Chessy Rayner

Blame It On Whomever…My One Kings Lane Purchase

Blame it on my friend Angela, whose beautifully styled bookshelves and glass floats were much admired. While she is newly back in Belgium after a few years in Tokyo and missing it, I am feeling the decorating pull of Europe every time I see a photo of her gorgeous home there. She has been mixing in her Japanese treasures with Belgian antique finds and modern pieces – you’ll be seeing more of her house in the upcoming post on tansu at home.

Blame it on Joan at for the love of a house, whose pitch perfect home takes my breath away every time she reveals a new room to her readers – we are all waiting for the barn room now! She actually got to have birthday lunch with legendary decorator Bunny Williams and her equally famous antique dealing husband John Rosselli at their beautiful house in Connecticut last year.

Joan’s kitchen…

…and Bunny’s bedroom.

Blame it on a bit of insomnia that put me in front of my computer at exactly one minute past midnight, giving me a chance to get in on the opening of the One Kings Lane shops Belgium with Bunny Williams sale. For those of you not familiar with this website, affectionately known as OKL, in addition to ongoing discount sales of home and design products, they also hold limited timeframe “Tastemaker Tag Sales” filled with the treasures and (sometimes) junk of designers and antique dealers. I had been scoping this particular sale for the painted furniture piece featured in the ads.

My long term readers know I have been searching for close to two years for a piece that could serve as a kitchen island and another as a sideboard in the dining room at our beach house in New Jersey. If you want to catch up on that story, click here, herehere and here. This one looked like it might be perfect. It had all the practical requirements – two roomy shelves for baskets and attractive storage/display and two small drawers – as well as a soft grey painted finish and those great barley twist legs. The dimensions were just right in that it was actually quite tall, as in tall enough to be an island, while small enough to fit in my tiny kitchen. I had room to add a white marble top for practicality and have it hang over a few inches, enough to tuck in two stools. And if for any reason it didn’t work in the kitchen, it would also serve wonderfully for the sideboard in the dining room.

Blame it on general OKL madness, a disease that seems to be affecting many people. As each Tag Sale opens, things pop into carts and sell out immediately, creating a sense of panic. I had yet to ever successfully purchase anything on one of these sales, as the hard-core stalkers always got to the good stuff first. So somehow I actually got this piece in my cart, held it for the 10 minutes they allow for you to make up your mind, and then lost it to another’s cart. By then I had finally checked in with my mom who actually liked it (shocking!) and a few friends in other time zones (couldn’t wake any Tokyo peeps at that hour) and they all agreed I should buy it. A number of bloggers have been poking a bit of good fun at OKL madness, but I think this piece, while expensive, was actually a reasonable price for what it is. Once I got it back into my cart, I wasn’t letting it go. My kitchen was assembling itself before my eyes (close yours and imagine it)…dark wood floors, pale grey island with white marble slab top, some simple glass front cabinets, farm sink, and stainless steel stove to toughen the sweetness a bit. I want so badly to post an inspiration photo right here, but that is perpetually the problem, as there is none out there that is exactly right…


Blame it on the beer. After numerous frantic texts, sweet husband finally called in from one of those classic Tokyo “business meetings” which are a euphemism for drinking at a Roppongi bar. Of course he said “get it” without seeing it – beer makes everyone easy!

While this sale is finished, there is still a bit of time to check out the huge Chessy Rayner estate sale running on OKL right now. Another grand doyenne of the decorating scene, you might remember how inspired I was by her beach house here. Luckily enough, OKL has a photo of it that I had not seen before.

As for my new piece, I could not be more excited, even with all the “blame” I am spreading around. Just think, from now on, I can tell everyone that Bunny Williams bought me my kitchen island on one of her forays to Belgium. Love the sound of that!

Image credits: 1, 5-7. via One Kings Lane, 2. Angela Ridge, 3-4. via Joan from for the love of a house

Finding the Thread…Between Boston Ferns and Japanese Spools

Can one plant make a room? I think so…

No Victorian house is compete with out a Nephrolepis exalta, better known as the Boston fern. One of the most popular houseplants of that era, they seem to be making a comeback these days and perhaps never lost their popularity as a hanging basket on covered porches. Adding one to my home has been a priority from the very beginning, but what I needed was some kind of plant stand to give it a visual lift.

Now I have shown photos of vintage itomaki (Japanese thread spools) on this blog before.

And if you find it hard to imagine how one was used, here is an actual example of a thread spool on its winder.

But it wasn’t until I stumbled across this big six spoke spool just before leaving Tokyo for the summer that I had the epiphany of using it for my still to be purchased Boston fern. I also bought a smaller one to use as a counterpoint accent, perhaps without any plant on it all, like in the very top photo.

Both had interesting burned in markings that I haven’t had time to investigate. Unfortunately, they don’t show with a plant on top.

For me, I think my fern obsession started with this photo of Chessy Rayner‘s Southampton beach house. Living for over 20 years in my tear sheets, for me it has always represented the perfect summer house. The casual choice and arrangement of furniture and objects is everything a beach house should be. Over the years, I can remember so many bad “Before & After” spreads, particularly in Architectural Digest, where they would take a simple beach house and throw away all the wicker and bring in contemporary furniture.

But it was the image of a single Boston fern that I carried most strongly in my memory  – not the furniture – and so I am actually surprised to see that there are a few other plants, such as the pair of Hibiscus standards in the room.

A more recent photo with a similar plant vibe, Joanna Madden’s Point Pleasant beach house would fall flat without its single Boston fern adding a bit of color to her carefully curated all white room. Only about 20 minutes south of here, her home shop Summerhouse nestles in among all the Point Pleasant antique stores I keep writing about.

So I have added my fern and now I needed an entry bench. Remember this Alexandra Angle bench from here? It has been my main inspiration. And an orchid, not a fern, adds the needed touch of green.

I am trying to content myself with an inexpensive version of the above – a Dorchester Bench from Ballard Designs. I haven’t yet made a cushion for it in my lovely Kemerton Check from Cowtan & Tout, but you can get the general idea. I am loving the vertical accent the coat rack adds to the room, but it is the Boston fern that makes the vignette.

But at the same time, I think I might want a fully upholstered settee in that wonderful fabric. Obviously this entry hall is much more spacious, but I wonder if comfy seating might make more sense.

And notice the single green boxwood in the planter. Not a Boston fern, but kinda the same idea..

Image Credits: 1-5 & 9. me, 6.Elle Decor September 1990, photo credit: Karen Radkai, 7.Country Living February 2011 photo credit: Bjorn Wallander, 8. House Beautiful February 2011 photo credit: Victoria Pearson, 10. I know this is House Beautiful, but I just can’t remember the credit. Please let me know if you know it.

Tokyo Jinja

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