaypore, which is a bit like an Indian version of One Kings Lane and the other limited sales time sites. The prices are fabulous, many of the goods are really lovely and the shipping is free. One of the items that caught my eye was this bed sheet, which costs all of $35 and is 60″ x 90″, basically 3 meters long. That’s a lot of yardage for $35! In the right space you could line it to make very inexpensive curtains. I may cut it up to make Euro shams for my elder daughter’s new bedroom decor in Doha. Either way, it was a fabric bargain.

Jaypore Indigo Motif Bed sheet

But the truth is that it is the Brigitte Singh Hibiscus Flower Buta pattern exactly – no bones about it – if you look below. Now what I don’t know and would love to, is whether these patterns are so traditional that they have entered into the cultural lexicon, or whether it is a unique design that has been copied, again a similar question to the one above. When I think back to the block print flower I used on the walls in my bathroom, I do know I have seen that particular flower pattern before and that there were multiples of the block available for purchase at the shop in Singapore. I think I’ll have to write to Aleta and ask her.

Aleta Cream Hibiscus Flower Buta

So how do you feel about copy cat chic? It’s a complex question as it addresses everything from income divides to intellectual property rights. I’d love to hear from you on the topic.

On a lighter note, for more on the Nick Olsen project, including this boldly colored dining room with its ship chandelier, head over to Mark D. Sikes.

WOI Nick Olsen cover ship chandelier

And there is so much of this rich teal and blue going around these days, that I may have to revisit it in yet another post!

Addendum added August 15, 2013

I heard from Aleta and wanted to share her personal thoughts with you.

I just snuck a peek over at your blog and read your post on the Jaypore site and the ‘copycat’ issue, and as it’s quite an emotive subject with Brigitte Singh, who is the creator of your Cream Hibiscus fabric, I thought I should share a little more information as well as my own personal view on this very hotly debated topic.

From the beginning, Brigitte has always worked with the ancient motifs and floral designs of Mughal India to create her textiles. In some cases, her prints are faithful reproductions of historic textiles, using the ancient and traditional method of block printing to produce them. I don’t think Brigitte herself would ever suggest that she should have the exclusive right to print Mughal designs, but that is often how her point of view is interpreted by critics. In fact, where a design is taken directly from an archive reference, it is already often produced, quite legitimately, by other manufacturers -the Cream Pise, for example, is also made by Bennison in England, and Green Antelope by Caravane in France. I myself reproduce Mughal designs quite independently of Brigitte when it’s appropriate to do so.

The general argument for ‘copying’ is that the designs belong in the public domain as Brigitte’s original inspirations were sourced from designs that belong to no one, but the situation is more complicated than that.

Some prints like the Poppy, Cypress, and your Hibiscus have also been derived from historic textile pieces, but over the years Brigitte has refined the lines, changed leaves, colours, and subtly ‘tweaked’ the designs. This is when the issue becomes quite a grey area: Brigitte’s own printing blocks in the past have been stolen, these in turn have been recarved and recarved, and several ‘generations’ of printing blocks on, what you see being produced by some block printers in India are not reproduction Mughal prints, but reproduction ‘Brigitte Singhs’. Her printing blocks have also been used by the printers, without permission, to print for other companies.

Brigitte has built her reputation on two things: first, the quality of her textiles is completely and utterly unrivalled. This includes the printing process itself, from the skill of the block carving, to the fineness, accuracy and complexity of the actual printing; it includes the quality of the cottons and hand woven khadi that she uses to print on; finally, it includes the haute couture tailoring and exquisite attention to detail in her soft furnishing pieces and garments.

Second, the way that she puts together the disparate parts of various ancient designs -combination of borders, the layout and scale of motifs, and in particular her amazing use of colour, has created a very distinctive and instantly recognisable trademark. This is very personal to her, it has come from her own unique heart and soul, and it cannot be created by anyone else.

I would have no qualms about seeing or even purchasing the same print as one of Brigitte’s if I know that the original source of inspiration came directly from a historic textile piece (the exception to this is the Poppy, but I am irrationally protective about it because it was her very first and is still hugely popular), however I am concerned when I see her very particular combination of designs and colours being reproduced, often randomly and of poor quality, regardless of where Brigitte’s own original sources came from.

My personal feeling is that buying any ‘copy’ is ultimately a false economy -it will never compare in quality, or have the same sophistication, and it certainly won’t have provenance, although I try not to judge too harshly as I think we’ve all been guilty (if that’s even the right word) of it at one time or another. I do believe that you should always buy the best that you can afford -and if you can’t afford it, buy something different that you can afford and doesn’t compromise on quality. It is far better, creative, and honest to forge your own individual look based on the budget and lifestyle you have, rather than try to emulate someone else’s, possibly unattainable, style. But I’m starting to stray into social discussions far deeper than copyright! I’ll leave it there, and I hope I’ve provided some insight and not just gone on a long ramble. :-)

Related Posts:
A Television Solution From My Notting Hill and Ballard Designs
All Tied Up…Power Cord Bundling
So Long Summer…Vignettes and Views Around the House
Just in Time…Last Piece of Cream Hibiscus Branch From Aleta
On the Blind’s Side…Sudare and Curtains

Today’s Column

So progress on the house has been moving a bit more slowly than I would like this summer and I am struggling to find the pieces I want to finish up the bedrooms. We had a dead and empty corner in our bedroom that I planned to furnish eventually, but it was not a priority and I wasn’t sure what I wanted there anyway. But the emptiness had been bothering me.

I checked in at a few of my my usual haunts and picked up this simple Doric style wood column. I’m not sure whether it was an interior or exterior architectural feature or perhaps more likely from a piece of built-in furniture, but I didn’t care. I had to have it and it was a bargain to boot! I brought it home with the idea stirring in the back of my mind that it might be just what I need to balance the French chaise and fill the dead space with some vertical interest. And I was right! It’s worth clicking to see the large photo for details.


The patina on it is lovely, although it is slightly rickety and needs a bit of love and tightening. I can’t date it for sure, but it seems to be late 19th or early 20th century.


Like I said, I hadn’t planned on one for the space, although I do recall this page from the winter issue of Lonny magazine catching my eye. This fluted column pedestal, in case you can’t read the fine print, is almost $1500. And good antique ones can be even more than that.

Lonny Jan Feb 2013

Now the big question about mine is whether I should add a plant…

column with ivy via my design chic

…a bust…

Suzanne Rheinstein At Home via Stylebeat

…a vase or urn…

Mark D Sikes House Beautiful

…or just leave it plain?

Column behind chair Lonny

Any thoughts on my column today?

Related Post:
Finding the Thread…Between Boston Ferns and Japanese Spools

Image Credits: 1-2. me, 3. Lonny December/January 2013, 4. via Design Chic, 5. Suzanne Rheinstein via StyleBeat, 6. House Beautiful December/January 2012, photo credit: Amy Neusinger via Mark D. Sikes, 7. Lonny June/July 2010, photo credit: Patrick Cline.

Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 4…Full Reno Inspiration

So today’s post basically contradicts everything I wrote yesterday. Gut it all! Uncover the beadboard, uncover the wood floor. Get a counter depth fridge. Do open upper shelves, so I only need about 5 lower cabinets (which is not so expensive) and can panel and disguise the dishwasher if it still needs to sit next to the stove. I’d still want a repurposed island of some kind and I can still hang the ribbed glass pendant lights, and best of all NO MORE ALMOND!

I’ve covered the basics of inset vs. overlay doors, marble counter tops and farmhouse sinks in an earlier series of kitchen posts. My biggest conundrum for this kitchen is stainless steel. There really is no other attractive appliance option (in my budget anyway), but I don’t want a showy fancy kitchen. Luckily, I’ve thought of a solution to that which is to paint the cabinets a lovely dark blue-gray which helps to blend with stainless stove and refrigerator. I’m thinking Benjamin Moore Wolf Gray 2127-40 might be just the thing.

Benjamin Moore wolf gray

1 - Palenville kitchen - fixedI’m feeling grumpy though that this has become a massive trend as I have had a long-running love affair with this look. I renovated a kitchen in 1999 in just that way – dark purple-blue-gray cabinets with a Carrera marble top and dark wood floors. Digital cameras were not very good back then and this is the only photo I could find of the project before it was completely finished. If only all my photos weren’t on a container ship steaming towards Doha, I would have one to show of how nice it was when completed. The implication for me personally is that this combo is a keeper.

I’m going to run you through a stream of inspiration photos I’ve been saving, which I am sure you have already seen all over Pinterest. Sally Wheat’s kitchen started the gray trend although she has gray upper cabinets too.

sally wheat's kitchen  3 on cote de texas

The no upper cabinets/white uppers/white shelves came a little later…

grey doors and latches

Jamie Grey

blue cabinets white marble



white-upper-gray-lower-kitchen-cabinets HGTV via centsationalgirl

See how nicely the dark cabinets soften the stainless? It looks particularly good with open upper shelving as I’m not as much of a fan when it is paired with a big bank of white upper cabinets. These examples above all have white marble or marble-like counters but the gray also looks good with wood counters too…

gray and wood

gray kitchen atltanta homes mag wood counter

I’d like to use a combination of wood and marble surfaces in our kitchen with the island and the counter being different from each other. So as I’d like the island to be a “found” piece, it does make it hard to know which surface will go where. But I think I am leaning towards marble counters on the cabinets.

So stop and look at this photo one more time. Imagine a kitchen similar to the examples above through this doorway – the same dark wood floor as the dining room running into the kitchen, white beadboard covering the back wall, deep blue-gray cabinets, Carrera-like counter and the refrigerator out of your sight line and integrated into the cabinets. Imagine a more seamless color palette instead of the jarring switch from cool to warm.


Imagine a simple stainless range, centered on the wall between the windows (the asymmetry of the stove is another thing that drives me crazy) with either a real hood or no hood – I haven’t needed it for 4 years, so why worry about it now as almost everything is cooked on the grill outside? Maybe small shelves for spices and oils on either side. I can’t really use that 12 inch lower cabinet to the left of the stove, and we would narrow it down anyway when centering the stove and just use it for cutting boards/cookie sheets. We would also gain a few inches to move to the counter on the other side which will be important in the next paragraph.


The sink is a full 36 inch cabinet space and I would go down to a single bowl of 30 inches or more likely 24 inches – probably farmhouse style – which would free up more space. I think if I add the space from the stove side to the space from the sink side I might even be able to fit a small bank of drawers in between the dishwasher and stove and get rid of the appliance-touching-appliance look that I hate.


liebherr-integrated-refrigerator-CS1660And look at this beauty – the Liebherr CS 1660 – all 30 inches wide and 24 1/4 inches deep – narrower than what is there now and fully counter depth but with more and better cubic feet of storage. I’ve hated leaning over to get things out of the low fridge I currently have and much prefer freezers on the bottom. The house is certainly too humble to merit the expense of a Sub Zero and this is less than half the price and very well rated. It is simple and streamlined and tall enough to balance next to the pantry with nothing above it.

I’m searching desperately for a set of salvaged French doors that are a similar match to those into the kitchen as we would build out the pantry to meet the side of the refrigerator, making it substantially sized. The shelves have been designed so I can even put the microwave inside! And that bit of cabinet you see on the right lower side of the photo would be gone, replaced by the freestanding island. Since this kitchen will be less vintage looking, an antique island will be a key part of the design, providing patina and contrast.


So there you have it. Four days of unrelenting posts on the kitchen here at the beach. I’m sure there are some details I forgot, but I think you get the picture. Ideas? Comments? Opinions?

I’ll be reading your comments in London where the Duchess of Cambridge is patiently waiting for me to arrive so that she can give birth to the future heir of the British Throne. She knew I’d be grumpy of she did it before I got there. While hanging out in bonny England for the next ten days, I’ll be visiting markets and antique shops as well as some other favorite haunts like the shops of  Robert Kime, Ben Pentreath and Bennison. I’ll be on Instagram for sure and hopefully able to post from my iPad.

Related Posts:
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 1…Before and Currently
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 2…What I Wish Was Here Originally
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 3…Cheap and Cheerful Renovation Inspiration

Photo links can be found on my Pinterest kitchen pages.

« Older Entries

Tokyo Jinja

Back to top